"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, March 30, 2013

Marquette and the Regional Finals over the years - Trip down memory lane

In Marquette's storied basketball history it has been to a number of Regional Finals with a chance to play for a Final Four.  This will be the Warriors 7th Regional Final with a record of 3-3 in the previous six.

Thought I would do a little press digging into memory lane to share some of stories about MU in those games past.

Go Warriors.

1955 Regional Final:  Marquette vs Iowa

Milwaukee Journal:  Gallant Warriors silent in defeat

1968 Regional Final:  Marquette vs Purdue

Owosso Argus Press Pre Game Story

Toledo Blade:  Marquette gets revenge on Rupp.  Purdue next

Toledo Blade: Purdue's King Dreams of Title

Schenectady Gazette:  Marquette seen tough for Purdue

The News and Courier:  Rick Mount paces Purdue to victory

1974 Regional Final:  Marquette vs Michigan

Rochester Sentinel:  McGuire thinks officials blowing whistles too early

Herald Journal:  Michigan --Warriors tangle in Mideast

Gadsden Times:  Marquette, Michigan in Mideast Finals

Herald Journal:  Marquette edges Michigan

Times Daily:  Marquette sneaks past Michigan

1976 Regional Final:  Marquette vs Indiana

Bryan Times:  Marquette, Indiana gain wins

Pittsburgh Press:  Indiana, Marquette reach showdown

Lodi News Sentinel - Top Ranked Indiana to be Challenged by Marquette

Lawrence Journal World:  NCAA Pairings second guessed

Eugene Register:  The Top 2 in NCAA meet today

Toledo Blade:  Knight, McGuire a study in contrast

Milwaukee Sentinel:  Walton ailing for the big one

1977 Regional Final:  Marquette vs Wake Forest

News and Courier:  Toone keys Marquette

Daytona Beach Morning Journal:  Not the same without UCLA

Michigan Daily:  Marquette preys upon Deacons

Schenectady Gazette:  Midwest Title to Marquette; Toone Excels

St. Petersburg Times:  Marquette, Vegas vs. the Carolinas

Telegraph Herald:  Sub Centers 3 point play gives Marquette win

2003 Regional Final:  Marquette vs Kentucky

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:  Kentucky game brings back memories

GoMarquette.com;  Marquette success conjures up memories

Herald Journal:  Marquette's run feels like McGuire

USA Today:  Wade, Marquette leave Kentucky in their wake

SI.com:  Marquette's Jackson makes name for himself

SI.com:  Wade too much

Chicago Tribune:  Marquette - Kentucky was more than a game

NY Times:  Wade and Marquette are picture of success

Cincinnati Enquirer:  Eagles abruptly end UK hopes of national title

Friday, March 29, 2013

Enter your superlative here Marquette

Holy week of basketball, MU! Raise your hand if you saw that result coming for Marquette against Miami. Yeah I didn't think so, and neither did the national media (No I'm not bitter). With another big Marquette win the podcast symbol went up so we got together to talk being Elite. We talk the Miami game, and why it was Buzz's best coaching effort to date. We also address the national media's obsession with Marquette as a "all grit, no talent" narrative. Also, if you are disappointed that Indiana lost and MU doesn't get to face the tanned one, we are too, especially Phil. Lastly, we preview the Syracuse rematch, make wild speculation of adjustments Buzz might make, and how we think the game will play out. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marquette v South Beach: The Johnson Factor

The big news in the Marquette/Miami Sweet 16 matchup is that UM's hulking center Reggie Johnson needed surgery and will not be available for the Hurricanes. Both sides seem to be playing down the importance of Johnson, and the general consensus among Marquette fans seemed to be "that's five fewer fouls for Miami." But looking at the numbers, the loss of Johnson could be much bigger than just a few fouls.

Miami played 7 games against kenpom.com top-150 competition this year without Johnson. They went 5-2 in those games without Johnson. In such games with Johnson, the Hurricanes were 19-4. Most likely, Miami will try to replace Johnson's minutes with three players. Julian Gamble should play more than his 20.4 mpg average while both Erik Swoope and Tonye Jekiri will also have expanded roles.

Regarding Gamble, one number really jumped out. He has fouled out twice this season and had four fouls in four other games. Of those six games, four came when Johnson was out against top-150 teams. When forced to play more, Gamble seems to struggle with foul trouble. Against Davante Gardner, who is 12th in the nation in terms of fouls drawn per 40 minutes it seems likely Gamble could be put into foul trouble early. Gamble averages 4 fouls committed per 40 minutes, but in those 7 games without Johnson, that number jumped up to 5.2 fouls committed per 40 minutes.

Looking at the other two players, Jekiri and Swoope, the mathematics of John Pudner's Value-Add show a marked difference. While Johnson's VA score of 1.24 is only slightly above the "average player" and good enough for #1024 in the country, Jekiri (0.49, #1695) and Swoope (0.36, #1888) are a significant downgrade. During the 7 games Johnson was out against top-150 teams, the two combined for 11.1 mpg, 2.9 rpg, and 1.1 ppg. That's a far cry from the 21.3 mpg, 7.0 rpg, and 6.7 ppg Johnson gives to the Hurricanes. In addition, Johnson values out as a much better defender than either Jekiri or Swoope.

Miami already struggles with depth; 7 of their players account for 92.4% of their minutes played. Taking Johnson out shortens their rotation to 6 reliable players with no one else averaging more than 7 mpg on the season. Marquette's depth should be able to test Miami's endurance, while Gardner and to a lesser extent Otule in the paint can do severe damage to the 'Canes if they can get the Miami bigs in foul trouble.

While it's easy to downplay the loss of Johnson, it is very big for Miami, and probably even bigger than the 290 pounds Johnson carries on his frame.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Breaking down MU vs South Beach

Now we know the opponent and the time, the 2 seeded Miami Hurricanes Thursday at 6:15PM CST.  So on the Scrambled Eggs podcast, we breakdown the match-ups, how Marquette will work offensively and how they might contain Miami's offense, especially Shane Larkin.

We even go on record as to who we think will win and dispense a little advice for new fans who aren't familiar with national sportswriters trolling for page views.


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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Buzz and Marquette....never stop dancing

(Thanks to SBNation for the greatest MU GIF of all time)

Was it tough? Sure. Did they get a little lucky? Maybe. Is it sweet? No doubt about it.

Marquette is still dancing. The Golden Eagles are in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season. This is the first time Marquette has reached three straight Sweet 16's since the tournament field expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The only other time Marquette has been to three straight was from 1971-74, when Al McGuire led the team to four straight. Back then, of course, the "Sweet 16" meant you had just won one game. In other words, this is the first time in Marquette history the team has gone three straight years winning at least two NCAA tournament games.

After a miracle minute saved Marquette from disaster against Davidson, the Golden Eagles went toe-to-toe with Butler, a future Big East opponent and one of the toughest outs in the NCAA's every year. A solid defensive effort and a memorable week from Vander Blue now have Marquette in the East Regional semifinals.

We  break down an insane 72 hours for Marquette before looking ahead to the next game.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013






How tough was Vander's shot? Consider this from ESPN:

Vander Blue's go-ahead layup with one second remaining Thursday against Davidson was the first game-tying or go-ahead shot made in the final 10 seconds of a game in the last two Men's Basketball Championships. Prior to Blue's shot, players were 0 for their last 22 in those situations (including Matthew Dellavedova's missed 3-pt FG Thursday), dating back to the 2011 Men's Basketball Championship.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What's Trendy?

On the eve of its 2013 NCAA Tournament debut against Davidson, Marquette is getting a lot of hate and doubt... again. It is trendy to pick against #MUBB, looking at a lot of sites out there, to wit:

Thanks, Jerks
There's more, but we got tired of searching for trendy upset picks against MU. That's not really why we're here anyway. For a coach that thrives on having a chip on his shoulder, Buzz has to be looking at the silver lining. Last year, how much did we hear about playing Murray State in their back yard? By the way, every time you catch a Buzz interview leading up to the game, count how often Buzz says Davidson is “really, really good”. And then drink.

Certainly, Davidson is to be respected. They played Louisville tough last year and returned their top five scorers from that team. In addition, the Wildcats are on a seventeen game winning streak. Even Pomeroy and Vegas think this matchup will be closer than expected. Davidson coach Bob McKillop sounds confident. Heck, we expect it to be close down the stretch.

However, make no mistake that Marquette got a very good seed and draw. None of the potential three match-ups in the first weekend include a team that is hyper-athletic in the backcourt or forces a lot of turnovers.

As we said on Twitter when the matchup was announced, Davidson is terrible at forcing turnovers. Cynics will say 'that's ok, because Marquette is really good at turning the ball over.'  Sad and somewhat true. The formula for success in this game is simple (not easy). Protect the ball and win. Considering Marquette’s defense does not force many turnovers, the Warriors cannot give the ball away. Marquette doesn't even have to be great at protecting the ball. The team just has to be average and protect the ball at a rate of about 21% (the median for D1 college hoops teams is 20%) to put themselves in position for weekend action.

Marquette will have an advantage on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats are a below-average defensive team, which is somewhat surprising given their impressive winning streak and the weak offensive prowess of their opponents, which are collectively 261st in the nation in offensive efficiency. Despite the mixed bag of late, MU is one of the top 20 offenses in the nation and the second best the Wildcats will face this season (Duke being the top).

Unforced errors beget early tee times. Protect the ball and win.

Of course, the game this weekend has potentially huge implications on the overall program. Marquette is coming off two consecutive S16s, and as noted by Mike Broeker, one of only six schools to qualify for the last eight NCAA tournaments. This is how programs get built… by steadily raising the floor of minimum standards, which has no option but to raise the ceiling. Marquette was lucky enough to have the BE POY last year. They won a share of the BE in a transition year. The overall number of RSCI top 100 players on the roster is increasing, and only welcomes a top ten recruiting class next year. If we want to talk about what's trendy, let's focus on the continued rise and success of the #mubb program. Pundits are idiots.

Let’s take a minute to appreciate Marquette’s toughness. The Warriors are 10-0 following a loss this season. While Davidson is experienced, Marquette has been in two consecutive Sweet Sixteens. There is a world of difference between playing a close game and winning a close game. Marquette knows how to win close games. They’ve done it all year and they’ve done it in the NCAA tourney the last two years. Is Davidson accustomed to playing a team that subs in NHL patterns? Can they match up with our depth?

While it may be trendy to pick against #MUBB, make no mistake that this is a program still on the rise. There is a lot of potential in using the disrespect chip for Marquette. Maybe I'm biased (hint: yeah, totally true. duh), but I wouldn't pick against MU this weekend. However, given where the Warriors are as a program, Buzz is going to have to start coaching as a front runner sooner rather than later. Probably not until next year, though. That's not trendy right now.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Marquette put on your dancing shoes, but for how long?

Upset about an upset? Don't be... at least not yet. In the latest edition of Scrambled Eggs, Joe and Phil break down the match-up with Davidson and discuss their cautious optimism with this Marquette team. Buzz Williams said before the season that the Sweet 16 isn't good enough anymore. Can this squad continue to raise the bar for Marquette hoops? The Golden Eagles haven't been to three consecutive Sweet 16's since the tournament expanded to 64 teams.

Some folks think Marquette is a trendy pick as an upset victim, and we get that. We've all seen Marquette at its worst. We've also seen Marquette at it's best, and hopefully the Marquette team that shows up in Lexington more closely resembles the latter. Look at the Golden Eagles' recent history under Buzz Williams, and a flat first-round performance would be quite a surprise.

Phil and Joe also give their picks for the Final Four as well as their picks to win it all.
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Does scheduling improve seeding?

If you've been paying attention to the national press, you may have noticed that the Golden Eagles seem to be a trendy upset pick, with many prognosticators predicting a tough time getting past #14 seed Davidson. This may have to do with MU's quick exit in the Big East tournament, or Davidson's experience level, but I get the sense that some people are surprised by Marquette's seed, and are treating this more like a 4-13 or 5-12 game. In the last few years, as the selection process has become more transparent, we've heard that the selection committee does not just rely on RPI, it uses Pomeroy, Sagarin, etc., but that it also rewards teams for playing tough schedules. Over the past 10 years or so, Marquette's scheduling has become very impressive, due to a number of factors, including Big East affiliation, excellent pre-season tournaments, tougher creampuffs, and added home-and-home's with power conference foes. Given these facts, I wanted to see to what extent strong scheduling affects seeding and how much MU's tough schedule this year helped their seeding, if at all.

To investigate this, I first obtained the selection committee's rankings for the top 50 teams in the field, then downloaded rankings from Pomeroy and an RPI approximation. Then I built two models to predict the committee ranking: One using RPI and Pomeroy rankings, the other using those factors as well as Strength of Schedule ranking (also from Pomeroy). (On a sidenote, there was an interesting post yesterday on discrepancies between RPI and seeding, but I found that simply including Pomeroy rating closes many of these gaps.)

Just using RPI and Pomeroy gives very good results, as you might expect, but I wanted to look at the teams for which this model worked the worst. So here are the teams for which the predicted rank was off by 10 or more:

If you look at these teams, there are a few where you might expect a weaker schedule, and a few major conference teams that you might expect to have higher strength of schedule. Now here are the same teams if you use the model that takes into account strength of schedule:

First I'll just mention that in general the strength of schedule variable is a significant predictor, though the weakest of the three (as would be expected). Looking at the worst predictions from the first model, note first that the overall error is reduced with the second model.  For 4 teams, it is very helpful.  For Minnesota, knowing their strength of schedule actually made a worse prediction. They may have been penalized for being perceived to be sliding towards the end of the season, and we don't have a variable to represent that.  For the remaining teams, the information didn't seem to make a difference. One more thing to note is that this information can move the needle in both directions. Belmont's seeding was harmed by their weak schedule, but Illinois' seeding was improved.

As for MU, the original model does pretty well, predicting a 15 when we actually were ranked 12 by the committee.  The model including SoS does even better, placing MU at 13th. This is small, but every position is important when fighting for seeding.

Finally, we can use this new model to play the "What if?" game. What if Marquette only scheduled as aggressively as its neighbors in the Pomeroy ratings, Colorado State and San Diego St. (seeded 8 and 7, respectively)? Take the average and put it at the 36th toughest schedule, still pretty respectable.  Even then, the model predicts MU to move down 2 spots in the overall rankings, which this year would be enough to move MU down a seed line.  What if Marquette scheduled as weakly as our twice-defeated (and thus relegated to the ACC) foe, Pittsburgh? With only the 84th strongest schedule, we would be down to a ranking around 20, putting us at risk for the dreaded 5-12 matchup. One last experiment: What if the game on the battleship against Ohio State had taken place? It would no doubt have improved our strength of schedule, from 12th to about 9th.  However, in the model, this does not make much difference in terms of seeding, probably because we're already at such a strong schedule, there is not much room to improve.

What does this all mean?
To summarize, this seems to be evidence that schedule strength alone, independent of performance, can affect seeding. This means that the people in the Marquette Athletic Department who take care of scheduling deserve a round of applause, because scheduling in the last several years has improved dramatically.  This benefits fans who attend and watch the games, makes sure our team is battle tested before March, and probably has the bonus effect of helping with seeding regardless of how well we play in those games.

On the other hand, why should it be the case that scheduling benefits seeding? After all, RPI and Pomeroy already take into account strength of schedule. And yet this analysis (and members of the committee) suggest that the committee goes beyond that, essentially over-seeding teams that schedule better. This is pure speculation, but it would be a good thing to try if the goal is to improve the quality of games throughout the season and increase viewership. College basketball receives a huge surge of attention in March, but many casual fans think the regular season (and especially non-conference season) is meaningless. High-major teams have incentives to schedule inferior opponents during the non-conference season to make sure they get to the magic 20-win mark. The committee seems to be providing a competing incentive, basically saying, schedule the games, and we will reward you win or lose. This should improve the quality of the games year round, and hopefully will lead to more popularity for this sport we love.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Warriors take on the Wildcats in NCAA opener

Welcome back to March Madness. For the eighth consecutive season MU rah-rah is back in the thick of things, and for the second consective season the team earned mad respect from the Selection Committee by earning a 3 Seed.  The Big East Champions play the 14th-seeded Davidson Wildcats (26-7, Southern Conference Champions) on Thursday afternoon at approximately 2:10pm CT.  The game will appear on truTV.

More later in the week but this is a tough draw. As the guys at Paint Touches pointed out the Wildcats returned all five starters from last year’s NCAA tournament team – a bunch that gave Louisville a scare before falling 69-62 in the first round.

This is the second consecutive season that the Warriors earned a three seed. Does anybody remember what happened the last time MU was a three-seed, won its conference and lost in the first round of the conference tourney?  Karma.  Believe.

Here are a few links to get you through the day:

Ken Pomeroy installed MU as a four-point favorite.  A quick look at the top line stats show some areas of strength and concern.
  • Davidson is terrible at forcing turnovers.  MU has to take advantage of this and protect the ball given the trend lines we noted the other day.
  • Davidson shoots the lights out. They sink 36.9% of their 3-pointers (nearly 8/game) while MU is just 83rd in the nation (9th in the Big East) at defending the trey, 31.8%.  Pat Connaughton, ugh.
Need a primer on the East Region? Check out Paint Touches.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Well that was unpleasant and I don't just mean the neon Adidas uniforms

Joe and I got together for a quick pod to discuss the game against the Neon Popsicles of Notre Dame.  We talk the results, Buzz's coaching, internet favorite: to blame the officiating or not, and how this impacts our seeding for the NCAA tournament.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Deconstructing the Season So Far

It's been a weird season so far. Last night was the fifth time this season that Marquette won the eFG% battle and still ended up losing the game (Butler, UWGB, @GU, @Nova). Because eFG% is so important, this does not happen very often. The easy culprit to point to is the offensive turnover rate, where Marquette turned the ball over on one out of four possessions last night. However, when we dig into the season a bit more, the answer is slightly more nuanced.

The chart above is a moving five game average of the season starting with the game against UConn. One way of looking at it is that Marquette can be inconsistent, but settles into an offensive efficiency range of between 105 and 115 (remember, '100' is average). During conference play, #mubb still had the best offensive efficiency in the Big East with an average of 107.

Another way of looking at the offensive numbers is that Marquette has been sliding since the Seton Hall game. The defensive numbers show an average defensive efficiency of about 100. However, those defensive numbers are getting worse close to the end of the season, which should be disconcerting. Unfortunately, the most concerning part of this chart is how close the offensive efficiency and defensive efficiencies are to each other. Teams that have offensive and defensive efficiencies that are close to each other are 0.500 teams.

Of course, since efficiency can be broken into The Four Factors (eFG%, TO%, OR%, and FTR), how have those trends looked? Below are the trends for eFG%, TO%, and OR%. I am leaving out FTR, because it's irrelevant (repeat after me: FTR is irrelevant).

The eFG% is probably the most promising chart of the entire set. Marquette's eFG% has been improving throughout the season. Despite a decline from the first ND game, it's still at a healthy level. More importantly, the defensive eFG% is reasonably stable, AND there is a nice gap between the two trends. Because eFG% is so much more important than any other factor, this should give some cause for optimism.

Turnovers... yes turnovers. This chart is entirely upside down. One always wants the defensive turnover number to be higher than the offensive turnover number. In addition, typically the turnover rates get better as the season goes on. Unfortunately, we see Marquette's turnover rate continuing to get worse and settling in at around 24%. That means, on average, Marquette turns the ball over one out of four trips down the court.

However, here's where the nuance comes in. Marquette's defensive turnover rate has been even worse! For a long stretch of the season, both rates trended closely together. However, since the second GU game, Marquette's ability to force turnovers has declined significantly. Opponents now turn the ball over about one out of every 5-6 trips down the court.

In other words, it isn't just Marquette's sloppiness with the ball that is hurting... it's also the lack of forcing turnovers as well. Consider that while the Warriors had a turnover rate of 25% last night, the Puking Shamrocks only had a turnover rate of 11%. That's one out of four trips vs one out of ten trips, respectively.

Finally, here's the additional bit of nuance. Similar to turnover rate, OR% (offensive rebounding rate) was trending fairly close together for most of the season. In fact, our defensive rebounding was worse than our offensive rebounding up through about the Pitt game. Then there was a strong improvement defensively while offensive rebounding for MU stayed strong. This was how Marquette was able to win games... with better eFG% and OR%. However, since the Villanova game, defensive rebounding has been worse and worse and now no longer masks the turnover deficiencies.

I almost called this post "The Four Charts of Doom". It shows that the offense has been suffering due to some worse eFG% and a steadily worsening turnover rate. However, it also shows that the defense has been getting worse because of both less turnovers forced and less defensive rebounds.

However, I think that there are several paths for optimism. While it remains unlikely that Marquette will turn into the 2009 or 2010 Marquette teams that were AWESOME at protecting the ball, if Marquette is able to either force more turnovers or dominate the defensive boards, then the team may still be able to make another path to the second weekend of March. If there's anything we've learned, it's that Buzz can spin all kinds of magic with his coaching.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Warriors take on the Pukin' Shamrock Shakers

The Big East Champion Marquette Warriors renew hostilities tonight against the stereotypical (though apparently not offensive enough) Fightin' Irish of Notre Dame.  First things first -- Notre Dame sank to new lows with its uniforms last night as Jay Bilas so eloquently pointed out during the broadcast.

Of course in the wake of Fukushima, the Pacific Ocean is something akin to a giant nuclear waste storage facility -- so maybe the Irish are just ahead of the curve in wearing radioactive green uniforms.

On to tonight's game ... Marquette's offense is better than Notre Dames' offense.  Marquette's defense is better than Notre Dame's defense. 

Rob ran the numbers from the first meeting between these two teams (see the chart below). As you'll see, despite Marquette shooting lights out in the game, turnovers kept the Irish closer than they should have been (a turnover rate of 24.5% for MU in the 2H was disappointing). In addition, the Domers owned both sides of the glass. ND prevented Marquette from getting offensive rebounds and collected 52% of their own misses in the second half.  Late in last night's broadcast, Badger Andy spoke with Buzz who noted that the Irish were doing a great job on the offensive glass against the Scarlet Knights.  We say it comes down to turnovers and offensive rebounds once again.

BTW, it's great to see good coverage of MU rah-rah during March, and this piece by Luke Winn is a keeper.  Ring out Ahoya!

And in the words (perhaps someday of Pope Francis I), "Confirmo Jesuita basketball primo et principaliter. Anulus de Ahoya. Vade Bellatores."

Monday, March 11, 2013

We're shaking up the line-up with Scrambled Eggs

First, clearly the leaders at Cracked Sidewalks have lost their minds, because they have invited myself (Phil) and my podcast partner (Joe) to post our weekly podcast to Cracked Sidewalks.  This podcast is called Scrambled Eggs and we talk all things Marquette basketball from the casual fan's perspective.

Second, this is a great opportunity and we're humbled to have a chance to have a louder voice in the Marquette basketball community we've loved since we were freshmen in McCormick Hall in 1999.  Joe or I will bring you our latest podcast in this forum with much excitement and enjoyment.  Please feel free to provide any feedback or suggestions

Without further ado, we present this week Scrambled Eggs:  Hang a freakin' banner, we have a conference title!

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Saturday, March 09, 2013



CONGRATULATIONS TO THE BIG EAST CHAMPS (.....& a h/t on the pic to TallTitan from MUScoop).

Here is video of Vander Blue's extraordinary game winner in overtime.

Here is Steve 'The Homer' True's call of Vander's game winner.

You know who is happy? Steve Taylor is one of about a dozen really happy folks who wore blue today. Marquette graduate Brad Galli jumped in as well.

Way to go, fellas.  Congratulations.


Friday, March 08, 2013

Know Your Opponent: Q&A with Rumble in the Garden


One of the best parts about playing St. John's is the opportunity to get reacquainted with the outstanding Pico Dulce of Rumble in the Garden. We traded Q&As with each other in order to help each other get more familiar. You can find his questions and our answers here.

Without further ado, here are our questions and his responses:

1. STJ has struggled from the field all year -- how have they adjusted to the loss of their best player?

It's very hard to say. On one hand, an easy narrative is "they're lost without D`Angelo Harrison", and at times that is truly true. His ability to actually hit a three changed the offense; he drew attention and defenses worked hard to keep the ball away from him.

On the other hand, he frankly stunk in the month of February. Shooting 26% inside the arc and 24% outside the arc, and taking 12 shots per game to do it is unimpressive, even if he added some passing and rebounding to the mix.

So the Red Storm still can't score. On the upside, the team has moved the ball around with a bit more purpose, especially since Jamal Branch and Sir`Dominic Pointer are seeing more time. But the issues that plague the team aren't tied to Harrison's presence on the floor - it's their style of offense, shot selection - a LOT of long twos (Editors note: we call those MISIBs - for Most Inefficient Shot In Basketball), few shots at the rim or outside the arc, few free throws drawn.

Losing D`Lo has also meant more time for Felix Balamou, who proves how raw he is at least once every game. That said, Balamou brings effort, extreme athleticism (wanna see a guard block a three? Wanna see a guy who could eat a whole apple as he hangs in the air? Balamou.) and getting him on the floor will hopefully hasten his development.

2. What the hell happened at ND?

The game: well, ah… well… ah… here's what I have. In the first half, the Fighting Irish were simply shook, in the mid-90s hip hop sense of the word. They shot 2/9 at the rim, 3/11 from beyond the arc,  3/9 on two-point jumpers, short arming layups and rushing shots while they looked for "the big kid" (Bob Knight voice), Chris Obekpa. Brey was worried about him before the first matchup and they were cognizant of him once again.

That may have been over coaching, because in the second half, caution was tossed to the snowy winds and they assaulted the Johnnies inside and out.

It didn't help that the Storm don't have the reliable shooting to really contest the zone, nor do they have a post presence on offense to draw attention inside.

So they were frustrated. Sir`Dominic Pointer, whose people come out to games in the area (they were in Milwaukee last year, they come to Chicago, etc) was probably the only one playing hard, trying to make plays all over the court (many players were playing rushed, playing frustrated, but Pointer was seeing plays and trying to make them in that 44-14 half). 

I don't condone fighting, and it was hotheaded, but Cameron Biedschied spent a full possession just trying to talk smack with two minutes left, and then tapped Pointer's face. I'm not saying he should have whooped the [expletive deleted]… but I understand. 

3. As a St Johns fan, what are the key things you will look for early in Saturday's game that could spell either doom or success for the Johnnies?

Defense. If St. John's can make the interior a miserable place, they're on the right track. And an outlier offensive performance from a few players wouldn't hurt. Right now, the players that I would predict to break out are sidelined, so the offense falls to the 43% shooting JaKarr Sampson (mostly on long jumpers) and the 30% (overall) shooting of Phil Greene.

4. Looks like the profile of the team is young, decent defensively, but has no offensive game. Is that a fair characterization?

I started mentioning it in 1 and 3, and yes - good defense, even great in stretches (great transition defense when it's on - trailers who can block shots). But the offense looks lost a lot, and even more so without the shot creator Harrison to run a pick and roll at the top of the key. On offense, they don't do anything well except for hold on to the ball. They have amazingly putrid halves of basketball when they can;t get out in transition.

5. Give us your opinions on the new Big EAST. On a scale from delighted to thrilled, where do you stand in general?

Can you see my butt shaking from side to side, like I'm hearing a sweet 70's groove (think Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady")? Pretty excited. I hope Fox is solid with the online content and won't be charging 19.99/ month for access like they do for Fox Soccer2Go. And if the channels can be available via cable and DirecTV, I'll be pretty excited. As for the deal itself, what an incredible and fortunate lifeline!


Thanks Pico. Good luck on Saturday, but not too much. We've got a championship to win!

Monday, March 04, 2013

NCAA Profiles (Offense and Defense)

As of today, Marquette's Pomeroy offensive and defensive rank are #14 and #60, respectively. I wanted to dust off the blogging keyboard to ask a question... what are the offensive and defensive profiles of teams that advance in the NCAA tourney?

I've been collecting this information for a few years and have NCAA data from 2007-2012.

First, here are the averages.

The numbers are consistent for both offense and defense. On average, the requirements for a first round win start at a top 35 ranking, move to a top 25 ranking for the Sweet Sixteen, and then become top 20/top 15 for Elite Eight and Final Four.

Marquette is below the average requirement defensively but has an elite offense. How does the breakdown look at the different levels when considering both offense and defense?

This chart is not very helpful. Just note that the x axis is the offensive ranking, the y axis is the defensive ranking, and that it's a logarithmic chart (base 2). Marquette 2013 is the yellow box in the upper left quadrant (top 20 offense / below average defense). Just note that there are lots of teams that win their first round game at all levels of offensive and defensive efficiency. It's almost a kind of madness.

The important point on the Sweet Sixteen chart is that the number of teams with sub-top 20 offense and sub-top 20 defense has dwindled dramatically. Marquette still fits comfortably in the quadrant.

The Elite Eight Chart is where the differences really stand out. Half the Elite Eight teams have both a top 20 offense and a top 20 defense. There's a slight advantage for offensive-minded teams here, but it's pretty small. It is worth noting that half the teams making it to the Elite Eight do so with a very strong offense OR defense.

There's the Final Four profile going back to 2007. It's much more unlikely to make it without a top 20 offense and top 20 defense. Note that the only three teams with sub-par offense and defensive profiles are Michigan State, Butler, and VCU. Or, the greatest tournament coach in history and two goofy Final Four runs.

In summary, Marquette would fit in comfortably with either a Sweet Sixteen profile or an Elite Eight profile, but it's pretty unlikely that the team has a Final Four run in them. Of course, everything really depends on matchups anyway. Finally, note that if we look back to 2003, there was a team with the #1 offense and #101 defense that ended up with a run to the Final Four...