"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, December 21, 2011

Buzz’s defense may have prevented 20-point loss to LSU; possible Otule return could lead MU back to Top 10

Marquette has averaged a “Game Score” of just 79 since losing Chris Otule, only one-point better than UWM’s 78. MU has home court advantage, and UWM does not have the kind of height that caused such problems in the LSU and Washington games. However, Marquette will have to play better offense than they did against LSU to make it 39-0 against UWM Thursday night.

OpponentResultMU MarginOpponentLocationGame score
Mount St. Mary'sW5472-4122
Norfolk St.W3184-4111
Norfolk St.W264066
Ave. WITH Otule    100
Wisconsin Green BayW1877-491
Northern ColoradoW2174-491
Louisiana St.L-865461
Ave. without Otule    79
Needed vs. UWM    74

As I said in the LSU preview, “even though MU fans had the welcome sight of Chris Otule off of crutches, his absence Monday (vs. LSU) poses a big threat to MU staying undefeated.” With the offensive struggling terribly against the taller LSU, Buzz’s only chance was a highly aggressive defense that came up with 11 steals and forced 18 turnovers to keep MU close.

After making the long drive back from Baton Rouge I was shocked to see some fans blaming Buzz’s DEFENSE for the loss. That is almost like watching Alabama’s 9-6 loss to LSU and saying, “That proves Saban’s defense is terrible!”

Until the last minute of the game, when MU had to foul every trip, Marquette’s defense held LSU to 60 points in 61 trips down the court for an average of 0.98 points per trip – just below LSU’s season average. But Marquette’s defense did more than hold LSU just below their offensive average. It was Marquette’s defense that generated it’s offense by producing 16 points off of 11 steals:

Marquette after steals11161.45
Marquette other trips55430.78

Take away steals, and MU scores 51 points vs. LSU
Those who wanted MU to play a less aggressive defense in a game in which they were hitting one in three shots from a half court set don't understand. Take away the transitions off of the 11 steals and MU’s 0.78 points per trip gives them just 51 points in 66 trips down the court.

Take away turnovers, and LSU averaged 1.4 points per trip
On possessions on which MU didn’t force a turnover, LSU averaged 1.4 points per trip down the court. So take it to an extreme, that would be 92 points in their 66 trips down the court. Now obviously LSU would have had some turnovers even with a low pressure defense, but there is no way MU sets up inside and tries to deny baskets when DJO is 6 inches shorter than his man and the entire front line averages 3 inches shorter than their opponent. No Otule as a backstop, no way. So LSU scores at least in the 70s and MU barely scrapes the 50s if MU doesn’t play aggressive defense.

MU has been 21 points better with Otule than without him
Reports indicate that the swelling of Chris Otule’s knee is down renew hope that MU could return the Top 10 level at which they were playing while he was on the court.

As covered in earlier posts, MUs “Game Score” indicates how good they played on a given night based on three factors – the final score, where the game was played, and the opponent.

Game ScoreIndicates
100+Could have beaten No. 1 on the road
90+A top 25 team
82+A top 50 team
77+A top 100 team
70+A top 200 team

During Chris Otule’s games, MU was the top team in the country – averaging a 100 game score.

Since Otule was injured at the beginning of the Washington game, MU has averaged 20 points worse at an average Game Score of 79. Twice they have played like a Top 25 team, but against Washington and LSU they have not played like a Top 100 team.

This is a small sample, and no player is worth 20 points a game. But if you see a 20-point difference with and without a player, then there is a good chance he is worth 5 or 10 points against certain teams – particularly against taller teams where his ability to box out and discourage shots at the rim was huge in the early games. This is a very simply form of the WinVal system, which the Dallas Maverick’s used to win the NBA title last year – measuring what impact each and every player has when he is on and off the court.

I expect a return to form Thursday night despite a solid 9-3 UWM team, but Otule is suddenly looking like a player that could be the difference between a potential national contender and a team that is going to have to hope to avoid taller teams in any bracket.

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