"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, January 22, 2010

Slowest pace game since 2004 results in worst loss since 2000 - but let's get over it

Even as the unofficial Pollyanna of the Cracked Sidewalks team, I can't sugarcoat this one. The last time a worst team beat MU was on March 8, 2000, when Houston rolled into the Conference USA tournament with a 2-14 Conference mark and eliminated Marquette 77-75. But even that was a 15-14 MU team with one good scorer in Brian Wardle and one good rebounder in Oluoma Nnamaka - this MU team has way too much talent to lose to DePaul.

It was not just a painful loss, it was a slow, painful death. MU had only 53 trips down the court the entire game. The last time that happened was in a 69-65 win over Air Force on November 16, 2004 in which we also had exactly 53 trips down the court. Since Wade left we have had fewer than 60 trips down the court just 21 games in seven years, and four times have been against DePaul, so they do seem to slow us down. However, Buzz is slowing it way down to keep players on the floor, and the other two times MU was below 60 trips this year was Georgetown and WVU, both impressive performances.

I'm over it - what we need to do from here

However, I'm done with my 24-hour "we stink" phase, and ready to get back to what we have to do. We have unfortunately seen a re-emergence of the, "we lose because Buzz doesn't have them practice free throws on team time" argument. This had pretty much died when as MU finished as one of the best free throw teams in the country at 72.8% last year, and they are even better this year at 73.5% this year.

Obviously there have been a lot of key misses at the end of games, though I don't see how that can be the result of not practicing when we hit over 80% until then. I think the more legitimate question we need to ask is if we can get by with 7-men rotations or if they guys are just too dead at the end. The other big weakness the team does have is that with our great outside shooting, we simply don't get to the line much. Last year we were the 12th best team in the country at getting to the line and this year we are the 218th best, just as last year we were the 134th best at 3-pointers and this year we are 1st.

We now need to go 5-1 instead of 4-2 in six key games

What the DePaul loss means is that our margin for error is now very low for making the NCAA. I wrote last week that we needed to go 4-2 in six key games (at Providence, Pitt, at SJU, at Seton Hall, Louisville and Notre Dame). The computer has us favored in all six games, but expects us to win 4.2 of them overall. We probably light it up a couple of these nights for comfortable wins, but the bottom line is we are bound to have one or two nights when we are off, and we are going to have to fight through and pick off a close win in a game that we don't play well to go 5-1 in those games.

Get 1 big road win

Tomorrow's 1 p.m. CST start at Syracuse is by far the toughest game remaining on the schedule, so that would be by far the most unlikely road win. However, even if we lose there, we just need to get a big road win, either at UConn or Cincy. Neither will be easy, but watching Michigan beat UConn and Xavier take Cincy to double overtime, I feel good about getting one of those two games.

I believe that's what it will take to make the NCAAs. We now need to go 5-1 in games in which we are slight favorites, and we need to get a big road win and have two chances in which we will only be very slight underdogs. Oh, and lest I forget, we obviously cannot lose another gimme with Rutgers, DePaul and USF coming to town.

We can still get to 20-10 by the Big East Tourney, and I believe that gets us in - so shake it off and keep the faith! With our shooting, this team can upset any team on a given night when we are hot, so if we can just sneak in as a 12-seed it will be very exciting.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Bama. Great stuff as always. Eager to see how MU can rebound (literally, figuratively) tomorrow at the Carrier Dome.

Also: I wonder if Buzz would play Junior his first minutes of the season in that environment. We'll see!

JohnPudner said...

Wow, putting Junior on the court in the Carrier Dome would be quite the move by Buzz. It would be great fun, but if I were coach I'd give it a couple of more games and see how I felt about my chances at the NCAA in a week. If we've got a shot, I'd put him on the court, if not, let's let Cube and Mo cap great comeback seasons with an NIT run. Obviously, I don't even put Lazar in the same sentence with Cube and Mo, I actually wore his jersey to the Providence game.

Unknown said...

I was going to watch the Marquette game on P2P streaming. The streamer changed to the Baylor vs. Kansas game after only 1 minute. I got the feeling Marquette BB wasn't big time anymore.
I remember a blogger that said Marquette should slow down their game. Well guess we found out what we get when we do that.

Smoove said...

Slow the game down, yes, when you have a 17-point second-half lead, a la Florida State game. Versus DePaul, MU needed to run and gun.