"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, May 30, 2009

Bob Dukiet, former Marquette Coach, dead at 61

Bob Dukiet, died Thursday in Boynton Beach, Florida, where he retired a dozen years ago.

Dukiet (“The Piano Man”) coached Marquette from 1986-89, and had a 39-46 (45.9%) record, before being replaced by Kevin O'Neill.

More from the Erie Times.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A look back, Marquette's history with Top 100 recruits...Part Three, the 2000s

We're back today with Part Three in our series, this time with a look at what most would call the "Tom Crean Era". Yes, Buzz Williams has been the coach for the final two recruiting classes of the decade, but as I will explain later on, those particular players will not factor in to this analysis.

Coach Crean was here longer than any coach since Al McGuire, and he achieved more success than any since Al, bringing Marquette to the school's first Final Four since winning it all back in 1977. There's been a lot of debate about his recruiting through the years, and whether or not he was able to recruit at the level many people thought he should. You'll have to see if the myths about his recruiting actually hold up as you read the article....and for those who missed the previous installments you can find them here and here.

As always, a few notes before we get to the actual rankings:

  • We'll get the legend out of the way early on this one, since it will factor in to a couple of the notes to follow. The services listed are the ones that come into the discussion in this decade, you can go to Part One to see all the services used in this series. Additionally, some of you may know of some other services that ranked Marquette players during this decade like Rise Magazine and CSTV. Unfortunately the accuracy for these services when it comes to the simple things(name, position, class and college choice) is so off that I just couldn't include them in the final analysis. Because of that, the list below may be missing a player or two, but I doubt it. As always, click the picture for a better view.

  • It may just be the way I look at it, but I think it is a bit unfair to evaluate players that haven't completed at least two years of their college career . This is especially true with players that may have been injured, or players that came in as back ups early in their career. The only time that isn't really the case is if a particular player is so spectacularly good(or spectacularly bad) that nothing they could do in their final two years would change the analysis(i.e. early entry to the NBA). For that reason, you will not see any analysis of players in the recruiting classes of 2007 and 2008. They are however, listed below.
  • That also means you will not see any analysis of the Class of 2009 recruits until at least 2013, but I figure I should mention them so you all can see how the class compares to others in the past. Keep in mind that the RSCI ranking listed for these players has not been updated since last fall and likely will not be updated until the final rankings are out from all services sometime in June or July. The other rankings listed for them are current.
  • You're going to see some players in this edition that you would not normally think of as Top 100 players because they came to Marquette from a Junior College. In this era with the multitude of services, there are some services that do a combined evaluation of high school and JUCO players together. Since I am factoring that ranking in for the high school players, I decided to include the JUCO players in the discussion even though you would not normally think of them as being part of a Top 100 ranking. On the other hand, I did not include any ranking that was made up solely of JUCO players, since there is no real way to translate that into a high school Top 100 equivalent.
  • Remember, transfer players count with the class they came to Marquette with, not necessarily their high school class, and they are evaluated on their entire college career not just their career at Marquette. JUCO players on the other hand are only evaluated on their Marquette careers because it's tough to gauge the level of competition they face in junior college.
  • As I mentioned in Part Two, I'm only counting players that actually enrolled or attempted to enroll in classes. Whether they actually went to class, or ever played a game for Marquette doesn't really matter. That means you may see a name that you don't normally think of as a Marquette recruit.
  • Because of the way some of the services do their rankings in this era, players that were actually evaluated as Top 100 talent may not have made the Top 100 due to the fact that they went to a Prep School. I'm speaking specifically of Damian Saunders. Scout.com had him as a 4-Star player and the #22 Power Forward in the country coming out of Notre Dame Prep but did not include him in their Top 100, since they only rank high school players. Given the rankings of the players around him on the Power Forward list, it's safe to say that Saunders would have fallen somewhere in the 80-100 range in the Top 100 had they included Prep players. But they didn't, so he doesn't make the list.
  • Lastly, and I'm sure that I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, what I'm analyzing is whether or not a player lived up to the hype of a particular ranking or the label of a "Top 100" player in general. If I think a player failed to live up to that ranking, it doesn't mean that he was a bad guy or a terrible player, just that he didn't match what you would expect from a player supposedly of that caliber. In fact, it's really more of a statement on the validity of these type of rankings, and how much weight we should be giving them.
With that out of the way, here are Marquette's Top 100 players in the 2000s, or more specifically from 2000-2006. Click for a better view.

At a glance you can tell that this is quite a few more "Top 100" recruits than in the past. In seven recruiting classes, there are a total of 20 recruits that were ranked, compared to 14 in the 1990s and 12 in the 1980s. The number is a bit inflated due to the inclusion of the JUCO rankings, but even if you take them out there are still more players in seven recruiting classes than there were in either of the previous two decades. Further, if you include the players that will not be evaluated, that number jumps even higher. We'll have to see how these players did in comparison to those that came before.

The Hits(Chronological Order)
  • Odartey Blankson - It may not have worked out the way people wanted it to at Marquette, but there's no denying ODB's talent. He started 55 of 58 games during his two years at Marquette averaging 7.3 PPG and 5.8 RPG before transferring to UNLV. In two years at UNLV, Odartey averaged 17.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG. He was named All Mountain West Conference as a senior. Sure it happened against possibly weaker competition, but given what he had shown at Marquette there's a fairly good chance he would have put up similar numbers had he stayed.
  • Scott Merritt - One of the most unnecessarily criticized players in recent memory. Maybe he didn't develop into a dominant back to the basket center like some thought he should, but he was an incredibly solid and remarkably consistent player. Merritt fought through a painful shoulder injury and surgery to become the only player in Marquette history to score over 1000 points, grab over 600 rebounds, dish out over 100 assists and block over 100 shots.
  • Dwyane Wade - I think I'm going to let this one stand on name value alone. You all know what he did, nothing I can say will capture it properly.
  • Travis Diener - Another name that just stands out in the annals of Marquette history. Likely would have been the school's all time leading scorer if he had not suffered multiple injuries his senior year. Despite that, when he left school he was 3rd all time in scoring, 2nd in assists, 1st in 3-Point Field Goals Made, and 1st in 3-Point Field Goals attempted. He also finished in the top 10 in career 3-Point Percentage, Free Throws Made and Free Throw Percentage.
  • Steve Novak - Perhaps the greatest shooter in Marquette history, definitely the greatest shooter in modern history. Averaged double figures in points his final three years including leading the team in scoring as a senior. Among the top 15 in scoring, Novak is 1st in every major 3-Point shooting category(FG Made, FG Attempted, FG %) and 1st in Free Throw Percentage. He was Marquette's 2nd Conference USA Freshman of the Year and the first player in Marquette history to be named to the All Big East First Team.
  • Robert Jackson - He played only one year at Marquette after transferring from Mississippi State, but what a year it was. Jackson averaged 15.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG, the latter of which lead the team. In his final two years at Mississippi State, Jackson averaged 11.8 PPG and 7.2 RPG, while being named 3rd Team All SEC as a sophomore.
  • Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal - They came in together, they starred together, it just didn't feel right to separate them in the analysis since so much of what they did was about how they played as a unit. The loss to Missouri still stings a bit, and it's a bit hard to believe their Marquette careers are finally over, so I'm going to forgo the analysis on them since we all remember what they did.
  • Lazar Hayward - He's already scored over 1200 points and were he to simply duplicate his 2008-09 results next year he'd rank 2nd on the All Time list. More than a scorer, Hayward has led the team in rebounding as the last two years. For his efforts, Hayward was named All Big East 2nd Team as a sophomore, and robbed of that award as a junior. Not only that, but he did all while playing out of his natural position. All the accolades that Hayward received in high school came while he played either the shooting guard or small forward position, and he's spent his entire Marquette career as either a power forward or center.
The Misses(Chronological Order)
  • Terry Sanders - Not a bad player, but when you are ranked as highly as he was, more is expected. Sanders was a bench player for three years and a starter as a senior. Offensively there were always flashes that he could do more, but whether he couldn't do it consistently or Tom Crean's offense didn't utilize him more, we never got more than flashes. He was a capable rebounder and defender down low. Career averages of 3.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 0.3 Blocks in four years.
  • Ron Howard - Played in 10 games scoring 16 points before transferring to Valparaiso. Named All Conference Second Team in the Mid-Con in 2005 and 2006. Averaged over 13 PPG and 4 APG his final two years. Those aren't necessarily bad numbers, and he's not a bad player as shown by his nearly making the Milwaukee Bucks roster last summer. But I don't know that production like that in a mid-major conference qualifies as living up to the hype of his ranking when you consider what he did at Marquette. Right now he's a borderline player and I'm willing to be talked out of keeping him here.
  • Marshall Williams - Like Alton Mason before him, I'm sure a lot of you are saying who in the world is Marshall Williams? His time with Marquette was incredibly brief, but it did happen and it was enough to put him on this list. For those that don't know, Williams was the best high school player in Wisconsin coming from powerhouse Milwaukee Vincent. He chose NC State out of high school where he posted 5.5 PPG and 2.5 RPG as a freshman. Injury and homesickness led him to transfer to Marquette following his freshman year. He enrolled in and even briefly attended summer school, probably attending more classes than Alton Mason, but that's where his Marquette career ends. The official story was that he didn't want to sit out a year and not play so he chose to attend Vincennes Junior College where he would eligible right away. After a year at Vincennes, he was supposed to return to Marquette, but his scholarship was given away with almost no mention. Instead of coming to Marquette, he briefly attended UW-Green Bay but left before playing a game. He finished his career at NAIA Georgetown College in Kentucky where he was an All Conference player.
  • Karon Bradley - Played in 48 games at Marquette where he had a high of 10 career points. After his sophomore season he transferred to Wichita State and averaged 8 PPG and 1.6 APG. He'd come to Marquette with a reputation as an undersized shooting guard who could score points in bunches but never really showed that in college. If it had only happened at Marquette, we could probably write it off due to the fact that he played out of position and was a back up, but given that it continued at WSU, perhaps the hype was too much.
  • Dameon Mason - This is really the case of two very different careers in four years, and the latter half was so abysmal that I think he has to be classified as a miss. Mason was a part time starter as a freshman and full time starter as a sophomore at Marquette. His sophomore year he averaged 11.9 PPG and 5.6 RPG and appeared to be on the upswing. That sort of production throughout 4 years would have guaranteed being a hit, but it didn't turn out that way. For reasons that remain unclear, he transferred to LSU after his sophomore year. He was a part time starter as a junior when he averaged 5.4 PPG and 3 RPG. As a senior, he missed time due to injury (migraines, enlarged heart) and played in only 7 games before being declared academically ineligible.
  • Brandon Bell - Perhaps Bell's fall started before he ever got to campus. When he committed, in addition to the ranking from Gibbons, Bell was also in the Top 100 at TheInsiders(now Scout.com) and Rivals.com. But by the time his senior season was over he'd dropped considerably. He played in 21 games at MU posting averages of 1.7 PPG and 0.4 APG before taking a medical leave of absence and then transferring prior to his sophomore season. He ended up at Detroit-Mercy where he averaged 6.3 PPG and 2.9 APG as a reserve before his season ended due to injury. That turned out to be the end of his career, as Bell decided not to play his senior season in order to concentrate on getting his degree.
  • Marcus Jackson - I'd love to have him as a hit for all the effort he showed and the always fun Point Center experiment, but I just don't think he did enough to be considered one of the Top 40 players in that class. His first year was injury plagued, and he was never able to get on track. As a senior he averaged 3.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG.
  • Ousmane Barro - Look I love Ousmane Barro for the heart and determination he showed on the court, and he's probably one of the all time great people connected with the University. But career averages of 5.2 PPG and 4.5 RPG, and regression from his junior to senior year just don't cut it for someone who is supposed to be one of the 40 best players in his class. Admittedly, it wasn't his fault, the ranking was just way too high for a kid that just moved to this country and hadn't played high school basketball due to eligibility issues. But we're not here to debate the fairness of the rankings, we're looking at accuracy.
  • Mike Kinsella - There may never have been a more snake bitten player in Marquette history. As a freshman at Rice University, he had a stress fracture in his foot and was a medical redshirt. He transferred to Minneapolis Tech Junior College so that he could play while rehabbing his injury and was a first team JUCO All American. It would turn out to be the only healthy season he had in college. In all three years at Marquette, Kinsella missed time do stress fractures in his feet. There were flashes of talent, like the Pittsburgh game his senior year, but injuries and playing style never allowed him to put it together.
  • Jamil Lott - Another JUCO All American, Lott was supposed to provide inside toughness to young team his first two years. Instead, he was a part time starter(using the term loosely) that averaged under 3 PPG and 2 RPG for his career. Much of his reputation when he came to Marquette was built on the fact that he played in the fairly weak Mon-Dak conference while in Junior College.
So there you have it. While there were definitely more ranked players this time around, the results weren't necessarily any better. Only 10 of 20 "Top 100" recruits managed to live up to the hype that preceded them, for a success rate of 50%. That brings the cumulative rate down just a bit to 68.5%. If I change my mind and include Ron Howard as a hit, that brings the rates up to 55% for this period and 71.4% for the three decades....but I'm not promising I'll do that yet.

Keep in mind though, that we're really only looking at 7 years worth of data right now. If Trevor Mbakwe turns into a stud at Minnesota, if Jimmy Butler develops like we think he will, if the incoming freshman live up to their potential, this could all change greatly.

Stay tuned for Part Four coming in a few days, where we break down the numbers a bit more, and include a player or two that might have been missed the first go round.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A look back, Marquette's history with top 100 recruits....Part Two, the 1990s

Late yesterday, Rivals.com updated their class of 2010 rankings, and it looks like Buzz Williams (with an assist from Dale Layer) was way ahead of the game on everyone, as previously unheralded commit Aaron Bowen is now ranked #79 in the class of 2010 top 150. Bowen was also recently upgraded to 4-Star status on Scout.com, and while they haven't come out with a full top 100 for the 2010 class yet, he's a sure thing to be included in that list.

With that in mind, we continue with part two of our look back at Marquette's history with top 100 recruits through the last few decades, this time a look back at the decade that brought Marquette back from the dead...the 1990s. For those of you who missed Part One, it is available here.

Once again, a few notes before we go on:

  • There was a bit of a problem with some players in this decade, mostly because of the lack of ability to find complete information. Several players are listed as receiving All American honors in their biography, but since I can't find complete information, I don't know the number of players that received those honors...and in some cases I don't know what team they made. In particular, Roney Eford, Kenynon "Shane" Littles, DeMarcus Minor, Bart Miller and Jon Harris. I have a vague recollection that at least Eford and Littles were considered to be "Top 100" players by some, but since I can't prove it you won't see them below. If anyone can find some other information let me know and I'll do an update.
  • For one player in particular below, you will see a generic rank of just Top 100. Unfortunately for that particular year the list I found was in alphabetic order not in terms of rank. Because of that, I couldn't really categorize him in either group and have left him as an unknown.
  • Since it may come up, I'm only counting players that enrolled or attempted to enroll in the University, not just verbal commitments. That means you're not getting an opinion on Ledaryl Billingsley no matter how bitter many of you still are about his decision.
  • As a reminder, transfer players are counted with the class they effectively joined when they came to Marquette. That means in this particular ranking you will see some players that were ranked in the 1980s, but they are listed here because they became eligible at Marquette in the 1990s.
  • As with Part One, there is a legend for the abbreviations, This time I've edited it to only include those services that apply to this decade. Again, click for a better view.

Now that we've gotten the formalities out of the way, I present the "Top 100" players of the 1990s. Click the image for a better view.

So, as you can see right away, we do have a greater number of Top 100 recruits in the 1990s than we had in the 1980s. Also, just looking at the rankings independent of the results, while there are more players they are not necessarily as highly ranked as those from the 1980s. We'll have to see if they can outdo the earlier players in terms of living up to the hype.

The Hits(in chronological order)
  • Ron Curry - His first year at Arizona wasn't exactly stellar, but he made up for it with three very good years at Marquette when he decided to follow Kevin O'Neill to Milwaukee. He led Marquette in scoring and rebounding as a senior, scored over 1000 points in his career despite only playing three years, and was twice named All Conference in the Great Midwest. Truly one of the more under rated players in Marquette history.
  • Damon Key - One of the most consistent players in Marquette history. He's still ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and rebounding despite last playing in a game over 15 years ago. Key was named All Conference in his final three years and led Marquette in scoring three of his four years. He was also one of 25 finalists for the John Wooden award as a senior.
  • Robb Logterman - Scored in double figures three of his four years, including 10.7 PPG as a freshman despite having to play most of the season out of position. Really though, he made his mark as a long range shooter. Logterman finished his career as the career leader in 3 Point Field Goals Made, 3 Point Field Goals Attempted, and was 4th in career 3 Point shooting percentage.
  • Jim McIlvaine - Averaged 10.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG and 4.3 blocks for his career. First in career blocks at Marquette and 18th in NCAA history. Also the Marquette leader in career field goal percentage. Great Midwest Player of the Year, Hank Iba National Defensive Player of the Year, and AP Honorable Mention All American as a senior. Was a second round pick of the Washington Bullets and played 7 years in the NBA.
  • Anthony Pieper - Probably more hyped in Wisconsin than nationally because he was the all time leading scorer in high school history. I don't know that he lived up to the local hype, but in terms of living up to the "Top 100" ranking, he did. A bench player his freshman year, he was a double figure scorer his final three years and when he graduated was among the top 20 in Marquette history despite missing games his senior year due to injury.
  • Chris Crawford - I'm sure there will be many that disagree with me, especially those that watched Crawford play his first two years. But I'd argue that his final two years, and his pre-injury NBA career point to the fact that the experts got it right. Crawford was the teams leading scorer with 14.9 PPG as a senior, and went on to be drafted in the 2nd Round of the NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks. He played 7 seasons in the NBA and was on his way to a nice career before being derailed by a knee injury in 2001 and again in 2004.
  • Aaron Hutchins - Who can forget his game winning three pointer at Louisville in 1996, or his performance against Auburn in the first round of the 1995 NIT. He finished his career 11th all time in points, and in the top 10 in steals and assists. Who knows what could have happened back in 1995 if Mike Deane had started using him earlier in the season, or how far MU could have gone in 1998 had he not been in that car accident.
  • Brian Wardle - One of the best scorers in MU history, Wardle finished his career 3rd in All Time scoring at Marquette, and 2nd in Conference USA history. He led the team in scoring his final three years and was named All Conference as both a junior and senior. Additionally, he was named the Conference USA Freshman of the year, one of only two Marquette players ever to earn that award.
  • Cordell Henry - Maybe a bit controversial, but like Chris Crawford, I think the final two years of his career showed what those high school scouts saw back at Whitney Young. After a slow start, he averaged 11.2 PPG and 2.7 APG for his career. He was second on the team in scoring as both a junior and a senior and earned all conference honors both years. He ranks in the top 20 in points and top 10 in assists all time.
The Misses(again, chronological order)
  • Keith Stewart - One of the state of Wisconsin's more heralded prospects in the 1980s, Stewart initially attended Purdue. As a part time starter, he averaged 3.2 PPG and 2.1 APG his freshman year. Stewart transferred to Marquette with the assumption being he would be the starter at point guard the following year. Instead he played sparingly before being suspended by the University and then dismissed. He ended up transferring before the end of the first semester, and eventually ended up at California-Irvine.
  • William Gates - I don't know that anyone could have lived up to the hype he had coming out of high school. He was supposed to be the next Isaiah Thomas, and most thought the HoopScoop ranking he received was a bit low due to his injuries. Unfortunately he never really recovered and he was unable to turn into the player most thought he would. He was mostly a defensive specialist his first two years before leaving the team as a junior. When he returned as a senior further injuries kept him from really contributing.
  • Zack McCall - Originally committed to Syracuse as a football player, the athletic potential seemed unlimited. Unfortunately it didn't work out. He was a bench player for two years with a career high of 13 points, before he tested positive for marijuana during the 1996 NCAA Tournament. He was suspended for the following season, and ended up transferring Huron College in South Dakota where he was a Division II NAIA All American as a senior.
  • Richard Shaw - He was a bench player without many notable contributions his first two years and a part time starter his final two. Never averaged double figures in points or contributed significantly off the glass. Was a decent shot blocker who currently is 8th All Time in Senior Season Blocked Shots.
The Unknown
  • Alton Mason - I'm sure some of you are saying, who the heck is Alton Mason? Most don't remember him, but those that do recall that was supposed to be Mason manning the role of point guard when Mike Deane wanted to slide Aaron Hutchins over to shooting guard his final two years instead of Marcus West. It didn't work out that way, as Mason had academic issues and ended up transferring before even playing a game. He ended up playing three years at Arizona State, where he finished 10th All Time in Assists and 6th in Steals while scoring 13.4 PPG as a senior. Given what he did at Arizona State, and the fact that I only have a general ranking for him, I'm leaning towards counting him as a hit, but I'm willing to hear arguments from either side. Maybe we could get Marquette assistant Tony Benford to weigh in, since he coached Mason for a portion of his career at ASU.
So there you have it. The breakdown is much better this time around. Throwing out Mason, there are 13 "Top 100" recruits in the 1990s. The success rate was much better this time around, with 9 of the 13 players turning out to be hits for a rate of 69.2%. If you include Mason, the rate jumps to 71.4%. So far, through two decades, the success rate of all "Top 100" recruits is at 56% a significant increase over just the 1980s. We'll have to see if that holds up in the future.

One final note, I think a couple of people misunderstood what I was trying to say in Part One. When I classified a player as a miss, what I'm looking at is whether or not the so called recruiting gurus got their projections right. A player can still be a respectable player and not live up to the hype that is created by achieving a certain ranking. That's not to impugn his character, but rather to show how inexact a science recruiting rankings really are. Further, the fact of the matter is it's easier for a player that is ranked say 95th to live up to that than it is for a top 20 player, and that is reflected in the analysis. That doesn't mean I have it out for a player or dislike a particular player, it's just the way the perception of these rankings works.

Look for Part Three early next week.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Dick Enberg Podcast: Reflections on Al McGuire

Legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg joined me for a lengthy chat about the inimitable Al McGuire and we've captured that conversation in our first-ever podcast here on Cracked Sidewalks.

Later this week Enberg will once again bring his one-man show about Coach McGuire back to Marquette University for a pair of performances at the Helfaer Theater. As you'd expect, during our conversation Enberg revealed a host of riveting memories and anecdotes about Coach McGuire, including:

  • The genesis of the one man show on "the most incredible (character) I've ever met";
  • Enberg's breakthrough pre-game interview with McGuire just before the 1977 title game;
  • Details on McGuire's rather interesting (and surprisingly stunted) entry into broadcasting with NBC back in 1978;
  • Enberg's thoughts on the perils of replacing a legendary coach;
  • A preview of Dick's upcoming commencement address to Marquette's Class of 2009.
MP3 can be downloaded here, or click play:

Enberg's critically-acclaimed one-man show, "The Wit and Wisdom of Al McGuire" returns to Marquette's Helfaer Theater for performances on Friday and Saturday evenings. For more information and tickets visit the MU site or call (414) 288-7504. Let's pack the place for Al --- all ticket proceeds benefit Marquette’s Department of Performing Arts Drama Fund Scholarship.

The show will also run on Wednesday and Thursday night in Chicago at the Greenhouse Theater.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A look back, Marquette's history with top 100 recruits...Part One, The 1980s

Last month, apropos of nothing and with no real intent behind it, I made a series of posts over on MUScoop, discussing the success or lack of success of "Top 100" recruits at a few different schools across the country. As the thread wore on, it morphed into a discussion of Marquette's success with "Top 100" recruits since Tom Crean was hired back in 1999.

After much prodding, I agreed to take it one step further, and do a retrospective of "Top 100" recruits at Marquette not just in recent years as we had done in the thread, but as far back as the available information would allow. It took much longer than expected to find all the information I wanted, but I've finally been able to compile it all.

There's a lot of information here, so rather than deluge everyone all at once, I've decided to split this into a series of posts. In this first installment, we'll be looking at the Top 100 recruits of the 1980s, and each future installment will also be done by decade, with a final wrap up to follow.

What I'm looking at in this series at it's most basic level is whether or not a player lived up to the hype of being a "Top 100" recruit. When you hear the term "Top 100 Recruit" there's a certain amount of expectations that come with that label. Much of it is statistics driven. You expect a certain amount of production right away when you see that a player is highly ranked. When an unheralded recruit averages 7 PPG as a freshman you feel like you got a sleeper. When McDonald's All American does it, you think he's a bust.

Having said that, other things factor into the evaluation. Sadly, many of Marquette's top 100 recruits haven't been able to qualify academically or stay eligible once they got in school. While that has nothing to do with their actual basketball ability, it prevents them from living up the expectations that were set coming out of high school, and it negatively impacts their evaluation. Additionally, things like attitude and leadership are factored in as well. They will not be the sole reason a player is evaluated a certain way, but a borderline player may be pushed into one category or another based upon things like team leadership and attitude.

Before we get to the actual rankings, a couple of important notes:

  • As you would expect, finding information on rankings from the pre-internet era is extremely tough. For this reason, the rankings shown in these posts go back only as far as 1980 which means we're leaving out a lot of former MU greats.
  • I've been able to find quite a bit of information on rankings from the 1980s and 1990s, but obviously there are limitations on what I can get. I'm sure there will be some people that were missed or some rankings that were missed for a particular player. If anyone can provide more information(with actual proof, not just how you remember it) I'd be happy to update the lists.
  • What you will see here is really bits and pieces of rankings done by different services throughout the years. Many of the recruiting services that we look at as the main sources of information today weren't around a decade ago, and vice versa. Trying to compare the rankings done by one service in 1984 to the rankings done by another in 2004 is nearly impossible.
  • All of the numbers are the final rankings for a player after their senior year, or the final ranking put out by the service during their senior year. That means players like Scott Christopherson, Krunti Hester, Tony Miller etc all of whom were "Top 100" Players at one time in their high school career are not included on this list.
  • One thing you will notice is that for some players the ranking will say something like 12th Team rather than giving a specific number. In the old days, several of the services did their rankings like the AP does their All American teams, with first team, second team etc. If you want to find out what ranking that corresponds to, simply multiply the team by 5. For example the 20th team means a player was ranked between 96-100 in that particular class.
  • We're looking at whether or not a player lived up to their hype, not just whether or not they lived up to the hype at Marquette. That means that transfer players(in or out) are evaluated on their whole career, not just their Marquette career. Because of that, you will find some players falling in areas that you may not agree with because of how they performed at another institution. Additionally, professional success does play a small part in the evaluation. NOTE: For players that were ranked as top 100 players coming out of high school that attended other schools before transferring to MU, the player is listed with the class that they effectively joined at MU, not their original class. The year they were ranked and the school they initially attended is listed next to the ranking.
  • Lastly, I've created a legend so that you may more easily understand my abbreviations that are going to follow. There's a lot of different services involved here, and typing them all out each time gets to be a bit tedious. You'll want to consult this when you look at the actual rankings(click the image for a more readable version).

Without any further ado, here's the rankings for the 1980s, followed by the analysis...again click the picture for a better view.

Looking at that list, you might be surprised to see that many top 100 players given the results that MU had in the 1980s. The team made the NCAA tournament only three times, and the decade ended with the disastrous Bob Dukiet era. But when you look how that supposed high school talent worked out, maybe the results become a little more understandable.

The Hits(in chronological order)
  • Doc Rivers - I'm not sure that any player in the 1980s lived up to their billing more than Doc. A first team Street and Smith's All American, and the first McDonald's All American in Marquette history, Doc was a stud the second he stepped on campus. He held the freshman scoring record for nearly 25 years, and he still holds the record for freshman field goal percentage. He was a Chuck Taylor All American in 1982, and an AP All American in 1983. After three seasons at MU he declared for the NBA draft and played more than a decade in the NBA.
  • Dwayne Johnson - The original DJ, his is a tail of both success and regret. On the court, he was great. He averaged 12.3 PPG as a sophomore, and was the team's leading scorer and rebounder as a junior. Unfortunately, he was not as good in the classroom. Prior to his senior season DJ was declared academically ineligible and suspended for his senior year. He transferred to UW-Whitewater, where he was a 2nd team All American, and the WIAC player of the year in his only season.
  • Mandy Johnson - He didn't do much scoring until his senior year, but with the talent around him, it wasn't necessary. Mandy was an efficient offensive player, who led the team in field goal percentage as a sophomore, but more importantly he was the floor general allowing the guys around him to get their points while he ran the offense. Really though, he made his mark as one of the best defensive guards in MU history. He finished his career second in MU history in steals, and held that position until this season when he was surpassed by Jerel McNeal. He still holds the MU record for steals as a senior, and is in the top 10 for the sophomore and junior records.
  • Kerry Trotter - MU's second McDonald's All American, Trotter may not have totally lived up to that billing, but he still turned out to be a very good player, worthy of a top 100 ranking. He scored in double figures his final three years at MU, including a high of 13.6PPG as a senior, and was the team's leading scorer and rebounder as a junior. He played professionally in Europe and was twice the MVP of the Belgian league.
  • Mark Anglavar - One of the great shooters in MU history. When his career ended in 1991, he was the leader in 3-Point Field Goals Made, 3-Point Field Goal Percentage, and he was the leader in every single season 3-Point statistic. He's since been surpassed by other players, but make no mistake there were few that could shoot the ball like him in MU history. Not only that, but he's still in the top 10 for Freshman assists despite not actually being a point guard.
The Misses(again chronological order)
  • Lloyd Moore - There may not have been a bigger miss in MU history. Coming out of high school, nearly everyone thought Moore would be great. In addition to the Street and Smith ranking, he was an Adidas and Parade All American as a senior and many predicted that Moore would be the next great MU big man. Instead, he was the biggest bust in MU history, both literally and figuratively. He tore a ligament in his knee prior to his freshman campaign which resulted in an extended absence. When he returned he was so out of shape that he managed to only play in 15 games, where he averaged less than 2 PPG and 2 RPG. He transferred prior to his sophomore year, and was a decent player at Rutgers for two years before he was dismissed from the team for failure to keep his weight under control.
  • Tony Reeder - Never lived up to the billing of a top 65 player while at MU. His only significant accomplishment is being among the All Time Top 10 in blocked shots as freshman, with a whopping 15 blocks. Unfortunately it didn't get better after that. He averaged under 8 PPG as a junior, and was averaging under 7 PPG as a senior when he was declared academically ineligible, ending his disappointing career.
  • Tom Copa - Probably the toughest call of this decade, I'm sure some will argue this point with me, but hear me out. Yes Copa scored almost 1000 points and grabbed over 500 rebounds, but when you are ranked among the top 65 players in a high school class, more is expected. He never averaged more than 8.5 PPG, and his scoring declined every year from his sophomore to senior year. Further, his rebounding went down from 5.5 RPG to 4.6 RPG as well. At best, he was serviceable in college, posting career averages of 8.2 PPG and 4.7 RPG, but serviceable isn't what you're looking for when you get a top 65 player. To his credit, Copa blossomed after college, parlaying his success in Europe into a back up role with the San Antonio Spurs during the 1991-92 season. I'm open to arguments on changing him to a "hit", but it's going to take a lot of convincing.
  • Walter Downing - MU just missed out on Downing the first time around, losing a close recruiting battle to Ray Meyer and DePaul. A McDonald's All American in high school, Downing never approached that sort of success at DePaul or at MU. He averaged 7.5 PPG and 3.5 RPG as a part time player at MU.
  • Gerald Posey - A Prop 48 casualty as a freshman, Posey was supposed to contribute right away once he became eligible as a sophomore. Instead, he had disagreements with Bob Dukiet which led to a famed incident where he stormed off the court during warm ups prior to the St. Thomas game in December 1988. By January, he was gone, transferring to Division III Trenton State College in New Jersey.
  • Corey Floyd - Perhaps the final nail in Bob Dukiet's coffin, Floyd was expected to team with Posey as the back court of the future starting in 1988. Like Posey, he was from New Jersey and had been a great high school player. Unfortunately, the similarities did not end there. He too had academic issues, but instead of being a Prop 48 player, he was not admitted to Marquette and had to spend two years at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. He then spent two years as a back up at Providence, where his only on the court contribution of note was participation in a brawl against Rhode Island that led to a suspension.
So there you have it. As you can see, the top 100 rankings weren't exactly a great predictor of success when it came to Marquette recruits in the 1980s. Out of 12 recruits, only 5 really panned out, for a success rating of 41.6%. You'll have to stay tuned for the future posts to see if this rating improves as the years go by. I'm saving my conclusions until the final part of this series, we'll have to wait and see if my theory holds up in the future years.

Obviously, this is just my way of doing it, there is no real quantitative analysis for this kind of subject. It's tough to define living up to the hype, but as Potter Stewart said, "I know it when I see it". Feel free to disagree...

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Liam McMorrow, we hardley knew ye...

MU put out this press release:

Milwaukee - Medical issues have ended the athletic career of redshirt sophomore Liam McMorrow of the Marquette University men's basketball team, head coach Buzz Williams announced Thursday afternoon.

An extensive evaluation process has determined that McMorrow is medically incapacitated to participate in basketball at the collegiate level.

The Toronto, Ontario, native will remain enrolled at the University as he continues to pursue his bachelor's degree in broadcasting.

"We are very disappointed with the end result this has for Liam athletically, but because of the efforts and time spent over the last several weeks by all involved, we are excited that he is able to finish his academic career at Marquette," Williams said. "Liam and his family have been involved in this sensitive manner from the start and we are thankful his issue was detected when it was.

"We are grateful for Liam's contribution to our program over this past year and even though he will not be able to play for us, that will not change his involvement in our program in any other way," Williams added.

McMorrow, who redshirted in 2008-09 in his first year with Marquette after transferring from Durham College in Canada, did not appear in any games during his MU career.

Monday, May 04, 2009

What Does It Take to Make the Final Four?

Cracked Sidewalks is pleased to welcome Mark Henderson to the site as a guest columnist. A 1992 Marquette graduate, Mark is an avid reader of the site and a well-read fan of college basketball. In this column, he reviews the recruiting histories of recent Final Four and NCAA championship teams to see how their tendencies might relate to Marquette and the future of the program.

Talent alone is no guarantee of success in the NCAA tournament. Other factors such as coaching, team chemistry, experience, and luck can all play a role. But it takes elite-level talent to build an elite-level program.

Although Marquette has appeared in the Big Dance the past four seasons, questions remain about the future of the program. Can Buzz Williams maintain this level of success? Does MU have what it takes to compete with the best of the Big East, year after year? Is a second national title even a remote possibility?

With these questions in mind, it’s worth analyzing where Marquette stands in comparison to the top college basketball programs in terms of talent. A closer examination of the recruiting records of these programs yields some intriguing answers.

Methodology and notes
This analysis is based on the NCAA Final Four teams from 2006 to 2009 — along with their respective recruiting classes from the four years leading up to their semifinals appearance. In other words, we want to see what kind of high school prospects each team signed to help them reach the Final Four. All recruiting information and rankings come from the rivals.com archive.

First, a couple caveats:

1) Recruiting rankings are imperfect, at best. No two recruiting services ever come up with the exact same list. Some can’t-miss prospects never pan out, while others considered projects become superstars. For our purposes, we’re not concerned with whether a player should be ranked #34 or #89; from a broader perspective, rankings can still prove informative.

2) Signing class lists don’t distinguish between high school prospects and junior college signees with less than four years of eligibility. They also don’t account for fifth-year seniors, transfers or players who declare early for the NBA draft. The influence of these factors will be discussed more in depth later.

Baby Blue chippers
North Carolina’s blowout of Michigan State in the 2009 NCAA championship game confirmed what most experts had predicted as early as a year before. By almost any measure, the Tar Heels were the most talented team in college basketball. A review of their recruiting classes from 2005 to 2008 offers ample proof.

During that four-year period, North Carolina signed an astonishing five 5-star recruits (as rated by rivals.com): Ed Davis, Wayne Ellington, Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Brandon Wright. The first four all played at least 34 games during the 2008-09 season and averaged 60 ppg between them; Hansbrough and Lawson were both named All-Americans. Wright declared for the NBA draft following the 2006-07 season.

If that weren’t enough, UNC’s signing classes for 2005-08 also featured seven 4-star recruits: Larry Drew, Bobby Frasor, Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, Alex Stepheson, Deon Thompson and Tyler Zeller. Four of these — Drew, Frasor, Green and Thompson — played every game of the ‘09 season and would have formed the centerpiece of an NCAA tournament team all by themselves.

Only at a school such as North Carolina is it possible to view 3-star recruits as an afterthought. Head coach Roy Williams and his staff added a couple of those for good measure: Will Graves and Justin Watts.

From 2005 to 2008, only one other program signed more 5-star recruits (Duke, with six). No other program signed more 4-star recruits. The story might have had a very different ending if the team had lost more players to the draft, or if Lawson’s late-season foot injury continued to bother him. But the end result should come as a surprise to no one.

While this post focuses on Final Four teams, the case of Duke makes an interesting side note. It’s a team that never quite lived up to its potential, for a variety of reasons. Two of its 5-star recruits, Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler, became true impact players. But Josh McRoberts left for the NBA following the 2006-07 season. And the others — Greg Paulus, Brian Zoubek and Elliot Williams — have been inconsistent contributors. All the same, the Blue Devils had enough talent to finish second in the ACC and advance to the Sweet 16 before falling to Villanova.

A not-so-Spartan roster
Michigan State may have been over-matched by the Tar Heels, but that’s not to say Tom Izzo’s team was undeserving. Hardly. The Spartans were one of the most talented teams in the country, as a review of their recent recruiting classes shows.

MSU signed one 5-star recruit between 2005 and 2008: Delvon Roe. Big deal, right? That’s just the start. During the same period, the Spartans also signed an impressive six 4-star recruits (Chris Allen, Tom Herzog, Kalin Lucas, Korie Lucious, Raymar Morgan, Durrell Summers) and five 3-star recruits (Isaiah Dahlman, Draymond Green, Maurice Joseph, Austin Thornton, Travis Walton).

Throw in redshirt senior Goran Suton — a 3-star recruit from the Class of 2004 — and you have a team that could legitimately play at least 10-deep. Just not quite on the same level as UNC.

Recruiting by numbers
Connecticut entered the 2009 season expecting to challenge for the national title and came up just short. Their Final Four run is no accident. But oh, what could have been.

In the years 2005 to 2008, UConn matched North Carolina by signing five 5-star recruits: Andrew Bynum, Curtis Kelly, Ater Majok, Stanley Robinson and Kemba Walker. Robinson and Walker emerged as true leaders for the Huskies, especially down the stretch. The same can’t be said for the others. Bynum opted to go straight to the NBA out of high school. Kelly transferred to Kansas State after two seasons of limited playing time. Meanwhile, eligibility and recruiting issues may prevent Majok from ever taking the court for Connecticut.

Don’t feel sorry for Jim Calhoun just yet. He also signed up six 4-star recruits: Jeff Adrien, Jerome Dyson, Marcus Johnson, Nate Miles, Hasheem Thabeet and Doug Wiggins. Then, eight 3-star recruits: Craig Austrie, Donnell Beverly, Ben Eaves, Gavin Edwards, Robert Garrison, Scottie Haralson, Jonathan Mandeldove and Chukwuma Okwandu. If you’re counting, that’s a grand total of 19 ranked recruits. Plus, fifth-year senior A.J. Price (a 4-star recruit from the Class of 2004).

Even with the transfers of Johnson and Wiggins, Connecticut was still positioned to make a run at North Carolina — at least until the mid-season injury of Jerome Dyson.

The Philadelphia story
Notice a pattern emerging? You can expect more of the same from Villanova.

Between 2005 and 2008, the Wildcats signed two 5-star recruits (Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes), two 4-star recruits (Antonio Pena, Scottie Reynolds) and seven 3-star recruits (Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham, Casiem Drummond, Malcolm Grant, Andrew Ott, Reggie Redding and Maurice Sutton). Oh, and don’t forget fifth-year senior Dwayne Anderson, a Class of 2004 3-star recruit.

Eight of those players (Cunningham, Reynolds, Fisher, Stokes, Anderson, Redding, Clark and Pena) all averaged at least 17 mpg last season and formed the heart of the Villanova rotation. As with Michigan State, not quite on the same level as UNC. But it’s clear that Jay Wright and his staff worked hard to assemble a team loaded with top-level athletes.

Same old story
The trend continues as you look back at other Final Four and championship teams. Kansas in ’08? Six 5-star recruits, six 4-star recruits and three 3-star recruits. Memphis, last year’s runner-up? Three 5-star recruits, seven 4-star recruits, eight 3-star recruits (an incredible 18 ranked recruits in all). How about the ‘07 champion Florida? Eight 4-star recruits and 8 3-star recruits. And so on.

The lone exception from the past four NCAA tournaments: George Mason in 2006. Perhaps the ultimate Cinderella team, the Patriots roster included a mere three 3-star recruits: Kevin Mickens, Jesus Urbina and Sammie Hernandez. Breaking down that anomaly is the subject of another post.

Just don’t expect it to happen again anytime soon. Since 2006, Final Four teams have signed an average of 12.9 ranked recruits — including 7.8 recruits rated 4 stars or better. The air becomes even more rarified for NCAA champions, who signed 15.3 ranked recruits (9.5 of them rated 4 stars or better) on average.

So what’s it mean for Marquette?
Well, that depends. The good news is that Marquette’s incoming class is a strong one, rated just as highly as the Class of 2005 featuring James, Matthews and McNeal.

Here’s a review of the four signing classes leading up to the 2009-10 season:

  • Four 4-star recruits: Junior Cadougan, Lazar Hayward, Jeronne Maymon and Erik Williams.
  • Five 3-star recruits: Dwight Buycks, Scott Christopherson, Joe Fulce, Darius Johnson-Odom, Pat Hazel.
Clearly, Buzz Williams has accomplished a lot in his first year on the job — especially considering that Hayward is the only ranked recruit signed by Crean who’s still with the team.

That’s probably not enough to contend for the Big East title next year, especially given the team’s inexperience. A fifth straight NCAA appearance is certainly a realistic goal. Beyond that, we’ll have to wait and see.

Williams seems to have an affinity for talent; the unexpected emergence of Jimmy Butler is evidence of that. Unheralded recruits such as Chris Otule, Liam McMorrow, Brett Roseboro, Monterale Clark and Aaron Bowen may surprise, as well — plus MU has at least one more scholarship available for the Class of 2010. But it will likely be another year after that before we know if Marquette is ready to take the next step forward as a program.