"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

Friday, March 06, 2009

Seniors elevated MU to new heights

Four years ago when Dwight Burke, Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal enrolled as freshmen the Golden Eagles were coming off a pair of disappointing NIT seasons in Conference USA.

After falling at home by 14 to Western Michigan in the first round of the NIT to end the 2004-2005 season the future was uncertain. Mired in mediocrity, Marquette was moving up in class to the BIG EAST just months after losing its best player to the NBA draft and losing one of its top remaining talents to an unexpected transfer. Competing successfully in the nation's best conference was anything but a given, in fact it was highly doubtful.

Enter the freshmen class of 2005-2006.

As this most memorable class prepares to play its final home game they do so as one of the most vital recruiting class in the history of Marquette basketball. Against the odds -- BIG EAST coaches picked Marquette to finish 12th in the conference back in 2005-2006 -- these players resurrected the program and engineered a consistent run of success not seen in Milwaukee since the glory days of the 1970s. There was no waiting period. These players won immediately, highlighted by a championship at the 2005 Great Alaska Shootout and the memorable trouncing of BIG EAST heavyweight UConn in the program's first-ever conference opener on their way to a 4th place finish in the league.

Along the way these players keyed Marquette's soon-to-be run of four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, won 92 games (to date a winning percentage of 71%), won at least 10 games the BIG EAST in each season, and re-wrote the Marquette record books across the board.

These gaudy numbers have left many fans anxious for deeper runs into March, and sadly this "Could Have Been Crew" inched to the brink of NCAA tournament success only to be turned away. Consider:

Despite the painful March disappointments, there is no question that these seniors constitute one of the greatest classes in Marquette history. The program is a staple in the top 25, is one of the BIG EAST's most consistent teams, enjoys unprecedented national broadcast appearances, has recaptured the aura of success from years gone by and the current run of NCAA appearances hasn't been matched in 30 years. A program that longed for consistent success on a national scale can rightly claim a place among the nation's best programs thanks to the efforts of these seniors.

Against Syracuse on Senior Day, The Quad will have one more opportunity to electrify the Bradley Center. For all the fans lucky enough to be there, enjoy it and give these kids a most well deserved ovation or ten.

Tipoff is scheduled for 1pm CT on Saturday. The game will appear on ESPN Full Court. For a listing of broadcast specifics by market, click here.

Now let's look at the numbers for tomorrow's game.

Syracuse's Strengths and Weaknesses. As always, this information comes from Pomeroy's Scouting Report

  • Not Fouling - Syracuse is #6 in the nation at not sending opponents to the line. They only allow opponents to get a free throw rate of 25%
  • Three point defense - Syracuse is #12 in the nation at perimeter defense. Opponents only shoot 29.8% from behind the arc
  • Making two-point baskets - Syracuse is #4 in the country at scoring two-point baskets, where they make over 56% of their shots. That helps them be #12 overall at effective Field Goal Percentage
  • Making free throws - Syracuse is #298 in the country from the charity stripe. They only make 64.5% of their free throws
  • Forcing turnovers - Syracuse is #283 at forcing turnovers, where they only turn the ball over on 18.6% of possessions
  • Defensive rebounding - Syracuse allows opponents to get an offensive rebounding percentage of 34.9% (#263 in the country)

Specific Stats Recommendations (in order of Importance)
1. Make shots (Marquette eFG% of 55% or higher) - This is just slightly higher than Marquette's average
2. Force turnovers (Syracuse turnover rate of 33% or higher) - this is a lot higher than Syracuse's average, but Syracuse is only #199 at protecting the ball. Guys that are sloppiest with the ball? (Devendorf, Ongenaut, Jackson). Guys that are most likely to keep it? (Onuaku, Harris)
3. Crash the boards (Marquette OR% of 55% or higher) - This is twenty offensive rebounds, or nine boards higher than season average. We're looking for big days from Lazar and Jimmy Butler.
4. Stop Syracuse from making shots (Syracuse eFG% of 56% or less) - While Tim may feel that we have no answer to Flynn, the key here is Onuaku, who gets an eFG% of almost 70%!
5. Protect the ball (Marquette TO Rate of 8% or less) - This is six turnovers or less.

Bottom line
Pomeroy predicts a 63% chance of victory and four point win. Unfortunately, our model does not agree (please be wrong, model), with only a 22% prediction of win and nine point loss. Syracuse has been hot and Marquette has been the opposite. The prediction is that Marquette will have slight advantages on turnovers, offensive rebounds, and free throws, but will lose big on field goal percentage. Time to right the ship on the defensive field goal percentage and hope the home crowd rallies the team to a senior day win.

**joint post by Tim and Rob


Smoove said...

Good analysis, great comments by NY Warrior. When in need of a MU basketball fix, I go straight for Cracked Sidewalks, anything else second. You are most correct about The Three Amigos (which after listening to their farewell “singing,” strike no fear in The Three Tenors). "Wes" "Rel" and "Neek" (Buzz-speak) have been a helluva lot of fun to watch for an aging alumnus ('71, the year of most wins in a season, 28-1). Praise, too, to Burker, who most recently toiled valiantly against Pitt, sweating buckets for his team and teammates. Coach rightly tells you young warriors that these are special days in your lives, to be recounted again and again over your post-MU years. From those you brought along for the ride, we are MU-proud of you, and shout a heartfelt “THANKS!”

MU'88 said...

I just finished watching the MU vs. Syracuse game on my local BESN affiliate, MASN.

Yes, I am mad that they lost a gane they should have won, but I am so proud of our players!

Dominic James did a nice little broadcasting stint during the first half, and he was so impressive! Very positive comments about his teammates and MU in general. Answered every question articulately and took every opportunity to say something positive about each of the teammates he plays with, and Coach Williams and the university. Said one of the reasons he chose MU was because he knew he'd be taken care of if something bad happened like a broken foot [I have heard that MU guarantees the scholarship, even if a player can't finish his/her career as an athlete]. Closed by saying something like: they say it's not how long the ball bounces, but how long the heart beats, and that's why it's an honor to play for Marquette.

Wow! Go MU!!

Pops C said...

Mu seniors had a heck of a four year run!

Mu needs to learn how to defend the bunnies. They give up so many easy buckets and rarely get any. We have to play nearly perfect, and the other team just needs to show up an make layups.

I wish the four seniors the best, and hope they add to their 92 wins!