"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

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

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