"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

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bench provides 58% of contributions for 5th win over Top 25 team; Gardner scores TKO

In becoming only the third team to win on the opening two nights of the Big East tournament since it went to 16 teams, MUs resume for a strong seed continued to go through the roof. More on the credentials at the end, but let's focus on the incredible emergence of the MU bench that enabled them to win on back-to-back nights by comparing last night's box to the first win over WVU during which Jae Crowder basically had to win the game by himself.

I thought the play of the game wasn't in the stats. The concern coming in was WVU would maul MU on the glass as the 6th best offensive rebounding team in the country. With 3:41 left in the first half, Davante Gardner put such a strong hip check on 6-7, 235 pound Cam Thoroughman that the WVU forward fell to the floor and got up like a staggered boxer who had been decked. Message sent - and MU went onto allow WVU to grab only 8 of 28 of their misses.

Jimmy Butler, G-F36221091512%
Chris Otule, C180001797%
Dwight Buycks, G26201081210%
Darius Johnson-Odom, G270110111411%
Erik Williams, F60010022%
Joseph Fulce, F22000354%
Junior Cadougan, G263500152319%
Vander Blue, G154010065%
Jae Crowder, F28923242520%
Davante Gardner, F163000101310%
Total Bench8721742327258%

When I wrote the book a couple of years ago, I used a simple equation to break down contributions that each player makes to wins based on their points, assists, rebounds and double credit for steals and blocked shots. Last night, 58% of MUs contributions - including 24 consecutive points - came from MUs bench. Compare the breakdown this year, to the first win against West Virginia New Year's Day when Jae Crowder had to take the team on his shoulders with 33% of the load and the bench only accounted for 13%.

Notice Crowder was still MUs top player statistically last night, but Junior Cadougan was really the star with his 19%, Davante Gardner was simply unstoppable during his minutes on the court (10%). Beyond the stats, Chris Otule adjusted the entire WVU defense by going to the hoop three times in the opening minutes with two baskets and drawing a foul, and Erik Williams again gave a big presence as a starting power forward. Vander Blue's defense is just phenomenal - he can shut you down 30 feet from the basket.

Compare all this to the first big win over WVU when MU basically looked like it was going to be a four man team again with Crowder, Butler, Buycks and DJO..

Jimmy Butler, G-F357622103119%
Jae Crowder, F398541295233%
Chris Otule, C293001274%
Dwight Buycks, G27340191811%
Darius Johnson-Odom, G294220213119%
Joseph Fulce, F71000011%
Junior Cadougan, G141100243%
Vander Blue, G2054006159%
Total Bench41750082013%

MUs resume - looking for a strong seed

1. One of fewer than 10 teams with FIVE wins over RPI Top 25 teams
2. One of fewer than 10 teams with multiple wins over the Top 25 away from home
3. One of 23 teams with no bad losses
4. A strength of schedule of about 30 if they lose tonight, and will go higher with each win
5. And even on the weakest part of their resume, the RPI is up to 58, and would finish at 43, 34 or 25 depending on how many additional wins they have.

We are playing with house money tonight against Louisville, but more importantly, we are playing with much fresher legs than the MU team that died against Georgetown and Florida State last year in their two attempts to win a third game in three nights.

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