"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The road gets tougher: MU travels to Pitt

"If you are going through hell, keep going."

So said Sir Winston Churchill. And so go the Marquette Golden Eagles.

After admirably competitive performances against UConn and Louisville last week, the scrappy Golden Eagles
(23-6, 12-4) square off against another highly-ranked opponent on Wednesday night when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the 3rd-ranked Panthers (26-3, 13-3).

Pittsburgh, twice the top-ranked team in the nation this season, features a pair of all-BIG EAST performers on the front line in 6'8" hulk DeJuan Blair and 6'7" combo forward Sam Young. Last time out the Panthers bounced back from a road loss at Providence to top Seton Hall in New Jersey, 89-78. Young led the Panthers with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Blair, slowed by a minor knee injury during the game, finished with 9 points and 10 boards.

Coming off of back-to-back losses Buzz Williams should expect improvement from all-everything guard Jerel McNeal. The 6'3" senior endured his worst shooting performance of the season against Louisville when he went 'John Starks' by finishing 3-19 from the field in MU's 62-58 loss.

Clearly MU has enough firepower to hang with the BIG EAST's best, even without Dominic James. While McNeal's offensive efficiency has taken a dip in the last two outings, he is still a threat and both Wesley Matthews and Lazar Hayward remain consistent offensive contributors. And we know from Pudner's post last night that Hayward is capable of great things -- and if the junior responds, MU could be in for a fine run in March.

While conventional wisdom held that MU would suffer defensively without James -- and the logic did hold true against UConn -- MU managed to hold Louisville to a mere 62 points while winning the turnover battle and out-rebounding the Cards as well. Pittsburgh, more physical and less athletic than Louisville, poses different challenges entirely.

Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30pm CT on ESPN2.

Opponent Strengths and Weaknesses
As always, this information comes from Pomeroy's scouting report

1. Rebounding - Pitt is #1 in the country at offensive rebounding. They rebound 43% of all missed field goal attempts. They're also #15 in the country at defensive rebounding. They limit opponents to an offensive rebounding percentage of 28%
2. Protecting the ball – Pitt is #33 in the country at protecting the ball. They only turn it over on 18% of all possessions
3. Not fouling – Pitt only allows opponents to shoot free throws at a rate of 30% (FTA / FGA)

1. Getting to the line – Pitt only gets to the line at a rate of 32.1% (#280 in the country)
2. Forcing turnovers – Pitt only forces turnovers at a rate of 19.6% (#221) -- a good sign for a team that is now starts its backup point guard.

Specific Statistics Recommendations (In order of importance)

Multiple recommendations will need to be combined in order to win
1. Turn Pitt over (TO rate of 36% or higher), which is 25 turnovers, or double their average. Highly improbable.
2. Get offensive rebounds (OR% of 42% or higher), which is four more OR's than average
3. Prevent them from making shots (eFG% of 49% or less), or two less FGM than their average
4. Protect the ball (TO% of 13% or less) ... again, winning the turnover battle decisively remains fundamental to MU's success.
5. Make shots (eFG% of 55% or higher)

Model conclusion (Bottom line)
Pomeroy only gives us a 19% chance of victory and ten point loss. Unfortunately, we agree and are slightly more pessimistic (twelve point loss ; 15% chance of victory). The model predicts that MU will have an advantage on turnovers and that’s it. Pitt is expected to have a significant advantage on field goals made and offensive rebounds. Marquette will have to combine multiple recommendations to win in a tough road environment.

Media Updates

**joint post by Rob and Tim


Thinking said...

"Coming off of back-to-back losses in conference play for the first time this season"???

Um, USF, Villanova....

Tim Blair said...