"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, July 05, 2022

Who Will Score? Part IV: The Dark Horses

Today we continue our Who Will Score series for Marquette in 2022-23. Our first installment looked at the lack of correlation between returning volume scoring and offensive efficiency, particularly for teams that lose between 20-60% of points from volume scorers, like 2021-22 Marquette. In our last installment, we looked at the three most likely candidates to lead the way offensively. Today we turn to a fourth very strong candidate as well as the highest projected "best comparison" player whose potential ppg exceeds even Kam Jones.

Our initial focus today will be on returning players, with some words reserved for newcomers at the end. There will be one more installment after this with some takeaways as far as what to watch for offensively in 2022-23 as well as providing some reasons for optimism.

Before we begin, a reminder of how this will work. We are going to look at the following three categories that lead to scoring:

  • Minutes Played: The more you are on the court, the more you have chances to score.
  • Percent of Shots Taken: This tells us how likely a player is to get scoring opportunities when they are on the floor.
  • Effective Field Goal Percentage: This calculates what a player's shots are worth, with a 50% boost given to three point field goals made since three is 150% of two.

Expected scoring totals are based on 60 shots per game incorporating the three above factors as well as free throw rates and percentages from last year.

Determining the three categories will come by using multiple comparisons from Marquette, Shaka Smart, and kenpom comparison history to establish how similar players' games evolved from season to season in the past., also creating worst and best case scenarios by using the three season developments at the low and high ends of the developmental spectrum. Enough explanation, let's dig in:

Fourth Starter: Oso Ighodaro
Photo by Jeff Hanisch | USA Today Sports

Our last article focused on the three returning players with starting experience, but it seems like a virtual certainty that Oso Ighodaro will also enter 2022-23 as a starter since he is the only returning center on the roster that logged minutes last year. Of returning players, Ighodaro also led the team in offensive efficiency, eFG%, and free throw rate. Here are the projections:

  %Min %Shots eFG% PPG
Sophomore Sample 44.4 13.4 55.1  
Junior Sample 55.8 16.2 54.5  

Oso Ighodaro (So) 45.4 12.4 67.6 5.5
Oso Ighodaro (22-23) 57.1 15 66.7 8.3
Oso Ighodaro (Worst) 29.8 15.8 65.6 4.5
Oso Ighodaro (Best) 74 17.9 74.6 14.1

Oso is probably least likely to be close to his worst case scenario. Barring injury, he is going to log heavy minutes on a team without much depth at the 5. The question is which Oso we get. The one that was #2 nationally in eFG% at 77.3% through the first 23 games or the one that slumped to 45.5% in the final 9 games? Much of this will likely rely on the success of the pick and roll and whether the staff can develop providers other than Tyler Kolek. If they can regain that early season form, don't be surprised if Ighodaro is among the team's leading scorers.

Oso Ighodaro Comparisons: Ousmane Barro, Mike Edwards, Dan Fitzgerald, D.J. Haley, Theo John, Scott Merritt, Akil Mitchell, Jericho Sims, Ray Spalding, Kameron Woods

Worst Case Comps: Mike Edwards, Dan Fitzgerald, D.J. Haley

Best Case Comps: Ousmane Barro, Akil Mitchell, Jericho Sims

X-Factor: David Joplin
Photo by Jeff Hanisch | USA Today Sports

For this Marquette team, David Joplin is the ultimate wildcard. The reason for this is because he was a high usage, low minutes played option as a freshman. If his minutes spike to Justin Lewis levels while maintaining his percent of shots taken, the sky is the limit. That potential is why people like Scrambled Eggs' Phil Bush are on the Jopwagon. But if he takes a step back like sophomore Steve Taylor, he could be an afterthought. Check out the wild projection variances:

  %Min %Shots eFG% PPG
Freshmen Sample 18.6 19.5 49.7  
Sophomore Sample 42.9 19.9 49.7  
David Joplin (Fr) 17.6 26.1 48.3 2.8
David Joplin (22-23) 40.6 26.6 48.3 6.6
David Joplin (Worst) 17.7 24.5 36.7 2.1
David Joplin (Best) 78.1 29.9 65.7 19.2

Minutes will be the primary factor in determining Joplin's scoring, because he's never met a shot he didn't like. If a player who's willing to take shots is earning minutes, players like Troy Daniels show how quickly a star turn can come. But if his defense keeps him off the floor, going the other direction is possible. I think something in the middle is far more likely. Becoming a secondary scoring option off the bench feels most likely and despite the gaudy best case, I expect averaging double-digits will wait until next year.

David Joplin Comparisons: Ousmane Barro, Joe Chapman, Troy Daniels, Drew Friberg, Davante Gardner, Jajuan Johnson, Andrew Robinson, Steve Taylor, Daniel Utomi, Tyler Wood

Worst Case Comps: Joe Chapman, Steve Taylor, Tyler Wood

Best Case Comps: Ousmane Barro, Troy Daniels, Drew Friberg

Sparkplug: Stevie Mitchell
Photo by Collin Nawrocki | Marquette Wire

Did anyone do more to establish themselves late in the season more than Stevie Mitchell? When Marquette was struggling, he was the guy trying to pick them up. Mitchell's minutes dropped early in Big East play. After the calendar turned to 2022, he posted double-digit minutes 10 times and 100+ AORtg games 7 times. 6 of those 10 and 4 of those 7 were in the last 8 games of the year. So how does 2022-23 look?

  %Min %Shots eFG% PPG
Freshmen Sample 27.4 15.2 47.4  
Sophomore Sample 50 17.1 48.5  
Stevie Mitchell (Fr) 26.7 14.1 52.1 2.8
Stevie Mitchell (22-23) 48.7 15.9 53.3 5.9
Stevie Mitchell (Worst) 32.3 13.4 43.1 2.7
Stevie Mitchell (Best) 59.5 17.2 68.3 9.6

Mitchell has the look of a potential starter who will likely be part of four guards competing for three spots. However it's unlikely that he'll have a major scoring impact. Quite simply, guys with modest minutes and usage rates, even when they are efficient from the field, rarely explode into offensive focal points. He will more likely have an impact on the defensive end, though reports out of early camps are that Stevie is one of the most improved players in the offseason.

Stevie Mitchell Comparisons: Brendan Bailey, Ousmane Barro, Joe Chapman, Raheem Dickerson, Marcus Dickinson, Jase Febres, Theo John, Jajuan Johnson, Jeremiah Martin, Steve Taylor, Darius Theus, Kellon Thomas

Worst Case Comps: Raheem Dickerson, Steve Taylor, Darius Theus

Best Case Comps: Jase Febres, Jeremiah Martin, Kellon Thomas

The Rest of the Roster
Photo from @marquette.basketball Instagram

Last year, the top six players in terms of minutes accounted for 54.6 ppg in 73.4% of the minutes. Using the baseline projections, the six players we've highlighted would account for 50.8 points per game in 69.1% of the available minutes. Factoring that out would equate to 73.5 ppg as a team, about on par with the 74.0 ppg scored last year.

Kam Jones was not one of those top-six in minutes, nor was Greg Elliott, which means there is room for players outside those mentioned to break through. Without any track record, any projection would be a sheer guess, so we're going to focus on the rumors out of camp rather than trying to project points.

Zach Wrightsil: The NAIA Player of the Year seems likely to earn minutes, but without floor stretching ability he'll have to do his work inside. Wrightsil will likely have some games where he can exploit mismatches and put up some points, but his impact should be on the defensive and rebounding end more than as an impact scorer. We do see the occasional Ryan Hawkins or Max Strus type of up-transfer, but until he proves otherwise, tempering expectations seems wiser.

Sean Jones: All the reports indicate Sean Jones (pictured above) is the real deal. Despite being small of stature, he's strong, has great leaping ability, and is incredibly quick. The worst case scenario is likely a freshman impact somewhere between what Stevie Mitchell and Kam Jones did last year, though playing point his production may come more from creating for others than scoring himself.

Ben Gold: I've been pleasantly surprised by how strong the positive vibes are around Ben Gold. He is said to be a better than expected shooter and everyone I've talked to believes he will be able to contribute right away. Of all the newcomers, he seems the best positioned to add some bench scoring.

Keeyan Itejere: The simple lack of depth in the middle will probably give Itejere some opportunities. He is clearly an excellent athlete, though I would hedge my bets in terms of how much he offers on the offensive end in his first year on the court.

Emarion Ellis: He remains the high-upside player that might not be quite ready yet to have a major impact.

Chase Ross: True wildcard in that I haven't heard anything one way or the other about what impact he might have.

In our final piece, we are going to look at the most important factor in offensive success and why despite the lack of big-time individual scoring projections, Marquette may be in line for a significant improvement in offensive efficiency next year.

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