"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, August 27, 2011

Swing men are better than 7-footers and nice SI article on Value Add

Deonte Burton, the 28th best 2013 player in the country according to Rivals, will reportedly be on campus this week. While some fans seem purely focused on getting a 7-footer, the fact is that very few 7-footers are very good and that the 6-foot-4 Burton could be the top-rated player signed by Marquette ever.

While our obsession with signing a 7-footer is understandable after watching the Three Amigos success cut short by the lack of any inside presence, MU fans need to understand one fact when new recruits are announced:

Swing men between 6-4 and 6-8 are the most likely players to emerge as stars, and they are more likely to be great players than those 6-11 or taller.

Sports Illustrated piece on Value Add

Sports Illustrated was kind enough to feature an article on my Value Add system this weekend, and when I look back at the ratings I realized that only ONE out of 101 players 6-foot-11 or taller last year was a top 100 player (Zeller, UNC).

In considering the importance of signing a 7-footer, fans should consider that MU went up against four of the Top 7 in the country this year, and except for Zeller none of these guys compare to a dominant swing man like Burton:

7 footers (best 7)TeamPointsReboundsBlocks
Tyler ZellerUNC27120
Kenny FreaseXavier 1252
Robert SacreGonzaga 572
Alec BrownWisconsin Green Bay380
Mike TisdaleIllinois DNP  
Jason WashburnUtahDNP  
Garrett StutzWichita St.DNP  
Average vs. MU 1281

So as much as I hope Buzz lands 7-footer Blaise Mbargorba, or at least a 6-foot-11 guy like Prince Ibeh or Phillip Nolan to balance our roster, signing 6-foot-4 Deonte Burton during his reported visit this week would be MUCH bigger for the program so no fan should utter “oh no, another swing man.”

As you can see from the table at the bottom of this post of players by height, players between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-8 are the most likely to be stars, with 268 of 1724 ranking in the top 500.

Butler best 6-foot-7 player in country last year

One fact I stumbled onto in sorting Value Adds by height is that Jimmy Butler was the best 6-foot-7 player in the country last year – but perhaps even more exciting is that perhaps the best 2014 player in the country, 6-foot-7 Andrew Wiggins, is considering Marquette.

Sure I love having Chris Otule’s defensive presence, and would love to add a big, but the fact is MU outrebounded their Big East opponents last year due to the play of swingmen, and 6-7/6-6 players Jamil Wilson, Jae Crowder, Jamail Jones and Juan Anderson are likely to keep that going.

The following table shows how many D1 players last year played at each height, how many of those players ranked in the Top 500, who the best was at each height, and the height of each player on Marquette’s roster or at the top of MUs recruiting targets. The figures shown are the Rivals national rankings, which are not out for 2014 players, but all of the 2014s listed will be near the top of the national rankings:

HeightCountTop 500BestCurrent MU Roster (possible recruits)
7-foot-320Somogyi, UC-Santa Barbara 
7-foot-210Bachynski, Arizona State 
7-foot-161#235 Tisdale, Ill 
7-foot-0344#32 Zeller, UNC(2014 Blaise Mbargorba)
6-foot-115810#104 Benson, OaklandChris Otule (2012 Prince Ibeh #55, 2012 Phillip Nolan #103)
6-foot-1014822#11 Leuer, Wisconsin 
6-foot-926535#10 Sullinger, OSU(2014 Paul White, 2013 Kyle Washington, 2012 Chris Washburn #112, 2012 Zach Auguste #94)
6-foot-838160#7 Williams, AZDavante Gardner
6-foot-736149#21 Butler, MUJamil Wilson, signee Steve Taylor (2014 Andrew Wiggins)
6-foot-634955#5 Dahlman, WoffordJae Crowder, Jamail Jones, Juan Anderson
6-foot-531549#15 Brooks, Providence 
6-foot-431855#14 Jenkins, VandyVander Blue, signees Jamal Ferguson and TJ Taylor (2013 Deonte Burton #28)
6-foot-331443#4 Jenkins, HofstraTodd Mayo, Jake Thomas (RS)
6-foot-227132#3 Fredette, BYUDarius Johnson-Odom
6-foot-123734#1 Taylor, Wisc.Junior Cadougan, Derrick Wilson
6-foot-018029#8 McConnell, St. Mary’s 
5-foot-118810#80 Hamilton, Oakland 
5-foot-10957#20 Warren, Mississippi 
5-foot-9362#120 Young, Clemson 
5-foot-8123#35 Thomas, Washington 
5-foot-760Qualls, Grambling 
5-foot-620Taylor, FL Atlantic

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Recruiting: Not Yet Dunn

Marquette fans got great news this past weekend when the #1 prospect in the state of Illinois for 2012, Steve Taylor, orally committed to the Warriors. But as Marquette Nation is still celebrating the commitment of Buzz's latest acquisition, we learned today that Mitch McGary and Anthony Bennett would not be picking Marquette. While it's always disappointing to lose a recruit, there are a few consolations here. First, as Al McGuire always said, a no is better than a maybe. Buzz can now move on from both highly-regarded big men and focus on recruits who may say yes. Second, regarding McGary, he didn't list any other Big East schools, which means that while he won't be helping Marquette, he also won't be regularly hurting us. It's similar for Bennett, though he did list UConn, Pitt, and West Virginia as three of his final ten.

Looking ahead, Marquette is still in on a number of prospects for 2012. A number of big men still seem to be interested in Marquette, including Shaquille Cleare, a big man in the Davante Gardner mold but rated by most in the top-25. Others considering Marquette include Zach Auguste, Brice Johnson, and Devin Thomas. But while the prototypical face-up four seems to be the dream of all the Marquette faithful, I think our top target should be Kris Dunn.

Dunn has had a lights-out summer and has been one of the fastest-rising prospects in all of AAU basketball. While most services ranked him in the mid-40s back in April and May, don't be surprised if Dunn is a top-20, or even top-10 talent by the time the next recruiting rankings come out. Marquette was one of the first high-major schools in on Dunn, and back in late-April he told ESPN's Dave Telep he wanted to go to Marquette. After his breakout summer, he has offers from Connecticut, Louisville, and Providence. What makes Dunn so ideal for Marquette, more than his shooting ability, his excellent length for the point guard position, or his ability to get to the rim, is that he is a natural point guard. Dunn is a distribute-first kind of player that is working on his decision-making and his handle.

When Junior Cadougan graduates after the 2012-13 season, we will need someone to take over the point. While guys like Vander Blue, Derrick Wilson, and Todd Mayo have all played some point guard, all of them are usually regarded as combo guards. Dunn is a true point that will make everyone around him better. And the odds are he'll do it in the Big East. With the fluid nature of recruiting, it's possible that by the time I finish writing this, Dunn will have committed elsewhere, but if he hasn't, I hope Buzz Williams and his staff make Kris Dunn their top priority for the 2012 recruiting class. He's a perfect fit for Marquette, he has said he wants to be here, and he's the kind of truly elite recruit that the Marquette faithful would be able to get excited about.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Marquette receives commitment from Steve Taylor


Steve Taylor, a 6'8" forward from Chicago's Simeon High School verbally committed today to play for Buzz Williams and Marquette. Taylor is ranked as the 93rd best player in the country in the ESPN 100 (#75 by Scout), and chose Marquette over Missouri, DePaul, Xavier, Providence, Iowa, Ohio U and Southern Illinois among others. He is considered the top recruit in the state of Illinois by some recruiting services, including the highly regarded Bullseye Brothers. Recruiting services have him ranked between a 3 star and 4 star player. Taylor has a solid 3 point shot and is a smooth player with high athleticism. Needs to get stronger and tougher, but expect him to continue to make great strides his senior year of high school before stepping onto the MU campus.

This is the first Illinois recruit landed by Buzz Williams since Reggie Smith, who transfered to UNLV last December. Taylor was the #1 target for DePaul. Taylor becomes the third player in the 2012 recruiting class joining TJ Taylor (no relation) and Jamal Ferguson.

Linked are several recruiting evaluations and articles on Mr. Taylor. Congratulations to Buzz Williams and welcome to Marquette University Mr. Taylor

Taylor Chooses Marquette - Columbia Daily Tribune

ESPN Steve Taylor ranking

NBE Basketball Report - Steve Taylor

Journal Sentinel

Yahoo Sports - Steve Taylor Profile

Scout Profile of Taylor

Here are some video clips. Enjoy some basketball candy.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Sunday Brunch

Today I'm going to try something a bit different. In the dog days of summer, it's sometimes hard to find any information out there on Marquette basketball. As we enter August, recruiting enters its "quiet period", Marquette Madness is still months off, the non-conference schedule has been analyzed to death, and we're all jumping at any rumors we can find.

I've been scouring the web for some of the more worthwhile stories going on out there and thought I'd just share them with readers who might not have had a chance to do the digging. Here's a sample of what's out there, I hope you enjoy:

Anyone following Twitter has likely heard about how Darius Johnson-Odom has been tearing it up at the North Carolina Pro-Am. In the process, he had one of the best highlight reel dunks of the summer. Check out his alley-oop windmill slam from Austin Rivers, a Duke recruit and son of former Marquette great Doc Rivers.

Chris Otule has been working hard on his game. In addition to going to the Milwaukee Pro-Am, he just got back Saturday night from the Pete Newell Big Man Camp in Hawaii. Before setting out, he took some time to talk to John Dodds over at MarquetteHoops.com. Here's the interview on his off-season workouts, playing with Keaton Nankivil, his impressions on Marquette's incoming class, and the physical development of fellow Warrior big man Davante Gardner.

Despite spending most of his time on the Brewers' beat, Todd Rosiak is still taking time out for the Warriors. He noted recently that Marquette was returning to the Maui Invitational in 2012, and updates us on future tournaments in one of his most recent JSOnline Marquette blog posts. Plenty of time to make travel plans for Hawaii in 2012, California in 2013, and Florida in 2014.

Marquette continues to get plenty of preseason respect. It seems almost every pundit has Buzz's boys in the top-25 coming into next season, and Jason King of Yahoo! Sports is no exception. In his latest preseason ranking, he has Marquette ranked #13 in the nation.

And finally, I've said it before, and now I'll say it one last time for this summer. If you haven't been out to the Milwaukee Pro-Am yet, you have one final chance on Sunday, August 7th. The final rounds of the playoffs will be held at the Al McGuire Center on Marquette's campus beginning at 11:00 am. This might be the last chance most of us have to see Junior Cadougan, Chris Otule, Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, Juan Anderson, and the rest of the Marquette participants both present and past before Marquette Madness. Entry is free to the public, so you have no excuses to not attend. For any additional details, check out the Milwaukee Pro-Am homepage.

Monday, August 01, 2011

2011 Net Points Contributions

To help out with the summer doldrums, here is one way of looking at the relative contributions of each player on the team during 2010-2011. We'll start with the initial breakdown and then go through additional details.

2011 Net Points Contributions

Net points is one way of looking at the contributions of each player on the team. It is based on the idea that over the course of the season, a team wins by a number of points, and the credit for those points can be divided up among individual players. In other words, it allows a way to determine which players were most responsible for MU's total margin of victory. Note that this is a full-season view and not game by game (that would have been a lot more work).

The first three names on the list are not a surprise. Nor is it a surprise that they comprise a significant percentage of the net points. There is a common theory that the majority of a team's positive contributions come from 2-3 players.

It's also not a surprise that some players are negative. What does it mean to be negative? It means that, over the course of the season, their contributions on the court were an impediment to the winning margin. Keep in mind that being considered a "net-negative" player does not mean that player is bad; just that other players were more responsible for success. Not every player is a net positive contributor. What is a surprise is some of the players that showed up as negative. More on that in a bit.

Finally, net points are clearly an approximation. Net points is just one way of trying to consider the impacts of each player. If you're not comfortable with that, then stop reading now. There are other ways to calculate a player's net value, or you may just prefer to avoid stats altogether. Also, net points are not really helpful without some context, such as....

Usage and Net Points

This chart re-orders net points based on overall usage. It helps highlight some of that additional context. For example, Robert Frozena was about net-neutral, but his usage was effectively zero. Jamail Jones and Reggie Smith were both not very effective in limited usage.

Davante Gardner and Joe Fulce were both net-positive players, but role players. Joe was obviously limited by injuries and Gardner was limited by conditioning and/or defense. There is also the question of the net-negative impact of players that had a higher usage, such as Buycks, Blue, Cadougan, and Otule. Also, Butler was phenomenally productive in limited usage.

Offensive Rating and Net Points

Besides usage, Offensive Rating also helps highlight why some players are net positive or net negative. Fulce and Gardner have great offensive ratings, which explains the net positive contributions in limited usage. The offensive rating demonstrates the difference between Crowder's net points contributions in 14% usage vs DJO's net points contributions in 19% usage.

This also helps demonstrate why Cadougan and Blue show up as net-negative contributors. Simply put, their offensive efficiencies were poor... well below the team average. However, this chart does not explain why Cadougan has a higher offensive rating but a worse net points contribution than Vander. To understand that, one needs to look at defensive rating.

Defensive Rating and Net Points

Defensive Rating is difficult to calculate. Most don't even bother, primarily because it's really just an approximation. The box scores don't show the value of a player who limits their man from getting the ball. They also do not show the times when a player guards an opponent and forces a missed shot. What Defensive Rating does do is take the team's defensive efficiency and then adjusts for defensive stats such as steals, blocks, and defensive rebounds. Personally, I don't mind doing the defensive rating because it helps fill in more of the picture, but one needs to be aware of the shortcomings.

In this view, Vander's defense is better than Cadougan's, and Otule's defense is better than Gardner's. Both concepts pass the conventional wisdom test. Vander is probably understated in his defensive rating, but his defense would need to be a rating of 86 to move to the net positive category. (correspondingly, Gardner's defensive rating would need to be 128 for him to move to a net-negative contributor). Crowder gets credit for defensive rebounds but not defensive positioning. His rating is probably overstated a bit.


In conclusion, here's the entire collection put together in a summary, and sorted based on net points. As previously stated, it's just one way of looking at the relative contributions, and shouldn't be taken as gospel. Chances are, most people will cherry pick the data that reinforces their existing beliefs anyway. If they've read this far, that is.

However, I largely think this summary passes the red faced test. There is probably not much disputing the top three names on the list. Usage helps explain some of the middle names, and offensive rating provides much of the additional context. Where the complaints may come in is due to the defensive ratings and how those are sorted, and then implications on players that are rated as net-negative. Yet, not every player can be a net-positive player. If that were the case, MU would have lost far fewer than fifteen games last year.

Moving on from this set of numbers, the real question is how well players are going to continue to grow this upcoming year. Who will fill JFB's void? How much with Junior and Vander improve? To what extent will DJO and Crowder improve their efficiency and usage, respectively? Can Gardner move from a solid role player to a more featured member? All questions we're looking forward to getting answered.