"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

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Pursuit of the Perfect 6'5" And Under Team

Over the weekend the news broke that Marquette secured another verbal commitment for the incoming freshman class of 2010. Devonte "DJ" Newbill, a high-scoring 6'4" combo guard from Philadelphia, is the latest thoroughbred to join Buzz Williams' stable.....but he'll have to share a stall with five other guards next season.

Why is Buzz Williams shamelessly continuing the recruiting pattern of his predecessor? The program's relentless pursuit of The Perfect 6'5" And Under Team is once again in full effect.

Adding Newbill to incoming and returning backcourt talents like Junior Cadougan, Dwight Buycks, Darius Johnson-Odom, Reggie Smith and Vander Blue is enough to make the general manager of any Gus Macker squad giddy with anticipation. While these guards are collectively bigger and much more talented than recent Marquette backcourts, these are still guards and none of them can be counted on to score, defend, or rebound on the block.

Making matters more challenging is the logjam MU has at the combo forward spot where no player on next year's roster has the skills or physical attributes to be a consistent baseline presence. While lithe and athletic, the crew of Jimmy Butler, Erik Williams, Joe Fulce and Jamail Jones will provide little resistance to the BIG EAST's cadre of physical forwards and centers. Yet one of these players might be the Warriors' starting center next year.

As it stands now, headed into next season MU is betting the baseline on two centers who can politely be referred to as projects with significant injury risks. And no power forward on the roster, not one.

How did Buzz Williams lead us to this point? Less than a year ago the transformation of Marquette's roster away from a guard-happy group of poorly balanced classes was promising. Unfortunately injuries (Liam McMorrow), departures (Brett Roseboro, Jeronne Maymon), near-misses (Carson Desrosiers), and mistakes (Monterale Clark) sent Buzz Williams back to the well once more, a well that seems to spring forth only guards despite the program's perennially acute need for size and strength.

Does height matter? As we've noted previously Ken Pomeroy completed an in-depth report on this topic and the results were clear. Pomeroy's analysis indicated that taller teams were slightly more effective offensively and substantially improved defensively. It's not just Pomeroy who is on this point. Jay Wright, who's Villanova squad is rightly cited as the inspiration for guard-oriented rosters, has adapted his recruiting in recent classes.

While Buzz Williams has successfully adopted his schemes to fit the skills on his roster this season, MU's inability to defend and score on the blocks and rebound consistently will remain a major hurdle in leapfrogging into the top tier of the BIG EAST. Mercifully Williams has one more scholarship to fill for next season and the pressure is on to land a quality big man who can contribute immediately.


Championships Matter said...

Thank you for the bluntness. At what point does the number of guards on a roster become absurd? Well, I'm wondering if we haven't passed absurdity and are becoming ridiculous?

Even in early-Al, before Chones, before Whitehead and even before Mike Mills, we had power forwards, like Lazar, who were leapers. Ya'll remember George Thompson, Bob Lackey, Earl Tatum and even Ulice Payne and Bernard Toone. We didn't have a true center in some cases (like Kareem Abdue-Jabbar), but we sure as heck didn't have four guards out there either!

Argue what you want, but the number of "near misses" that separate this year's Top 5 ranking, a sure NCAA 4 seed and where we really are -- on the bubble -- is no doubt in part due to a lack of rebounding, inability to muscle-out "their" center and less-optimal put-back capability.

What Tom "Traitor" Crean forgot (and I hope Buzz hasn't) is that when we did go to the Final Four, D-Wade was big part of it, but so was Robert Jackson. Without Robert, I doubt we ever would have been there.

Anonymous said...

Spot on, Champs. My guess is that Buzz and the coaches know they need a big, want a big, and are committed to bringing one in.

If I remember correctly, RJ had a double-double (22-12??) in the UK Elite 8 game where D-Wade picked up his triple-double. Jackson truly was what Coach Crean promised when he introduced him at an on-campus event, "He'll be one of the great players to ever play at MU, if only for a year." Great to see RJ present next to the MU bench regularly. Wonder how active he is behind the scenes...

Beaver said...

Perception. We're known for exciting guard play...pressure/speed/athleticism. We've developed many great guards, and continue to do so. Guard-play is the platform for our program, and until we start developing "bigs" in some sort of measurable capacity...our lack of balance will continue. Classic perception problem. Quality "bigs" are obviously reluctant & resistent to MU because we have don't have experience in developing them. Understandable, on both ends of the spectrum.

In recent memory, Barro has been our most significant "big" development, which is a joke...though I love the "alley-cat." Jackson was developed when he arrived.

Unknown said...

Robert Jackson was the last successful big man. Maybe Buzz needs to look toward transfers or possibly picking up a big man playing on the JC circuit. To truly be a consistent year in and year out threat Marquette must recruit larger more physical players to compete. Plus, I am sick and tired of hearing TV commentary abouts Marquette's lack of size, but they sure are quick! And I am glad we're killin' it on 3's, but it sure would be nice to have a big guy be able to slam the ball down the opponents throats.

Oliver said...

We are at the point that we need to recruit a low-quality big man and develop him just on defense. A guy like Burke would be welcome right now just to fill space.

I know big men are scarce, but the less talented tier should be willing to come to MU for the playing time.

matswilander said...

Sorry, but this whole article is a bit unfair because it didn't even mention two existing centers on the roster - Otule and Mbao. And I'd rather have Buzz get the most talented players even if that means lots of guards than a crappy player just because he's big. You can compete with lots of guards.

Championships Matter said...

You know what, you CAN "compete" with lots of good guards.

And, if competitive is what you want, then this season is Nirvana. Competitive means our guys played their hearts out at West Virginia and Villanova but could not close the deal because we could not get a stop underneath.

Competitive means we're on the bubble for the NCAA rather than a sure second or third seed.

Competitive means Wes, Jeral et al leave as consummate NCAA first or second round failures.

Competitive means we're not even listed as "Others getting votes," rather than where we belong, ranked fifth in the nation and rising because we had only those fluke losses to DePaul and Florida State.

No thank you! Find a center who can rebound. Develop him. Bring back Bo Ellis if you have to and have Bo do for our new centers what he did for Jimmy Mac, Tommy Copa and others.

We need something@!

Unknown said...

And Buzz ain't trying? A roster full of Jamil Lott's, Trend Blackledge, Mike Kinsella etc will get us like W=0, L=30. Our best prospect bigs were Clark, Mwabke, Maymon and Amo. All head cases. Good thing Burke and Ooze had their heads screwed on. I am satified with getting exceptionally talented guards and servicable bigs for now. Reality is brutal. Some day we may land a big that is a decent. Until then, I want a team that plays its heart out and competes every game.

matswilander said...

So what, we're all freaking out because Buzz will have 6 guards on the roster next year? The horror!

Buzz does have two centers coming back next year, a fact completely overlooked by this rather one-sided piece.

Buzz is obviously looking for size, but Buzz repeatedly states that he wants high-major talent. He is not going to settle for mid-major talent just because that player is 6'10".