"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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Can 36,000 Volunteers Be Wrong?

Earlier this year, 36,000 Tennessee fans signed an online petition hoping to get the school to fire basketball coach Cuonzo Martin & bring back Bruce Pearl. Martin's team responded with 5 straight wins before a loss to #1 Florida in the SEC Tourney & followed that up with an improbable Sweet 16 run that prompted one Vol fan to write an open apology letter.

After Tennessee's thrilling 73-71 loss to Michigan in the Sweet 16, his name has emerged as a possible replacement for Buzz Williams. After #ShakaWatch, it's to be expected that Warrior fans are lukewarm to just about any candidate. Names like Howland, Wardle, & even Bennett have been mentioned, among others. Yet the more I watched Martin's Tennessee team, especially in the tournament, the more I feel he would be a good fit at Marquette.

I am not at all a fan of basing a coach's resume on one March run. Does anyone really believe that Buzz Williams' 2013 Elite 8 team was better than the 2009 or 2012 teams that lost earlier in the tournament? But last night, Martin's Volunteers trailed 70-60 with less than 4 minutes to play. They stormed back to trim the lead to 72-71 & had the ball in the final seconds with a chance to win. That wasn't the first time UT refused to give up. In the play-in game in Dayton, Martin's team didn't take their first lead until 2:40 left against Iowa. They hung in, forced overtime, & dominated the Hawkeyes in the extra frame, following that up with similarly dominant performances against UMass & Mercer.

Some may wonder why Martin would want to leave. Tennessee AD Dave Hart was hired after Martin & showed little public support for his coach. Martin also likely understands that fans & boosters are fickle, & the fans & boosters praising him now are the same ones who wanted him fired a few weeks ago & refused to fund his recruiting efforts. Martin would become a viable candidate on April 1, when his buyout drops from $2.6 to $1.3 million. After paying Buzz Williams a base of $1.8 million, Martin is definitely affordable for Marquette.


Before dissecting this, the most important recruiting job Marquette's next coach has is to retain current players. Many coaching changes bring massive roster overhauls. That hasn't been the case for Martin. At Missouri State, he was able to retain all 5 significant returning players. The only 2007-08 player not to return was freshman Tomas Brock, who never played another minute of D1 basketball. When Martin took over for Pearl, Scotty Hopson & Tobias Harris declared for the NBA Draft, but he retained every other player from the 2010-11 roster. At Marquette, it is vital to retain talented players like Deonte Burton, Duane Wilson, Luke Fischer, & Jajuan Johnson (who Martin recruited at UT) to keep the program running at a high level. Martin has proven he can do that.

Martin has also successfully recruited 5-star players. Jarnell Stokes was a blue-chip big man that was the first recruit to play for Martin at Tennessee. Robert Hubbs was another five-star Martin recruit Martin. He didn't land 4-star players with Buzz Williams consistency, but he also didn't see constant transfers, with the exception being graduate transfer Trae Golden. Martin also offered Marquette commit Ahmed Hill & target Diamond Stone. Those relationships would give him a shot at retaining Williams' highest rated 2014 signing & landing the coveted Stone, especially with the ability to sell a staff that developed the Volunteers' front line of Stokes & former MU player Jeronne Maymon. Martin was also a solid recruiter while an assistant at Purdue, bringing in players like Robbie Hummel & E'Twuan Moore.

His current assistants are well-rounded but feature many local ties. Associate Head Coach Tracy Webster coaches the guards & played at Wisconsin, with assistant stops at Kentucky, DePaul, & Illinois. Kent Williams has been with Martin since MSU & works with the wings. A likely local favorite would be big man coach Jon Harris, who played at Marquette on the 2003 Final Four team & had stops at MU & Green Bay before joining Martin's staff at MSU.


Martin's teams have improved every year in terms off offensive efficiency according to kenpom.com. In addition, he has had a top-100 rating in eFG% defense each year at Tennessee & a top-30 overall defensive rating in two of his three years with the Vols. His teams don't play at a fast pace, but that could very well be a positive. If you look at the teams that are playing this weekend, 13 of the 16 teams to make the Sweet 16 played at a tempo outside the top-100, & of the remaining teams in the Elite 8, only Michigan State (#196) is in the top-200. Like it or not, playing at a slower, more methodical pace seems to be a recipe for success in March. In the past 3 years, only 3 teams have reached the Elite 8 with a tempo in the top-100, & of those, only the 2012 Ohio State team reached the Final Four. Martin's teams have trended in the right direction & play a style that generally leads to March success.


In Martin's six years as a head coach, his teams have won 20 or more games 4 times, just narrowly missing that mark with a 19-15 record in his first year at Tennessee. He took his Missouri State team from a last-place MVC finish in his first year all the way to a regular season title just two years later before being upset by Indiana State in the conference final. At Tennessee, he averaged 21 wins in 3 years & went 32-20 in SEC play.

Another impressive note about Martin's teams is that in the last 4 seasons, his teams have gone 30-10 in the last 10 games of the season including conference tournaments. That's a strong indicator that his teams trend upward at the most important time of the season.

Bottom Line

Martin may or may not be the right man for the Marquette job. It wouldn't be at all surprising to see Wake Forest, Boston College, USF, or even his alma mater Purdue get in the running for him. But those that knock him simply because he hasn't shown enough, I would encourage them to look at the resumes Billy Donovan, Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo, or Mike Krzyzewski had before they arrived at their current stops. Martin is more accomplished & experienced as a head coach than all four of them were combined. Most legendary coach hires aren't situations where a school lands a Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, or John Calipari that already have had success at the highest levels, & when those hires are made it is only at the bluest of blue-blood institutions.

Martin is a Midwest guy, has recruited current Marquette players & targets, & has proven he can win. He was unfairly treated at Tennessee & could do wonders at a program that offers the budget, facilities, & dedication to basketball that Marquette has. If nothing else, today is the 20th anniversary of the day Tennessee signed away Marquette Head Coach Kevin O'Neill on the heels of a Sweet 16 run. It may be time for the Warriors to even that score.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Top Assistant Coach Options

EDIT: ***When I wrote this, I considered briefly including Steve Wojciechowski in the article. But seeing that he's been at Duke for 19 of the last 20 years as a player and coach and has never garnered much attention as a head coaching candidate, I assumed he would simply stay at Duke until Coach K retired. Because of that, despite his illustrious background, I left him out because after ShakaWatch, I didn't want to get people excited about someone I didn't think would possibly consider leaving for Marquette. I'll put together a Wojo capsule later, but in my personal opinion, Marquette landed the most capable assistant coach in the nation.***

The crazy train for Shaka Smart pulled almost every corner of Marquette nation into it this week right up until Marquette officially went on record and said Smart was out. Since then, we've heard established names like Ben Howland, up-and-comers like Saul Phillips, coaches still coaching like Cuonzo Martin, and the hometown hero name in Brian Wardle all mentioned as possible replacements for Chris Otule's coach.

What amazes me that through all of this the only assistant coach that has been mentioned is Mike Hopkins. He has been Jim Boeheim's number two since 1996 & is generally considered the Orange heir apparent. Yet every time someone puts a mic in front of a national guy, Hopkins' name comes up. Considering Boeheim just inferred that his retirement may be coming sooner rather than later, Hopkins may not be the best choice for Marquette. He spent over 20 years playing and coaching at Syracuse. When that job opens, he will take it, no matter where he is coming back from.

So why is it no other assistants are being mentioned? Tom Crean and Buzz Williams were both assistants when they took over at Marquette, and that resulted in 10 NCAA appearances, two Sweet 16s, one Elite 8, and one Final Four in 15 years. Archie Miller, Johnny Dawkins, Tom Izzo, and Kevin Ollie are all coaching this weekend and were coming from assistant positions. With that in mind, I wanted to look at some of the top assistants out there. I looked at five assistants from blue blood schools. First, I looked at the average offense and defense ratings over the past 4 years, the number of top-25 recruiting classes they had during their time as assistants back to 2003, and both the number of NCAA wins they've been a part of and the number of trips to the Final Four.

1) Dwayne Stephens -- How this guy isn't a head coach is beyond me. 13 straight years in the tourney, a ton of postseason success at Michigan State, and probably won't wait for his 59-year-old boss, Tom Izzo, to retire. He's worked with guys like Draymond Green, Derrick Nix, and Adrien Payne, turning them into stud big men. Sparty has been in the top-50 in terms of eFG% on offense twice and defense three times in the past three years, so Stephens knows where to focus his coaching efforts. Oh...and his first Final Four? It came when he was an assistant to Tom Crean at Marquette in 2003.

2) Orlando Antigua -- I'm sure any Kentucky assistant will make some MU fans squirmy, but Antigua could be a very good fit. As a recruiter, he's been lead on numerous McDonald's All-Americans and been involved with top-5 recruiting classes every year he's been in Lexington. Antigua is also the national team coach of Puerto Rico, which helped him land Puerto Rican stud recruit Karl Towns for Kentucky. His recruiting success stories read like a who's who of lottery picks -- Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, DeMarcus Cousins were all Antigua gets. And the guy has one of the best stories in college basketball. How many guys can claim to have been shot in the head at age 13, played Big East basketball (at Pitt) with a bullet in their head, and gone on to be a Harlem Globetrotter?

3) Steve Robinson -- It may be tough to pry Robinson out from under Roy Williams' thumb -- the guy has spent 19 years as a Williams assistant -- but it could be very worthwhile. Robinson has recruited the best players in the country over the past dozen years, following Williams from Kansas to North Carolina. He can recruit anywhere, landing recruits from Washington State (Marvin Williams) to Washington, D.C. (Ed Davis) and everywhere in between (#1 recruit from Iowa, Harrison Barnes). As a bonus, Robinson also has head coaching experience; in the 1990s he took Tulsa to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments and also got Florida State to the Big Dance.

4) Dave Dickerson -- He's been down this road before. Dickerson was voted the #1 assistant in the ACC before taking over the head coaching gig at Tulane in 2005. His Green Wave experience was a disappointment, going just 71-85 in five years without any postseason appearances. Since landing at Ohio State, the Buckeyes recruiting has been fantastic and Dickerson was elevated to associate head coach after just 4 years on staff. He has a ton of experience, including helping Gary Williams take Maryland to a national title in 2002.

5) Kurtis Townsend -- When it comes to recruiting, no one has been more consistent over the past decade than Bill Self at Kansas, and leading the way on many of those recruits was Kurtis Townsend. Last summer, ESPN rated Townsend as the best assistant coach recruiter in the country. He has landed the #1 recruit in the country on more than one occasion -- both Andrew Wiggins and Josh Selby were Townsend gets. Perhaps more important, he's done it everywhere he's been. Townsend was on staff at Miami, USC, Michigan, and California before coming to Lawrence.

Bottom line, we missed out on Shaka, but there are plenty of Final Four and national title-winning coaches still out there and available. The only question is if the powers that be at Marquette are prescient enough to pick those guys out ahead of time.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Some Coaching Candidates By The Numbers

I was hesitant to put this out there, because honestly, who the heck knows what is really going on with the coaching search? Speculating on current coaches isn't something I really like doing. I don't like it when other schools do it.

Having said that, I started poking around at the Pomeroy coaching profiles for the top three rumored candidates and thought it'd be useful to share. Here they are:

Rumor #1 - Shaka Smart

Shaka's overall profile is very interesting. First, for all the emphasis on "Havoc", the defensive performance has actually been inconsistent. There have been two very good defensive years and a few bad defensive years. The offensive performance has been better than I expected as well, but again it has been inconsistent.

Note that the offense and defense haven't been very good at the same time in the same year. Either the offense is really good and the defense suffers, or the defense is really good and the offense suffers. However, the overall ranking has been pretty good overall and very good the last two years. Finally, Shaka isn't really bringing in many top 100 recruits.

Summary - He's the hot name and has very good, but inconsistent offensive and defensive performance.

Rumor #2 - Ben Howland

If you are looking at someone that brings in top 100 recruits, it's Ben Howland. Using a quick scan, he has twenty eight top 100 recruits in his tenure from 2003-2013.

In addition, that stretch from 2006-2008 (or 2009) was remarkable. Three Final Fours, ranking top 15 or better four times, and consistent top 10 offensive or defensive rankings.

However, the wheels really fell off starting in 2010, not only by UCLA standards, but by Marquette's standards as well. Overall rankings were around the 50s (or worse), there was nothing very good offensively or defensively, and the NCAA performance reflected that.

Summary - Ben Howland has by far the best recruiting track record and the best overall NCAA/rankings of performance. But which Howland do we get... '06-09 or '10-13?

Rumor #3 - Gregg Marshall

I was not expecting much, if anything, about Gregg Marshall. Plus, he spells his name funny and looks like Tom Crean.

But I've got to be honest... I LOVE this guy's stat's profile. It is amazing. His Winthrop teams got better pretty much every year starting in 2004. Since taking over Wichita State, every ranking has gotten better every year (except for the 2013 offensive rank). In the last four years, Wichita State has had an average offensive ranking of 20 and an average defensive ranking of 27. This is kind of important, if you go back and reflect on recent set of posts about Final Four and Elite Eight profiles. The WSU overall ranking has been an average of 15, which is way better than Marquette over the same period.

However, there is one big concern. Marshall has recruited zero top 100 players. Can Marshall bring in the players to compete at the highest level?

Summary - Has the best overall profile for the coaches, but zero top 100 recruits


Again, I hate looking at other coaches like this, but since these are the top names, I thought it was important to put the information out there. If MU ends up with any of these guys, that's pretty fantastic.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Buzz is gone, let’s have a little therapy about it

Not much to say in this rundown. We talk about the relatively shocking news that Buzz Williams is no longer the head coach at MU and the even more shocking news that he went to Backwater Virgina....I mean Blacksburg, Virgina (spelling is hard) to do it. After a very long discussion about what happened with rampant speculation and unfounded conclusions we pivot to what does Marquette do next and what is the impact on the current players/recruits. We do think this can turn out positively for Marquette, but it's going to be a lot of angst. Buckle up, the ride has only just begun. Download this episode (right click and save)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Why did Williams really leave? Not Buzz, but Larry......

People will analyze and over analyze the last 24 hours in the coming weeks, months and perhaps years. Why did Williams, the Buzz version, leave.  What may be the more important question in the falling of dominoes is the departure of a different Williams.  Some folks (reporters) might want to get in the time machine and set the dial back to December 13, 2013 and ask why Larry Williams left.  What led to that departure and how are the two linked....which they are.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The candidates - the far fetched, the possible and the absurd...one man's opinion

In 2008, coach Tom Crean left for a blue blood program at Indiana.  It sucked, but if you leave for UCLA, KU, UK, Indiana, Duke, North Carolina I get it.  Leaving for Tennessee?  Uhm, no.  Leaving for Virginia Tech?  Character revealed.

When Crean left, MU went after Tony Bennett and Sean Miller who both said no thanks.  Potentially a few other tires were kicked, but MU soon settled on a guy named Brent "Buzz" Williams, an assistant coach only at MU for 9 months on Crean's staff.  He was excited to be the new MU coach.  Overwhelmed.  Humbled.  Six years can change folks.

Here we are, selecting another coach for MU basketball without a permanent AD or university President to boot.  Interesting times indeed.  Who are the candidates?  Depends who you ask.  There are the pipe dreamers out there that mention the insane like Brad Stevens.  There are those that want to play the state of Wisconsin angle and go with VCU's Shaka Smart, Brian Wardle or take another shot at Tony Bennett.  If Bennett's team continues to lay an egg tonight against 16 seed Coastal Carolina, maybe he'll come on the next train.  Then you have the old guy group of former coaches like Ben Howland or the "name" coaches who are looking to take the next step...a Danny Manning would fit that bill.

In 2008 I opined for a few guys, some turned out to be pretty good and some were dreadful.  John Groce was an assisant at Ohio State back then, he was one of my guys to take a look at.  Greg Marshall and Kevin Stallings were a few others.  On the other hand, I came up with a few clunkers that shall remain nameless.

So let's go through some of the names.

The insane...not going to happen.  Just stop.  Cut back on the mushrooms.

Brad Stevens - first year with the Celtics, dream on
Doc Rivers - Marquette alum, not happening

The Absurd

Tom Crean - under pressure at IU, he's not coming back nor would half the fans want him back

The Wisconsin Connection

Brian Wardle - MU alum, would take the job in a heartbeat.  Would stay at MU for a long long time.  Is he ready?  I don't think so.  Needs to prove it longer.

Shaka Smart - Grew up in Wisconsin, head coach at VCU.  Makes a good salary, low pressure.  Up for some big jobs each year.

Greg Gard - Wisconsin assistant coach.  Hate on the Vadgers all we want, they go to the NCAA tournament every year. 

Saul Phillips - North Dakota State coach, went to UW-Platteville.   No thanks.

The Intriguing

Tim Miles - Nebraska head coach.  Big Ten coach of the year.  Basketball coach at a football school in a conference that will eat you alive. 

Chris Collins - Decent job at Northwestern in first year, but its Northwestern and that means an uphill battle each year.  Would MU even look at him?

Steve Masiello - Manhattan head coach that comes from the Rick Pitino coaching tree.  Has big plans, unlikely to be at MU forever. 

Tommy Amaker - Has he matured enough after difficult seasons with Seton Hall and Michigan to jump back to high level hoops?  Boston College may be his next stop.

The Older Dudes

Ben Howland - Former UCLA and Pitt coach.  Fired by UCLA last year after winning the Pac 12 title.  Took UCLA to three Final Fours.  Reputation as a defensive coach.  Labeled as boring offensive system even though some of his teams have been at the top of scoring in the conference.  At age 57, would he be playing out the string?

Kevin Stallings - Age 53, head coach at Vanderbilt.  Has to recruit academic successful kids and compete in a conference where academics is not at the top of the list.  From Illinois, but hard to see him coming back to the midwest.

Gregg Marshall - Age 51, not an older dude but older than me so that's what counts.  Has been a winner everywhere he has been.  Makes about $1.8M per year by some reports.  Word on the street has been no desire to coach at a high stress job with media scrutiny.  If true, not a MU candidate but take a run at him anyway. 

In House

Isaac Chew - Currently an assistant coach with Marquette and top recruiter.  Does MU do a Buzz and give Chew a shot to keep continuity?  

The Assistants

Mike Hopkins - Syracuse assistant.  Has been mentioned as coach in waiting when Jim Boeheim retires, but how quickly is that?

Martin Inglesbury - Notre Dame assistant.....oh wait, Notre Dame....won't happen

LaVall Jordan - Michigan assistant and finalist for Butler job. 

Jeff Boals - Ohio State assistant

Dwyane Stephens - Michigan State assistant and former Marquette assistant coach.  Classy dude, enjoyed working with him.  

Many other names will be thrown around.  Likely the actual choice isn't on this list.  A critical hire for MU.  Do you go after another assistant coach that is hungry to prove they can do it, but knowing they aren't here for the long run?  Do you go for a more mature coach, who may not do the heavy lifting that needs to be done and is cashing in a check but will be here until the end?  Tough decisions ahead. 

No exaggeration, most important hire for MU hoops in decades

Yes, it sounds cliche, the most important basketball hire in like....forever man.  Reminds me of the most important election in your lifetime I hear every 4 years.  Only, this time I believe it.

Here's why.  This isn't 2008, MU in the old Big East, an established powerhouse conference the likes of which had never been seen before on the planet.  The world has changed.  MU is now in the new Big East, a nice conference and the best Marquette could achieve as a basketball only school (thank you 1960 administration for cancelling football).  No one knows how the new Big East is going to do.  Certainly should be respectable in the long run, but its not the old Big East.  In an evil twist, a big reason this year the new Big East didn't fulfill expectations are in large part due to Buzz Williams team.  MU, Georgetown and St. John's were all considered to be NCAA teams prior to the season, with the Warriors picked to win the Big East.  Eighteen Big East conference games later, MU finished in the bottom half of the conference and didn't make the NIT.  Quite a fall for the preseason favorites.  St. Johns and Georgetown at least managed to get to the NIT, but all three were a huge disappointment in a conference that needed to do well in year one and prove itself to be respectable. 

Now we read comments from Buzz's mouth piece, Jeff Goodman of ESPN, who claims part of the reason for Buzz leaving was the new conference and television deal has taken a hit, resulting in Buzz's inability to land some recruits as a result.  Well, if Buzz had actually done something with his prize recruits this year rather than finishing in 6th place, maybe he wouldn't think this way.  Fox Sports 1 and the new Big East didn't cause Buzz's coaching failures this year.  Considering what Buzz's mouthpiece said, it makes it appear as though Buzz is incapable of taking any accountability in his role in this. 

So that gets us back to main point.  This is an incredibly important hire for MU hoops, arguably the most important in decades.  MU has an interim president, and interim AD, and no basketball coach.  The guy who just left is badmouthing the program by claiming the new conference doesn't cut it and the television deal is not good enough (even though every conference game is on national television).  Nice pickle MU finds itself in.

The good news, MU has some outstanding resources and commitment to basketball.  Last year MU spent more on basketball than every school in the country not named Duke University.  Bill Cords was heavily involved in the hiring of Tom Crean.  He also hired Kevin O'Neill.  He's made strong hires for MU hoops in the past.  He will not be alone on this as plenty of others at MU will be part of the process in my opinion.  In other words, it will not be a singular hire by one man. 

The bad news, coaches don't necessarily like to be hired by interim AD's and no school president.  Expect any experienced coach to demand a 7 year deal and massive buyout as a result because he will argue he is taking a job without the comfort of knowing who he will work for in the two most positions most important to a basketball coach.  Can't blame him.  That might also dictate who Marquette goes after.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Marquette and Priorities - Part Five

This is a Five Part series looking more in-depth at Marquette and the Priorities on the court.

  • Part One - What does it take to make the Final Four?
  • Part Two - Which of the Four Factors is more important than the other three combined? (spoiler: it's eFG%)
  • Part Three - Marquette is not good enough on eFG% to have a top 20 offense/defense
  • Part Four - What goes into eFG% for Top 20 teams?
  • Part Five - Are Paint Touches the root cause?
In Part One of this series, we presented the idea that a team needs roughly a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense to make the Final Four. In Part Two, we shared that eFG% is 63% of the total contribution to efficiency. In Part Three - we showed how #mubb has not been good enough at eFG% and argued that this was due to prioritization of the program. In Part Four, we looked at the components of eFG%, what a top 20 eFG% team looked like, and then compared MU to that profile.

If you've hung in this long, thanks. But even if this is the first time reading any of the series, this is the key one to read.

Part Five - Are Paint Touches the root cause of Marquette's problems?

Originally, I joked about calling this, "Paint Touches Are Bullshit", but that's maybe a bit harsh.

Thanks to the nice guys at Paint Touches (the blog), I ran some numbers looking at Paint Touches (the stat)
  • Key finding #1 - there's no relationship between Paint Touches and efficiency when you include the other factors
  • Key finding #2 (and this is maybe the most important point) - there's no relationship between Paint Touches and eFG%. None.
  • Key finding #3 - There is a relationship between Paint Touches and TO% and OR%. There's also no relationship between FTR and PT
In other words, if Marquette has been concentrating on Paint Touches, they have been inadvertently neglecting the most important part of efficiency. Now, are Paint Touches bad? NO! More Paint Touches improve TO% and OR%, and therefore help drive success. But Paint Touches have nothing to do with the most important part of efficiency.

One important caveat - I only have the total game data for Paint Touches. It is entirely possible that Paint Touches are more important on a per-possession level. But I don't have that data.

Go and read the Paint Touches story on the origin of, well, Paint Touches. Paint Touches are simple, easy to communicate, encourage team play, and somewhat improve how the team performs. They seem to be related to success... but they aren't really.

Every time you hear an announcer say "Paint Touches", think "that has nothing to do with the most important part of efficiency". Or you can just think, "Paint Touches are bullshit".

Summary (and a final note)

Through this series, we've looked at what it takes to get to the next level, how eFG% is the most important part of efficiency, and how Marquette consistently is not good enough at eFG% to get to that next level. What if Paint Touches are exactly the thing that have been helping MU as well as holding Marquette back?

As a final note, despite the lengthy nature of these posts, I really do think Buzz is an amazing coach. This analysis should be considered more constructive that critical. Honestly, I just believe that he's unaware. If there's any luck, this analysis will get to him and I'd be happy to be challenged on it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Marquette and Priorities - Part Four

This is a Five Part series looking more in-depth at Marquette and the Priorities on the court.

  • Part One - What does it take to make the Final Four?
  • Part Two - Which of the Four Factors is more important than the other three combined? (spoiler: it's eFG%)
  • Part Three - Marquette is not good enough on eFG% to have a top 20 offense/defense
  • Part Four - What goes into eFG% for Top 20 teams?
  • Part Five - Are Paint Touches the root cause?
In Part One of this series, we presented the idea that a team needs roughly a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense to make the Final Four. In Part Two, we shared that eFG% is 63% of the total contribution to efficiency. In Part Three - we showed how #mubb has not been good enough at eFG% and argued that this was due to prioritization of the program.

Part Four - What goes into eFG% for Top 20 teams?

What goes into eFG%?

Here's the relative importance of factors contributing to eFG%.

By far, two point percentage is the most important (65%), three point percentage is 33%, and three point rate (3FGA/FGA) is 2%. This actually surprised me a bit. I had expected both the three point percentage and 3FGA/FGA percentage to be much, much higher. Also, note that Assist rate and how often your shots are blocked don't impact eFG%.

What does a top 20 eFG% team look like?

Below is the comparison of Marquette's offense over the past six years to the average rankings for the top 20 offensive eFG% teams.

First, of the top twenty eFG% teams, six of them are top ten overall. Eight out of twenty are top 20 offensive teams. Second, the average of the top 20 teams is #19 at two point percentage and #41 at three point percentage. What is really interesting is that Marquette has been better overall, because they are focusing on the other three Factors.

If we compare the top twenty defensive teams, the top profile is almost the same, except that Marquette's defense has not been better than the average.

Has Marquette ever looked close to a top 20 eFG% team?


In this post, we looked at the components of eFG%, showed what a top 20 eFG% profile looks like, and then had Lana kindly let us know if Marquette ever came close to being a top 20 eFG% team.

In the fifth and final post, we will ask if Paint Touches are the root cause of the issue.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Heartbroken: Thank you Seniors

I was truly heartbroken.

I was able to go to all of the NCAA games on the Elite 8 run last year, which turned out to be a lifeline during a very rough personal stretch. Last week I went to my first Big East tournament ever. After the loss, I started to feel like I was in the crowd that went from Palm Sunday to Good Friday, with comments going around about people being glad this senior class was leaving less than a year after praising them as part of the second EVER three-year run of Sweet 16s.

Are you kidding? We had gone 30 YEARS with TWO Sweet 16 appearances, 1994 and 2003. Then after a bad year, some want to slam the door on kids who were part of three Sweet 16s in four years? The only other time in Marquette history we have won three straight titles was the four straight from 1971 to 1974. Did people want Jerry Homan to leave in 1975 because the streak ended?

I could hardly fight back crying when the Three Amigos walked by me in the Boise airport after having their career end with no Sweet 16s. If you had asked me then if I’d take three Sweet 16s in four years but in the fourth year we had to go 0-32 I would have taken it in a heartbeat.

I went to New York to watch the guys who have been part of BY FAR the greatest career run in MU history since Al McGuire left. The towering shot of Davante Gardner above me on the Bradley Center scoreboard will be part of my love for this squad. We want these guys gone?

Jamil Wilson: yes a disappointing year as he was double teamed with our whole backcourt gone and even tried to play the point. During the 13-game run through the Sweet 16 win over Miami, he had a 128 Offensive Rating. That was better than any player in the country for the season. If Jamil had not transferred here you can turn back in the Elite 8 run. I have to believe even as a practice opponent his first year he had to help the team prepare for athletic opponents en route to that most stunning Sweet 16 run.

Jake Thomas: I never understand how people are mad at the guy who steps into a spot. It wasn’t Dwight Burke’s fault Crean couldn’t find a big man he had to step into a starting spot. Likewise, be mad at Vander Blue if you want, but don’t get mad at Jake for stepping in and giving nothing but hustle and a three-point threat to give us some chance in games instead of leaving to be a star in a smaller program.

Chris Otule: Double "are you kidding me?" The ONLY recruit who stayed when the program looked like it would collapse? The guy who finally gave us a presence at the rim after watching our heroic guards get overrun for years? One of the most beloved guys in MU history who often blocked two guys out from the rim?

Davante Gardner: Truly one of the greatest offensive players we will ever see. I was at the Notre Dame game when the fellow Virginia native came to visit, and have loved him ever since. Since MU joined the Big East, Davante closed with two of the greatest seven offensive seasons for MU according to www.valueaddbasketball.com.

Rank  MU Player   Offense      Year
1      Novak, Steve       7.27  2006
2      Butler, Jimmy      6.85  2010
3      Crowder, Jae      6.24  2012
4      Butler, Jimmy      5.81  2011
5      Matthews, Wesley        5.54  2009
6      Gardner, Davante 5.07  2013
7      Gardner, Davante 4.61  2014
8      Hayward, Lazar    4.46  2009
9      McNeal, Jerel      4.31  2009
10     Crowder, Jae      4.13  2011
11     Johnson-Odom, Darius  4.05  2012
12     Hayward, Lazar    3.82  2010

Congrats guys. Noone remembers you for your worst year, they remember how high you took things. And for all of you, that means you were Elite 8 players that took MU to the highest level since the 1970s over a four-year run.

MU is better for each of you stepping onto campus.

Those of us who went to school in the 1980s will be among your biggest fans after our decade without a Sweet 16, but all true MU fans will understand that one down year is a small price to pay for the final three years on this list of Sweet 16 teams:

1955, 1959, 1968, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1994, 2003, 2011, 2012, 2013

In the end, I believe the rules were the undoing this year. The "freedom of movement" refereeing made it the year of the driving guard, making our incredible front line and long-bomber much less relevant than they would have been when guards had to dump it into the front line once they were stopped. Life isn't always fair, but we will always remember and love each of you and your time on campus.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Marquette and Priorities - Part Three

This is a Five Part series looking more in-depth at Marquette and the Priorities on the court.

  • Part One - What does it take to make the Final Four?
  • Part Two - Which of the Four Factors is more important than the other three combined? (spoiler: it's eFG%)
  • Part Three - Marquette is not good enough on eFG% to have a top 20 offense/defense
  • Part Four - What goes into eFG% for Top 20 teams?
  • Part Five - Are Paint Touches the root cause?
In Part One of this series, we presented the idea that a team needs roughly a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense to make the Final Four. In Part Two, we shared that eFG% is 63% of the total contribution to efficiency.

Part Three - Marquette is not good enough on eFG% to have a top 20 offense/defense

Here's a chart showing the #mubb offensive and defensive rankings over the past six years. I've put in the various four factors and color coded everything by degree. Green is good and red is bad. The factors have been organized by the average ranking.

One thing to notice is the consistency of colors for Factor #1 and #4. While there is one red color for offensive Factor #1, consistently those show up as good rankings. The opposite is true for Factor #4.

Here is the same chart, except that now I've included the actual rankings and the labels for each factor.

Marquette consistently has the best rankings for Free Throw Rate both offensive and defensively. Turnover Rate is consistently #2. eFG% is either #4 in terms of ranking (offense) or #3 (defense). In other words, the area that is least important is where Marquette does best, and the area that is most important is where Marquette either is consistently worst or close to that.

Here's the same information presented slightly differently.

On both offense and defense, FTR consistently is towards the top and eFG% is consistently towards the bottom.

Look, I have no idea what is being emphasized or not, but there appears to be a consistent approach on both sides of the ball where eFG% is not stressed as highly as the other factors, and FTR may be over-stressed.

Last point - on twitter, several folks asked whether or not it was an issue of #MUBB not having the right players vs. scheme. Here are some of the top 10 teams for eFG%
  • Offensive - Belmont, Iona, American, and Colgate (plus Creighton and Michigan)
  • Defensive - UC Irvine, Southern(!), E Michigan, and UTEP (plus SLU, UVA, and Arizona)
How is it some of these teams do well at eFG%? It's because they prioritize that aspect of the scheme.

Does having the right type of players matter? Certainly. Players that can shoot threes will help a lot with offensive eFG%. But shouldn't the roster construction place more emphasis on that? What of the defensive end?


While I argue that MU doesn't prioritize eFG% enough, it almost doesn't matter. Who cares if it's scheme vs personnel? The facts are that Marquette is consistently good at FTR, which matters least, while being consistently poor at eFG%, which matters most. If Marquette wants to improve where the program goes, eFG% has to get better.

In Part Four , we will look at what goes into eFG% and what a top 20 eFG% looks like.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Marquette and Priorities - Part Two

This is a Five Part series looking more in-depth at Marquette and the Priorities on the court.

  • Part One - What does it take to make the Final Four?
  • Part Two - Which of the Four Factors is more important than the other three combined? (spoiler: it's eFG%)
  • Part Three - Marquette is not good enough on eFG% to have a top 20 offense/defense
  • Part Four - What goes into eFG% for Top 20 teams?
  • Part Five - Are Paint Touches the root cause?
In Part One of this series, we presented the idea that a team needs roughly a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense to make the Final Four.*
*Or have some sort of weird super-lucky run

Part Two - Which of the Four Factors is more important than the other three combined? (spoiler: it's eFG%)

Without boring everyone, it's possible to make a simple model that predicts efficiency. Here is the model.

For example, take the factor under question (eFG%) and then multiply by 1.79 for that component's contribution to efficiency. Repeat for the other factors.

Here's how this model tracks for this season. (It actually compares really well for all seasons, but then the chart begins to look like an arrhythmia). Pretty close, right?

Once you adjust for the fact that turnovers are a negative contribution to efficiency, each aspect adds up to the following percentages.
Holy crap
That's right - eFG% is 63% of the total contribution to efficiency. eFG% is more important than all of the other three factors combined. This concept should be in ALL CAPS and bolded and underlined and have approximately 400 exclamation points!!!

This means that it is practically impossible to be a top 20 offensive or defensive team without also being good at eFG%. If you want the other numbers, Turnover Rate is 12%, Offensive Rebounding Percentage is 19%, and Free Throw Rate is 5%. Like those matter anymore.

For example, if a team like St. Johns averages an eFG% of 49% and Marquette allows them to shoot 56% at the Bradley Center, that's not so good.


eFG% is 63% of the total contribution to efficiency and it's more important than all of the other factors combined.

In Part Three, we will show that Marquette is not good enough consistently on eFG% to have a top 20 offense or defense.

Marquette and Priorities - Part One


This all sort of started with the following.

Of course, not smart enough to leave well enough alone, we actually started providing the charts via twitter for each section. After about 150 tweets and maybe half that number of charts, I realized that this should have begun as a series of blog posts after all...

This is the first of five parts looking into a deeper analysis of Marquette and the priorities for the basketball team on the court. Much of this information has already been presented in the Cracked Sidewalks twitter feed if you want to look ahead. The analysis covers five different sections.
  • Part One - What does it take to make the Final Four?
  • Part Two - Which of the Four Factors is more important than the other three combined? (spoiler: it's eFG%)
  • Part Three - Marquette is not good enough on eFG% to have a top 20 offense/defense
  • Part Four - What goes into eFG% for Top 20 teams?
  • Part Five - Are Paint Touches the root cause?
Part One - To make the Final Four, a team should have roughly a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense

Here is the stats profile of every team over the past seven years to make the Elite Eight.

Almost every team that made the Elite Eight over this time period had either a top 20 offense (left of the vertical line) or a top 20 defense (below the horizontal line). Most of the teams had both a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense.

Yes, there are exceptions. For example, Marquette (in the red circle) made the Elite Eight last year. Other notable exceptions include Butler (x2), VCU, and Michigan last year. However, those are exceptions.

Here is the same profile of every team to make the Final Four.

Good luck making the Final Four if you don't have a top 20 defense. However, even then, you really should have both a top 20 offense AND a top 20 defense.

Again, there are exceptions. Not on this chart, but a certain team made the Final Four in 2003 with the #2 overall offense in the country and the #119 overall defense.

Does having a top 20 offense and defense guarantee anything? Certainly not, but it's better to have the odds be in your favor than the other way around.

How Has Marquette Stacked Up?

Marquette has had the offensive profile once, and was arguably close to that three other times. As for the defensive profile, the #mubb defense has only been good enough one year.


The profile of teams that have successfully made the Final Four shows a strong preference for having both a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense. Unfortunately, Marquette has not been strong enough at the rankings, particularly defensively, to get to the next level.  In the next post, we'll look at eFG% and how it is by far the most important factor for efficiency.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It’s been a tough 10 days for MU basketball and I’ve run out of clever headlines

As the title indicates, we're exhausted and we think you are exhausted around MU basketball this season, but we'll get through this together on the podcast. Obviously we have to talk about the stomach punch games and deja vu that were the Providence and St John's game. They were very tough games, and yet more games we could have won but maybe shouldn't have been in a position to win. We then pivot from there to the Senior Day "festivities" and our impression of such things. Lastly, we spend a fair amount of time discussing the Big East tournament and potential match ups. We even try to be positive and create a path for MU to get to the championship and maybe sneak into the NCAA tournament, but to say it is a stretch is being unfair to this guy Download this episode (right click and save)

Sunday, March 09, 2014

All Big East teams announced

In the preseason, Marquette had two players named to the preseason All Big East basketball teams. Davante Gardner was chosen to be on the first team and Jamil Wilson on the second team.

Fast forward five months later and the Big East today announced the All Big East teams for the 2013-14 season. Congratulations to Davante Gardner for securing 2nd Team All Big East. Also to Deonte Burton for making the all rookie team

*Denotes unanimous selection.
^Due to a tie in the voting, an additional position was named.  

*Doug McDermott, Creighton, F, Sr., 6-8, 225, Ames, Iowa
Markel Starks, Georgetown, G, Sr., 6-2, 175, Accokeek, Md.
*Bryce Cotton, Providence, G, Sr., 6-1, 165, Tucson, Ariz.
D'Angelo Harrison, St. John's, G, Jr., 6-4, 204, Missouri City, Texas
James Bell, Villanova, G, Sr., 6-6, 220, Orlando, Fla.
*Semaj Christon, Xavier, G, So., 6-3, 190, Cincinnati, Ohio

Kellen Dunham, Butler, G, So., 6-6, 185, Pendleton, Ind.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown, G, So., 6-3, 218, Indianapolis, Ind.
Davante Gardner, Marquette, F, Sr., 6-8, 290, Suffolk, Va.
Kadeem Batts, Providence, F, Sr., 6-9, 245, Boston, Mass.
Fuquan Edwin, Seton Hall, F/G, Sr., 6-6, 215, Paterson, N.J.
JayVaughn Pinkston, Villanova, F, Jr., 6-7, 240, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Ethan Wragge, Creighton, F, Sr., 6-7, 225, Eden Prairie, Minn.
Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova, G, So., 6-3, 195, Langhorne, Pa.
Darrun Hilliard, Villanova, G, Jr., 6-6, 215, Bethlehem, Pa.
Matt Stainbrook, Xavier, C, Jr., 6-10, 263, Bay Village, Ohio

Andrew Chrabascz, Butler, F, Fr., 6-7, 225, Portsmouth, R.I.
Billy Garrett, Jr., DePaul, G, Fr., 6-5, 194, Chicago, Ill.
Tommy Hamilton IV, DePaul, F, Fr., 6-10, 284, Chicago, Ill.
Deonte Burton, Marquette, F, Fr., 6-4, 230, Milwaukee, Wisc.
Rysheed Jordan, St. John's G, Fr., 6-4, 185, Philadelphia, Pa.
Jaren Sina, Seton Hall G, Fr., 6-2, 180, Lake Hopatcong, N.J.
Josh Hart, Villanova, G, Fr., 6-5, 202, Silver Springs, Md.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Your next entertainly depressing podcast

Unfortunately, the Villanova game went exactly how we feared it would. So after this past week, Marquette is 1-1 with no signature win on the season and very much looking from the outside of the bubble. We break down the game for what it's worth and touch on the Georgetown game a little bit. We then transition to what should be obvious, Marquette needs some serious luck and a conference tournament run to make the NCAA tournament. We don't think it likely but supposedly there is a chance. That discussion leads to another on schedule next year, and what the schedule should look like to help Marquette make this a one year downswing. Next on the hit list is what to expect this week against Providence and St John's, clearly must win if MU has any chances of making the tourny. Lastly, we spend time talking about each of the seniors and forecasting a dusty day in the Bradley Center for the senior events after the game. Hasn't been the best of weeks, but no reason not to pod about it. Download this episode (right click and save)