"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

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Trio of Guards Needs the Minutes

With Mo Acker gone, I believe we are going to be spending some time next year yelling at the TV after turnovers by Junior Cadougan, Darius Johnson-Odom and Dwight Buycks. We’ve been spoiled by DJ taking care of the ball the past four years, and Mo did a great job down the stretch of not turning the ball over to give us a chance right up until the final seconds of the Missouri game.

That being said, I think it was much better to have Mo go out with his final days being a great job of filling in after DJ broke his foot, because looking at his per minute averages, the alternative was going to be to end up riding out almost all of his senior season from the bench.

Buzz is obviously a number-cruncher, and the more I looked at the per minute averages, the more it was apparent that there was no reason to have Mo eat up minutes rather than have Cadougan, Johnson-Odom and Buycks go through their growing pains in non-conference play.

Offensive bad news - Losing Acker will cause MU turnovers

Acker’s turnover percentage (21.1% this year, 21.3% career) was a little high. Granted, we were spoiled by DJs improvement in lowering his turnover percentage every year from 18% (freshman year), to 17.4%, 16.5% and finally 15.9% this year. Based on scouting reports, it sounds like Cadougan, Johnson-Odom and Buycks are all going to be turnover prone, so let’s start getting the turnovers out of their system with minutes from Day 1 and hope they all make the same kind of improvement throughout their careers that DJ did.

Offensive good news - New Guard Trio will get to the hoop

By all accounts, the new trio all have quick first steps and can get to the hoop. Mo’s lack of ability to get to the hoop to produce either baskets or assists would have made it difficult to play him.

- ASSISTS. While no one will match DJs incredible assist ratios (30.6% of MU baskets resulted from DJ passes while he was on the floor, 31.1% career), Mo was at point his passes led to less than one in five of MUs baskets (19% last year, 18% career). So Mo really didn’t have the ability to create baskets, which will be even more important in trying to build the big guys confidence next year.

- SHOOTING. After his phenomenal freshman season, DJ shot a very frustrating 40% from the floor his final three seasons (452 of 1132). However, Mo was a MUCH WORSE SHOOTER, hitting only 35% of his shots (156 of 444) in his 3-year career (including Ball State).

Even if Mo had stayed on the team, I believe Buzz could have only put the new trio on the court as much as possible to drive, shoot and dish. Yeah, the turnovers will come, but the big guys will improve quicker as the new trio draws defenders away and dishes inside.

Defensive Bad News - Losing Acker will cost MU steals

We have been incredibly spoiled by the steals the Three Amigos have piled up the last four years, and Mo would have cut our losses some with a lot of steals. In his three seasons, he stole the ball 3.1% of opponents' trips down the court, which was only slightly lower than DJs 3.5%. So next year’s team, and possibly the next four years, MU will be a much worse team in one of the four main factors that determine who wins games – the team with the lower turnover percentage each game.

Defensive Good News - New Trio needed to stand up to rigors of Big East defense

As I detailed in a column late in the season, DJs defense his final season was without comparison. While only 5-11, his muscular 185 pound frame and incredible speed and vertical simply shut down almost every Big East guard. At 5-8/165, Mo just couldn’t physically matchup with opposing guards and required too much help.

Even AP ALL-AMERICAN Jerel McNeal (sorry, I just like typing that out any chance I get) was a great off-ball defender, but really had trouble matching up physically on ball with the likes of Flynn and Price.

I am truly excited that the new trio weighs in at 6-2/205 (Johnson-Odom), 6-3/185 (Buycks) and 6-2/220 (Coudougan), and appear to all be such physical players able to play their position.

In short, DJ was a poor shooter (40% final three years), but made up for it by being absolutely dominant in all other aspects of the game; assists, turnovers, steals, physical defense and penetration. We could more than live with DJ's shooting. With Acker’s other limitations, he had to be a very good shooter to merit any minutes on the court next year, and the fact is he was a much worst shooter (35% in three years) than even DJs last year (38%) would have made it tough to justify playing him at all.

In the end, it simply made no sense to have Mo on the court this year. I don’t know if MU will finish 12th or 13th in the Big East, as some predict for this year, or repeat the shocker of 2006 by having the freshman gel by the end of the year so that they can make the NCAA tournament.

However, in either case we need the new trio on the court as early and often as possible. Maybe that means we will make the NCAA like in 2006, and maybe it means we will get eaten up by the Big East like the great 1991 freshman were – but have the minutes in to go onto great runs after next year. However, in either case, MU is best served by having the new guard trio work out the kinks and take it to a new level as soon as possible.

We may need Cube’s 3-pointers to loosen defenses, but by all accounts, the New Guard Trio gives us enough ability to dribble and get to the hoop.

It makes sense to remember Mo as the guy who helped pull MU when all appeared lost after DJs broken foot, and do enough to get us within a few seconds of the Sweet 16.


Unknown said...

I have been reading crackedsidewalks for about 3-4 years now. I am going into my senior year at Marquette and am from Milwaukee growing up and have been a Marquette fan all my life. I have had the honor to watch the 3 Amigos since they were freshman - and agree the place/team/atmosphere won't be the same without them. However, the incoming class - although they have never played together before - has so much athletic talent and ability that I think by mid season they will already be able to mesh real well and feed off of eachothers skills. Also, the depth this year is much better than recent years - Butler, Fulce (hopefully healthy), and the new comers. I'm throwing this out there, but I feel as if we'll finish 7th or 8th in BE play and make the NCAA tourney once again. Lastly, when this incoming class becomes juniors, they will be very unstoppable and amazing much like the 3 amigos.

Oliver said...

So what if Acker rode the bench? He still would have been useful at times, especially when the youngsters got out of hand turning the ball over.

The much better scenario would have been to get Acker to accept a backseat, not to get him off the team

TB said...

Mmarquette -- thanks for your faithful readership.

Oliver, if Acker was a good role player I'd agree with you......but the fact is Mo was not effective as a role player -- he was only passable when he was a starter getting big minutes.

As a bit player, he was terribly ineffective and didn't accept the back seat at all last season - just look at his game by game efforts from last year. Lousy as a role player, passable as a starter.

JohnPudner said...

MMMarquette - I concur, and be thankful for being at Marquette when you were. While you may not have enjoyed the successful NCAA runs of the 1970s alumni, I graduated in 1988 with a 10-18 team. For me the 3 Amigos will always be the group that determined whether or not Marquette belonged in the Big East, or whether we would become DePaul. The current recruiting class would not have happened without the 3 Amigos exciting play and ability to produce from Day 1, and I agree even better days are now ahead.

Unknown said...

It's all water over the dam with Maurice gone, but like with DJ, he would of been there if an injury occurred to the three new guards. But that is a moot point.

Championships Matter said...

Look, I was there in the 1970s when St. Al ran the show. I have not been as excited about an incoming class since Al led us.

Look, there's a long way from raw recruit to NCAA Champion, but the journey to the final four begins now.

We'll see what they can do in the months ahead but I'm as optimistic. Remember, as good as the amigos were, the lack of team balance meant we lost when it really mattered.

We're on the road to fixing that.