"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 20, 2013

What's Trendy?

On the eve of its 2013 NCAA Tournament debut against Davidson, Marquette is getting a lot of hate and doubt... again. It is trendy to pick against #MUBB, looking at a lot of sites out there, to wit:

Thanks, Jerks
There's more, but we got tired of searching for trendy upset picks against MU. That's not really why we're here anyway. For a coach that thrives on having a chip on his shoulder, Buzz has to be looking at the silver lining. Last year, how much did we hear about playing Murray State in their back yard? By the way, every time you catch a Buzz interview leading up to the game, count how often Buzz says Davidson is “really, really good”. And then drink.

Certainly, Davidson is to be respected. They played Louisville tough last year and returned their top five scorers from that team. In addition, the Wildcats are on a seventeen game winning streak. Even Pomeroy and Vegas think this matchup will be closer than expected. Davidson coach Bob McKillop sounds confident. Heck, we expect it to be close down the stretch.

However, make no mistake that Marquette got a very good seed and draw. None of the potential three match-ups in the first weekend include a team that is hyper-athletic in the backcourt or forces a lot of turnovers.

As we said on Twitter when the matchup was announced, Davidson is terrible at forcing turnovers. Cynics will say 'that's ok, because Marquette is really good at turning the ball over.'  Sad and somewhat true. The formula for success in this game is simple (not easy). Protect the ball and win. Considering Marquette’s defense does not force many turnovers, the Warriors cannot give the ball away. Marquette doesn't even have to be great at protecting the ball. The team just has to be average and protect the ball at a rate of about 21% (the median for D1 college hoops teams is 20%) to put themselves in position for weekend action.

Marquette will have an advantage on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats are a below-average defensive team, which is somewhat surprising given their impressive winning streak and the weak offensive prowess of their opponents, which are collectively 261st in the nation in offensive efficiency. Despite the mixed bag of late, MU is one of the top 20 offenses in the nation and the second best the Wildcats will face this season (Duke being the top).

Unforced errors beget early tee times. Protect the ball and win.

Of course, the game this weekend has potentially huge implications on the overall program. Marquette is coming off two consecutive S16s, and as noted by Mike Broeker, one of only six schools to qualify for the last eight NCAA tournaments. This is how programs get built… by steadily raising the floor of minimum standards, which has no option but to raise the ceiling. Marquette was lucky enough to have the BE POY last year. They won a share of the BE in a transition year. The overall number of RSCI top 100 players on the roster is increasing, and only welcomes a top ten recruiting class next year. If we want to talk about what's trendy, let's focus on the continued rise and success of the #mubb program. Pundits are idiots.

Let’s take a minute to appreciate Marquette’s toughness. The Warriors are 10-0 following a loss this season. While Davidson is experienced, Marquette has been in two consecutive Sweet Sixteens. There is a world of difference between playing a close game and winning a close game. Marquette knows how to win close games. They’ve done it all year and they’ve done it in the NCAA tourney the last two years. Is Davidson accustomed to playing a team that subs in NHL patterns? Can they match up with our depth?

While it may be trendy to pick against #MUBB, make no mistake that this is a program still on the rise. There is a lot of potential in using the disrespect chip for Marquette. Maybe I'm biased (hint: yeah, totally true. duh), but I wouldn't pick against MU this weekend. However, given where the Warriors are as a program, Buzz is going to have to start coaching as a front runner sooner rather than later. Probably not until next year, though. That's not trendy right now.

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