"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, March 27, 2013

Marquette v South Beach: The Johnson Factor

The big news in the Marquette/Miami Sweet 16 matchup is that UM's hulking center Reggie Johnson needed surgery and will not be available for the Hurricanes. Both sides seem to be playing down the importance of Johnson, and the general consensus among Marquette fans seemed to be "that's five fewer fouls for Miami." But looking at the numbers, the loss of Johnson could be much bigger than just a few fouls.

Miami played 7 games against kenpom.com top-150 competition this year without Johnson. They went 5-2 in those games without Johnson. In such games with Johnson, the Hurricanes were 19-4. Most likely, Miami will try to replace Johnson's minutes with three players. Julian Gamble should play more than his 20.4 mpg average while both Erik Swoope and Tonye Jekiri will also have expanded roles.

Regarding Gamble, one number really jumped out. He has fouled out twice this season and had four fouls in four other games. Of those six games, four came when Johnson was out against top-150 teams. When forced to play more, Gamble seems to struggle with foul trouble. Against Davante Gardner, who is 12th in the nation in terms of fouls drawn per 40 minutes it seems likely Gamble could be put into foul trouble early. Gamble averages 4 fouls committed per 40 minutes, but in those 7 games without Johnson, that number jumped up to 5.2 fouls committed per 40 minutes.

Looking at the other two players, Jekiri and Swoope, the mathematics of John Pudner's Value-Add show a marked difference. While Johnson's VA score of 1.24 is only slightly above the "average player" and good enough for #1024 in the country, Jekiri (0.49, #1695) and Swoope (0.36, #1888) are a significant downgrade. During the 7 games Johnson was out against top-150 teams, the two combined for 11.1 mpg, 2.9 rpg, and 1.1 ppg. That's a far cry from the 21.3 mpg, 7.0 rpg, and 6.7 ppg Johnson gives to the Hurricanes. In addition, Johnson values out as a much better defender than either Jekiri or Swoope.

Miami already struggles with depth; 7 of their players account for 92.4% of their minutes played. Taking Johnson out shortens their rotation to 6 reliable players with no one else averaging more than 7 mpg on the season. Marquette's depth should be able to test Miami's endurance, while Gardner and to a lesser extent Otule in the paint can do severe damage to the 'Canes if they can get the Miami bigs in foul trouble.

While it's easy to downplay the loss of Johnson, it is very big for Miami, and probably even bigger than the 290 pounds Johnson carries on his frame.

No comments: