I'm a pretty pessimistic (and often wrong) person when it comes to Marquette basketball. It's weird, because I'm generally optimistic overall. My epiphany came shortly after the end of the Syracuse game. After Syracuse went up by three points early in overtime, I sat down for the rest of the game and said, "I don't believe in these guys. This team never wins anything." My wife derided me afterwards, saying, "You are no fun to watch games with... hiding behind your numbers and pessimism. Be more optimistic." Of course, she was right. Lots of times I look at the numbers and see a low probability of winning percentage and then get ready for a loss.
Needless to say, when I first looked at the numbers for the opening round matchup, they were kind of daunting. The pessimism was rearing its ugly head. After all, Utah State has a lot of strengths and not many weaknesses (taken from Pomeroy's site). But you already know that, and seriously, if you aren't familiar with their team by now, just take a look at the posts from the past few days and any one of the links below. The Aggies are #13 in the country at offensive efficiency. This is a concern because defensive eFG% is our achilles heel. They don't foul much at all, they grab a lot of defensive boards, and they protect the ball great.
Even the weaknesses for Utah State (not forcing turnovers, three point defense) are not areas that Marquette can easily exploit. Throw in the fact that the matchup is a virtual road game for Marquette, and the concerns are compounded.
And yet, I'm wildly optimistic about this game and Marquette's chances to make the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some reasons to stay positive.
1. As referenced in the article linked by Tim, conventional wisdom is picking Utah State to upset Marquette. Roll into Friday's matchup thinking like a hedge fund. I love betting against the conventional wisdom.
2. We're due for some good luck. After last year's Stanford game, and then the close games against teams like Villanova and Syracuse, it's time to have the charm on our side. As Pudner pointed out, a team that gets unlucky with the bounces tends to have things even out. If you don't think luck evens out, I point you to Georgetown and Notre Dame (ha!).
3. I'll admit to being concerned about Utah State. They have some definite strengths. However, we are the best team that Utah State has played all year. Think about that. Remember what we did to Northern Iowa? Also consider that Marquette played 12 ranked teams this year, ten of whom are playing in the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Where do you think Utah State falls on that list.
4. Remember this picture of Barro? Multiply it by four and add it to one of the most significant classes in recent Marquette history. Our guys are NOT going out like that tomorrow.
5. Jesus wants Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen. Not really, but a friend of mine has been saying it all week and I think it's great. Of course, remember that Marquette plays on a Friday, so gimme some of that filet o fish.
At the end of the day tomorrow, it'll be the Aggies that want to Pray.
Tipoff is scheduled for 11:30am CDT from the Taco Bell Arena in Boise. Bring it on!
6. For the stats purists, here are the keys to victory
- Stop them from making shots (eFG% of 52% or less) - Their most efficient offensive players are Gary Wilkinson (eFG% of 60.1%), Tai Wesley (eFG% of 60.5%), Tyler Newbold (eFG% of 56.2%), and Jared Quayle (eFG% of 55.5%). Their least efficient players are Brady Jardine (eFG% of 33%) and Pooh Williams (eFG% of 52%)
- Force turnovers (TO% of 30% or higher), which is about 8 more turnovers than they average. Most likely to turn the ball over are Jardine (TO% of 20%), P. Williams (19.9%), and Wesley (18.6%). Least likely to turn the ball over are Newbold (TO% of 10.7), Wilkinson (13.6%), and Quayle (16.2%)
- Make shots (eFG% of 58% or higher), which is slightly higher than average
- Combining multiple Recommendations
a. As many offensive rebounds as possible (OR% of 45% or higher)
b. Protect the ball (TO% of 10% or less)
c. Prevent offensive rebounds (Utah State OR% of 30%)