"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, July 08, 2023

Marquette Gold


Get ready for a Ben Gold breakout season

Photo from Marquette Athletics

Every sports fan has that controversial sports hill they are willing to die on. For me, it's that Marquette Gold, had the university stuck to their guns in 2005, would've been a perfectly reasonable nickname that would've been more successful and popular in the long term than Golden Eagles. For everyone that asked "what's a Gold" let's remember that Blues, Heat, and Avalanche have all been perfectly suitable nicknames. But that's not the Marquette Gold I want to talk about today. We're here to talk about Marquette's Ben Gold.


Sean Paul was one of the first people I noticed stoking the Ben Gold hype train. He points out Gold's size, athleticism, and shooting ability in the attached video. Paul suggests Gold can be a double-digit scorer for Marquette, which would be in line with what David Joplin did for Marquette last year, averaging 9.2 ppg off the bench as he was named Big East Sixth Man of the Year.

So why do I think Gold can have a similar or even bigger breakout? It started when I was looking at his kenpom page. One of the things Pomeroy does is break down full season stats, then include conference-only stats below them. What struck me was that virtually every significant number for Gold was better in conference play than it was for the full season. I then used T-Rank to compare the numbers for Gold in the first 11 non-conference games and compare them to what he did in the 20 Big East games. His improvement was absolutely absurd. Look at the comparisons:

Gold was better finishing inside, outside, and at the line. He was more efficient, a better rebounder, turned the ball over less, and got to the line more. He did this while maintaining roughly the same number of minutes played and usage rate. Typically, as the level of competition goes up, player performance tends to go down. For Gold, his level of performance skyrocketed as Marquette faced tougher opponents.

So why aren't we talking more about Gold? It's not because of who he played against, but rather who he played behind last year. The depth chart at the 4/5 positions included NBA wing Olivier-Maxence Prosper, all-conference big man Oso Ighodaro, and Big East Sixth Man of the Year David Joplin. Those players combined for 79.2 minutes per game, most of them at the 4/5 positions Gold plays. But with Prosper gone, that leaves 29.1 minutes that need to be filled. Joplin will presumably take some of those, but he was already at 19.0 mpg so most of Prosper's minutes will likely go to Gold.

Gold's size and shooting make him perfect in Marquette's system

Photo from Marquette Athletics

In addition, we have already seen what year two development looks like for this staff. We've seen the jumps made by Justin Lewis and Oso Ighodaro from their freshman to sophomore years, and the leaps taken by Kam Jones, Stevie Mitchell, David Joplin, Tyler Kolek, and Prosper in their second years in the program. In terms of a path to minutes, proof of concept with Gold's 2023 Big East play, and the track record of this staff, Ben Gold is in pole position to blow up in 2023-24.

With four of five starters and the Big East Sixth Man of the Year returning, the core of the upcoming season's rotation is likely set. But like last year, there's room for someone who can carve out significant minutes off the bench. Last year, it was David Joplin in the front court and Chase Ross in the backcourt. Ross will likely reprise that role, but Gold is the best bet to play the Joplin role and can provide the scoring skillset Joplin has, the wing handling and driving of Prosper, and the shooting to be a stretch five, something that has most closely been approximated in how Ighodaro handles and distributes from the top of the key. If you're looking for an early Big East Sixth Man of the Year future, Ben Gold is the player to put your chips on.

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