"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

Friday, December 31, 2010

WVU (projected #15 RPI) morning tip-off; MU needs 10 wins to make NCAA

For those of you who are just turning your attention from football (where the Big East has added TCU and gone 3-1 in Bowls!), here is what Marquette has going into the 10 a.m. opener against West Virginia tomorrow. West Virginia projects to finish as the 15th ranked team in the RPI at the end of the year (www.rpiforecast.com), so a win would put MU on track for the NCAA tournament, while a loss would project them to fall just short.

The good: MU passes the eyeball test with great showings on TV vs. Duke at Vandy (two teams projected to finish in the Top 10 in the RPI at the end of the year) and MU is one of the most exciting teams in the nation (15th in the nation in scoring, 7th in shooting, 12th in assists).

However, the Big East will be brutal as by far the No. 1 conference in the country based on RPI, and MU enters conference play without a quality win and projected to finish 9-9 with 4 quality wins (top 50 RPI) and one bad loss (not in top 100) and the 66th best RPI in the country.

Which players get MU to 10 wins & an NCAA invite?

That won’t be quite enough for MU to make their 6th straight tourney, so MU will have to improve slightly, either going 10-8 in conference play to up their projected RPI to 54, OR going 9-9 but winning at least one game in the Big East tournament.

In looking at where the two extra steals, rebounds or made shots a game could come from, I took each players stats from only the five tough games this year, and projected what each player would average per minute on the floor. If Buzz basically settles on having four of MUs best five players on the court at all time, here is what you get with 32 minutes played by each:

Vander Blue 3-9 (1-3 on treys), 2-2 FT, 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals
Jimmy Butler 5-11 (1-2 on treys) 3-5 FT, 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 steal
Dwight Buycks 4-8 (1-3 on treys) 0-1 FT, 9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 steals
Jae Crowder 4-8 (1-3 treys) 2-2 FT, 11 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 3 steals, 1 block
Darius Johnson-Odom 5-13 (2-6 treys) 4-5 FT, 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 0 steals

Because of the lack of rebounding from the centers, it seems to me Crowder must be on the court most of the time, as his 7 rebounds per 32 minutes against the good teams is almost twice what anyone else will produce, and like Lazar Hayward last year, he has an incredible 3 steals a game in the big games. He also is the 10th best player in the country at not turning the ball over, according to www.kenpom.com.

With Blue and Buycks playing great defense and both average 4 rebounds and 2 steals per 32 minutes in the tough games, if Blue just starts to get a couple of more jumpers to fall (like the trey that rattled out against Vandy) it could be the difference. After a poor start shooting, DJO has averaged 3 of 5 in treys the last two games, and if he does that or even 3 of 6, MU starts winning these close games.

Centers hitting 70%+ of shots in big games but not rebounding

The good news is that Marquette finally has scoring from the five spot inside, as Davante Gardner and Chris Otule have hit more than 70% of their shots IN THE FIVE BIG GAMES. If you give them both 16 minutes, that gives you a very efficient 14 points a game from the center position in 32 minutes. Gardner’s the better offensive player, with great hands and gets to the line, while Otule is the better defensive player with two blocked shots a game. The biggest problem for MU is that in those same 32 minutes the two centers only combine for 5 rebounds a game – another reason Crowder needs to be on the court to help. Giving them both 16 minutes, their stats project to:

Gardner 3-4 (no treys) 2-3 FT, 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 steal
Otule 3-3 (no free throws) 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover, 2 blocks
Total from all 7 above: 27-56 (6-17 treys) 13-18 FT, 73 points, 29 rebounds, 11 turnovers, 9 steals

That leaves 8 minutes for the incredible depth provided by Junior Cadougan (7 assists vs. Duke) at point guard, or one of three 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7 players with nice shooting touch. The Centenary game showed potential for both young four stars in Jamail Jones (3 for 4 on treys for 11 points in 11 minutes) and Erik Williams (7 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes). Senior Joe Fulce missed the first four big games with his two knee injuries, but if recovered may be the best rebounding option with about 2 rebounds every 8 minutes.

Victory projections for season

Since MU has averaged giving up 73 points in the five tough games, just settling on this line-up gets MU even in the big games even if there is NO IMPROVEMENT. Inexperienced teams like MU typically improve more than experienced teams. However, assuming there is no improvement either through settling on a line-up or any players improving, here is a summary of what a combination of www.rpiforecast.com, Sagarin and www.kenpom.com project.

While Marquette’s current RPI of 150 looks terrible, the fact is that if they went just 6-12 in conference play, the RPI would go to about 106th. Here is the anticipated RPI depending on conference record:

7-11: RPI 92
8-10: RPI 77
9-9: RPI 66
10-8: RPI 54
11-7: RPI 44
12-6: RPI 36

Quality wins

Based on www.rpiforecast.com, MU has just missed quality wins against teams projected to finish No. 3 (Duke), No. 7 (Vanderbilt on the road), No. 28 (Wisconsin) and No. 64 (Gonzaga) in the final RPI.

MU is projected to win two games against eventual RPI Top 25 teams (some combination of WVU, at Pitt, at Lville, UConn, Syracuse, at Nova, at Gtown, UConn), and get two or three more against other top 50 teams (ND, at ND, St. John’s, with Cincy projected to finish No. 52 before winning tonight).

So a 9-9 record with four or five wins against RPI top 50 puts MU right on the bubble, and 10-8 with four or five Top 50 wins puts them in the tourney.

Keep in mind these projections anticipate MU goes 5-1 against non-top 50 teams. Both DePaul and Providence are coming to the Bradley Center, so even assuming MU takes care of business in those two games, they really can only afford to lose one of four at Rutgers (Wednesday), and South Florida, or during a home-and-home to Seton Hall at the end of the year after Jeremy Hazell has returned.

All four of those games are possible losses, and because of Hazell sitting out most of the season, any loss in those four games will likely show up as a “bad loss” (all three teams will likely NOT be in the top 100 in the final RPI).

In summary, the great news is that the Big East is so good that MU has plenty of opportunities to ring up resume building wins and make the tourney with 10 wins.

The bad news is that the Big East is so good that 16 of the 18 games will be very tough and if MU slides even slightly, it could have its first losing season since joining the Big East.

Tomorrow is huge.

Marquette kicks off the Big East season against West Virginia

Hey folks we have a Hangover Special to start Big East action for the Warriors .... a 10am CT tip-off against the West Virginia Mountaineers at the Bradley Center.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. West Virginia enters the game at 8-3 overall and 0-1 in the Big East. The Mountaineers were stunned in their home Big East opener by St John's, 81-71.

As usual Todd Rosiak's preview of the game is excellent
-- I don't have anything to add.

And if the hangover is too much to deal with, sack up and go for the hair of the dog.

Belated Christmas greetings

Yes, yes I realize Christmas has come and gone but it's still the Christmas season with Ephiphany just one week away. With this in mind we'd like to welcome two guests to Cracked Sidewalks to spread a little bit of Christmas cheer, Warrior style.

Dean Meminger and Greg Johnson, thanks very much. As many of you know late last year Dean Meminger was critically injured in a house fire in New York City. It's great to see Dean doing so well -- and note that this video was shot at Bo Ellis' annual Warrior Day Golf Outing in July. Way to go, Dean!

Also, I'd like to thank our intrepid videographer for his fine work last summer. Thanks you sir!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Analyzing the Big East to date

With the Big East season kicking off on Saturday for MU it's worth taking stock of the nation's best conference to this point in the season. During the Christmas season both the East Coast Bias and Rush the Court completed 'State of the Big East' analyses. In case you missed those updates, check out these links.

Rush The Court slots MU in as the 9th place team in the Big East.

Pico Dulce at the East Coast Bias was the ringleader in an informative series based on contributions from the blogging community.

As a reminder, the Warriors open up Big East play with a Hangover Special on New Year's Day against the West Virginia Mountaineers. If you're not familiar with Huggins' crew check out this Q/A from The Smoking Musket.

With the Big East conference season ready to kick-off in less than 48 hours -- MU great Roney Eford knows where to follow the action.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Commodores edge Warriors in Nashville

Another quality opponent, another soul-crushing loss.

Marquette continued its unenviable run of close losses to good teams tonight, falling 77-76 to 24th ranked Vanderbilt in Nashville. The Warriors battled to take a 76-75 lead on Dwight Buycks' jumper with 19 seconds left but surrendered a bucket to the Commodores with 4.1 seconds remaining to set up the final sequence. After an MU timeout Darius Johnson-Odom dribbled furiously up the floor, lost control and turned the ball over to end the game.

Surely Marquette leads the NCAA in last second shots not taken.

With the loss MU falls to 9-4 on the season and heads to Big East play with exactly zero quality out of conference wins. The Warriors host West Virginia on New Year's Day.

Marquette shot an impressive 56% from the floor tonight and held the notable Commodore marksmen to just 26% from deep and 48% overall. Yet MU was unable to create a turnover advantage, connected on only 7 of 13 free throws, and as has been the case all season the Warriors struggled to control the defensive glass in key spots.

MU was led by Jimmy Butler with 15 points. Darius Johnson-Odom added 14, Buycks had 14, Chris Otule had a dozen while Vander Blue finished with 10 points.

Todd Rosiak blogs a recap.
Box Score.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MU travels south to face great backcourt, one of tallest teams in country in Vandy

Southerners like me are thrilled to get to DRIVE to a game tomorrow as MU comes to Nashville – but what a tough matchup it is against one of the tallest teams and best backcourts in the country.

Prior to the season, Fox Sports picked both Vanderbilt and Marquette among the top 12 backcourts in the country, however the bigger matchup concern for MU tomorrow night will be keeping Vandy off the offensive glass.

Vanderbilt is also the 8th tallest team in the country and 6-foot-11 Festus Ezeili is the 11th best offensive rebounder in the country – grabbing an incredible 18.2% of all of Vanderbilt’s misses when he is on the court. MU hasn’t seen anyone that good yet, though unfortunately we will during trips to Pitt (Dante Taylor) and Georgetown (Julian Vaughn). MU is actually just slightly above average height this year after being one of the shortest teams in the country the past few years.

In previewing the 12 best backcourts, Fox Sports' Jeff Goodman wrote at the time, “There may be no better shooter in the nation than sophomore John Jenkins. Jeffery Taylor is one of the top wings in the nation, and Brad Tinsley should slide right in and fill the void left by the graduation of Jermaine Beal.”

Unfortunately, all three have lived up to their billing:

At 6-foot-4, Jenkins is hitting 87% of his free throws and 42% of his 3-pointers.

At 6-foot-7, Taylor is the go-to guy who draws a lot of fouls driving but also hits 39% of his treys to go along with 53% of his 2-point shots.

At 6-foot-3, Tinsley is one of the top assists men in the country.

They do not steal the ball, but are among the country’s best teams at blocking shots and killing opponent’s shooting (only 29% of treys and 41% of 2-point shots are made) – so the kind of patient defense that has given MU trouble in long stretches.
Vandy’s one weakness so far is that they do give up steals, which is where MU is so dangerous.

In short, it’s going to be a tough, tough road game to pull out.

MU facing 19 projected tourney teams

So far, MU is not projected to make the NCAA tournament, but starting with Vandy 12 of their next 16 opponents are projected in Lunardi’s latest picks.

If those projections hold, then MU will have played an incredible 19 games against NCAA tournament teams, a potential 20th in Cincinnati, and FIVE OPPONENTS CURRENTLY PROJECTED TO BE A NO. 1 OR 2 SEED.

Similar to last year, MU has lost three games to tourney-projected teams, but all by 5 points or less. Now it’s time to start seeing if MU is on an incline up as the inexperienced team gels:

1. Can MU box out Ezeili unlike the disastrous 2nd halves that cost MU wins against Gonzaga and Wisconsin?
2. Is JUCO POY Jae Crowder going to stay on the court now that he is exploding from the arc and under the basket?
3. Can DJO shake off a slow start to look like the player projected to go in the NBA draft in this 2nd of 5 challenges this year against a top 12 backcourt?
4. Will the season’s sweetest surprise, big man Davante Gardner, finally be fully recovered from his early season shoulder injury and continue to pump in points in the paint?

I believe MU has established a very strong five starters in Vander Blue, Dwight Buycks, DJO, Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler, and two players 6-foot-8 or better that can split time very effectively with Chris Otule and Gardner both hitting more than two-thirds of their shots.

Jae Crowder is now ranked as the 14th best offensive player in any BCS conference by www.kenpom.com, and Gardner actually ranks slightly higher but doesn’t have enough minutes played to qualify.

And unlike in past years, everyone on the bench can contribute.

Pomeroy makes MU and 8-point underdog tomorrow night, but MU hasn’t lost by that many yet and if Buzz has settled the guys into a 7-man rotation for this killer stretch, tomorrow night could be a chance to pull the first real shocker of the MU season.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grading MUs performance through one semester

Several MU players will be getting their first semester grades – so it’s a good time to grade the team on how prepared they are to face the rugged upcoming schedule.

While we can throw out five creampuff games so far, as well as tomorrow night’s game vs. Mississippi Valley State, the four other games played to date give a fair appraisal of the competition MU will face in the Big East. Duke, Wisconsin, Gonzaga and UWM have a combined rating of 83.67 in Sagarin, virtually the same as the 83.43 average rating in the Big East so far this year.

Therefore I took the Four Factors that determine games and broke them into 10 grades, BUT I graded MU based only on their performance in those four tough games.
Here are the grades in the tough games, the best indicator of what it will take for MU to do well once again in Big East play:


Protecting the ball: B+
On average, teams turn the ball over 21% of their trips down the court, which would have meant 14 turnovers a game in MUs four tough games. The fact is MU turned the ball over only 12 times in the tough games (17%) of trips. That’s worth 2 extra points a game against the likes of Duke, and MU actually takes care of the ball better in these tough games then in blowout wins when they give up some sloppy but meaningless turnovers (turned it over 19% of trips in all games). A very good indication that MU will be good at protecting the ball when the game is on the line.

3-point shooting: C-
MU was one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country last year. MU is not nearly as good this season at 31% compared to the typical 34%. However, in the big games they’ve hit 32%, helping themselves against Wisconsin (4 of 9) and Milwaukee (8 of 19), while hurting themselves against Duke (4 of 20) and Gonzaga (6 of 21). The fact is 3-pointers are the most unpredictable part of the game, and while DJO can help if he finds his rhythm, there will be good and bad games.

2-point shooting: A
The biggest positive change over the past several years is that MU is now one of the best 2-point shooting teams in the country. Their 55.4% shooting is 7th best in the country, much better than the national average of 47.5%, but MU is even more impressive against tough teams. In the four tough games, MU has averaged 38 two-point and hit 20 (52%). Hitting over half their 2-pointers despite two of those four games being against the No. 1 defense in the country in Duke and a Wisconsin team that has allowed opponents to hit less than 40% of their 2-pointers is remarkable. The performance so far is unbelievably good and truly puts a high ceiling on what MU could do this year.

Getting to the line: C+
When a team gets to the free throw line they average 1.4 points a trip, when they don’t they average less than 1 point a trip. It is that important. MU is getting to the line at a higher than average rate (FTA/FGA = 43%, compared to the typical 38%). However, in the four tough games they have been slightly below average (34%), about what would be expected against tough teams but nothing exceptional, as they have averaged going 14 of 19 from the line.

Offensive Rebounding: D
A typical team grabs the offensive rebound about once every three times they miss a shot. At first glance, the fact that MU grabs 38% of their misses looks a little above the 33% average. However, MU has been very bad at grabbing offensive rebounds in the four tough games, averaging grabbing only 7 offensive rebounds out of 30 misses (24%). The low point was certainly UWM, when MU grabbed 2 offensive rebounds on 24 misses, but the other three tight games were also below average. This has to improve.


Forcing Turnovers: A-
MU has forced turnovers on 24% of opponents’ trips down the court, slightly above the 21% average. But what is even more impressive is it doesn’t matter who they are playing, because MU forced both Duke (19 turnovers) and Gonzaga (16 in a slower paced game) to turn it over 24% of the time. Wisconsin is the only team who has been able to take care of the ball against MU. In the four tough games MU has won the turnover battle an average of 15 to 12, a very impressive difference against very tough competition. What is even more helpful is that most of MUs forced turnovers are on actual steals giving them the chance for fast breaks, while very few of MUs offensive turnovers are on opponents’ steals.

3-point defense. C
I know everyone wants to give MU terrible marks in defending the three after watching inferior teams hit open treys. However, these baskets don’t mean much in blowouts. While MU gives up 38% on threes overall compared to a typical 34%, the fact is that MU toughens up against tougher opponents, allowing an average day of 7 of 18 (36%) in the tough games. MU has held Duke, Gonzaga and Wisconsin below their 3-point average. Basically MU's tough opponents have averaged 7 of 18 while MU has averaged 6 of 17 in those four tough games – so MU is only losing the 3-point exchange by one trey a game while trying fewer of them, really not much of a difference.

2-point defense: D
Outside of rebounding, MU's biggest problem in the tough games has been defending the 2-point shot. Overall, MU has allowed only 44% 2-point shooting (below the 47.5% typical average), BUT in the four tough games MU has allowed opponents to average a 23 of 42 shooting from inside the arc. So despite MU being one of the top 2-point shooting teams in the country, they are actually losing the 2-point exchange in the tough games.

Keeping opponents off the line: A+
The strongest part of MU’s game is not letting teams get to the line. MU only allows an average of 24% FTA/FGA (free throws attempted vs. field goals attempted), which is way below the 38% average. However, what is even more amazing is the MU is EVEN BETTER against the tough teams, as that figure dropped to 19% against Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin and UWM. MU has won the free throw exchange by an amazing 7 points per game in the four big games, going 14 of 19 from the line on offense while only giving up 7 of 11 to those four opponents. And +7 at the line will win a lot of games.

Defensive Rebounding: F
Finally, we get to the huge deficiency that MU must correct to make the tournament. MU's four tough opponents have averaged missing 33 shots a game against MU, and 13 of those 33 times they have grabbed the offensive rebound (42%). Obviously this has contributed to the high 2-point shooting by opponents as well, as many are stickbacks. What is really amazing though is that MU's overall defensive rebounding has been above average in 6 of those 8 halves – it has just been unbelievably abysmal in the second halves against both Gonzaga (15 offensive rebounds allowed) and Wisconsin (12 offensive rebounds allowed). Hopefully this is just an example of an inexperienced team that has lost confidence twice when the snowball has started down the hill and will level out.

Based on www.kenpom.com, MU has lost by 5 points to both the #1 and #9 team in the country (Duke and Wisconsin), lost by 3 to the 54th best team (Gonzaga), and won by 3 at UWM.

Some will protest that I include the UWM game, but that game needs to be included for several reasons:

1. UWM was by far the 4th toughest test MU faced and by adding them the overall average of the four teams is just above the average competition faced in the Big East according to Sagarin’s ratings,

2. As I’ve noted repeatedly, no Big 10 or Big East team has gone into a Horizon gym and won by more than 4 points in the last three years so playing at UWM was not like facing 5 creampuffs at home, and

3. According to the Sagarin ratings, a game AT UWM is exactly as tough as if MU had played the #74 team in the country (Nebraska) at the Bradley Center.

Certainly an inexperienced MU team may need to make a few adjustments to change close loses into close wins. Perhaps a little more physical play underneath would give up a few more foul shots but also stop allowing as many offensive rebounds and lay-ups.

But MUs ability to stand toe-to-toe with tough teams and so clearly win the turnover and free throw exchange is one more indication that there is a very high ceiling on this team.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Gentlemen come to town

After a week away from competitive action the Marquette Warriors (7-3) host the Centenary Gentlemen (0-11) this afternoon at the Bradley Center. The disappointing home loss to Bucky has been lingering for a week and the over-matched Gents will provide little resistance this afternoon. Centenary stinks.

Heading into the eleventh game of the season it's time to start The DJO Watch in earnest. The junior guard, widely expected to emerge as one of the Big East's top guards, has regressed this season hitting on just 38% of his shots from the field and an abominable 27% from three-point range. If not for one scintillating performance against UWM (29 points on 10-14 shooting, 5-7 from deep) those figures would be far worse and perhaps more representative of just how much he's struggled so far this season.

As a sophomore the Raleigh native connected on 45% of his field goals and 47% of his three-point attempts. Johnson-Odom is coming off his worst game of the season, hitting just one of his nine attempts in the home loss to Wisconsin. While a strong performance against Centenary won't be enough to signal a turnaround, coach Buzz Williams needs the talented guard to raise his level of play quickly.

Tipoff is scheduled for 1pm Marquette Standard Time. The game will be broadcast on Sports32.

If you have 30 minutes, enjoy the final episode of Marquette Basketball - Revealed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marquette Basketball Weekly: The Father Wild Edition

Outgoing Marquette University President Rev. Robert Wild sits down with Brad Galli to talk decades of Marquette basketball: the players who became legends, the men who coached them, and the moment he calls the greatest of his 15-year presidency. Wild shares what went in to hiring Buzz Williams and why he calls the current coach “amazing.” Also, Derek Hudgin talks with Williams, Jae Crowder, Dwight Buycks, and Rob Frozena about giving back during the holiday season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Badgers' toughness is too much for Warriors

MUTV Sports' Brad Galli reports from the Bradley Center after MU failed to grab a signature out of conference win against the visiting Badgers.

Todd Rosiak on how the Badgers were too tall and too tough for MU.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Warriors seek Badger road kill

The Marquette Warriors and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers renew hostilities on Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center with plenty at stake for the good guys. The Warriors enter the game with a record of 7-2, beating every team you'd expect and nothing more. As Carl Spackler said, I guess the kidding around is pretty much over. It's time for the Warriors to step up, claim a solid out-of-conference win, and rid the State of the rabid menace to the West once again.

We expect a tight game on Saturday. In many aspects both Marquette and Wisconsin-Madison (not Wisconsin-Green Bay or Wisconsin-Milwaukee) will compete on matching strengths or weaknesses:

  • Bo Ryan's squad is very good at defending inside the three-point line, while Marquette is very efficient offensively in that range. Strength vs. Strength.
  • Bucky is so-so from beyond the arc and MU defends those shots poorly. Weakness vs. Weakness.
  • Wisconsin-Madison is fifth-best team in the nation at protecting the ball. Marquette turns teams over at a rate higher than the national average. Strength vs. Strength.
  • Bucky is great on the glass both offensively (#20) and defensively (#26). This is where Wisconsin-Madison has a definitive strength relative to Marquette.
  • Wisconsin-Madison's offense is not great. But neither is MU's defense.
  • Bucky rarely gets to the line. Marquette rarely fouls. These tendencies cancel out.
So what does this all mean? More than likely the game hinges on two primary factors - rebounding and turnovers. For the Warriors to make road kill of the Badgers they can't be soft on the backboards as they were against Gonzaga and they must turn the Badgers over at a fairly high rate, winning the turnover battle convincingly.

In the Badgers' two losses they were exposed in different ways. Against UNLV, where the Badgers fell 68-85, Wisconsin-Madison coughed up the ball too much (15 times) and allowed UNLV shoot nearly 50% from the field. In the loss to Notre Dame, Bucky protected the ball well (only four turnovers!) but was blitzed on the glass by the Irish (40-28 overall and 12-6 on the offensive boards) falling 58-51.

The good news for MU is that they forced Duke and Gonzaga into a lot of turnovers. With a bit better result on the glass against the Zags, MU would have pulled that game out. The same formula applies on Saturday -- turn'em over, hold your own on the glass, and take then make the first best available shot on offense. For the sake of argument I'll presume that MU's defense will be solid in front of a marvelous home crowd on Saturday.

Saturday's game is a Gold Out in the Bradley Center. Gold! Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30pm Marquette Standard Time. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Alumni -- please remember to stop by the pre-game reception sponsored by Marquette University on Saturday starting at 11am at the Pabst Brewery. Find details here.

And sure, while this post is (for the most part) entirely rational our blogging brethren at the Anonymous Eagle have been filling the void with well-deserved Badger Hate all week. I highly recommend you check out each offering from those guys.

Anonymous Eagle Badger Hate Week

Todd Rosiak updates

Additional updates
That's right .... Gold out!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Double Switchables

We're pleased to welcome another guest post from Dr. Blackheart. You may recall that Dr. Blackheart contributed two guest posts in September. His first post looked at offensive efficiency and turnovers. The second one predicted low three percent percentages and guessed at the starting lineup. Today's post looks more at the early season trends and gazes into the crystal ball for the rest of the season.

The 2009-10 season saw a short (depth and height) but experienced MU team focus on offensive efficiency, achieved by not turning the ball over while slowing the tempo to work the offense for the best available three ball. The team was coached magnificently to do what it could do well—and was successful at it like no other team in MU’s history.

Turning the page over to the 2010-11 season, the roster is now comprised of three new starters and seven non-battle hardened neophytes to Buzz Ball. MU is still a relatively efficient team (31st offensively and 40th defensively in Pomeroy), as is the Buzz trademark. However, with all the new faces and the rotating line-ups, fans are left to wonder what this team does well—what is its identity—as it doesn’t appear MU is exceptional at anything at first blush?

Distribution Center(s)
With a point guard by committee, MU is a surprising 10th nationally in assists per game with 18.1 helping hands. Dwight Buycks (4.2/game) and Junior Cadougan (3.6/game) lead the way in government assistance. Who is on the receiving end? Well, surprise, surprise…The Buzz Brand of Aircraft Carriers.

MU’s points in the paint are up a whopping 32% year to year after the first eight games. Combined, the Double O’s (Otule and Ox) are shooting 70% from the field, with all the frontline players averaging 61% from inside the arc. In fact, MU is 13th nationally in Two Point FG Shooting Percentage (56.4%). Not since the Kevin O’Neill or Al McGuire years has a MU team made such a concerted effort to feed the low post like this year’s—albeit it an abbreviated effort as Otule and Gardner have averaged just 24 minutes per game combined. More so, their presence has opened up near-in space for the other position players to attack the rim. But, what a 180 from last season’s low turnover, high trey shooting percent team, though.

This Big Man focus also manifests itself on defense. While MU led the Big East in protecting the perimeter last season, MU’s has chosen to protect the paint this season as we were last in the BE in rebounding in 2009-10. As a result, opponents are hitting treys at a much higher clip, but our two point defense (43.3%) has improved to 68th in the nation from 263rd, while our offensive rebounding rate (36.4%) has improved to 74th in the nation from 238th. And, MU is fouling at a much lower rate. In fact, MU is 3rd in the nation in opponents’ free throw rate.

Is Last Season Just Distant a Memory?

Are low turnover rates with high three point shooting percents not possible with this crew? No, not necessarily. Coming into this season, of the top offensive efficiency games in the past 15 years, 72% of them came after first semester final exams. Last night against Corpus Christi, we saw the 18th most offensive efficient game in 15 years. Up till this point in the season, the guards have been focused on attacking the rim and not really on spacing and flow. Similarly, finding rebounding lanes had not been a particular strength of this team—one Buzz took the pre-Longwood week to concentrate practice on. Now, will MU settle into a regular rotation? Will the incredibly efficient Joe Fulce return healthy? Will flow improvements lead to lower turnovers and better spacing for spot up threes on a consistent basis? Will MU slowly extend its perimeter defense once the interior fortification gets settled? These will be the questions that will start to be answered against the tougher Badgers as MU’s “identity is revealed”.

Marquette sinks the Islanders

Marquette rolled to an 86-50 victory over Texas A&M Corpus Christi behind a career-high 21 points from freshman Vander Blue. A second half knee injury to senior forward Joseph Fulce - which appears to be serious - deflated the Warriors' spirit after the game however. With the win MU improves to 7-2 on the season.

MU victory tainted by Fulce injury, per Rosiak.
Rosiak blogs a recap.
Official MU recap.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

One night engagement: The LeDaryl Billingsley Festival

Tonight Marquette (6-2) hosts its second buy game in as many outings when it welcomes Texas A&M Corpus Christi to the Bradley Center.

Texas A&M CC is coached by former Tulane head coach Perry Clark. If you are looking for a reason to have a bit more interest in tonight's game, that's the hook: Perry Clark is the man who delivered what became a crucial blow to the Mike Deane era at MU. How so, you ask? Clark wooed Chicago's LeDaryl Billingsley to Tulane after the power forward had verbally committed to MU. Billingsley went on to average 11 points and six rebounds per game during his career at Tulane, which spanned the 1997-98 season through the 2000-2001 campaign. As as a senior he averaged 18 points and 9 boards per game and was a second team All-Conference USA selection.

Had Billingsley signed with MU he would have joined Brian Wardle, DeMarcus Minor, Greg Clausen and John Mueller as freshmen. With Cordell Henry arriving on campus the following year, Mike Deane was thisclose to having what might have been one of the best young groups in Conference USA. In the end Billingsley decided against MU, DeMarcus Minor left for a productive career at Baylor (don't forget about the loss of Alton Mason as well) and Mike Deane's fate was sealed.

Perry Clark -- Marquette hero or villain?

Enjoy the game. Gametime is 8pm CT, broadcast on Sports32, DirecTV 639, 540 ESPN, or you can follow along with the Game Tracker.


Recaps and memories associated with coach Raymonds. Enjoy

Monday, December 06, 2010

Coach Hank Raymonds passes away

One of the finest human beings I ever met. Rest in Peace Coach!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Who needs 3 big men? Otule hits 9 straight en route to 96-65 win

Joe Fulce and Davante Gardner returned Saturday to get MU back to full strength with all three of their big men in action.

For one of the few times, MU did not need all three as they watched Chris Otule go 9 for 9 from the floor to lead the route, the second best shooting performance in MU history behind Wesley Matthew’s 10-10 against Rutgers.

No team surprises
At the team level, there were no surprises Saturday. Longwood provided a very exciting opponent, but with no ability to stop MU from getting to the hoop.

With 10 minutes to play in the game MU was hitting 72% of their two-point attempts (28 of 39) and was grabbing 44% (8 of 18) of their misses. Put it together and when MU put up a 2-pointer they were getting either the basket or the offensive rebound 84% of the time.

Joe Fulce did have a couple of big slams in his first game back, but Davante Gardner was able to rest on the bench and watch the up and down game.

Buzz trumped all of Longwood’s speed by starting lightning fast Reggie Smith, who closed the game with a nice pass to Robert Frozena to get him on the board for the year.

Longwood came in averaging 75 trips down the court a game, and didn’t disappoint Saturday night forcing more than 40 trips in both halves for an unbelievable pace.
But even Longwood tried out a 2-3 zone on MU, as teams conclude MU is just too athletic and tough to guard man to man.

Marquette had five double digit scorers with Otule 19, DJO 14, Vander Blue 12, Jae Crowder 10 and Dwight Buycks 10.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Marquette could score 100; might need to Saturday

The Longwood Lancers average scoring 5 points a game more than Marquette (84-79) because they get the ball down the court and shoot quickly and shoot well. Thank goodness Marquette has added depth, because they run a lot of players at you with seven players scoring between 9 and 15 points per game.

Expect them to try a furious pace after the 1 p.m. CST tipoff Saturday.

Like the MU teams of the last few years, the Lancers generally have one 6-foot-6 player in the middle surrounded by a bunch of guys 6-2 and under.

They either go quickly into 6-foot-6 Antwan Carter (15 ppg, 10.9 rpg on 60% shooting from the floor), or gun it up. Four players are averaging more than 5 trey attempts a game, including small guards Aaron Mitchell (15 ppg), Durrann Neil (9.1) and Martiz Washington (21 of 53 treys), as well as 6-foot-7 Jan Vander Kooij from the Netherlands.

The only guard who prefers the two is Jeremiah Bowman, who will compete with Jae Crowder for best hair. Bowman is averaging 11.6 ppg on 33 of 60 shooting from the floor, and has hit 6 of 9 treys.

Overall, they are one of the top 3-point shooting teams (39%) in and are coming to Milwaukee after drawing a record crowd and leading a pretty good James Madison team into the 2nd half.

For the 3rd year in a row, Longwood is averaging about 75 trips a game down the court – making them one of the fast 10 teams in the country all three years.


As exciting as all that sounds - the fact is the Lancers have only beaten one Division 1 team this year.

While the Lancers get the ball down the court very quickly and put shots up quickly and on the mark, they really should not be a match for Marquette.

Marquette should be able to go to the hoop at will and either get fouled or make their shots (59% allowed on 2-pointers). In their last game, James Madison’s big man went 10 for 10 from the field.

Longwood also rarely steals the ball, apparently content to let opponents get off a shot so they can throw it down to the other end and put up a quick three to win the exchange 3-2.

Longwood – from Farmville VA – will make MU continue to work on their shaky 3-point defense. In their opener, the Kansas Jayhawks held them to 3 of 14 from beyond the arc in the first half, but since then Longwood has been over 40% on treys including an 8 for 16, 48 points second half against the Jayhawks.

Their exciting style of play resulted in a record turnout of 1,973 fans – ok it’s not the Bradley Center – in their last game against the James Madison Dukes.

I hate to set the bar this high, but as well as MU gets to the basket this year they really could put up 100+ points unless Buzz feels he really needs to slow the pace down to get the Lancers out of their game.

Might be a good game to boost those point per game totals, get in great shape, and learn how to get to every spot on the arc on defense.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Marquette Basketball Weekly

Brad Galli and Todd Warner take you inside Marquette's CBE Classic journey in the "Turkey Tourney Edition" of Marquette Basketball Weekly. Hey, leftovers are always good.

Dick Vitale joins Brad for a trip down Memory Lane, recalling stories of Al McGuire. Todd takes a look at the unique relationship between Vander Blue and Duke's Kyrie Irving, while Brad examines the recent history between Duke and Marquette in Thanksgiving tournaments. FoxSports.com's Jeff Goodman closes the show with Todd, sharing his insight on the Golden Eagles.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

DJO explosion saves 38-game win streak

Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom netted 6 consecutive free throws in the final 30 seconds to survive 75-72 against UWM.

But make no mistake about it – if DJO had not simply played like the NBA player he is projected to be for the first time this year, UWM would have ended MUs 37-game win streak and there would have been no chance for the last second heroics.

Until Saturday night, DJO simply had not looked like the player projected to be the 38th player selected in the NBA draft after his senior season next year. (21 spots after Vander Blue, though we hope he is in the 2014 draft)

Warning to the Big East – he’s back! Just in time for bragging rights in Milwaukee.
Despite sitting several minutes dazed after an accidental hit to the nose, DJO hit 7 of 8 shots en route to 22 first half points, finishing with a career high 29 points on the night.

His hot hand from outside and ability to draw defenders and then kick out helped MU go 8 of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half to open a big lead.

However, MU continued to have trouble boxing out, including allowing consecutive offensive rebounds with 16 seconds left to cut the lead back to two points.

The only problem MU had experienced early in the season was leaving opponents open for 3-pointers. However, Gonzaga dominated for 15 offensive rebounds in the second half of the last game and UWM was able to pick up right where they left off.

MU has two creampuffs coming up, and will have to use those games to work on boxing out and guarding against the trey before Wisconsin comes to town December 11.

By the way, Rush the Court hosted a live blog on the game.

Media Links

Marquette nearly loses to UW-Milwaukee for the first time.....SINCE TIME BEGAN

For all the talent MU has, for all the coaching acumen Buzz Williams offers, you would be hard pressed to find much of it tonight after MU went up 18 points in the second half and then decided to lay an egg until the final seconds of the game. Marquette escaped with a 75-72 win thanks to making 7 of 8 clutch free throws by Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder and DJO in the final seconds. The win means Marquette is 38-0 all time against Milwaukee State Normal School \ Wisconsin State Teachers College \ Wisconsin State College of Milwaukee \ UWM \ UW-Milwaukee. The final margin was easily the closest of the 38 games....no other game was decided in single digits.

This was the first game ever between the two schools in which Marquette was the visitor. Television broadcasters expected about 8,000 in attendance and declared about a 50-50 split with MU and UW-M fans at US Cellular Arena (formerly known as the MECCA).

UW-M jumped to the early lead in the game at 4-0 before Marquette's defensive pressure and a stellar first half by DJO surged the Warriors into the lead for good. DJO scored 22 first half points on 5 for 5 behind the arc. He had been struggling all year to find his long range stroke, but consistently hit from outside in the first half. UW-M was able to hang around on the 3 point shooting of Tony Meir and the inside play of Anthony Hill. MU led at the break 47 to 35.

In the second half, MU continued to surge building a 18 point lead at 53-35 in the opening few minutes. It seemed at this point MU decided the game was in hand and went into cruise control. They got sloppy with the ball, made poor decision after poor decision and let the Panthers back into the game. UW-M went on two runs to combine for a 20-7 edge at 60-55 with 6:34 remaining in the game. MU answered with a a mini six point run to make it 66-55 in just over one minute of play before MU shut it down over the next 5 minutes.

UW-M cut the lead to 68-66 after an 11-2 run with 26.9 seconds remaining. Butler sunk two free throws to push the lead back to four, but MU allowed an easy UW-M put back basket at 70-68 with 12.2 seconds left. Butler was again fouled and calmly sunk two free throws again. With five seconds left, Williams was fouled going to the hoop but did not score. He made only one free throw. DJO was fouled on the other end and pushed MU's lead to 74-69 before McCallum drained a three pointer to cut the lead to two points with 1.5 seconds left. UW-M still had life. A dangerous inbound pass from Junior Cadougan was nearly stolen but Jae Crowder was able to corral it. Crowder was fouled...he missed the first free throw but nailed the second. UW-M had a wide open half court shot that was too high and too long. Marquette escaped in a game they played well for a half but terrible for the other....sound familiar....Bucknell, South Dakota, etc.

DJO led all scorers with 29 points. Jimmy Butler was the only other Warrior in double digits with 13. UW-M had four players in double digit scoring and were led by Ja'Rob McCallum's 19. MU was out rebounded 31 to 21. Buzz's squad again gave up over 40% shooting by an opponent from the three point area.

MU needs to shore up their defense and point guard play if it is to have a successful season this year. Tonight, Marquette escaped in a game they clearly had more talent but decided the game was over before it was.

Journal Sentinel article

Box Score

Friday, November 26, 2010

Giving thanks for being in the best conference - 15 potential quality wins

I’m thankful for MU being a part of the best basketball conference in the country because MU has 15 more chances at quality wins.

The Big 10-ACC challenge was to feature No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 Michigan State, until unranked UConn beat Michigan State.

The fact is, while the challenge is supposed to pit No. 1 vs. No. 1 through No. 11 vs. No. 11 in the Big 10 and ACC, if you use the rankings at www.kenpom.com to run the same hypothetical matchup between all conferences on neutral courts, the Big East is clearly the winner against either conference or any other so far this year.

Through today, the Big East goes undefeated under this hypothetical format against 29 other conferences including the Pac 10 and SEC. The Big East goes 10-1 against the ACC (only Pitt rated lower than Duke), and 9-2 against the Big 12, leaving the Big 10 and the Big East as the top two conferences.

The Big East and Big 10 are very even through the top 6 teams, hypothetically splitting the six going by the ratings. However, the Big East would be huge favorites when pitting the No. 7 through No. 11 teams from both conferences against their counterpart: (26th Lville>47th PSU, 37th Marquette>65th NW, 45th ND>71st Indiana, 51st SH>86th Michigan and 56th St. John’s>103rd Iowa).

MU has 15 more shots at quality wins

While this could change, the reason the Big East’s spot as the top conference so far is important is that the stiff competition means MU has 15 more games against quality opponents.

Go 7-8 in those games and MU is easily in the tournament with a good seed, even if MU were upset someplace like at UWM or USF to finish 21-10. Go 5-10 in those games an MU could still make it – so the opportunity is there in the Big East.

MUs potential - strong in 7 of 8 categories

The inexperienced MU team has certainly shown the potential to get a lot of quality wins, even if the Big East does continue to be the top conference (not to mention opportunities against Wisconsin and at Vanderbilt).

MU is very good at 7 of the 8 things that determine the winner in 90%+ of games (the Four Factors on offense and defense).

On offense MU shoots well, gets to the foul line, protects the ball and grabs offensive rebounds much better than most teams. I am sure critics will point to poor 3-point shooting and inconsistent foul shooting, but these weaknesses are more than overcome by MUs ability to get to the line and hit 2-pointers:

• MU is shooting 66.1% from the line compared to the national average of 67.6%. While that may cost MU about 1 point every four games, the fact that they drive to the hoop gets MU as many free throws and field goal attempts - worth several extra points EVERY game.
• While MU is terrible at 3-point shooting (28.4%), they are the best they’ve ever been at 54.4% on two-point shots (only once since Wade left have they shot 50% on 2-pointers). Simple solution, MU takes a 2-point shot 77.1% of the time meaning overall they are a very good shooting team overall.

On defense, MU is strong on forcing turnovers, keeping opponents off the line, and defensive rebounding (despite the abysmal 2nd half against Gonzaga). That leaves only one weakness – opponents’ shooting.

MU is giving up a terrible 39.2% on three-pointers, and unlike on offense, they can’t choose how often opponents take the 3-pointer. Opponents choose to take a 3-pointer 33% of the time.

Unlike the senior-dominated 2008-09 team that was about as good as they were going to get at the beginning of the season, an inexperienced team like this one typically only gets better as the year goes on and players play together.

Davante Gardner will only get in better shape to improve his defense to go along with his offense, Dwight Buycks and Junior Cadougan will only get more comfortable running the point, Jae Crowder and Vander Blue will only get more dominant as they get used to playing with everyone else on the court.

Marquette needs to figure out how to make adjustments to lower opponents’ field goal percentage. However, a team this good at everything else already and with so much potential to get better will have a great chance for a lot of quality wins this year in the Big East.

In the preseason predictions I picked MU to lose to Duke and Gonzaga but finish 23-8. The bad news is 23 wins is going to be pretty tough due to the Big East being much better than expected, but the good news is it is not going to take nearly that many wins to make the tournament with a team that could well be peaking on their way to Georgetown, the University of Arizona, Denver, the University of South Florida, Cleveland State University, UNCC, Chicago or the University of Tulsa for the opening round in mid-March.

After watching this team courtside for two days in Kansas City, I believe we may get a tourney win or two even before the arrival of top 100 players Jamail Jones and Juan Anderson and freshman turning into sophomores next year.

Big East vs. Top 50

For the record, the seven Big East teams ahead of MU at www.kenpom.com are 8-1 against top 50 teams:
Pitt (4th) – beat 5th Texas 68-66
Nova (6th) – beat 42nd UCLA 82-70
Georgetown (9th) – beat 44th ODU 62-59 (away) and 38th NC State 82-67
Syracuse (13th) – no top 50 opponents
West Virginia (23rd) – beat 27th Vandy 74-71, lost to 31st Minn 74-70
UConn (26th) – beat 8th Mich St 70-67, beat 14th Kent 84-67
Louisville (29th) – beat 36th Butler 88-73 (home)
Marquette (37th) – lost 1st Duke 82-77, lost to 43rd Gonzaga 66-63

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gonzaga mauls Marquette

In what will be one of this season's most frustrating defeats the Marquette Warriors spit the bit tonight against the Gonzaga Bulldogs, losing 66-63 at the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic in Kansas City.

Marquette never displayed its 'A game' tonight, falling behind early and trailing 42-33 at the break. The Zags shot lights out in the first half nailing six three-pointers including five by Steven Gray who finished with a team-high 20 points. The Warriors made adjustments at the half and Gonzaga failed to connect on a three-pointer in the game's final 20 minutes, but that adjustment was not without consequence.

Mark Few's Bulldogs found another way to keep MU at bay by owning the backboards in the game's crucial stages. To say that Marquette was destroyed on the glass would be an understatement; Gonzaga ripped down 15 of its 17 offensive rebounds in the second half. That is not a misprint. The Warriors were no match for the Bulldogs' toughness.

All told Gonzaga earned a 42-26 rebounding advantage and a startling 17-6 advantage on the offensive glass including the 15 they claimed in the second half alone. Despite the beat down in the paint Marquette closed the gap to just two points late in the game but failed to launch a quality shot as time expired.

Jimmy Butler led MU with 22 points and 5 boards. The senior ignited MU's late run, scoring 13 of the team's final 17 points including a three-pointer with 45 seconds remaining to bring Marquette to within two. Darius Johnson-Odom finished with 13 points while Jae Crowder added 10. For the game MU shot just 39% from the floor including an ice-cold 29% from three-point range.

With the loss MU falls to 4-2 on the season. Next up for MU are the UW-Milwaukee Panthers in the final (we hope) Bud Haidet Classic on Saturday.

AP Recap
Box Score

Gardner not close to 100% healthy
ESPN rapid reaction from Brennan
The Anonymous Eagle vents

MUTV Sports

Marquette Faces Gonzaga in Jesuit Grudge Match


Still smarting from the loss last night? Still reveling in hanging tough with the #1 team in the nation? Scroll down for Tim's recap below, and then GET OVER IT, because we've got more hoops tonight!

In the third place game, Marquette faces off against #22 Gonzaga in a battle of Jesuit basketball programs. Last night, the Zags fell to #3 K-State 81-64. Gonzaga is arguably the most consistent Jesuit basketball program in recent history, having made the NCAA tournament every year since 1999. Game time is 6:45 Milwaukee Standard Time on ESPNU.

However, that ranking that Gonzaga has next to their name? Don't be impressed. They've lost two straight and will fall out of the rankings after this week. Sure, one of those was in a road game to the #3 team in the country. Still, we'll dig into the stats and see where opportunities lie.

What Gonzaga does well

Offensive Rebounding - Gonzaga are the #22 team in the country at crashing the offensive boards. They grab almost 43% of their missed shots. In a matchup of strength vs strength, Marquette is #31 in the country at defensive rebounding.

Offensive eFG% - Gonzaga are pretty solid at offensive eFG% (#49 in the country). Most of this comes from inside the arc, where the Zags make almost 55% of their baskets. Gonzaga are only average at shooting three pointers. This is another matchup of strength vs strength, because Marquette is much better at defending two-point baskets.

And... that's it. Both of the areas where Gonzaga are strong are also aspects that Marquette does well. MU will need to continue to do well in order to win tonight.

Here's where Gonzaga are weak

Defense! They are not good at defense. Consider this. Gonzaga are #236 in the country at defensive eFG%. They're not good inside the arc (#230) or at perimeter defense (#217). Considering Marquette is #38 in the country at scoring two-point baskets, Marquette needs to exploit this matchup. Maybe it's even a time for our anemic three point shooting to get healthy. Advantage: Marquette

Defensive Rebounding - In particular, Gonzaga are #206 in the country at defensive rebounding. Marquette are the #42 team in the country at crashing the offensive glass. Another advantage for MU to capitalize on.

Protecting the ball - Gonzaga are #133 in the country at protecting the ball. Of course, this hasn't exactly been an area of strength for Marquette this year. However, it is worth noting that last night Marquette won the turnover battle against Duke, and Duke has been one of the best teams in the country at turnover margin so far.


Reading the stats, it appears that Gonzaga favor a fast pace where they outlet the ball quickly for transition baskets and offensive rebounding. This results in somewhat loose protection of the ball. It's tough to get any read on their defense other than forcing some turnovers. However, only having watched about five minutes of the game last night, who knows how accurate this summary will be.

In conclusion, the areas that Gonzaga are strong are also areas where Marquette are strong. Our strengths of defensive rebounding and paint defense will need to stay solid, while Marquette exploits opportunities at scoring inside (and outside) and offensive rebounding. The stats say that Marquette are a slight favorite in tonight's game. We believe this Jesuit basketball matchup goes to the school from Milwaukee.


GoMarquette.com has their preview, as well as the Game Notes

Rosiak has a solid preview of the game.

The Slipper Still Fits (Gonzaga Blog) wonders If Toughness Can be Taught

Marquette Basketball: Revealed looks at the team for their gameday preparations before Duke. Really quick turnarounds on these episodes lately.

updated with Slipper Still Fits and MU Basketball Revealed links

Warriors fall to the Blue Devils in Kansas City

The Marquette Warriors sampled the bitter taste of defeat last night falling 82-77 to the top-ranked Duke Blue Devlis last night at the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic in Kansas City.

The Warriors (4-1) have no time to grouse about the defeat, tonight they lace up the hi-tops once more as they face the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the 2010 version of the Jumpin' Jesuit Jamboree. The Zags fell to Kansas State 81-64 last night. Tipoff tonight is scheduled for 6:45 Marquette Standard Time on ESPNU.

After a shaky first half that saw Marquette head into the locker room trailing 40-31, the Warriors packed wallop during the first ten minutes of the second half. Led by the impossibly hot Darius Johnson-Odom who scored all 13 of his points in the second half, Marquette tied the game at 57-57 on a Jae Crowder jumper with 10:32 remaining in regulation.

If not for the sequence which followed in the next two minutes, MU might have won the game.

The Warriors turned the ball over on their next three consecutive possessions, two by senior Dwight Buycks, and surrendered a Blue Devils' three-pointer on a second chance opportunity as Duke quickly extended its lead back to 66-57 and held off MU late to secure the victory.

Jimmy Butler led MU with 22 points and six rebounds while Crowder finished with 15 points. Sophomore point guard Junior Cadougan chipped in with five points and a team-high seven assists against just one turnover. Big man Davante Gardner delivered nine points and four boards despite an injured left shoulder.

Box Score.
J-S game recap.
Rosiak blogs on the loss.
The Anonymous Eagle recaps the loss as well.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Marquette vs Duke


For the third time in the past five seasons, Marquette faces off against Duke in an early season tournament. In 2007, the Three Amigos lost to Duke 77-73 in the finals of the Maui Invitational. The year before that, Marquette upset Duke 73-62 in the final game of this very same invitational down in Kansas City. Marquette fans can only hope history repeats itself. Unfortunately, part of our history is that Marquette is 1-6 in school history versus teams ranked No. 1 and 2-5 all-time against the Blue Devils (HT: MUAD).

Gametime is 6:30 Milwaukee Standard Time, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2. By the numbers, here's a look at Marquette vs Duke (2010-2011 version). We'll cover three reasons Marquette will lose and then three reasons Marquette will win.

Three Reasons Marquette Will Lose

1. Three point shooting - For lack of a better word, Marquette's perimeter defense has been atrocious. Maybe that isn't a strong enough word. Marquette has allowed opponents to make over 41% of their threes. That is #287 in the country. Now, maybe the team can get away with this against a team like South Dakota, but Duke is the #15 team in the country at making threes. In fact, it's arguably what Duke does best on offense. (of course, maybe the first four games are all just a crazy gambit by Buzz and the defensive game plan will be perimeter heavy. amiright? guys?) Seriously, though, this match-up cannot be news to the coaching staff, so pray they have a plan or it's going to be a long night.

2. Turnovers - In a manner very uncharacteristic for a Buzz-coached team, Marquette has been sloppy with the ball. Already this season, the team has had a turnover rate greater than 20% three times. Marquette was the #7 team in the country last year at protecting the ball. This year? #127. In fact, MU only had a turnover rate higher than 20% seven times all year last year. Guess what the best thing is that Duke does defensively? Yeah, they force turnovers, turning opponents over on 29% of all possessions so far. great.

3. Points in the Paint - Where Marquette has been solid this season is with points in the paint. They're the #40 team in the country at 2 point percentage and the #23 team in the country at free throw rate. In other words, MU has either been making easy shots inside the arc, or they've been getting fouled while taking those shots. By now you probably know what I'm going to say. Yes, Duke is better at preventing two point buckets (#41 overall) than they are stopping three pointers. And, they almost never let opponents get to the free throw line (#26 in the country).

Here's your nightmare scenario. Marquette fails to rotate defensively and Duke hits too many easy three pointers. When Duke isn't making threes, the Point Guard Experience (TM) keeps turning the ball over for easy transition baskets. Meanwhile, Marquette can't get anything going inside with the offense and we all complain that the ref isn't calling any fouls on the drives to basket. Guh.

Three Reasons Marquette Will Win

Enough of that crappy view. Let's look at where MU has some advantages and where the breaks may go in our favor.

1. Tournaments mean shorter benches - Buzz shortened up his bench more when the games started to become more competitive. With a shorter bench comes more experience and longer stretches for the more efficient players. With this will come hopefully fewer turnovers and better perimeter defense.

2. Rebounds - What is going on with this bizarro MU offense? After the past two years being no better than #85 in the country at any rebounding level (and as low as #238), MU comes into this game as a Top 30/31 offensive and defensive rebounding team. Duke's one weak spot defensively is their ability to control the boards (#97 in the country). This may be a game where we have co-studs of the game in JFB and the Predator (Jae) thanks to rebounding.

3. Interior Defense - Lost in the weak perimeter defense is that Marquette has been very good at interior defense. Beyond controlling the boards, MU is #22 in the country at defending two-point FGs. And while Duke may be very good at making threes, they are only #104 so far at scoring inside the arc.

Here's your dream scenario. A shorter bench means longer stretches for the better players that are able to contest the outside shot. When the early threes don't drop, Duke is unable to manufacture offense inside the arc. Meanwhile, MU controls the boards, limiting Duke to a single shot. JFB wins player of the game thanks to his patented offensive rebound AND ONE! Finally, DJO gets untracked and nobody can stop him going to the basket.


updated with ESPN links (HT: chren21) and MU Basketball revealed

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gardner-Fulce injured, Otule steps up 2 days before Duke

The injury bug hit right before the Duke game. Joe Fulce will miss two weeks and Davante Gardner, who is averaging more than a point a minute, entered the game early but hurt his shoulder hustling after a loose ball and later came back on the bench in sweats.

As bad as the timing is, the only silver lining is that the two injuries again showed how much deeper the MU team is than past years with the 10 healthy scholarship players who can all contribute.

Today, it was Chris Otule who took advantage of the extra minutes.

With 7:33 to go in the first half, South Dakota’s Jake Thomas put up a 3-pointer that could have cut Marquette’s lead to 26-24. However it missed, and Chris Otule grabbed the rebound en route to dominating much of the next 16 minutes of the game to push MU to a 61-38 lead.

Despite some breathers during those 16 minutes, Otule scored 15 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and drew four fouls.

At one point Otule scored 11 straight MU points in a 5-minute stretch that started with a great spin move dunk off a pass from Dwight Buycks to make it 41-27 MU. After a time out, MU set up a final play with Blue whipping the ball into Otule for a short jumper to make it 43-29 at the half.

Otule then opened MU scoring in the 2nd half off a feed from Jimmy Butler on which he was fouled at the 19:34 mark, missed a shot but then tipped it in with 18:23 to go, and then slammed home another dunk on a pass from Blue with 17:58 to go. His 11-0 run was completed by a free throw with 16:18 to make it 50-35.

MU certainly had some sloppy stretches – to be expected with an experienced team, before ultimately winning 82-69. The fact that they avoided a potential trap game two days before Duke, particularly with two of their three big men out, makes for a decent day.

I’m a stat guy, but you really have to watch to see how unbelievable Vander Blue is on the court and appreciate his defense, passing (6 more assists), and ability to play almost like a power forward at times (5 rebounds).

In a radical departure from recent years, MU continued to be a dominant rebounding team (won the boards 46-28), but to lose the three-point battle (MU gave up 9 more three pointers Saturday, while only hitting one of nine themselves).

Jimmy Butler’s 20 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals show the kind of assertiveness we hope to see against Duke Monday.

The rest of the wish list for Monday night against Duke is to see Gardner back on the court, not see the same sloppy play that resulted in 16 turnovers today, and have the MU defense find their rotation to better contest the 3-pointer.

MUTV Sports

Warriors host South Dakota

Trap game?

Maybe .... after beating up on UW-Green Bay earlier in the week the Warriors host the University of South Dakota Coyotes at 1pm Marquette Standard Time on Saturday.

Oh, the Warriors play Duke on Monday in Kansas City. Duke has a national reputation that few institutions can match. And they play basketball too.

But first here come the Coyotes. MU will stream the game live with the MUTV Sports team doing the play by play.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Stats can tell you everything (or nothing)...what do they tell us

After only three games played thus far, it's hard to say exactly how MU will define themselves this season, but a few early trends show a radical shift from last year.

In the 2009-10 season, MU 's offense relied heavily on the 3 point shot. The long bomb accounted for 35% of our field goal attempts, good for 103rd in the nation. This year, MU is only using the 3 point shot about 18% of the time per game which is 332nd in the nation (or put another way, only 13 schools in all of Division I attempt fewer 3 point shots as part of their total shots per game). The early emergence of an inside game from Davante Gardner and Jae Crowder are a big reason why. Those two, along with Erik Williams and Jimmy Butler, have combined to take 47% of all shots for MU this season. Presently, MU is only taking about 10 three pointers per game while giving up six of those attempts per game.

Defensively MU has some work to do on the three pointers. Last year MU was 86th in 3PT FG% defense. This year, a much different story. Marquette is allowing opponents to nail 42.6% from trey land, that's 292nd worst in the country.


Marquette Basketball Weekly returns

More outstanding work from the guys at MUTV Sports

Thursday, November 18, 2010

4 studs and plenty of other contributors as Duke game nears

After stomping UW-Green Bay 89-69 last night at the Bradley Center, four days from now MU will have a chance to beat a No. 1 ranked team for the second time in history (think Wade dunking on Kentucky over and over for the first). Let’s get the one negative out of the way – MU has got to use the South Dakota game Saturday to figure out how to contest three pointers after getting burnt for 8 of 17 from behind the arc – even worse than the 40%+ allowed the first two games.

The defense has been great at pressuring, but if we leave Duke players open for three (48% as a team so far), it will be a very long Monday night. With that out of the way, Dick Vitale was right when he said while Butler was being beaten by Louisville (the team picked to tie for 8th with Marquette in the Big East), that MU was going to be a lot better than people thought.

4 studs plus many surprises and centers

The fact is that through three games, MU has four studs returning stars Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, MUs first 5-star Vander Blue and JUCO player of the year Jae Crowder. But we’ve had 4 studs before (3 Amigos and Lazar etc). The big deal this year is that MU has shown the depth is ahead of where we thought, and we have guys who can play inside.

According to the ratings (www.kenpom.com) Marquette’s competition has gotten a little tougher each game during a 3-0 start that included an 89-69 win over Green Bay last night.

One thing that has been consistent is Davante Gardner, who has played between 11 and 13 minutes in each game for a total of 36 minutes. Try these stats out for Davante in basically one full game of action at the collegiate level:

39 points on 74% shooting from the floor and 73% from the line, 15 rebounds, 3 blocked shots, 2 assists

When it was reported that Marquette had recruited the 6-foot-9, 285 pound 3 star out of Virginia last year, it was assumed it would take a couple of years to get him in Division I shape. However, he went on to be named 1st team All-State in Virginia and he certainly is the biggest surprise, albeit through just three games against lesser opponents.

At very least, it doesn’t look like Big East foes will be pushing around another tiny Marquette team this year.

The surprises like Gardner are key because coming into the year there were four players who could dominate on any given night – returning stars Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, MUs first 5-star Vander Blue and JUCO player of the year Jae Crowder. The question was how many of the very talented new players could contribute right away to give MU the kind of depth needed to turn up the pressure.

Pressure defense

Three days after forcing 18 turnovers against one of the best teams at protecting the ball (Bucknell), MU forced six more turnovers in the first 10 minutes against Green Bay. That run was capped by a steal and layup by Vander Blue to make it 27-13. By the time DJO fed Blue on a break it was 51-28 with 2:09 to go in the half.

Brian Wardle’s team played tough throughout and did actually keep the margin within 20 for most of the second half, but the game was never in doubt.

Jae Crowder continues to impersonate Lazar Hayward, doing everything tonight with 17 points, 9 rebounds, an assist, 2 steals and a spike blocked shot – one of 7 rejections for MU after an incredible 11 on Sunday.

With Vander Blue continuing to be the smoothest player on the court with 14 points, it is clear Marquette does have the four anticipated studs, and with Chris Otule rejecting 4 more shots in just 11 minutes MU does at least have options with two big men.

That leaves the big preseason question of whether or not any of MUs three point guards were really ready to run the point. The key assist/turnover ratio looked good last night with Dwight Buycks (6/1 and 10 of the first 22 MU points) and Junior Cadougan (4-1) taking care of the ball. After this game and his stellar performance to key the comeback against Bucknell, it looks like Cadougan is the sure handed point to run the offense, and Reggie Smith is the lightning fast pressure to pick the opposing point guard on defense.

But Buzz’s preference still may be to have senior Milwaukee native Buycks at the point. After battling through injuries last year and infuriating me by constantly shooting from just inside the 3-point line, Buycks is also showing the long range ability he was supposed to have coming out of JUCO. Buycks 3-point shooting has really been incredible, as he has made 7 of 10 three-pointers, most from a couple of feet past the arc, and all three of his misses have been shots he had to take because the shot clock was expiring.

A lot of good things happening with just four days to go before the ultimate test in Duke.

Oh, DJO can fly. Here's the top play from last night, regardless of sport.

Brad Galli of MUTV Sports recaps the grounding of the Phoenix