"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, February 16, 2011

Losing by double digits is worse; Otule's defensive dominance only bright spot

The best shot blocker in the Big East, Chris Otule, once again rejected more than 10% of all 2-point shots while he was on the court to hold St. John’s to 47.8% on two-pointers.

That’s the end of the good news. A loss is not a loss.

From the Vanderbilt to Villanova games, win or lose, MU was one of the most consistently good teams in the country, playing like a Top 20 team (Sagarin score of 88 or higher) in nine of 10 big games. The 3-game skid since then culminated last night with MU playing like 247th place Elon.

88+ Sagarin score – 9 of 10 games thru Nova
81 Sagarin score vs. USF
84 Sagarin score vs. Georgetown
67 Sagarin score vs. St. John’s

A score of 67 for the 12-point home loss to St. John’s means MU was as good as the 247th best team in the country, Elon, last night, or equal to Auburn and Wake Forest, by far the worst teams in any BCS conference.

MUs first double digit loss (only Ohio State, Pitt, BYU, Belmont and, uggghhhh, Wisconsin still don’t have one as St. John’s also knocked out Duke and Arkansas knocked out Vandy since my first post) hurts because this is the first game in two years in which MU just failed the eyeball test – not looking like a tournament team to evaluators who watched the game or simply saw the score.

If this turns out to be a 3-game dip and MU returns to its “top 20-level play,” we still make the tournament, but if we continue to play at the “skid” level of the last three games we don’t. The fact is MU probably gets one of the four needed wins even if it plays at the “skid-level” against Providence and probably falls short even if it plays at its “top 20-level” at UConn, so that leaves MU needing to win 3 of 4 games for a bid:

Win 3 of 4 to make tourney

Seton Hall twice. As noted in an earlier post, since Hazell’s return Seton Hall has played at a Sagarin level of 84, and they continued that since my column with a win at Rutgers and narrow loss vs. Nova. At the “skid-level” MU probably loses both games to Seton Hall starting Saturday at home and goes to the NIT, but a return to the “Top-20” level play for both matchups and MU sweeps Seton Hall and needs just one other win.

Cincinnati. This is by far the biggest game remaining. The Bearcats, St. John’s and MU were considered to be fighting for the 9th, 10th and 11th Big East bids and with St. John’s going into the other two gyms to win, they are in. Cincy at MU will determine if MU would be the 10th bid or the 11th bid, and the former is much more likely. Cincy has played at an 84-level, the same level as Seton Hall since Hazell’s return, so again if MU rebounds to the Top-20 level they handle Cincy in the Bradley Center. At the skid level, probably not.

1st Round Big East. An opening round game in the Big East might entail a rematch with South Florida, a game that MU might pull out again even playing at the “skid” level, but would certainly win easily at the “Top 20” level.

Otule’s defensive dominance

All year it appeared MUs only weaknesses were giving up offensive rebounds and the related fact of yielding a very high two-point field goal percentage.
Chris Otule has singled-handedly fixed those problems.

I noted that Otule had become the top shotblocker in the Big East, basically rejecting one in every 10 shots while he is on the court. And let me add that they have been great blocks that give MU possession by batting the ball down on the court or into the backboard - not the swat into the 10th row that many players do to give the opposing team the ball back with no harm done.

Despite MU being on its heels on many SJU possessions due to an incredible 13 steals, Otule’s presence underneath made the half court defense so good that overall SJU hit the exact national average, 47.8%, of their two-pointers.

Otule also grabbed 8 rebounds to enable MU to win the rebounding battle and limit SJU to a below average 30.5% offensive rebounding.

I didn’t have time to break down the stats with Otule on the court, which are undoubtedly even better, but the fact is Otule has single-handedly taken care of MUs only two weaknesses.

Obviously Otule is an offensive liability due to weaknesses catching passes and passing back out of the post. Let Davante Gardner play offense and Otule play defense and MU has a dominant center. Even not being able to do that, MU is getting its best production at the center spot since Robert Jackson’s glorious one year.

While that has been solved for the moment, Georgetown and SJU have exploited the other potential weakness that was always there – the fact that MU really plays two shooting guards without a true point guard. MU was number one in the Big East in turnover margin prior to the Georgetown game, but was only even with a Georgetown team that had to that point been terrible, and then lost last night due to the 18-9 margin in favor of SJU and the fact that 13 of those turnovers were actual steals.

Give Lavin credit, he had three players foul out by playing aggressively enough to get the turnovers, but it was worth it for him.


James said...

Buzz William's is showing that he was not ready to coach at the highest level in the best conference in basketball. He cannot compete from a coaching perspective against some of the country's best coaches. Playing hard and fighting every position doesn't mean you will win. I'm sure Duke's player fight just as hard. His games strategy fails time and time again. Maybe he just is trying to be too simplistic in his scheme's. That's going to be a problem in recuiting. Why would a top recruit play for someone who can't get them ready for the NBA or a run at an NCAA title. This leads me to my next point.

Buzz has over recruited JUCO players which seem to be lacking in 3 area's - basketball intellect, leadership, and skill. I'm sorry, but no matter how good you were in JUCO there is still a reason someone didn't take you in the the NCAA (grade's is a B.S. excuse here). No one has remotely stepped up to the lead the team. I would say Butler is the closest, but he hasn't. DJO is a f*cking moron. I have to say that - he does some of the most bizarre things on the court that hurt the team. They just seem to lack basketball smarts. The teams very fundamentals I question, hence their passing last night.

I was going to purchase tickets in MKE to see them play Seton Hall, but I will not spend 1 dime to see this joke of a team. Pathetic. Disgrace.

Tom said...

You don't make the tournament with a bunch of close losses (or not-so-close losses, like last night). This team has two wins worth bragging about: Notre Dame on Jan. 10, which now seems like an anomaly; and a win over a disappointing Syracuse squad on Jan. 29.

You can play with the numbers, the RPI, etc. all you want. Bottom line is without any good wins, they don't deserve an NCAA berth.

Michael said...

They suck, plain and simple. Not enought talent (or desire) to win when it counts. St. John's deserves a berth over MU. Enjoy this season b/c a future with Vander Blue does not look promising.

Beaver said...

I actually don't want them to make the tournament because we'll get embarrassed. The question I have is, how long will we be stuck with Buzz...I don't see Marquette moving quickly to replace him.

The most frustrating thing with this team, is they lack heart. This is precisely why they fall apart in the second half, virtually every game.

Tim DeRoche said...

Buzz's teams have consistently been competitive with the best teams in the country. They have outperformed expectations considerably in every year he has been here. (Until this year...when they've just about hit the expectations.) He doesn't have a solid point guard. And they've still got a solid chance of making the tourney.

Let's not throw the guy under the bus just yet. Thank god the Packers didn't fire MM and TT after 2008....or in the middle of 2009.