"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 28, 2011

Blogger says Vandy with Ezeli his top pick to stay within single digits or win; MU must leverage defensive and bench superiority

A look at the match-ups tonight shows that with the return of 6-foot-11 Festus Ezeli against Marquette, the starting squads are virtually even offensively and Vanderbilt is either 2- or 3-inches taller at every position. That combination has one blogger saying his surest college hoops pick is Vanderbilt staying within single digits or winning.

Here is a match-up player-by-player of the Value Add (% of points added to offense), Defensive Subtract (% of opponent points stopped) and the player’s total value as a combination of these two. I go through the starters first, from tallest to smallest, then the reserves in the same order.

3Festus Ezeli ***6-f- Gardner6-f-
5Lance Goulbourne6-f- Crowder6-f-
44Jeffery Taylor6-f- Blue6-f-
23John Jenkins6-f- J-O6-f-
1Brad Tinsley6-f- Cadougan6-f-
 Starters Total total 17.07.824.9
33Steve Tchiengang6-f- Otule **6-f-
34Shelby Moates6-f- Wilson6-f-
45Rod Odom6-f- Jones6-f-
2Kedren Johnson6-f- Anderson6-f-
24Dai-Jon Parker6-f- Mayo6-f-
11Kyle Fuller6-f- Wilson6-f-
 Reserves Total total

*** Last year’s figures for Ezeli and projected totals for Otule over 12 games; some numbers appear 0.1 off due to rounding

In the preseason projections, Vanderbilt actually had the highest rated offense in the country with five returning starters from the 13th best offense in the country last year (116.5 points per 100 trips). Even though they haven’t quite lived up to expectations, if you add the 3.6% Ezeli was adding from last year, then the starting five are adding 16.1% this year (a 116.1 per 100 trips). Combined with the height advantage, the team’s excellent shooting (particularly on two-point shots), and the fact that this team took Xavier (before the meltdown) and Louisville (on the road) into overtime WITHOUT Ezeli, Vanderbilt does look like a big threat.

However, there is good news when you look at the rest of the table.
First of all, Marquette’s starting five actually has put up slightly better offensive numbers, even with Ezeli on the court, at 17.0% for their starting five. While John Jenkins has been one of the best offensive players in the country (5.2% Value Add), and Jeffrey Taylor has been almost as good (4.0%) they are slightly behind Marquette’s top two offensive players to date (Crowder 6.2% and DJO 4.2%). Ezeli’s was almost exactly as valuable last year as Gardner has been this year (3.6% to 3.5%). Neither Goulbourne or Blue have had a big impact offensively (1.0% to 1.9%), and Brad Tinsley has been only a little better than Cadougan (2.3% to 1.3%), though if Tinsley returns to last year’s offensive form he would give Vandy the overall edge offensively.

MU must leverage defense and bench to win

So if Tinsley heats up, perhaps Vandy has a better offense overall. However, when we look at the defense and the bench, Marquette has a huge edge that must be leveraged to pull out a win if it gets close (or preferably to give MU a little breathing room).

Marquette has had three fantastic defenders this year, though obviously we assume one of them will still be on the bench at least for a while. When Otule has been on the court he erases an extra 1.7% of opponents’ points that the average shotblocker as part of his overall 2.3% of opponents’ points erased. When Blue is on the court he erases 1.8% more of opponents’ points via the steal than the average ball stealer. And finally Crowder is among leaders in blocked shots (0.3% of points erased beyond average), steals ( 1.3% erased) and defensive rebounding (1.8% erased) to be the most effective overall defender with 3.2% of opponents erased in all of Marquette games (the first three totals are while he is on the court, while the cumulative is for the entire game, thus lower than the total).

As covered in the column on deriving defensive value this summer, there are limitations beyond that. Clearly Derrick Wilson is a much better defender than Davante Gardner because he forces many more non-steal turnovers and pressures opponents out of good spots, but since the NCAA doesn’t keep track of those two stats, we have to give all five players on the court equal 0.2 stops, or buckets allowed, when there is no steal or block. Therefore Davante’s statistical rating is a little better than Derrick’s just based on the fact that he actually is one of the top ball stealers in the country so far (2.9% of opponents’ trips Davante has stolen the ball compared to 2.1% for Derrick, even though his overall defense obviously is not.

But overall, you can see that every Marquette player off the bench adds value – Anderson just doesn’t have enough minutes yet to register – while Vanderbilt’s subs have produced virtually nothing to date. The defense has been much better throughout all 11 players since last year, and Todd Mayo and Jamil Wilson have produced a ton of additional offensive (1.9% and 1.2%) despite playing only 50% and 41% of the minutes respectively.

Certainly Vanderbilt comes in with a chance to show they are an elite team now that they are back at full strength with a huge road win in the Bradley Center. Unfortunately Marquette has little to gain and a lot to lose with a home loss, so they need to use superior defense and depth to hold serve and get a win.

This does not mean that Marquette necessarily needs a low-scoring game to win, only that the defense has to contain the explosive Vandy offense to create baskets at the other end.

As a reference for those interested who didn’t see the initial pieces, here are the links to how the Offensive Stat (Value Add) and Defensive Stat (Defense Sub) are calculated.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Holidays in Japan

We've just wrapped up the first part of the season, and have a few days off along with the All-Star weekend coming up. We just finished playing ten weekends straight of back to back Saturday-Sunday games and I could certainly use a break to recharge. Usually, overseas players always look forward to getting a week to ten days to go home to the states for the holidays. Unfortunately, we played games on Christmas Eve and Christmas day this year. Japan doesn't really celebrate Christmas like we do, so it's been quite a different holiday season this year for my wife and I. We did however, get to spend it with a great friend and fellow former Marquette Golden Eagle, Trend Blackledge. Trend plays for Osaka Evessa, and it was great to match up against him on the floor and grab some grub afterwards. We didn't get the traditional Christmas meal, but we certainly enjoyed great american food at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Osaka.
The Sendai 89ers are sitting at 11-11 now after a rough stretch, losing 4 straight. The club just released one of our four americans, and coach just put in a whole new offense. So we've been struggling a bit because of all the change. American players being replaced during the season is a common occurrence in overseas leagues. You really can be fired for any reason, just the nature of the business. That does make it tough for the team to gel when players are being funneled in an out, but you've got to stay professional and just do your job. Right now we've got a true 7 foot center, a strong slashing wingman, and yours truly, a 3/4 shooter for americans. Along with our hard-working japanese players, I'm confident the team can band together and make a long run in the playoffs.
All-Star weekend is in a week, and we have three 89ers involved in the festivities. Our japanese point guard is loved by the city, and was tops in the fan voting in the league. We also have the two-time defending slam dunk champion on our squad, who is also japanese. He is especially known for his showmanship and costumes, so I'm excited to see it live this year!

I'm the third representative for Sendai, elected to participate in the 3-point contest. I lead the league in the category so far, so I hope to represent the 89ers well. Also, Trend Blackledge is in the dunk contest as well, so we hope for a Marquette sweep! He'll have some tough competition though, as John "Helicoptor" Humphrey is the favorite.
I'm still getting used to the food here, trying a lot of foods I never would have guessed I'd put in my mouth. My wife enjoys sushi and seafood, so I've certainly expanded my horizons lately. Some of these include fish eggs, eel, octopus, squid, tuna with raw egg yoke, and fried whale. Not exactly like training table back at Marquette Union!

I have been trying to catch every Marquette game I can online, even if that means getting up extra early the next day here to catch last night's game at home. I missed the LSU loss, and turns out I'm glad I did. I hope Golden Eagle Nation isn't panicking too much over our first loss, even though it was one we shouldn't have given away. Basketball is a game of mistakes, so I hope we are on the right track towards fixing ours. I'd like to give a big congratulations to all our Marquette guys who have finally begun their season in the NBA, its about time! Especially, to Lazar and Steve. Good luck with your new teams!


Friday, December 23, 2011

1st Value Add Top 100 of 2012 points to Jae Crowder as All-American

With Marquette beating it's last mid-major opponent of the season last night, with a 64-50 win over UW-Milwaukee (see story here), I thought it would be a good time to run the first calculations of the best players in the country to prepare for Vanderbilt and the entire Big East.

I know most of you don’t follow us as much in the offseason, but NBC Sports, ESPN and Sports Illustrated picked up on pieces I wrote outlining the 8 different things a player does to help his team win and then the Value Add system to measure exactly how valuable all 3500 players were to their teams. You can click any of the links above for those referencs. The explanation of how you can precisely measure a player’s offensive Value Add appeared here.

Jae Crowder has already been named the top player in the country one week by NBC Sports, and running the 1st Value Add calculations of the year shows him as the 14th best offensive player in the country so far this year, and as an overall clear 1st or 2nd team All-American choice.

Value Add shows that Crowder has added 6.5% to Marquette’s overall scoring this year. That means if someone else had to fill his shoes this year, Marquette would be averaging 76.7 points a game instead of 81.7 points a game. Even though that is the 14th best total in the country, most fans never seem to think five points sounds like that big an impact, but even a player who makes a team two points better has a huge impact.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume that Marquette’s scores for the rest of the season were all exactly what Pomeroy predicts. Marquette would finish 27-4. Now if Marquette had scored five points less in each game because Crowder wasn’t on the team, that would turn nine wins into losses (2nd game vs. Norfolk State, Washington, Louisville, at Villanova, at Notre Dame, at UConn, at WVU, at Cincinnati, Georgetown)- so Marquette would finish 18-13 instead of 27-4.

We can’t measure defense as precisely, but there are four defensive stats in Pomeroy. Crowder and Indiana’s Cody Zeller are the only top 20 offensive players who are also among Pomeroy’s leaders in all three individual defensive stats (defensive rebounds, blocked shots and steals). On the table below I listed any of the three on which a player was among Pomeroy's leaders, and I also listed the 4th stat, the team defensive ranking (from 1st to 345th best) for points allowed per trip against an average offense.

Damian Lillard, Zack Rosen, Nate Wolters, Ryan Broekhoff and Andre Jones are adding a lot of points, but they are not among the top 100 overall players in the country because they are part of defenses that don’t even rank in the top 150 of the country. Only Doron Lamb (Kentucky, 5th), Mike Scott (Virginia, 9th) and Cody Zeller (Indiana, 24th) play for defenses better than the Marquette defense of which Crowder is a part (29th best defense in points allowed per trip, adjusted for opponents’ strength).


RkFnameLnameTeamHtValue AddDefensive Stats
1DamianLillardWeber St.6-f-211.0%245th, Reb
3MarcusDenmonMissouri6-f-37.5%43rd, Stl
4KevinJonesW. VA6-f-87.3%44th, Blk, Reb
5StevenPledgerOklahoma6-f-47.3%96th, Stl
6IsaiahCanaanMurray St.6-f-07.3%71st, Stl
8WillBartonMemphis6-f-67.1%77th, Reb
9DougMcDermottCreigh6-f-77.1%144th, Reb
10MikeScottVirginia6-f-87.1%9th, Reb
12JarrodJonesBall St.6-f-96.7%91st, Def, Blk
13NateWoltersS. Dak St6-f-46.6%231st
14JaeCrowderMarq6-f-66.5%29th, Reb, Blk, Stl
15LangstonGallowaySt. Joe's6-f-26.4%107th
17NoahHartsockBYU6-f-86.1%26th, Blk
18HerbPopeS. Hall6-f-86.0%69th, Reb, Blk
20CodyZellerIndiana6-f-115.8%24th, Reb, Blk,St

Make a few common sense adjustments for defense to the precise measure of offensive value calculated by Value Add, and eight All-Americans become clear. The two top defensive big men in the country (6-foot-9 Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger, the latter of whom is clearly the best player in the country when healthy) are added to six of the players above to form the All-American team to date:

Alphabetical All-American list to date
Jae Crowder - Marquette
Marcus Denmon - Missouri
Kevin Jones – West Virginia
Doron Lamb – Kentucky
Mike Scott – Virginia
Thomas Robinson – Kansas
Jared Sullinger – Ohio State
Cody Zeller – Indiana
Last two spots pick from among Georgetown’s Hollis Thompson (22nd highest Value Add and among rebound leaders for 20th best defense in the country) and UNC’s trio of Harrison Barnes, John Henson or Tyler Zeller.

This is not to say that is how the season will end. Darius Johnson-Odom had a terrible non-conference season last year, and this year he is already the 62nd best offensive player in the country (see below). He was already selected on a CBS Sports telecast as one of the top 4 candidates for Player of the Year along with Denmon, Robinson and Sullinger above, so if he explodes to dominate the Big East again this year it could be him rather than Crowder who becomes the third Marquette player of the decade picked as one of the Top 10 players in the country (Dwyane Wade and Jerel McNeal the other two).

Detailed math on calculating Offensive Value
For those of you who want to go through the detailed math, you can go to this link, or below is the explanation followed by the Top 100 offensive players so far this season:

Ken Pomeroy uses the formulas from Dean Olivier’s Basketball on Paper to precisely calculate a players Offensive Efficiency based on his shots, turnovers, assists, offensive rebounds, ability to get to the line, etc.

Jae Crowder scores a 128.8 Offensive Rating, meaning when for every 100 times a Marquette possession goes to Crowder, he scores 128.8 points, well above the national average of about 100.

Value Add starts from that number, and measures it against how many points a typical reserve would score if he had the ball instead of Crowder all of those times. Overall Marquette has faced the 72nd toughest defense of any team this year, which the average BCS bench player would score 92.18 points per possession against.

When you divide the points Crowder produces by what a replacement would have scored (128.8/92.18) you find that WHEN HE HAS THE BALL, Crowder scores 39.7% more points than a replacement would score. Scott Wood of NC State has the best total when he has the ball, registering a 143.9 Offensive Rating against very tough defenses, so he adds 58% to NC State’s scoring WHEN HE HAS THE BALL.

However, the next step is to determine how often you have the ball. Wood only gets the ball 14.8% of the time, so he is actually only adding 8.6% to NC State’s scoring while he is on the court (58% X 14.8% of the time getting the ball). Crowder gets the ball a lot – not as much as DJO but 22.3% of the time, so while he is on the court he adds 8.9% to MUs scoring, slightly better than Wood. Damian Lillard is tops in the country, improving Weber State’s scoring by 13.7% when he is on the court – though with terrible defense on the other end. Davante Gardner is actually 42nd best in the country when he has the ball, adding 7.3% to Marquette’s scoring.

It may seem that it is just a matter of giving the ball most players the ball more to increase their rating, but actually players start losing ground when they are used too much and they get tired and defenses key on them. For example, Olivier shows that even Kobe Bryant starts to cost the Lakers points once he starts having to handle the ball more than one-third of the time. Obviously Gardner is an awesome player when getting a limited number of chances, but is not yet able to be a guy who can score when getting the ball all the time.

The final step is to calculate what percentage of minutes the player plays. Crowder is playing 73% of Marquette’s minutes, so when multiplying that by the 8.9% he adds to Marquette’s scoring when on the court, we arrive at the final number of 6.47% of points added to Marquette’s total scoring over the course of the season. Like with possessions, a player who is forced to play too many minutes often starts to hurt his rating and the team's overall scoring.

The overall figures will stay about the same for most players as competition gets tougher, because the first step adjusts for the defense placed, so players do not have to score as much against tough defenses as they did against creampuffs to maintain the same rating.

The following are the top 100 offensive players in the country, going through each of these figures. The defensive calculation, which I did calculate last year, is much more complicated, and not nearly as accurate, so these are not adjusted for defense. We know Chris Otule blocking so many shots helps the rest of the defense, and that their defense was about the 20th best defense with him and the 40th best without him, but beyond that there aren't enough stats to get a truly accurate firm figure for the percentage of points he takes away from opponents, despite my best attempt in this link:


RkFnameLnameTeamHtYrw/ballon courtOverall
1DamianLillardWeber St.6-f-2Jr44.0%13.7%11.0%
4KevinJonesW. VA6-f-8Sr36.0%8.6%7.3%
6IsaiahCanaanMurray St.6-f-0Jr34.4%9.1%7.3%
12JarrodJonesBall St.6-f-9Sr33.3%8.4%6.7%
13NateWoltersS. Dakota St6-f-4Jr26.7%8.0%6.6%
15LangstonGallowaySt. Joe's6-f-2So39.6%7.4%6.4%
18HerbPopeS. Hall6-f-8Sr24.0%7.5%6.0%
21BrianConklinSt. Louis6-f-6Sr33.7%8.2%5.8%
23MattDickeyNC Ashv6-f-1Sr34.4%7.3%5.7%
26KenHortonCent Conn6-f-6Sr25.4%6.4%5.6%
29ErickGreenVa Tech6-f-3Jr33.9%7.4%5.5%
31ScottWoodNC State6-f-6Jr58.2%8.6%5.5%
33ChaseTapleyS. Diego St6-f-2Jr30.8%6.4%5.4%
37RobertCovingtonTenn St6-f-8Jr28.7%7.4%5.3%
38JoeRaglandWichita St.6-f-0Sr42.8%8.1%5.3%
39JohnShurnaN Western6-f-9Sr23.1%6.2%5.3%
43DrewCrawfordN Western6-f-5Jr27.2%6.2%5.1%
49AnthonyRaffaCoast Carol6-f-1Jr24.6%6.4%5.0%
57OmariGrierFl Atlantic6-f-4Fr51.8%9.9%4.9%
58JaimeSernaUC Sa Clara6-f-9Sr47.5%8.5%4.8%
59NickBarbourH. Point6-f-3Sr24.2%6.2%4.8%
60JaredSullingerOhio St.6-f-9So34.4%8.6%4.8%
67C.J.HarrisW. Forest6-f-3Jr22.0%5.4%4.7%
69MiguelPaulE. Carolina6-f-3Jr22.9%6.2%4.6%
70JerianGrantN. Dame6-f-5So29.4%5.6%4.6%
72AdamSmithNC Wilm5-f-11Fr25.6%6.1%4.6%
77JeremyGrangerE. Illinois6-f-1Sr22.0%5.8%4.6%
80TyrusMcGeeIowa St.6-f-2Jr51.8%9.1%4.5%
81EvanRoquemoreS. Clara6-f-3So22.1%5.3%4.5%
84ScottEathertonSt. Franc PA6-f-8So30.8%6.9%4.4%
87ArnettMoultrieMiss St.6-f-11Jr29.0%7.0%4.3%
88CodyEllisSt. Louis6-f-8Jr32.9%8.1%4.3%
91CharlesOdumPortland St.6-f-0Sr22.1%5.6%4.3%
92TerellParksW. Illinois6-f-7Jr26.2%6.2%4.3%
94NeilWatsonS. Miss5-f-11So28.6%6.6%4.3%
97ClintSteindlSt. Mary's6-f-7Sr43.4%7.1%4.2%
99ToryePelhamS. Miss6-f-6Sr47.4%7.6%4.2%
100JakeKochN. Iowa6-f-9Jr28.8%6.7%4.2%

Marquette captures Cheese State hoops title

It wasn't pretty but a win is a win is a win. With Marquette's victory over UW-M on Thursday night they capture the unofficial Cheese State basketball title by defeating each of the other DI men's basketball programs. Earlier this season MU topped UW-Green Bay at the Bradley Center and knocked off top 10 UW-Madison at the Kohl Center.

The victory over the Panthers extends MU's all-time record against their neighbor to the east to 39-0. That dominance represents the second longest streak in NCAA history with only Syracuse's mastery of Colgate having reached a longer streak (45 games).

Merry Christmas to Buzz Williams, the team and to the Marquette faithful everywhere.

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.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

LSU's highly recruited 3 bigs offer threat with no Otule Monday - MU tunes up well with 93-72 win

Of all the great news during Saturday's win, the most important stat was MU allowing Northern Colorado, and above average team on the offensive glass, to rebound only 22% of their missed shots in the 93-72 win that made MU 10-0 for the first time since Dwyane Wade's first year.

LSU's trio of highly recruited big men are playing together for the first year (1 freshman, 2 transfers), and have started to dominate the offensive glass in winning their last four games including trips to Rutgers and future Big East member Houston.

Thankfully Jamil Wilson and Juan Anderson were back from injury today to tune up for tough match-ups underneath Monday, but even though MU fans had the welcome sight of Chris Otule off of crutches, his absence Monday poses a big threat to MU staying undefeated.

MU is giving up about 3 inches per match-up underneath against players that were as highly recruited as MUs players as recruits based on the Rivals ratings. The table below goes through each team's talest four players, and which team has the edge on each matchup based on who was a bigger recruit (Rivals Stars and then Position Rank if they were rated).

EdgeJerLSU tallest 4FtInYrRivalsMU tallest 4FtInYrRivals
LSU2Johnny O'Bryant69Fr4* 4thJamail Jones66So4* 10th
MU5Malcolm White69Sr4* 24thJamil Wilson67So4* 18th
Even41Justin Hamilton611Jr3*Jae Crowder66Sr3*
Even13Eddie Ludwig69Jr3*Davante Gardner68So3*

O'Bryant ranking as the 4th best at his position makes him the highest touted big man on the court Monday, as he ranked slightly higher than even Jamail Jones (10th best).

Jamil Wilson was slightly more highly regarded than fellow trasfer Malcolm White, but they were virtually even (18th best vs. 24th best out of high school)
Justin Hamilton also transferred (from Iowa State) and Eddie Ludwig were virtually equal;y regarded as Jae Crowder and and Davante Gardner.

So from the pure standpoint of how highly regarded they were as recruits, LSU and Marquette are virtually even among the four bigs, but MU averages giving up three inches per position underneath with Otule out.

While certainly none of the LSU bigs have matched the production of Crowder, White and Hamilton have been among the top offensive rebounders in the country both at their previous colleges (Mississippi and Iowa State respectively). O'Bryant is already the third best offensive rebounder in an improved SEC (grabs 15.5% of all LSU misses). You can see how Otule will be missed if MU's 4 "bigs" don't step out and do a great job of boxing out.

EdgeJerLSU other 6FtInYrRivalsMU other 6FtInYrRivals
MU10Andre Stringer59So3* 27thVander Blue64So5* 7th
MU22Ralston Turner66So3* 28thJunior Cadougan61Jr4* 13th
MU24Storm Warren67Sr3* 33rdJuan Anderson66Fr4* 19th
Even14Jalen Courtney68So3*Darius Johnson-Odom62Sr3*
Even32John Isaac64Fr3*Todd Mayo63Fr3*
Even1Anthony Hickey510Fr3*Derrick Wilson60Fr3*

If MU isn't blow out underneath, then they do have a clear advantage at the other positions.

Vander Blue, Junior Cadougan and Juan Anderson were all more highly recruited than any of LSUs swing men or guards.

While Darius Johnson-Odom, Todd Mayo and Derrick Wilson were not more highly recruited than their LSU counterparts, they have proven to be better than many more highly rated players. DJO was picked as one of the top 10 players in the country so far this year in an SI article, and when he had to sit out today for a team rules violation, Mayo continued his incredible play this year by scoring 22 points to give MU a win virtually identical to what was predicted on www.kenpom.com assuming DJO was playing.

So MU needs to control the pace with superior talent at the guard and swing positions, but everyone will have to help box out to pervent LSU from getting on a roll and dominating inside much as Stanford did with current LSU coach Trent Johnson was coaching them.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Is Marquette Unlucky?

The Marquette Warriors enter finals week with a perfect 9-0 record, and despite the winning streak this break in the action was perfectly timed.  After losing starting center Chris Otule for an indefinite period of time due to a knee injury he sustained in the Washinton game, the Ghosts of Tom Crean Tackling Dummies re-emerged at The Al, sending Juan Anderson (3-4 weeks, shoulder) and Jamil Wilson (day-to-day, ankle) into the infirmary. Just when fans were getting jazzed about the Warriors' prospects this season!  The news of the week prompted frequent guest contributor, Dr. Blackheart, to dance on the keyboard once more .... and now he asks, Is Marquette Unlucky?


Jimmy Chones leaving for the ABA in the midst of an undefeated season…Dean Marquardt’s car accident… Bob “I Like to Watch” Dukiet losing star recruits to academics…Will Gates' blown out knee in “Hoop Dreams”…Travis Diener and the tackling dummy,…Jerel McNeil and the HIPPA finger…Trevor Mbwake, Dom James and the sinking feeling of the fans and the OrthoPods. And, now, in a matter of hours, the (possibly) torn ACL of our Defensive Stud Chris Otule, the shoulder of top rated freshman Juan Anderson, and the ankle of high potential Jamil Wilson. And, many more over the years.

“Why Marquette?” “Why always the big men?” ”Why Me?”… are the overriding fan questions ringing around our ears. How much bad luck can one fan absorb, never mind a diehard Cubs fan who is a Brewers season ticket holder, as dysfunctional as that is on the surface? In perhaps the best and earliest Marquette outlook in 30+ years, why do all the great feelings of the past week come to a crushing end? Isn’t it Marquette’s time, as ordained by our new President and AD?

The answer , of course, is “leave it to fate”. However, Pomeroy has a measure of “Luck” that, as a stat geek, I like to turn to in order to balance the emotional side of my brain with the rational. Pomeroy defines “Luck” as such: “The easiest one to understand is Luck, which is the deviation in winning percentage between a team’s actual record and their expected record using the correlated gaussian method. The luck factor has nothing to do with the rating calculation, but a team that is very lucky (positive numbers) will tend to be rated lower by my system than their record would suggest.” In other Poemroy analyses, “Luck” is most correlated to “Experience”, and Buzz has experienced guards.

Lucky Number?

Over the past ten Pomeroy seasons, Marquette has been “Lucky” in only 3 of them, including this season to date, pre-injuries. Buzz, on the other hand, has been as unlucky as it gets. MU has set school and Big East records in the number of close games that his teams have played in. Yet, MU seems to always overachieve its talent and “Luck” at year’s end. However, to date, MU 2011 is Final Four” Lucky” with an exact rating of the DW3 year at the Triple Snake Eyes rank. Until Tuesday, MU was that “Lucky”! But, things change quickly as we know and MU is now as lucky  as .

So, Where Does This Lead Us Irrationales?

To drink? Maybe…but time seems to be on our side. MU is waiting the Otule ACL sprain out to see its severity, Juan’s shoulder is seen to put him out until only the start of the Big East season, and Jamil’s ankle seems to be chronic but day to day, pending recovery time and Xmas practice/therapy time. Meanwhile, MU beat one of the most talented and perhaps the season’s-end best Pac 10/12 teams in Washington, without Chris Otule. His replacement, Gardner, is an offensive dynamo in the limited minutes he can offer—Pomeroy Offensive Efficiency Rating for the Ox of 124.4 vs. CO’s 92.2. Anderson, while showing flashes and providing height depth, still has only seen a few minutes. Is this unlucky? Yes, with Chris’s defense but not with his O, so DG has time to work on his game extensively, while Juice gets his chance to showcase his skills. In the end, this provides minutes to those that Buzz has had no qualms about playing in the Out of Conference anyway, making MU a stronger season’s- end team, waiting for the hopeful return of the injured. LSU and Vandy will give MU height problems, but MU’s experience will carry the day into the Big East, as my irrational mind tells me as I wish upon on northern star. MU buries the tortured artist, Judeo-Christian, Martyr syndromes, and assumes its rightful place as #1 in the country (says a fingers-crossed Cubs fan in a full body cast, but looking good it his Man Uggs). Go MU (I hope)! Regardless, I am playing my lucky 19 and 77 at the Potto Bingo Boat, but I sure wish Andre Walker picked MU over Xavier right about now.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

With 2 of the top 18 players in the country according to SI, do the numbers say Gardner and J. Wilson can get MU through until Otule returns?

If you’ve read Sports Illustrated the last few days, it’s easy to see why Marquette is ranked somewhere between 1st and 11th in virtually every computer rating and poll this season heading into tonight’s game with Green Bay.

According to Luke Winn, Marquette has two of the top 18 players in the country so far this season in Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, as well as a freshman in Todd Mayo who is scoring as many points a minute as his brother O.J. Mayo did as a freshman. Add to that Seth Davis citing Vander Blue as one of the top breakout sophomores, and it’s clear MU has tons of firepower.

Will Marquette stay in the Top 10 without Anderson, Otule?
However, when 7-foot-1 Alec Brown of Green Bay steps on the court tonight it will be a quick reminder that 6-foot-7 Jamil Wilson and 6-foot-8 Davante Gardner are now MU’s two tallest players until 6-foot-11 Chris Otule returns from an ACL injury that has MU fans holding their breath. With Juan Anderson now scheduled to miss 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury, we can only hope Otule ends up with a similar timeline in order to come back for the Georgetown game.

For several years MU was so thin that any injury was almost insurmountable. The situation is much better now with a team that still has nine top flight D1 players ready to go and is luckily favored by double digits in Pomeroy in every game until a tough trip to Georgetown January 4, by which point it is even possible MU could be as good as 14-0.

In evaluating if MU can withstand the very unfortunately injuries, we can turn again to Pomeroy, who has now released his unsurpassed player calculations. Marquette had finally reached almost the average height in D1 basketball at 6-foot-4.5 inches before having to spread the 6-foot-11 Otule’s minutes between 6-foot-8 Davante Gardner and 6-foot-7 Jamil Wilson, and here are the rest of the comparisons:

OtuleGardnerJ. WilsonRanked MU players
ORtg92.2124.4102.2DJO 18th, Crowder 11th*
eFG%606046.4Crowder 57th, DJO 164th
Off Reb.11.414.47.2Otule 246th, Gardner 73rd*
Fouls Drawn4.36.82.5DJO 33rd, Gardner 57th
Height6-f-116-f-86-f-7Team 178th with Otule
Blk% 48th, J. Wilson 118th
Def Reb15.315.912.9Crowder 321st

Losing Otule is not a big blow on the offensive side of the court. While Gardner’s overall great Offensive Rating (points per 100 times a player has the ball) of 124.4 will drop off with more possessions and minutes played, he will still almost surely produce more points than Otule’s 92.2. So overall, expect a few more points with Wilson and Gardner splitting Otule’s minutes. If DJO was the guy with the ball 28% of the time rather than his actual 27% of the time to date, his ORtg would be the 5th best of any go-to player in the country. As it is, DJO is the 18th best offensive player that is used at least 24% of the trips down the court, and Jae Crowder is the 11th best offensive player used at least 20% of the time down the court, and Todd Mayo has already broken into the top 300 as a freshman. So the offense looks unstoppable.

Both Otule and Gardner have effective Field Goal percentages of 60%, and while Wilson is lower right now that is with only 23 shots attempted. The fact that he can pop out and hit the trey (2 of 5 so far) certainly indicates he could create a tough matchup.

The one place on offense Otule was having an excellent start was in grabbing 11.4% of all Marquette misses, good for 246th of the 3500 D1 players, but if Gardner had more minutes played, his 14.4% of MU misses grabbed would rank him 73rd in the country. However, this is where having Wilson on the court playing center would hurt. Gardner’s ability to draw a foul 6.8% of the time would rank him 57th in the country, not far behind DJO’s ranking of 33rd (draws fouls 7.3% of the time). Mayo cracks the top 500 here too at 4.8%.

When you add in that Junior is 21st in the country in assists (38.3% of all MU baskets while he is on the court come off his assist), and Blue and DJO are ranked 263rd and 383rd respectively. It’s easy to see why Marquette’s offense is ranked as the 8th best in the country, and it looks like they can continue to be in the top 10 even down a couple of players. The question is, can they score enough against the tough teams like Georgetown and Syracuse to make up for a weakened defense if Otule is still out.

Defense – give up rebounds with Wilson, blocks with Gardner
Marquette is one of the top defensive teams in the country in three of four categories; turnovers, opponent’s shooting percentage and not fouling. They have been very weak in defensive rebounding.

Certainly the turnovers should keep coming from the 1-4 spots, led by Blue surging to 75th in the country by stealing the ball 4.4% of opponent’s trips down the court.

However, the absence of the 6-foot-11 Otule could definitely be felt with much improved shooting by Marquette opponents no longer being denied at the rim. Otule is blocking 9.6% of opponents’ 2-point shots so far this year, about the same as last year and fourth best in the Big East behind only Melo, Drummond and Dieng, and 48th best in the country.

While Gardner is basically Otule’s equal in defensive rebounds (15.9% of opponents misses to 15.3% of Otule), Otule is five times as likely to block a shot as Gardner, so expect opponents shooting percentages to go way up with Otule gone. Wilson has actually been a very good shot blocker at 6.8%, good enough for 118th in the country. However, while his defensive rebounding is solid at 12.9%, he is probably unlikely to be able to seal off opposing players as well as Otule does , meaning MU is likely to allow even more opposing second shots with Otule out.

While inconsistent, Marquette’s defense had been dominating at times this year and overall outstanding as one of only 18 teams to allow fewer than 90 points per every 100 trips down the floor.

It’s hard to see MU’s defense staying at that level with Otule out, so to stay as the projected No. 2 seed and top 10 team most are calculating through a month, MU either needs to fight through the next month and hope to get Anderson and Otule back for most Big East play, or simply have one of the top couple of offenses in the country and win shootouts in the 80s.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Well, That Was Fun

Really, does it get much better in early December than last night?  Surely you know by now, but Jae Crowder hit a late-game three to take MU to the victory.  It was a very entertaining game, featuring 15+ lead changes (mostly in the second half), and all kinds of highlights.  Plus, it was on the big stage of Madison Square Garden with the full muscle and might of ESPN behind it.  Last night's game and victory were BIG TIME.  So big that for a while Jae Crowder was the #1 trending topic on Twitter.*

*filed under phrases I never thought I would type two years ago.  For about ten different reasons.

Two minutes in the game, Marquette lost Otule for the game.  Without their best rebounder and space eater, MU got slaughtered on the boards and had trouble adjusting defensively.  And they still won.  Two games in a row, MU was down a starter in a big-time game.  And they still won.  Marquette really did not play all that great last night.  And they still won.

Despite all the positive vibes, there are a few reasons to be concerned.  For one, the bad defense showed up last night.  Last night's game was so entertaining because it was all offensively driven (well, that and the myriad of highlights from both teams).  Marquette just couldn't get stops.  After opening the season with four out of seven games of a defensive eFG% less than 40%, Washington had an eFG% of 53% for the game.  The Huskies shot 57% in the first half!  And when UW wasn't hitting on a high percentage of shots, they were grabbing an offensive rebound on almost half of their missed shots.  If that final shot from Jae doesn't go down, the entire story of this recap is "what the #$%^& happened to the defense?".

Can all that be attributed to the loss of Otule?  Certainly, UW was a bad matchup to lose your tallest player, considering they are one of the tallest teams in the nation, and offensive rebounding is one of their strengths.  However, Syracuse, UConn, and WVU are all taller.  Heck, UWGB and LSU are taller than Washington.  Marquette needs to get their defensive mojo back, especially if Otule misses any amount of time.  The extra days off until Saturday will help for sure.  Just remember that it's been the defensive improvement this year that has made the biggest difference.

Despite those comments, there's a LOT to like about this year's team.  They have added experience to their toughness and hustle.  As we put out there, last year's team probably doesn't win this game (Vanderbilt / Louisville).  Good morning, 8-0!

More kudos
  • I've long said that I'll believe a freshman contributes when a freshman contributes.  Mayo is that freshman.  His missed dunk was embarrassing, but the kid is efficient, confident, skilled and aggressive.  He'll be a three year starter.
  • Jamil looked good again last night for the second game in a row.  A few more of those shots go down (and they will), and we're talking about him being a monster.  If that rebound-tip doesn't get stuck, it's probably a Sportscenter highlight.  And that wasn't the only time I rewound a play of his wondering, "how'd he get that rebound?"
  • Loved Vander turning his opponent into a poster.  It was an NBA-type play.
Media Links to satisfy your cravings

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

From UW to UW

After thrashing the whiny Badgers on Saturday, the Warriors will lace'em up tonight against Washington (4-2) in Madison Square Garden.  Tonight's game will be the fifth tilt away from home for MU already, and the team's fourth neutral court game of the season. Location aside let's hope the Warriors don't go all Wolfpack and suffer the consequences of a spectacular hangover on national television.

Ruffies or not, Rob thinks MU wins comfortably as long as the Warriors defend well (UW is not a good defensive team, so MU will score -- a lot).  Still, don't expect any "Dead Badgers" tonight, but we'll take a few turkeys as a key to victory. Pomeroy figures MU has a 77% win probability, with the team's smothering defense as the key factor.  So far this season the Warriors have held four teams to an effective field goal percentage (eFG%) of less than 40%.  In 37 games last season MU achieved this elite level of defense just three times.

The Huskies have a good offense (#36 - though it is not as good as Marquette's) and a slightly worse defense (#74) that is one of the worst in the nation at defending the three point shot. On offense look for the young Huskies to launch a lot of three-pointers themselves, where they hit at a rate of nearly 43% as a team (wow).  We'll be watching closely to see if this area of defense for Marquette, which was previously a giant weakness, can match up against Washington.  In addition, in both of the Huskies' losses, the team was shut down offensively.

Note that the Huskies are both one of the tallest (#22) and least experienced (#295) teams in the country.  Be thankful we're playing them early this season instead of later.  They are also one of the fastest teams in the country, which will be a welcome change from the plodding pace of the Badgers.

A national television game with Dick Vitale doing the call is Big-Time (though I'll mute that big and rely on the McIlvaine radio call).  We expect the bright lights of the big city, as well as the grinding attitude of Marquette's defense, to ultimately result in MU pulling away easily.  Ring out Ahoya!


Oh, Marquette has a new athletic director. Welcome to the family, Larry Williams. Williams' background as an athlete, lawyer and administrator should make him ideally suited for this kind of role. Also, it was good to see Father Pilarz work through a solid process to identify what MU needed and then work swiftly to make it happen.

In case you missed it, please take the time to read Charlie Pierce's Grantland column about Marquette basketball.  You'll be glad you did.

Additional previews

Saturday, December 03, 2011

PG out for visit to #7 Wisconsin? No problem for MU freshmen

DJO was dominant on offense and Vander Blue on defense, but the story today was that someone forgot to tell Marquette’s three freshman that when you visit a top 10 opponent, you have less than a 7 percent chance of winning. The odds get a lot worse when your starting point guard can’t play, and even worse when you can't go for steals after being whistled for four fouls in the first five minutes against the team that is the WORST team in the country at drawing fouls.

In the past decade, Marquette was just above the national average – going 1-11 when facing a Top 10 team on the road (based on www.kenpom) until upsetting UConn last year. Now Marquette has done it twice in a row – and the freshman were a big part of it.

vs. Top 10 on roadRnkDaySeasonResultMUOpp
Wisconsin3Sat Dec 32012W6154
Connecticut10Thu Feb 242011W7467
Pittsburgh4Sat Jan 82011L8189
Syracuse4Sat Jan 232010L7176
West Virginia8Tue Dec 292010L6263
Wisconsin9Sat Dec 122010L6372
Pittsburgh5Wed Mar 42009L7590
Louisville4Sun Mar 12009L5862
Louisville6Thu Jan 172008L5171
Wisconsin5Sat Dec 82008W8176
Georgetown5Sat Feb 102007L5876
Villanova7Sat Feb 42006L6772
Louisville5Wed Jan 262005L5299
Wisconsin5Sat Dec 202004L5963
Average score    6574

Marquette's showings have been so impressive that Sagarin's predictor, which had MU as a 7-point underdog today, will most likely show Marquette as the favorite in EVERY GAME the rest of the season. Obviously they will not win every game, because if you have an 80% chance to win 10 games in a row, you usually go 8-2, but this is a new level never achieved by MU before.

And for the freshman:

Derrick Wilson started in front of the suspended Junior Cadougan, played 20 minutes without a turnover, meaning the former football star now has 2 turnovers in 102 minutes. When All-American candidate Jordan Taylor tried to drive to cut into Marquette’s 41-33 lead with 13:29 to go, Wilson took a charge in the open court to send Taylor to the bench with his 4th foul.

With Jae Crowder in foul trouble, Todd Mayo was able to get in 20 minutes. When Wisconsin cut it to 41-40, Mayo drove, was cut off by Badger big men, and kissed a lay-up off the top of the glass. When Wisconsin was forced to press with 20 seconds left, Taylor tried to guard Mayo, but Mayo left him in the dust for a long in-bound pass and two-handed monster jam to make it 61-51 with 14 points from Mayo – GAME OVER. A meaningless three-pointer by Wisconsin at the end made the score sound respectable for a team that had only lost AT UNC by 3 points – indicating they likely would have beaten the Tar Heels in Madison (the average point swing from home to away is 8 points).

Juan Anderson, the third freshman, had only played 7 minutes all year, but with only 10 Warriors suited up he went in for 7 more eminutes and grabbed 5 rebounds to help MU DOMINATE the boards 41-28 in a reversal of last year.

If Wisconsin had not hit the final meaningless three-pointer, than the win would have marked the third time THIS SEASON that Marquette has had one of the Top 10 performance of the DECADE. As posted earlier, a Game Score of more than 100 means that the team likely could have beaten anyone in the country that night – and MU has done that 3 times in 7 games this year after doing it just 20 times in more than 200 games starting with the Final Four team.

Here are the top 20 performances of the decade based on a simplified game version of the Sagarin predictor model (Margin of victory, plus or minus 4 for home venue, plus opponent’s predictor value):

Top 20 Marquette performances in past decade based on Game Score Method:

RnkOpponentDateYearMarOppVenGame Score
1Mount St. Mary'sFri Nov 1120125466-4116
2Oklahoma St.Tue Nov 20200830820112
3DetroitTue Nov 1420074273-4111
4Northern IowaFri Nov 28200930790109
5St. John'sWed Mar 11200929764109
6KentuckySat Mar 29200314940108
7West VirginiaSat Jan 1020092290-4108
8CincinnatiSun Jan 420093478-4108
9MississippiSun Nov 20201230780108
10Notre DameMon Jan 1020112289-4107
11Notre DameSat Jan 1220082685-4107
12Seton HallTue Feb 12200825774106
13ProvidenceThu Jan 320082980-4105
14South FloridaSat Jan 1120033376-4105
15Coppin St.Fri Dec 2120084762-4105
16WisconsinSat Dec 320127934104
17ProvidenceSun Jan 1720103078-4104
18Wisconsin MilwaukeeFri Nov 3020083573-4104
19ConnecticutTue Jan 320061591-4102
20LouisvilleMon Jan 1520079894102

Friday, December 02, 2011

Wisconsin: Point-Counterpoint

Welcome to Point-Counterpoint, featuring Rob Lowe and Dr. Blackheart.

Doc, you Pompous Ass.  We Are Doomed.  

Marquette is screwed on Saturday.  Here's why:
  • Wisconsin will dictate tempo - Marquette likes to run, but consider this.  North Carolina is the fifth fastest team in the nation at 75 possessions per game.  However, on the road, UW shut down the Tarheel's transition game to a snail's pace of 61 possessions. 
  • The Badgers don't foul or turn the ball over - Marquette has been making a living by forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, where the end result is either a high percentage two-pointer (MU is #2) or a foul (MU is #28).  Too bad Wisconsin never turns the ball over (#4) and doesn't foul (#28), which will also shut down the fast-paced attack offense.
  • They are the #1 defensive eFG% team in the nation - And since we all know by now that defensive eFG% is (at least) two times more important than any of the other four factors, that's important.  MU's offense is going to be 2H Norfolk State ugly.
  • UW's bigs are mobile and play away from the basket - marginalizing DG/CO.  How good are the postup players that get pulled away from the basket on the most important end of the court? 
  • It's at the Kohl Center - UW@Madison literally uses a different ball at the Kohl Center.  Think about that.  Then think about handcheck fouls being called quick and early on Marquette players, or non-calls against our guys when they are seemingly mauled headed to the basket.  UNC beat Wisconsin the other night thanks to a second half free throw rate advantage of 82% to 12% (hello home cooking)!  Does anyone really think MU is going to get that kind of advantage at the Kohl Center?
I'd love to be wrong, but my big fear is that this game will never really be close.  I expect some ticky tack fouls that limit MU's aggressiveness, while UW's defense makes Marquette look stagnant.  UW leads by 10+ points most of the game.  In other news, I'll have to buy a new TV to replace the one that will shatter tomorrow, and the kids will have learned some new words.  -Rob

    Rob, you Ignorant Slut.  You underrate Marquette.

    I don't see anyone asking how UW matches up to MU.  You have scared yourself into looking into how good UW is, how they are playing at home (with the officials' calls), how great of a system coach Bo is--which are all true.  However...

      • Who is going to stop DJO and Crowder?  Harrison Barnes burned Evans; will Evans be able to stop Jae?  Junior is a distributor PG who can find CO or DG in spells...so who stops a post-up?  And, if they do with their pack defense, who is left open on the perimeter.  DJO? Todd? Jamil can play the 5 and can guard the perimeter, and his rebounding rate is very good.  UW has no depth and UNC got them into foul trouble with their depth and quickness, just like MU.
      • Any points off or on the board against the Slo-Mo –O matter (Despite Rob’s proclamations that Free Throw Rate is meaningless).  Bucky has the second lowest FTR in the nation, averaging only nine charity tosses per game.  Compare this to the 33 and 25 attempts per game the last two MU trips to Madison.  According to Pomeroy, opponent FTR is the second highest correlate to MU’s Defensive Efficiency rating. 
      • The Swingers love the menage a trois this season being #1 in the nation in the percent of their points from “America’s Treyland” with 46.1% on 24 attempts per game.  Interestingly, UNC opted to keep the ball in Taylor Jordan’s hands, which severely restricted the ball movement to the long-range shooters and forced their worst shooter (39% on FG) to launch late.  Bucky only had 6 assists vs. UNC as a result. 
      • MU fits a zone footprint according to Pomeroy, which plays into three important factors for MU.  Zone the perimeter to restrict Taylor’s penetration and the ball movement to the trey shooters, and limit the precious number of possessions via long rebounds that the overreliance on treys results in.  An opportunistic zone press also helps speed up the tempo of the game.  Will Buzz play more zone?
      • Patience is a virtue.  Wisconsin is #1 in the nation in eFG% defense and #2 in Opponent Offensive Rebounding Rate with their pack the line defensive scheme.  I think MU’s high powered offense and shooters can conquer the day on eFG%.  I also think Jamil Wilson comes of age in this game to limit Evans on the boards.  Unlike, UNC, MU needs to be very patient on half-court offense to win.
      This is not last year's MU team...nor is it Bucky's.  Fast forward to tip-off.  -Doc

      They are who we thought they were

      The Warriors have rounded the first turn of the season 6-0, as expected. The team is healthy, deep, athletic and should be competitive in the top tier of the Big East this season. While the program's out-of-conference schedule is greatly improved, the real tests for the team are to come in the next three weeks with dare-to-be-great opportunities against University of Wisconsin-Madison, Washington, Louisiana State and Vanderbilt. With these intriguing tilts looming, here is what we (think we) know about the 2011-2012 Warriors.

      • The defense is better. In racing out to a 6-0 start the Warriors have already held three opponents to an eFG% of less than 40%, and just missed adding another in the win over Jacksonville. This early-season defensive performance is by far the best stretch of the Buzz Williams era. To date the Warriors are 20th in the nation in eFG% defense, holding opponents to just 41%. That figure is 15% better than the current D-1 average, a quantum improvement over last season's embarrassing eFG% of 49.9%, which was on the wrong side of the national average and 214th in the nation. If MU can sustain this level of defensive excellence, the program will exceed expectations this year.
      • DJO and Jae Crowder are breaking out. DJO and Crowder are the highest scoring duo in the Big East, combining for nearly 40 points per game. The pair is connecting from the floor at a blistering pace (57% for DJO, 59% for Crowder) both inside and outside of the arc. More importantly for many MU fans (though not efficiency geeks), DJO’s three-point shooting stroke is true as the senior is connecting at a 46.7% clip early.
      • The offense is still ridiculous. MU leads the Big East in scoring offense and from a tempo-free perspective the adjusted offensive efficiency of 115 is 10th best in the nation. MU is 2nd in the nation in 2-point field goal percentage (59.2%) and its turnover percentage is just 17.3%, far better than the D-1 average of 21.4.  Rob's optimism about the backcourt was warranted, it seems.
      • The MU bigs have improved. Gardner is noticeably more fit and remains offensively efficient (hint:  he needs the ball more!). Otule has improved his rebounding (3.6 last year to 5.6 so far this year) as well as his rebound percentage.  The gains on the baseline are modest year-to-year, but quiet and consistent progression with bigs is refreshing to see from the program. 

      Of course it is still very early in the season, and there is much we don't know about this promising vintage.  Consider:
      • Can the defense sustain against better competition? MU is second in the Big East in field goal percentage defense, and as outlined above, the consistent performances are encouraging to this point. However, the competitive matchups this month will reveal more about the defense than anything else with this team.
      • Vander Blue. Will he fade (again) as the competition improves? To this point, Blue is easily the third best player on the team. His toughness, hustle, defense and improved decision-making have all been on display through the season’s first month. However, don’t forget that as a freshman Blue was far more effective in out of conference games than in Big East action, where he connected on only 15% from the floor and scored just 16 points in the season’s final fourteen games. To date, Blue has been a revelation, averaging 10.7 points per game, 3.3 assists, 4.5 rebounds and a team-leading 2.5 steals.  I'm on the bandwagon. Vander and the MU backcourt have exceeded expectations to date.
      • Todd Mayo. Is his fast start sustainable? Before the season started Mayo was my pick for the freshman most likely to contribute. Mayo is instant offense for the MU backcourt. Despite the reputation as a scorer, Mayo has played efficiently within the offense, connecting on 50% of his shots overall and 43% from deep. Mayo currently stands as the team’s Designated Rifleman.  
      • Will the rotation remain 10-deep? We don't think so, and the player who stands to lose the most in this is Jamail Jones. With Mayo surging, the more versatile Jamil Wilson yet to emerge (is it just a matter of time?), Jones’ spot in the rotation might be at-risk.
      This Saturday, MU kicks off its most competitive December in quite some time. By the time New Year's Day hits, and the Big East comes to town, we'll really know what this team is capable of.

      Thursday, December 01, 2011

      November Non-Conference Report

      I've written a few times about Marquette's efforts to improve their strength of schedule and RPI for the 2011-12 season by playing a higher level of competition in the non-conference. Every month, I'm going to keep tabs on how our non-conference opponents have been performing. Let's take a look at November.

      November W-LCurrent RPIProjected RPIkenpom RatingBest WinWorst Loss
      Mt St Mary's1-4263207277340 Hartford263 Navy
      Norfolk St3-22021019870 Drexel10 Marquette
      Winthrop0-5291288256(None)238 E Kent
      Mississippi5-133477343 Miami10 Marquette
      Norfolk St3-22021019870 Drexel10 Marquette
      Jacksonville2-4182152186273 Samford265 Sav St
      Wisconsin6-13711330 BYU5 UNC
      Washington4-1571744122 Georgia St25 St Louis
      Green Bay1-489176180187 Wyoming108 ND State
      N Colorado2-4128116183242 W Carolina187 Wyoming
      LSU4-311719713888 GA Tech284 S. Alabama
      Milwaukee4-1164137109177 IUPUI14 Michigan St
      Vanderbilt5-221483962 NC State71 Cleveland St
      Marquette6-06121073 Mississippi(None)

      Mount St. Mary's -- A tough month for the Mountaineers, who played four of five on the road. Hopefully playing five home games in December will help them get on track before conference play.

      Norfolk State -- The surprise boost for MU so far are the Spartans, who beat everyone they faced that didn't have "Marquette" on the front of the jerseys. We'll learn a lot more about NSU in December. They play seven games, including a solid mid-major in Long Island and another high-major at Virginia Tech.

      Winthrop -- The Eagles look more like an albatross around the neck after going 0-5 in November. Things don't get easier in December, as they play on the road in their first six games and will be underdogs in all seven they play.

      Mississippi -- The Rebels had a great November, going 5-1 with their only loss to Marquette. The highlights include wins over Drake and Miami. The Rebels will need to be road warriors in December, when they play five of seven games on the road.

      Jacksonville -- The Dolphins' record isn't as bad as it looks, as three of their four losses came to teams in kenpom.com's top-20. The competition is easier in December, with only one top-20 opponent, but five of six are on the road.

      Wisconsin -- The Badgers had a solid month, with their only loss coming at the Dean Dome. They have a tough December, starting with Marquette and including the other in-state foes and UNLV. They do play seven of eight in the state of Wisconsin, which makes another good month likely.

      Washington -- The Huskies went 4-1 in November, winning the games they were supposed to and losing on the road to Rick Majerus' St. Louis squad. December will be a telling month for the Huskies, as they face six current top-100 foes, including Duke and Marquette at Madison Square Garden. Personally, I'm pulling for a 7-1 December, with that 1 being a loss to the Warriors.

      UW-Green Bay -- The Phoenix played a brutal November schedule, going 1-4 in RPI games. All four losses came against top-100 opposition on the road. Hopefully they can build some December momentum against UIC and Loyola-Chicago at home before things get really tough on the road against Wisconsin and Marquette.

      Northern Colorado -- The Bears finished with a couple wins to go 2-4 after a rocky start to November. December should be much more kind, as the Bears play only once on the road, against Marquette at the BC. If their late-November improvement is a sign of things to come, this could end up being a quality opponent for Marquette by the end of the year.

      LSU -- The Tigers made little sense in November, losing to a bad Southern Alabama team at home but beating a good Georgia Tech team on a neutral court. After that first month, it's hard to say how they'll do in December, but they do play four of six at home, including Marquette.

      UW-Milwaukee -- The Panthers had a great November, going 4-1 with their only loss coming on the road at Michigan State. December provides more challenges, including Bucky at home and Marquette on the road, but just as many chances for Rob Jeter's club to add some wins.

      Vanderbilt -- The Commodores are struggling without Festus Ezeli, having dropped two home games. They have two more chances at a signature non-conference win, first at Louisville on Friday and then at the end of December at Marquette. Vandy could be a very hungry team by the end of December, and with Ezeli expected to be back, should be more dangerous when Marquette sees them.