"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

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Big East Blogger: MU #3 in Big East

The Big East Basketball Report continues their rundown of the upcoming season, and ranks MU as the third best team in the league. If nothing else, the ranking is consistent with just about every other pre-season assessment. These guys do a good job in covering the league, but a few odd assertions and omissions stood out in their analysis of MU:

  • The author suggests that the Three Amigos were "struggling on the perimeter" last season. Huh? This was the league's best backcourt last season. Sure, James did not shoot well but the author failed to note that McNeal was the top defender in the league last year, failed to note that Matthews emerged as one of the conference's steadiest players, and didn't realize that despite James' woes from the field he did have an enviable A/TO ratio.
  • The author rightly criticizes this trio for turning the ball over nine times per game last season, but that's less than half the story. In many ways the notion that these guys turned it over nine times per game is overblown. Fact is, Marquette was second in the league in steals per game and fourth overall in turnover margin. The formula worked until McNeal went down with injuries. Further, the spike in turnovers peaked before conference play began -- consider that James' overall A:TO ratio was 1.9 to one, while his league total was an almost-unheard-of 2.4 to one.
  • Lazar and Fitz: The author claims these players are competing for the same minutes and play the same position. That's simply not accurate. Lazar lined up at the PF slot and provided a nice boost to MU's inside presence last year, particularly on the offensive glass.
  • Fitzgerald is a completely different player who plays a complementary position. Fitz is a marksman at 42% from the beyond the arc though apparently "he seems to be either on or off" (as opposed to players who are always on or always off, I guess).
  • Their strangest assertion is the claim that for MU to succeed this year, Dan Fitzgerald's minutes and role need to decline. No, absolutely not. As we pointed out last month, the exact opposite is true: if MU is to be successful this year, Fitzgerald must have a breakout senior campaign. This team does not have enough shooters and Dan Fitzgerald is one of the best returning three-point percentage shooters in the Big East Conference.
The BEBR pegs MU for a 13-5 conference record this season. I'd sign for that right now.


Anonymous said...

Don't be too dogmatic about Fitz's playing time. He's got potential, but he is way too reticent. Maybe that tendency is lessening, but that remains to be seen. At this time I'm not convinced--stupid fouls, weak rebounding are other issues.

Anonymous said...

I think you need to get Fitz at least 20 minutes a game because he's the team's best shooter and smartest offensive player. While he probably should be more aggressive, I love that he does not want to force things and often time will make that extra pass that gets an easy bucket.

Anonymous said...

How can you argue that the 3 guards struggled from the perimeter. Your explanation gives no proof that they didn't as you talk about everything but their outside shooting. If James can't get his shot going from outside Acker's going to see serious minutes.

TB said...

"How can you argue that the 3 guards struggled from the perimeter"

McNeal (42%) and Matthews (44%) each shot effectively from the field -- better than Devendorf, Dyson, Nutter, or Harvey. Heck, a each had a better overall shooting% than Scottie Reynolds.

Were Jerel and Wesley deep threats? No, but I don't know any MU fan who expected either to be. Still, McNeal improved drastically from deep as the season wore on.

James is another issue but it looks like he adapted his game as the year went on.

NBE Blogger said...

Thanks, as always for the link to our story.

I guess we could have done a better job on our wording of Marquette 'struggling on the perimeter'. We have always ascertained that Marquette has the best guard trio in the conference and have given heaps of praise towards the Eagles of their guard play. we felt, however, last year's decline at the end of the season was a large part due to their inability to have threats with the perimeter jumpshot. McNeal, Mathews and James combined to shoot less than 28% from 3-pt range in conference games. McNeal and mathews had respectable percentages from the field, but teams were able to defend Marquette more effectively sagging off them defensively and packing in a zone, if they chose. Their perimeter shooting was definitely something they struggled with, but they were still able to get to the rim and finish often.

In the games that McNeal played, Cubillan got the VAST majority of minutes as the third guard and Fitzgerald played the '4' position. In thr 14 games McNeal was healthy, Cubillan played all but 47 of the available minutes behind James, McNeal and Mathews in conference games. 15 of those minutes came available against Georgetown when Mathews got banged up and played little in the 2nd half (and was in foul trouble). So, in the 13 games that they were able to play their regular rotation, only 2 1/2 minutes were available at the wing position outside of the four guards, which no doubt Fitzgerald got.

This season, with Acker getting time as the back-up PG and Cubillan still in the mix, there may be no minutes for Fitzgerald at the 1, 2 or 3, we know how much the terrefic trip will play, usually 32 minutes each...leacing 24 minutes to be split with Acker and Cubillan (talking BE time). That means Fitzgerald and Hayward are likely to line up at the '4'. Marquette has shown the ability to be very good with this line-up, and with Barro at the '5'. I beleive, that if Hayward begins to reach his potential and Mbakwe also gets up to speed and can play WITH Barro on the floor, Marquette is a BETTER team. It might not happen, and, Marquette will still be VERY good, but if those two (Mbakwe and Hayward) begin realizing their upside, I think Fitzgerald might lose some time...and, that, in the end, might not be a bad thing. However, Mbakwe and Hayward my not and it could prove to be better to have Fitzgerald on the floor, but in terms of defense and rebounding, it is an area that other teams will exploit. I do believe Hayward could be a shooter as effective as Fitzgerald and more able to get the shot off. Seemed too many games (until McNeal's injury) that we hardly noticed Fitzgerald on the floor. Sure, he might have gone 2-4 or 2-3 on 3's, but in 25 minutes, those might have been the only things he did and, you have to aknowledge him as a threat, but if Hayward gets comfortable, he can really shoot it and Hayward and Mbakwe give more of a defensive and rebounding presence.

Surprised we did not mention McNeal as the #1 defensive perimeter player in the league...not really up for debate in our mind, we feel he is that good and that disruptive...and, we also REALLY like Mathews overall game...not to mention our ranking with James as our #1 PG. So, we do not think their perimeter players struggle, but meant it that they struggle shooting and it has made them easier to defend, negating, a bit, their other strengths offensively.

TB said...

NBE -- great points, all. Thx for chiming in......looking forward to the rest of your preseason countdown and the commentary throughout the season

Gene Frenkle said...

Awesome posting and responses to clarify your position.

I think Fitz is a huge cog in the offense and he has to do more this year, but only from a shooting standpoint. He obviously needs to rebound better, but his key is to cut down on the terrible fouls. If he can do that, he'll get more time, I think.

The player that I see losing time this season is actually Cubillan. He's too one dimensional offensively in that he can't get to the rim and free throw line. All of his buckets are threes or nothing. Fitz can at least fill in at three or four positions if you need him too. I can see Cubillan having the same role at most, and possibly having his role reduced this season.

I will admit, though, after reading your minutes breakdown, it does make sense that Fitz could play less if everything plays out like predicted.

Anonymous said...

I think the Big East blogger hit the nail on the head. When he refers to MU struggling on the perimeter, he clearly means "from" the perimeter and you cannot argue that point. I don't care what McNeal and Matthews percentages are...every team we play will let MU shoot those again this year.

I also don't know how you argue that Hayward and Fitzgerald are not competing for minutes. If either are playing a position other than SF, they are playing out of position.

I don't agree that Fizgerald's minutes should decline, but I do think he's overvalued by a huge number of Marquette fans. He's simply too inconsistent and his high points are too few to see him as a threat.

I just don't see this team being much improved from a year ago. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish in the middle of the pack in the Big East.

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