"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, December 31, 2010

WVU (projected #15 RPI) morning tip-off; MU needs 10 wins to make NCAA

For those of you who are just turning your attention from football (where the Big East has added TCU and gone 3-1 in Bowls!), here is what Marquette has going into the 10 a.m. opener against West Virginia tomorrow. West Virginia projects to finish as the 15th ranked team in the RPI at the end of the year (www.rpiforecast.com), so a win would put MU on track for the NCAA tournament, while a loss would project them to fall just short.

The good: MU passes the eyeball test with great showings on TV vs. Duke at Vandy (two teams projected to finish in the Top 10 in the RPI at the end of the year) and MU is one of the most exciting teams in the nation (15th in the nation in scoring, 7th in shooting, 12th in assists).

However, the Big East will be brutal as by far the No. 1 conference in the country based on RPI, and MU enters conference play without a quality win and projected to finish 9-9 with 4 quality wins (top 50 RPI) and one bad loss (not in top 100) and the 66th best RPI in the country.

Which players get MU to 10 wins & an NCAA invite?

That won’t be quite enough for MU to make their 6th straight tourney, so MU will have to improve slightly, either going 10-8 in conference play to up their projected RPI to 54, OR going 9-9 but winning at least one game in the Big East tournament.

In looking at where the two extra steals, rebounds or made shots a game could come from, I took each players stats from only the five tough games this year, and projected what each player would average per minute on the floor. If Buzz basically settles on having four of MUs best five players on the court at all time, here is what you get with 32 minutes played by each:

Vander Blue 3-9 (1-3 on treys), 2-2 FT, 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 2 steals
Jimmy Butler 5-11 (1-2 on treys) 3-5 FT, 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 steal
Dwight Buycks 4-8 (1-3 on treys) 0-1 FT, 9 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 steals
Jae Crowder 4-8 (1-3 treys) 2-2 FT, 11 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 3 steals, 1 block
Darius Johnson-Odom 5-13 (2-6 treys) 4-5 FT, 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 0 steals

Because of the lack of rebounding from the centers, it seems to me Crowder must be on the court most of the time, as his 7 rebounds per 32 minutes against the good teams is almost twice what anyone else will produce, and like Lazar Hayward last year, he has an incredible 3 steals a game in the big games. He also is the 10th best player in the country at not turning the ball over, according to www.kenpom.com.

With Blue and Buycks playing great defense and both average 4 rebounds and 2 steals per 32 minutes in the tough games, if Blue just starts to get a couple of more jumpers to fall (like the trey that rattled out against Vandy) it could be the difference. After a poor start shooting, DJO has averaged 3 of 5 in treys the last two games, and if he does that or even 3 of 6, MU starts winning these close games.

Centers hitting 70%+ of shots in big games but not rebounding

The good news is that Marquette finally has scoring from the five spot inside, as Davante Gardner and Chris Otule have hit more than 70% of their shots IN THE FIVE BIG GAMES. If you give them both 16 minutes, that gives you a very efficient 14 points a game from the center position in 32 minutes. Gardner’s the better offensive player, with great hands and gets to the line, while Otule is the better defensive player with two blocked shots a game. The biggest problem for MU is that in those same 32 minutes the two centers only combine for 5 rebounds a game – another reason Crowder needs to be on the court to help. Giving them both 16 minutes, their stats project to:

Gardner 3-4 (no treys) 2-3 FT, 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 steal
Otule 3-3 (no free throws) 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover, 2 blocks
Total from all 7 above: 27-56 (6-17 treys) 13-18 FT, 73 points, 29 rebounds, 11 turnovers, 9 steals

That leaves 8 minutes for the incredible depth provided by Junior Cadougan (7 assists vs. Duke) at point guard, or one of three 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7 players with nice shooting touch. The Centenary game showed potential for both young four stars in Jamail Jones (3 for 4 on treys for 11 points in 11 minutes) and Erik Williams (7 points and 10 rebounds in 23 minutes). Senior Joe Fulce missed the first four big games with his two knee injuries, but if recovered may be the best rebounding option with about 2 rebounds every 8 minutes.

Victory projections for season

Since MU has averaged giving up 73 points in the five tough games, just settling on this line-up gets MU even in the big games even if there is NO IMPROVEMENT. Inexperienced teams like MU typically improve more than experienced teams. However, assuming there is no improvement either through settling on a line-up or any players improving, here is a summary of what a combination of www.rpiforecast.com, Sagarin and www.kenpom.com project.

While Marquette’s current RPI of 150 looks terrible, the fact is that if they went just 6-12 in conference play, the RPI would go to about 106th. Here is the anticipated RPI depending on conference record:

7-11: RPI 92
8-10: RPI 77
9-9: RPI 66
10-8: RPI 54
11-7: RPI 44
12-6: RPI 36

Quality wins

Based on www.rpiforecast.com, MU has just missed quality wins against teams projected to finish No. 3 (Duke), No. 7 (Vanderbilt on the road), No. 28 (Wisconsin) and No. 64 (Gonzaga) in the final RPI.

MU is projected to win two games against eventual RPI Top 25 teams (some combination of WVU, at Pitt, at Lville, UConn, Syracuse, at Nova, at Gtown, UConn), and get two or three more against other top 50 teams (ND, at ND, St. John’s, with Cincy projected to finish No. 52 before winning tonight).

So a 9-9 record with four or five wins against RPI top 50 puts MU right on the bubble, and 10-8 with four or five Top 50 wins puts them in the tourney.

Keep in mind these projections anticipate MU goes 5-1 against non-top 50 teams. Both DePaul and Providence are coming to the Bradley Center, so even assuming MU takes care of business in those two games, they really can only afford to lose one of four at Rutgers (Wednesday), and South Florida, or during a home-and-home to Seton Hall at the end of the year after Jeremy Hazell has returned.

All four of those games are possible losses, and because of Hazell sitting out most of the season, any loss in those four games will likely show up as a “bad loss” (all three teams will likely NOT be in the top 100 in the final RPI).

In summary, the great news is that the Big East is so good that MU has plenty of opportunities to ring up resume building wins and make the tourney with 10 wins.

The bad news is that the Big East is so good that 16 of the 18 games will be very tough and if MU slides even slightly, it could have its first losing season since joining the Big East.

Tomorrow is huge.

Marquette kicks off the Big East season against West Virginia

Hey folks we have a Hangover Special to start Big East action for the Warriors .... a 10am CT tip-off against the West Virginia Mountaineers at the Bradley Center.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. West Virginia enters the game at 8-3 overall and 0-1 in the Big East. The Mountaineers were stunned in their home Big East opener by St John's, 81-71.

As usual Todd Rosiak's preview of the game is excellent
-- I don't have anything to add.

And if the hangover is too much to deal with, sack up and go for the hair of the dog.

Belated Christmas greetings

Yes, yes I realize Christmas has come and gone but it's still the Christmas season with Ephiphany just one week away. With this in mind we'd like to welcome two guests to Cracked Sidewalks to spread a little bit of Christmas cheer, Warrior style.

Dean Meminger and Greg Johnson, thanks very much. As many of you know late last year Dean Meminger was critically injured in a house fire in New York City. It's great to see Dean doing so well -- and note that this video was shot at Bo Ellis' annual Warrior Day Golf Outing in July. Way to go, Dean!

Also, I'd like to thank our intrepid videographer for his fine work last summer. Thanks you sir!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Analyzing the Big East to date

With the Big East season kicking off on Saturday for MU it's worth taking stock of the nation's best conference to this point in the season. During the Christmas season both the East Coast Bias and Rush the Court completed 'State of the Big East' analyses. In case you missed those updates, check out these links.

Rush The Court slots MU in as the 9th place team in the Big East.

Pico Dulce at the East Coast Bias was the ringleader in an informative series based on contributions from the blogging community.

As a reminder, the Warriors open up Big East play with a Hangover Special on New Year's Day against the West Virginia Mountaineers. If you're not familiar with Huggins' crew check out this Q/A from The Smoking Musket.

With the Big East conference season ready to kick-off in less than 48 hours -- MU great Roney Eford knows where to follow the action.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Commodores edge Warriors in Nashville

Another quality opponent, another soul-crushing loss.

Marquette continued its unenviable run of close losses to good teams tonight, falling 77-76 to 24th ranked Vanderbilt in Nashville. The Warriors battled to take a 76-75 lead on Dwight Buycks' jumper with 19 seconds left but surrendered a bucket to the Commodores with 4.1 seconds remaining to set up the final sequence. After an MU timeout Darius Johnson-Odom dribbled furiously up the floor, lost control and turned the ball over to end the game.

Surely Marquette leads the NCAA in last second shots not taken.

With the loss MU falls to 9-4 on the season and heads to Big East play with exactly zero quality out of conference wins. The Warriors host West Virginia on New Year's Day.

Marquette shot an impressive 56% from the floor tonight and held the notable Commodore marksmen to just 26% from deep and 48% overall. Yet MU was unable to create a turnover advantage, connected on only 7 of 13 free throws, and as has been the case all season the Warriors struggled to control the defensive glass in key spots.

MU was led by Jimmy Butler with 15 points. Darius Johnson-Odom added 14, Buycks had 14, Chris Otule had a dozen while Vander Blue finished with 10 points.

Todd Rosiak blogs a recap.
Box Score.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MU travels south to face great backcourt, one of tallest teams in country in Vandy

Southerners like me are thrilled to get to DRIVE to a game tomorrow as MU comes to Nashville – but what a tough matchup it is against one of the tallest teams and best backcourts in the country.

Prior to the season, Fox Sports picked both Vanderbilt and Marquette among the top 12 backcourts in the country, however the bigger matchup concern for MU tomorrow night will be keeping Vandy off the offensive glass.

Vanderbilt is also the 8th tallest team in the country and 6-foot-11 Festus Ezeili is the 11th best offensive rebounder in the country – grabbing an incredible 18.2% of all of Vanderbilt’s misses when he is on the court. MU hasn’t seen anyone that good yet, though unfortunately we will during trips to Pitt (Dante Taylor) and Georgetown (Julian Vaughn). MU is actually just slightly above average height this year after being one of the shortest teams in the country the past few years.

In previewing the 12 best backcourts, Fox Sports' Jeff Goodman wrote at the time, “There may be no better shooter in the nation than sophomore John Jenkins. Jeffery Taylor is one of the top wings in the nation, and Brad Tinsley should slide right in and fill the void left by the graduation of Jermaine Beal.”

Unfortunately, all three have lived up to their billing:

At 6-foot-4, Jenkins is hitting 87% of his free throws and 42% of his 3-pointers.

At 6-foot-7, Taylor is the go-to guy who draws a lot of fouls driving but also hits 39% of his treys to go along with 53% of his 2-point shots.

At 6-foot-3, Tinsley is one of the top assists men in the country.

They do not steal the ball, but are among the country’s best teams at blocking shots and killing opponent’s shooting (only 29% of treys and 41% of 2-point shots are made) – so the kind of patient defense that has given MU trouble in long stretches.
Vandy’s one weakness so far is that they do give up steals, which is where MU is so dangerous.

In short, it’s going to be a tough, tough road game to pull out.

MU facing 19 projected tourney teams

So far, MU is not projected to make the NCAA tournament, but starting with Vandy 12 of their next 16 opponents are projected in Lunardi’s latest picks.

If those projections hold, then MU will have played an incredible 19 games against NCAA tournament teams, a potential 20th in Cincinnati, and FIVE OPPONENTS CURRENTLY PROJECTED TO BE A NO. 1 OR 2 SEED.

Similar to last year, MU has lost three games to tourney-projected teams, but all by 5 points or less. Now it’s time to start seeing if MU is on an incline up as the inexperienced team gels:

1. Can MU box out Ezeili unlike the disastrous 2nd halves that cost MU wins against Gonzaga and Wisconsin?
2. Is JUCO POY Jae Crowder going to stay on the court now that he is exploding from the arc and under the basket?
3. Can DJO shake off a slow start to look like the player projected to go in the NBA draft in this 2nd of 5 challenges this year against a top 12 backcourt?
4. Will the season’s sweetest surprise, big man Davante Gardner, finally be fully recovered from his early season shoulder injury and continue to pump in points in the paint?

I believe MU has established a very strong five starters in Vander Blue, Dwight Buycks, DJO, Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler, and two players 6-foot-8 or better that can split time very effectively with Chris Otule and Gardner both hitting more than two-thirds of their shots.

Jae Crowder is now ranked as the 14th best offensive player in any BCS conference by www.kenpom.com, and Gardner actually ranks slightly higher but doesn’t have enough minutes played to qualify.

And unlike in past years, everyone on the bench can contribute.

Pomeroy makes MU and 8-point underdog tomorrow night, but MU hasn’t lost by that many yet and if Buzz has settled the guys into a 7-man rotation for this killer stretch, tomorrow night could be a chance to pull the first real shocker of the MU season.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Grading MUs performance through one semester

Several MU players will be getting their first semester grades – so it’s a good time to grade the team on how prepared they are to face the rugged upcoming schedule.

While we can throw out five creampuff games so far, as well as tomorrow night’s game vs. Mississippi Valley State, the four other games played to date give a fair appraisal of the competition MU will face in the Big East. Duke, Wisconsin, Gonzaga and UWM have a combined rating of 83.67 in Sagarin, virtually the same as the 83.43 average rating in the Big East so far this year.

Therefore I took the Four Factors that determine games and broke them into 10 grades, BUT I graded MU based only on their performance in those four tough games.
Here are the grades in the tough games, the best indicator of what it will take for MU to do well once again in Big East play:


Protecting the ball: B+
On average, teams turn the ball over 21% of their trips down the court, which would have meant 14 turnovers a game in MUs four tough games. The fact is MU turned the ball over only 12 times in the tough games (17%) of trips. That’s worth 2 extra points a game against the likes of Duke, and MU actually takes care of the ball better in these tough games then in blowout wins when they give up some sloppy but meaningless turnovers (turned it over 19% of trips in all games). A very good indication that MU will be good at protecting the ball when the game is on the line.

3-point shooting: C-
MU was one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country last year. MU is not nearly as good this season at 31% compared to the typical 34%. However, in the big games they’ve hit 32%, helping themselves against Wisconsin (4 of 9) and Milwaukee (8 of 19), while hurting themselves against Duke (4 of 20) and Gonzaga (6 of 21). The fact is 3-pointers are the most unpredictable part of the game, and while DJO can help if he finds his rhythm, there will be good and bad games.

2-point shooting: A
The biggest positive change over the past several years is that MU is now one of the best 2-point shooting teams in the country. Their 55.4% shooting is 7th best in the country, much better than the national average of 47.5%, but MU is even more impressive against tough teams. In the four tough games, MU has averaged 38 two-point and hit 20 (52%). Hitting over half their 2-pointers despite two of those four games being against the No. 1 defense in the country in Duke and a Wisconsin team that has allowed opponents to hit less than 40% of their 2-pointers is remarkable. The performance so far is unbelievably good and truly puts a high ceiling on what MU could do this year.

Getting to the line: C+
When a team gets to the free throw line they average 1.4 points a trip, when they don’t they average less than 1 point a trip. It is that important. MU is getting to the line at a higher than average rate (FTA/FGA = 43%, compared to the typical 38%). However, in the four tough games they have been slightly below average (34%), about what would be expected against tough teams but nothing exceptional, as they have averaged going 14 of 19 from the line.

Offensive Rebounding: D
A typical team grabs the offensive rebound about once every three times they miss a shot. At first glance, the fact that MU grabs 38% of their misses looks a little above the 33% average. However, MU has been very bad at grabbing offensive rebounds in the four tough games, averaging grabbing only 7 offensive rebounds out of 30 misses (24%). The low point was certainly UWM, when MU grabbed 2 offensive rebounds on 24 misses, but the other three tight games were also below average. This has to improve.


Forcing Turnovers: A-
MU has forced turnovers on 24% of opponents’ trips down the court, slightly above the 21% average. But what is even more impressive is it doesn’t matter who they are playing, because MU forced both Duke (19 turnovers) and Gonzaga (16 in a slower paced game) to turn it over 24% of the time. Wisconsin is the only team who has been able to take care of the ball against MU. In the four tough games MU has won the turnover battle an average of 15 to 12, a very impressive difference against very tough competition. What is even more helpful is that most of MUs forced turnovers are on actual steals giving them the chance for fast breaks, while very few of MUs offensive turnovers are on opponents’ steals.

3-point defense. C
I know everyone wants to give MU terrible marks in defending the three after watching inferior teams hit open treys. However, these baskets don’t mean much in blowouts. While MU gives up 38% on threes overall compared to a typical 34%, the fact is that MU toughens up against tougher opponents, allowing an average day of 7 of 18 (36%) in the tough games. MU has held Duke, Gonzaga and Wisconsin below their 3-point average. Basically MU's tough opponents have averaged 7 of 18 while MU has averaged 6 of 17 in those four tough games – so MU is only losing the 3-point exchange by one trey a game while trying fewer of them, really not much of a difference.

2-point defense: D
Outside of rebounding, MU's biggest problem in the tough games has been defending the 2-point shot. Overall, MU has allowed only 44% 2-point shooting (below the 47.5% typical average), BUT in the four tough games MU has allowed opponents to average a 23 of 42 shooting from inside the arc. So despite MU being one of the top 2-point shooting teams in the country, they are actually losing the 2-point exchange in the tough games.

Keeping opponents off the line: A+
The strongest part of MU’s game is not letting teams get to the line. MU only allows an average of 24% FTA/FGA (free throws attempted vs. field goals attempted), which is way below the 38% average. However, what is even more amazing is the MU is EVEN BETTER against the tough teams, as that figure dropped to 19% against Duke, Gonzaga, Wisconsin and UWM. MU has won the free throw exchange by an amazing 7 points per game in the four big games, going 14 of 19 from the line on offense while only giving up 7 of 11 to those four opponents. And +7 at the line will win a lot of games.

Defensive Rebounding: F
Finally, we get to the huge deficiency that MU must correct to make the tournament. MU's four tough opponents have averaged missing 33 shots a game against MU, and 13 of those 33 times they have grabbed the offensive rebound (42%). Obviously this has contributed to the high 2-point shooting by opponents as well, as many are stickbacks. What is really amazing though is that MU's overall defensive rebounding has been above average in 6 of those 8 halves – it has just been unbelievably abysmal in the second halves against both Gonzaga (15 offensive rebounds allowed) and Wisconsin (12 offensive rebounds allowed). Hopefully this is just an example of an inexperienced team that has lost confidence twice when the snowball has started down the hill and will level out.

Based on www.kenpom.com, MU has lost by 5 points to both the #1 and #9 team in the country (Duke and Wisconsin), lost by 3 to the 54th best team (Gonzaga), and won by 3 at UWM.

Some will protest that I include the UWM game, but that game needs to be included for several reasons:

1. UWM was by far the 4th toughest test MU faced and by adding them the overall average of the four teams is just above the average competition faced in the Big East according to Sagarin’s ratings,

2. As I’ve noted repeatedly, no Big 10 or Big East team has gone into a Horizon gym and won by more than 4 points in the last three years so playing at UWM was not like facing 5 creampuffs at home, and

3. According to the Sagarin ratings, a game AT UWM is exactly as tough as if MU had played the #74 team in the country (Nebraska) at the Bradley Center.

Certainly an inexperienced MU team may need to make a few adjustments to change close loses into close wins. Perhaps a little more physical play underneath would give up a few more foul shots but also stop allowing as many offensive rebounds and lay-ups.

But MUs ability to stand toe-to-toe with tough teams and so clearly win the turnover and free throw exchange is one more indication that there is a very high ceiling on this team.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Gentlemen come to town

After a week away from competitive action the Marquette Warriors (7-3) host the Centenary Gentlemen (0-11) this afternoon at the Bradley Center. The disappointing home loss to Bucky has been lingering for a week and the over-matched Gents will provide little resistance this afternoon. Centenary stinks.

Heading into the eleventh game of the season it's time to start The DJO Watch in earnest. The junior guard, widely expected to emerge as one of the Big East's top guards, has regressed this season hitting on just 38% of his shots from the field and an abominable 27% from three-point range. If not for one scintillating performance against UWM (29 points on 10-14 shooting, 5-7 from deep) those figures would be far worse and perhaps more representative of just how much he's struggled so far this season.

As a sophomore the Raleigh native connected on 45% of his field goals and 47% of his three-point attempts. Johnson-Odom is coming off his worst game of the season, hitting just one of his nine attempts in the home loss to Wisconsin. While a strong performance against Centenary won't be enough to signal a turnaround, coach Buzz Williams needs the talented guard to raise his level of play quickly.

Tipoff is scheduled for 1pm Marquette Standard Time. The game will be broadcast on Sports32.

If you have 30 minutes, enjoy the final episode of Marquette Basketball - Revealed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marquette Basketball Weekly: The Father Wild Edition

Outgoing Marquette University President Rev. Robert Wild sits down with Brad Galli to talk decades of Marquette basketball: the players who became legends, the men who coached them, and the moment he calls the greatest of his 15-year presidency. Wild shares what went in to hiring Buzz Williams and why he calls the current coach “amazing.” Also, Derek Hudgin talks with Williams, Jae Crowder, Dwight Buycks, and Rob Frozena about giving back during the holiday season.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Badgers' toughness is too much for Warriors

MUTV Sports' Brad Galli reports from the Bradley Center after MU failed to grab a signature out of conference win against the visiting Badgers.

Todd Rosiak on how the Badgers were too tall and too tough for MU.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Warriors seek Badger road kill

The Marquette Warriors and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Badgers renew hostilities on Saturday afternoon at the Bradley Center with plenty at stake for the good guys. The Warriors enter the game with a record of 7-2, beating every team you'd expect and nothing more. As Carl Spackler said, I guess the kidding around is pretty much over. It's time for the Warriors to step up, claim a solid out-of-conference win, and rid the State of the rabid menace to the West once again.

We expect a tight game on Saturday. In many aspects both Marquette and Wisconsin-Madison (not Wisconsin-Green Bay or Wisconsin-Milwaukee) will compete on matching strengths or weaknesses:

  • Bo Ryan's squad is very good at defending inside the three-point line, while Marquette is very efficient offensively in that range. Strength vs. Strength.
  • Bucky is so-so from beyond the arc and MU defends those shots poorly. Weakness vs. Weakness.
  • Wisconsin-Madison is fifth-best team in the nation at protecting the ball. Marquette turns teams over at a rate higher than the national average. Strength vs. Strength.
  • Bucky is great on the glass both offensively (#20) and defensively (#26). This is where Wisconsin-Madison has a definitive strength relative to Marquette.
  • Wisconsin-Madison's offense is not great. But neither is MU's defense.
  • Bucky rarely gets to the line. Marquette rarely fouls. These tendencies cancel out.
So what does this all mean? More than likely the game hinges on two primary factors - rebounding and turnovers. For the Warriors to make road kill of the Badgers they can't be soft on the backboards as they were against Gonzaga and they must turn the Badgers over at a fairly high rate, winning the turnover battle convincingly.

In the Badgers' two losses they were exposed in different ways. Against UNLV, where the Badgers fell 68-85, Wisconsin-Madison coughed up the ball too much (15 times) and allowed UNLV shoot nearly 50% from the field. In the loss to Notre Dame, Bucky protected the ball well (only four turnovers!) but was blitzed on the glass by the Irish (40-28 overall and 12-6 on the offensive boards) falling 58-51.

The good news for MU is that they forced Duke and Gonzaga into a lot of turnovers. With a bit better result on the glass against the Zags, MU would have pulled that game out. The same formula applies on Saturday -- turn'em over, hold your own on the glass, and take then make the first best available shot on offense. For the sake of argument I'll presume that MU's defense will be solid in front of a marvelous home crowd on Saturday.

Saturday's game is a Gold Out in the Bradley Center. Gold! Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30pm Marquette Standard Time. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. Alumni -- please remember to stop by the pre-game reception sponsored by Marquette University on Saturday starting at 11am at the Pabst Brewery. Find details here.

And sure, while this post is (for the most part) entirely rational our blogging brethren at the Anonymous Eagle have been filling the void with well-deserved Badger Hate all week. I highly recommend you check out each offering from those guys.

Anonymous Eagle Badger Hate Week

Todd Rosiak updates

Additional updates
That's right .... Gold out!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Double Switchables

We're pleased to welcome another guest post from Dr. Blackheart. You may recall that Dr. Blackheart contributed two guest posts in September. His first post looked at offensive efficiency and turnovers. The second one predicted low three percent percentages and guessed at the starting lineup. Today's post looks more at the early season trends and gazes into the crystal ball for the rest of the season.

The 2009-10 season saw a short (depth and height) but experienced MU team focus on offensive efficiency, achieved by not turning the ball over while slowing the tempo to work the offense for the best available three ball. The team was coached magnificently to do what it could do well—and was successful at it like no other team in MU’s history.

Turning the page over to the 2010-11 season, the roster is now comprised of three new starters and seven non-battle hardened neophytes to Buzz Ball. MU is still a relatively efficient team (31st offensively and 40th defensively in Pomeroy), as is the Buzz trademark. However, with all the new faces and the rotating line-ups, fans are left to wonder what this team does well—what is its identity—as it doesn’t appear MU is exceptional at anything at first blush?

Distribution Center(s)
With a point guard by committee, MU is a surprising 10th nationally in assists per game with 18.1 helping hands. Dwight Buycks (4.2/game) and Junior Cadougan (3.6/game) lead the way in government assistance. Who is on the receiving end? Well, surprise, surprise…The Buzz Brand of Aircraft Carriers.

MU’s points in the paint are up a whopping 32% year to year after the first eight games. Combined, the Double O’s (Otule and Ox) are shooting 70% from the field, with all the frontline players averaging 61% from inside the arc. In fact, MU is 13th nationally in Two Point FG Shooting Percentage (56.4%). Not since the Kevin O’Neill or Al McGuire years has a MU team made such a concerted effort to feed the low post like this year’s—albeit it an abbreviated effort as Otule and Gardner have averaged just 24 minutes per game combined. More so, their presence has opened up near-in space for the other position players to attack the rim. But, what a 180 from last season’s low turnover, high trey shooting percent team, though.

This Big Man focus also manifests itself on defense. While MU led the Big East in protecting the perimeter last season, MU’s has chosen to protect the paint this season as we were last in the BE in rebounding in 2009-10. As a result, opponents are hitting treys at a much higher clip, but our two point defense (43.3%) has improved to 68th in the nation from 263rd, while our offensive rebounding rate (36.4%) has improved to 74th in the nation from 238th. And, MU is fouling at a much lower rate. In fact, MU is 3rd in the nation in opponents’ free throw rate.

Is Last Season Just Distant a Memory?

Are low turnover rates with high three point shooting percents not possible with this crew? No, not necessarily. Coming into this season, of the top offensive efficiency games in the past 15 years, 72% of them came after first semester final exams. Last night against Corpus Christi, we saw the 18th most offensive efficient game in 15 years. Up till this point in the season, the guards have been focused on attacking the rim and not really on spacing and flow. Similarly, finding rebounding lanes had not been a particular strength of this team—one Buzz took the pre-Longwood week to concentrate practice on. Now, will MU settle into a regular rotation? Will the incredibly efficient Joe Fulce return healthy? Will flow improvements lead to lower turnovers and better spacing for spot up threes on a consistent basis? Will MU slowly extend its perimeter defense once the interior fortification gets settled? These will be the questions that will start to be answered against the tougher Badgers as MU’s “identity is revealed”.

Marquette sinks the Islanders

Marquette rolled to an 86-50 victory over Texas A&M Corpus Christi behind a career-high 21 points from freshman Vander Blue. A second half knee injury to senior forward Joseph Fulce - which appears to be serious - deflated the Warriors' spirit after the game however. With the win MU improves to 7-2 on the season.

MU victory tainted by Fulce injury, per Rosiak.
Rosiak blogs a recap.
Official MU recap.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

One night engagement: The LeDaryl Billingsley Festival

Tonight Marquette (6-2) hosts its second buy game in as many outings when it welcomes Texas A&M Corpus Christi to the Bradley Center.

Texas A&M CC is coached by former Tulane head coach Perry Clark. If you are looking for a reason to have a bit more interest in tonight's game, that's the hook: Perry Clark is the man who delivered what became a crucial blow to the Mike Deane era at MU. How so, you ask? Clark wooed Chicago's LeDaryl Billingsley to Tulane after the power forward had verbally committed to MU. Billingsley went on to average 11 points and six rebounds per game during his career at Tulane, which spanned the 1997-98 season through the 2000-2001 campaign. As as a senior he averaged 18 points and 9 boards per game and was a second team All-Conference USA selection.

Had Billingsley signed with MU he would have joined Brian Wardle, DeMarcus Minor, Greg Clausen and John Mueller as freshmen. With Cordell Henry arriving on campus the following year, Mike Deane was thisclose to having what might have been one of the best young groups in Conference USA. In the end Billingsley decided against MU, DeMarcus Minor left for a productive career at Baylor (don't forget about the loss of Alton Mason as well) and Mike Deane's fate was sealed.

Perry Clark -- Marquette hero or villain?

Enjoy the game. Gametime is 8pm CT, broadcast on Sports32, DirecTV 639, 540 ESPN, or you can follow along with the Game Tracker.


Recaps and memories associated with coach Raymonds. Enjoy

Monday, December 06, 2010

Coach Hank Raymonds passes away

One of the finest human beings I ever met. Rest in Peace Coach!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Who needs 3 big men? Otule hits 9 straight en route to 96-65 win

Joe Fulce and Davante Gardner returned Saturday to get MU back to full strength with all three of their big men in action.

For one of the few times, MU did not need all three as they watched Chris Otule go 9 for 9 from the floor to lead the route, the second best shooting performance in MU history behind Wesley Matthew’s 10-10 against Rutgers.

No team surprises
At the team level, there were no surprises Saturday. Longwood provided a very exciting opponent, but with no ability to stop MU from getting to the hoop.

With 10 minutes to play in the game MU was hitting 72% of their two-point attempts (28 of 39) and was grabbing 44% (8 of 18) of their misses. Put it together and when MU put up a 2-pointer they were getting either the basket or the offensive rebound 84% of the time.

Joe Fulce did have a couple of big slams in his first game back, but Davante Gardner was able to rest on the bench and watch the up and down game.

Buzz trumped all of Longwood’s speed by starting lightning fast Reggie Smith, who closed the game with a nice pass to Robert Frozena to get him on the board for the year.

Longwood came in averaging 75 trips down the court a game, and didn’t disappoint Saturday night forcing more than 40 trips in both halves for an unbelievable pace.
But even Longwood tried out a 2-3 zone on MU, as teams conclude MU is just too athletic and tough to guard man to man.

Marquette had five double digit scorers with Otule 19, DJO 14, Vander Blue 12, Jae Crowder 10 and Dwight Buycks 10.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Marquette could score 100; might need to Saturday

The Longwood Lancers average scoring 5 points a game more than Marquette (84-79) because they get the ball down the court and shoot quickly and shoot well. Thank goodness Marquette has added depth, because they run a lot of players at you with seven players scoring between 9 and 15 points per game.

Expect them to try a furious pace after the 1 p.m. CST tipoff Saturday.

Like the MU teams of the last few years, the Lancers generally have one 6-foot-6 player in the middle surrounded by a bunch of guys 6-2 and under.

They either go quickly into 6-foot-6 Antwan Carter (15 ppg, 10.9 rpg on 60% shooting from the floor), or gun it up. Four players are averaging more than 5 trey attempts a game, including small guards Aaron Mitchell (15 ppg), Durrann Neil (9.1) and Martiz Washington (21 of 53 treys), as well as 6-foot-7 Jan Vander Kooij from the Netherlands.

The only guard who prefers the two is Jeremiah Bowman, who will compete with Jae Crowder for best hair. Bowman is averaging 11.6 ppg on 33 of 60 shooting from the floor, and has hit 6 of 9 treys.

Overall, they are one of the top 3-point shooting teams (39%) in and are coming to Milwaukee after drawing a record crowd and leading a pretty good James Madison team into the 2nd half.

For the 3rd year in a row, Longwood is averaging about 75 trips a game down the court – making them one of the fast 10 teams in the country all three years.


As exciting as all that sounds - the fact is the Lancers have only beaten one Division 1 team this year.

While the Lancers get the ball down the court very quickly and put shots up quickly and on the mark, they really should not be a match for Marquette.

Marquette should be able to go to the hoop at will and either get fouled or make their shots (59% allowed on 2-pointers). In their last game, James Madison’s big man went 10 for 10 from the field.

Longwood also rarely steals the ball, apparently content to let opponents get off a shot so they can throw it down to the other end and put up a quick three to win the exchange 3-2.

Longwood – from Farmville VA – will make MU continue to work on their shaky 3-point defense. In their opener, the Kansas Jayhawks held them to 3 of 14 from beyond the arc in the first half, but since then Longwood has been over 40% on treys including an 8 for 16, 48 points second half against the Jayhawks.

Their exciting style of play resulted in a record turnout of 1,973 fans – ok it’s not the Bradley Center – in their last game against the James Madison Dukes.

I hate to set the bar this high, but as well as MU gets to the basket this year they really could put up 100+ points unless Buzz feels he really needs to slow the pace down to get the Lancers out of their game.

Might be a good game to boost those point per game totals, get in great shape, and learn how to get to every spot on the arc on defense.