"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, March 02, 2008

What do we have here?

After Saturdays' heartbreaking loss to Georgetown, Marquette is 21-7 and 11-6 --- fine records with just two regular season games remaining.

However, a closer look reveals a team that is much more susceptible to bad matchup games than just about any Big East 'contender'. Marquette's struggles in halfcourt sets continues to rear its ugly head in games against the nation's best, limiting MU's success in those marquee matchups. The net: for Marquette to win a game or two in the NCAA tournament, this squad must be matched up against an opponent who allows easier baskets in halfcourt sets, otherwise it is hard to like this team's chances. Consider:

  • MU is 1-5 against the top four teams in the Big East (1-1 v ND, 0-1 v UConn, 0-2 v Ville, 0-1 v GU), including two losses at the Bradley Center.
  • UConn, Georgetown, and Louisville are among the nation's best at defending the interior. These squads rank in the top 10 nationally in effective field goal percentage defense inside the arc.
  • MU shot 40% or worse from the field against each of these opponents, shooting 34% or less in three of the four games. In fact, the 40% from the field against UConn was propped up by a hot second half in Storrs -- when the game was already in the bag for the Huskies.
  • The only exception to this equation is Wisconsin, which is 10th nationally in eFG% inside the arc. MU made 47% from the floor that day, way back in December.
  • Marquette is 3-7 against teams in the RPI top 50, but is 6-0 against teams #51-100.
This team definitely has a ceiling.

Despite returning nearly its entire roster year-to-year along with a greatly improved Lazar Hayward, MU remains unable to execute effectively against stingy halfcourt defenses. Moreover, as the year has progressed, MU has shown no discernible improvement against teams that defend the interior well. In fact, there is strong evidence that MU has regressed against teams that fit this profile. The Golden Eagles' 25% shooting from the field in the final 25 minutes of action on Saturday afternoon bears this out.

On the other side of this equation are the teams that do not defend as well inside the arc. MU makes mincemeat of teams like this - - examples include Seton Hall, Villanova, and to some degree Notre Dame. Other signs of hope were noted in in Rosiak's blog wrap-up of the game when he noted that "MU had 15 steals for the third consecutive game. It also forced 20-plus turnovers for the fourth consecutive game." Clearly these trends speak well of MU's strengths, and if the Golden Eagles made just one more free throw in regulation it might not feel like the sky is falling in some quarters.

**BTW, Rosiak's game wrap-up blogs are terrific....he injects a level of commentary and observation that is absent in the straight reporting required of a beat writer. Bueno, Todd!

In summary, teams that force Marquette to execute in the halfcourt beat Marquette. As constructed, the Golden Eagles have a limited offensive arsenal that is more easily defended by opponents who commit to shutting down anything inside. The drive and dish complemented by modest ball reversal only works well in spurts against teams that fit this profile. Unless MU lands up with an NCAA tournament matchup against a squad that struggles to defend the interior, look for the Golden Eagles to be one and done.


Anonymous said...

Nice commentary. We have our weaknesses. Maybe Crean can address them with this team. It's nice to have the stats to support opinions but every game is a new one to be played and won or loss. Hence until we lose we have as good a chance as anyone to win. We played Georgetown to overtime and was very close to winning. No weeping towel yet for me.

Anonymous said...

It's ok to point out our weaknesses. I am just curious, if Georgetown would of lost to us in overtime, I wonder if their blog spot would of been saying. "We had 15 steals against us and 20 turnovers." "We need to address this. In our four losses this was the reason. We are good against tall interior teams, but quick teams like Marquette we lose to"

Gene Frenkle said...

Nice honest wrap up of the team and how they've done so far. I do, however, thing the majority of teams that have success in the NCAA tourney have gotten some kind of match-up that's favorable to go along with good play. You just never know in the NCAA.

I think one of the problem in MU set offense is that the guards - while immensely talented - aren't consistent enough from the outside to keep teams honest.

Even though yesterday was an L, if the team can get their heads straight after how it lost, I think it could help them for the rest of the way. I don't think we are as good as Louisville at all, and UConn is a toss up if the game were in Milwaukee IMHO. G-town was there for the taking and we blew it. The team can at least get some solace in the fact they played one of the best big men in the country tough. I think if the guards shoot better come tourney time we can overcome a tough low-post match-up.

Then again...as your trends said...maybe not?

Great site and great job guys.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis as always.

Teams who have beat us played us zone. UL and UCONN can match our quickness strength. GU, WVU and ND cannot. Strength against strength--UL is the only team that consistently can beat us on a match-up. We have to use our quickness more to our advantage like yesterday--forcing GU into 20+ turnovers..and hope that our bigs come along and we start to hit threes more consistently. Still waiting on Fitz to load it up from the ozone.

Anonymous said...

Well stated and supported analysis. Still, if we had hit a few more free throws, hadn't made notable blunders at the end of the game (Crean not calling for a foul, James slapping at the ball...), might this commentary have taken on the tone of "we seem to be overcoming our season-long weaknesses at just the right time"?

Anonymous said...

I think you are right in that we appear to have a cieling, but I think we are much closer to that ceiling than we were 6 weeks ago.

In past games agains big men, we lost all day long. While we did poorly in the second half vs GT, we fared much better overall and did not get blown out.

I still think that on the right day, we can beat high quality teams in the NCAAs and as Mbakwe gets further into the fold, our weakness here will fade (he made some solid contributions Saturday).

While I will not feel confident in NCAA games vs big men w strong D, I certainly would not want to draw MU in the tournament - we are the type of team that could easily overachieve.

Anonymous said...

crean's an idiot and should've called for a foul before you even put James in the position for the ref to call a foul! I blame the "L" solely on the coach!! Crean's gotta go.

Anonymous said...

Something tells me you would also be calling crean an idiot if we put them on the line and thier 7'1" center got the putback on an intentional miss. Look at the matchups and think about it.

I'd rather take my chances on the three pointer, but you do have to contest it a bit. It was unfortunate that DJ got a bit too tight, but blaming Crean for that is moronic.

He has the second best record in the Big East since we entered it, we have been ranked almost all year, have only lost to good teams and are probably going to set an attendance record. Do you REALLY think that there is even an OUTSIDE chance that they will get rid of him?

Unknown said...

This team would be ranked in the top 12 in the both the Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings, and has beaten quality teams outside the top 50 in Villanova, IUPUI and Oklahoma State (by 30) to name a few. Our first round opponent will likely be a similar team to those three, and we could face an Indiana-Purdue type team in the second round that I would feel very confident against.