"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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Blue's 30 points lift #25 MU to 1st in Big East

Blue uses 4 “and-ones” in final 8 minutes to cap 30 point night, put MU in 1st in Big East Vander Blue scored 30 points on just 20 shots, including four shots in the final eight minutes that he made despite being fouled.

Both Syracuse and Marquette will be underdogs in tough road trips on Saturday (at Pitt and at Louisville), Marquette broke into the Top 25 today (please click here and leave a comment), and the win tonight tied them with Syracuse for No. 1 in the Big East. If Vander Blue is going to play like a 5-star, MU has a chance in that game, and Davante Gardner is not thrown out of the game ala Jerome Whitehead for an elbow, MU may have a chance in a game that I long wrote off as a double digit loss.

Big East StandingsWinLossPct
St. John's530.625
Notre Dame430.571
Seton Hall250.286
South Florida170.125

For anyone who comes to Marquette games extremely early, you will see MU coaches and managers pounding MU players with tackling dummies while they try to still hit the shots. South Florida pulled two within single digits late, and two times in a row – with 7:33 to play and then 6:47 to play, Blue hit jumpers despite being fouled to put MU back ahead by double digits. With 3:24 to play he took a pass from Junior Cadougan and went to the hoop to draw a foul and finish to make it 60-48 MU. Finally with one minute to play, Trent Lockett fed Blue who again finished whle being fouled to make it 63-50 and give him a career-high 30 points.

As dominant as Blue was as the clear star of the game, the performance of Chris Otule and Steve Taylor cannot be overstated. Davante Gardner, the best player to date for MU, was ejected for an elbow to the face while securing a rebound and MU strauggling.

Otule blocked four shots, but more importantly South Florida players continually went to the basket only to see Otule and circle back out or pull up early for a bad shot. Otule looked as dominant as ever on defense, and started the game with a couple of dunks on offense. Just a few years ago if MU lost a 6-foot-5 center they had no one to go to, but tonight even when MU needed rest and Gardner was in the locker room, Taylor came in as a physically imposing player.

The impact of Otule and Taylor on defense was obvious. The Bulls hit over 90 percent of their free throws, and over 40 percent of their treys when they were a long way away from a shot blocker. However, inside the arc South Florida show below 20 percent with a 7 of 36 shooting night on 2-point shots.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sorry we've been missing - Davante made it into the top 1% while we were away

As I posted on MUScoop, thanks for noticing our posts have been a bit scarce since this season.  

With one writer getting married, another changing states for a new job last year, and me taking over as Sports Editor of Breitbart Sports New Year’s Eve, we’ve just been spread a bit thin.

The only excuse I can make for my lack out output this year has been the 39 articles I’ve written for Breitbart Sports in the last 25 days (see all by clicking here.)  And any time you can click and add any comment - I'm learning that's what stories are judge by, so any of you who have ripped on my analysis in the past do it again there to add to my comment count!

However, while I do have paid responsibilities there, I believe all of us love Cracked Sidewalks and will continue to volunteer our time here as a true Labor of Love.

To that end, I do believe the preseason analysis was right.  With Todd Mayo, I had us as barely in the Top 25, and without him wrote we were a borderline tournament team.  That’s not to say he is our best player, but I believe he is a key because he has the potential to offer the three point shooting from way downtown that makes our incredible ability to get to the hoop that much harder to stop.

We’ve seen that teams are all figuring out we will be tough to stop on the drive, so they are going to zones, and there is nothing better than a Todd Mayo rainbow from way outside to discourage the zone – but also with his ability to drive to the hoop.

That being said, the layoff clearly hurt as he has had some off games and some turnovers, but he came back in time to be in great form for the tournament.

The other observation I’d make is that I really am surprised that there seems to be doubt that Davante Gardner is our best player.  I know I started saying that about Jae Crowder way before his senior year, but in that case you had one other incredible player in DJO that I understand someone thinking is better.

This is not a knock on the rest of the team - MU is one of the deepest teams in the country.

For several games Vander Blue’s Value was actually ZERO because he had so many missed shots and turnovers even when we had faced very week opponents.  However, unlike in the past when he played great against terrible teams and then fell way off against the good ones – Blue has been on fire and cut down on missed shots and turnovers to rise from not even in the top 2000 to just breaking the top 500 of 4000 players on a very fast incline.

That make four Top 500 players along with Junior Cadougan and the inconsistent but sometimes dominant Jamil Wilson.  Chris Otule makes MU one of the only teams with two centers in the top 1000, and Juan Anderson is there too and there is solid play form the whole team.

But Davante Gardner is now in the top 1% of all players at 38th in the country in Value Add.  I know it seems hard to judge a post player’s value against a guard, but that’s why Value Add boils it all down to one number.

Sure you still subjectively lower him a little for occasionally playing around for a steal instead of running back on defense, or not rotating in time, but even with a subjective discount, the guy is dominant.  A huge guy who draws two and three defenders, can’t be kept off of the board rarely misses at the line is truly elite.

That being said, Providence has the 11th best player in the country in Bryce Cotton, and two more in the top 300 in Kadeem Batts and LaDontae Henton for tomorrow’s game.  If everyone had been ruled eligible for them this year, they would have added to this trio and be a contender for the Big East title – but our depth should handle them tomorrow.

As always, if you go to www.valueaddbasketball.com and search “Marquette” in the box you can see where everyone is ranked.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Good News: Gardner only All-Big East player on court at 11 a.m.; otherwise tough game

When Marquette tips off in an hour (11 a.m. CT Saturday) at Pitt on ESPNU, the good news is that Marquette will have the only All-Big East player based on the teams I released yesterday on Breitbart Sports.  Gardner continues to move up in the ratings, and is now the 70th best player in the Country and 10th best player in the Big East to claim the last "All-Conference" spot.

Now the bad news ... today is a big opportunity because ...

1. As you can see from the table below, while Gardner is the best player on the court today, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th best player on the court play for Pitt,

2. At the outset of this season, Value Add projected Pitt as the 14th best team in the country and today as one of four times MU would lose by double digits this year (Ohio State was cancelled, at Florida was a 49-82 loss and at Louisville is still to come.

3. Both of Marquette's road appearances this year have been disasters, with the Florida loss followed-up by a embarrassing loss at Green Bay.  However, two neutral site appearances are looking good as Butler has moved up in the rankings since the last second shot to beat MU as USC is close to breakign the top 100.

4. I have been to two MU games at Pitt and they do the home court right.  The students surround the players on the lower level, one year I was the only MU fan in the sold out building and the other they let about 15 MU fans sit in the rafters.

All that being said, this game could be a season-changer, so nothing to lose.  However, staying within single digits woudl be an accomplishment.

RnkPlayerTeamHtYrValue Add
70Davante GardnerMarquette6' 8"Jr6.48
77Lamar PattersonPittsburgh6' 5"Jr6.42
78Tray WoodallPittsburgh6' 0Sr6.41
85Talib ZannaPittsburgh6' 9"Jr6.33
231Steven AdamsPittsburgh7' 0Fr4.51
279J.J. MoorePittsburgh6' 6"Jr4.13
529James RobinsonPittsburgh6' 3"Fr2.87
590Jamil WilsonMarquette6' 7"Jr2.64
609Junior CadouganMarquette6' 1"Sr2.59
642Dante TaylorPittsburgh6' 9"Sr2.48
925Cameron WrightPittsburgh6' 4"So1.78
1026Juan AndersonMarquette6' 6"So1.56
1150Vander BlueMarquette6' 4"Jr1.35
1151Steve TaylorMarquette6' 7"Fr1.34
1245Durand JohnsonPittsburgh6' 6"Fr1.18
1247Chris OtuleMarquette6' 11"Sr1.18
1340Derrick WilsonMarquette6' 1"So1.04
1415Trent LockettMarquette6' 5"Sr0.95
1797Jake ThomasMarquette6' 3"Jr0.57
1984Todd MayoMarquette6' 3"So0.41

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The Future of Non-Conference Scheduling

As the seven non-football schools breaking away from the Big East, one change will be how Marquette handles non-conference scheduling. Over the past five years, Marquette played on average more than 6 teams ranked in the RPI top-25 in Big East play alone, which will be a rarity in the new conference. To make up for this, non-conference scheduling will need to fill the gaps.

I broke down the number of opponents in five RPI classes and assigned a point value to each, with the categories of top-25 (3), 26-50 (2), 51-100 (1), 101-200 (0), and 201+ (-1) over the past 5 full seasons in both conference play and non-conference play. I also broke down numbers for a 10-team "New Big East" with Xavier, Butler, and a Dayton/Creighton/St. Louis average.

The point value is clearly not exact, but it provides a rough guideline for scheduling. What it shows is that there is on average a 5-point shortfall from our current Big East conference schedule to the New Big East, which means we need to raise our average non-conference difficulty by around 5 point.

There are two other factors. You want to play at least 16 home games, which means 7 home non-conference games every year. You also want to get more nationally televised games. We averaged 4.5 nationally televised games from 2007-08 through 2011-12 and probably need to raise that to 7 or more to offset the new league's likely lessened exposure. So how do we get there?

We'll start with the non-conference tournament, which gives 4 games total, one at home. The average RPI of those 4 opponents was 234.5, 149.8, 100, and 23.5. We will also keep the Wisconsin series, and should push hard for a regular series with Notre Dame that alternates home/away with Wisconsin. The exempt tourney and these perennial series would give us 6 games, 2 at home, a +8 schedule rating, and 5 games on national television.

Now it gets tough. Of the remaining 7 games, I'm going to assume 4 home buy games against sub-200 opponents. This brings us to 10 games, 6 at home, a +4 schedule rating, and 5 games on national television.

From the last 3 games, we need 1 home game, +4 to the schedule, and 2 national games, which means all three teams should be top-100 RPI. I would hope the league will be proactive and create an annual series with another league, similar to the current Big East/SEC Challenge. Couple that with an alternating high-major home-and-home as we've done with NC State and LSU in recent years and we can assume 1 home game, +3 to the schedule, and 2 national games. For the last game I think there are two options as it cannot be a RPI drag. Either add another series against a high-major opponent or schedule a high-profile neutral site game, such as the Carrier Classic or the Jimmy V.

Breaking it all down, here's what I feel the blueprint should be:

  • Exempt Tournament: 4 games
  • Perennial home-and-homes: 2 games, Wisconsin and Notre Dame
  • High-major home-and-home: 1 game NC State, Vanderbilt, LSU, alternating home site with...
  • League Challenge: 1 game, similar to Big East/SEC Challenge
  • Neutral Site: 1 game, similar to Carrier Classic, or high-major home-and-home
  • Buy Games: 4 games, mid and low-major opponents
This all but eliminates the Milwaukee and Green Bay series, unless they want to play at the Bradley Center as buy games. There just isn't room to have road games at their buildings. Politically, you can't play one and not the other, and with Wisconsin playing at their buildings, it's unlikely they'd be willing to give up home dates. If they want to come here every year as 2 of our buy games, so be it. Otherwise, simply remove both from the schedule. It's too important to keep our early-season profile high in this new league. If you aren't getting us on national television, you have to come here as a buy game.

2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 Average
BE 1-25 6 7 6 9 4 6.4
BE 26-50 3 0 2 3 4 2.4
BE 51-100 1 5 5 0 4 3
BE 101-200 8 4 3 5 6 5.2
BE 201+ 0 2 2 1 0 1
BE Points 25 24 25 32 24 26

NC 1-25 2 1 2 2 2 1.8
NC 26-50 0 2 1 1 0 0.8
NC 51-100 2 1 1 3 3 2
NC 101-200 1 3 2 1 4 2.2
NC 201+ 6 6 6 6 4 5.6
NC Points 2 2 3 5 5 3.4

Total 1-25 8 8 8 11 6 8.2
Total 26-50 3 2 3 4 4 3.2
Total 51-100 3 6 6 3 7 5
Total 101-200 9 7 5 6 10 7.4
Total 201+ 6 8 8 7 4 6.6
Total Points 27 26 28 37 29 29.4

NBE 1-25 2 2 4 8 6 4.4
NBE 26-50 4 4 6 0 0 2.8
NBE 51-100 4 2 0 6 6 3.6
NBE 101-200 8 8 6 2 6 6
NBE 201+ 0 2 2 2 0 1.2
NBE Points 18 14 22 28 24 21.2

FNC 1-25

FNC 26-50

FNC 51-100

FNC 101-200

FNC 201+

FNC Points