"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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Wrapping up the season

After giving it a week to breathe, we're ready to talk about the season ending loss to South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. We spend some time breaking down the game and understanding how it went so bad. Then the really disappointing news in that Duane Wilson has decided to seek a grad transfer and leave Marquette after 4 up and down years. We then talk about the season as a whole and whether it was a success or not. That discussion leads to some talk about next year's team and what we can expect from them. Any talk of the future would not be complete without a debate about what Marquette should do with the 3 open scholarships for next year, so we get into it. Then to cleanse the palette and try to have some fun, we discuss the firing of Tom Crean and the opening at Georgetown. Thanks for another fun season, we'll be back when the off-season bat signal goes up but until then, enjoy! Download this episode (right click and save)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Howard falls three 3-pointers short of all-time record percentage

Before the game I joked with Steve Novak that I never thought I'd question if he was the greatest 3-point shooter in Marquette history until this year - and he was humble in agreeing. I talked with Andrew Rowsey on the way up the elevator at 3 a.m. and was happy he had seen my 6-second amateur phone video of him sinking the half court step back.

During the game one of the top sports reporters in the country texted me with a simple, "Markus Howard is just a lovely basketball player." Later when Howard ripped the pass to Sam Hauser for a late bucket, the guy behind me yelled, "That is the future, and bring along baby Hauser too! (referring to 5-star Joey Hauser, who I believe was sitting in front of me, but I could be wrong).

The fact is people were either upset or surprised when I sent out my mass email and posted by bracket and picked South Carolina tonight, but with South Carolina's Sindarius Thornwell the top ranked player in the country at www.valueaddbasketball.com and their defense being one of the best at denying the 3-pointer (which we need to win) and stealing the ball (where we are week) in a near home game, I just didn't see it tonight.

However, the future is bright. If Howard hit all six of his 3-pointers tonight he would have set the all-time record for 3-point percentage for a season. Going three of six, he finishes with the second greatest season in the history of college basketball in only his second season. No player has even shot 50 percent for a career. Here is where he finishes - the future is bright, but thank you seniors for getting the team back to March Madness in your final year to help build:

RankBest 3pt seasons ever3ptM3ptA3P%SchoolSeason
1Micah Mason6511656.03%Duquesne2013-14
2Markus Howard8215054.67%Marquette2015-16
3Roosevelt Moore5011953.28%Saint Peter's1992-93
4Nick Masterson7814753.06%Kenneshaw St.2015-16
5Travis Ford10119152.88%Kentucky1992-93
6Royce Olney8015651.28%New Mexico1997-98
7Troy Hudson13426251.15%Southern Illinois1996-97
8Brad Lechtenberg7113951.08%San Diego2003-04
9Ross Land8316350.92%Northern Arizona1998-99
10Ross Land6412650.79%Northern Arizona1996-97

Here is the bracket based on the Value Add bracket which takes the www.kenpom.com rating and adjusts it by any returning or missing players, as explained here. A win in South Carolina just wasn't in the cards.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A #mubb dancing pod

No, this is not a podcast to dance to, but #mubb is dancing again for the first time since the original season of this podcast(Buzz's Elite 8 team). Needless to say we are excited about just being in the tournament and discuss that feeling. We spend a little time talking about the player reactions as well, which unless you are the Grinch, got things a little dusty in whatever room you were in. We then turn to the primary focus, South Carolina. We then continue a debate originated on social media about how to evaluated South Carolina's very impressive KenPom ranking for defense and especially 3pt defense. We break down what Marquette needs to do to win the game and what are some key factors to watch for (TURNOVERS!!!). After focusing on Marquette we turn to the tournament as a whole and give a brief analysis, including Buzz vs Wisconsin vs Meteor. Bottom line, we are happy to be here and there is reason for optimism with the opening round....so as always ENJOY!

Download this episode (right click and save)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The most famous South Carolina vs Marquette battle - 1972

A trip down memory lane, from SI's Curry Kirkpatrick.  The battle of the McGuire boys.....Frank vs Al.  Number 2 vs number 4!  For you youngsters, Kirkpatrick was one of the best SI had, back in the day when SI was the gold standard for sports publications.

1972 Sports Illustrated - Marquette vs South Carolina


In year three, Wojo guides the Warriors back to the NCAA Tournament

After missing the NCAA tournament in Buzz Williams' last year, Marquette hired another assistant to return the Warriors back to the dance.  As year three of Steve Wojciechowski's tenure comes to an end it was richly rewarded tonight as Marquette's name appeared on Selection Show Sunday for the first time in four seasons.   The bid marks the 32nd trip to the NCAA tournament in school history.  

Marquette had to rally the last three weeks of the season to secure a spot in the field after seemingly well on target in late January.  Four losses in five games put MU in a precarious spot with only five conference games remaining.  Wojciechowski juggled lineups, benched players, demanded some defensive accountability, toughness and it paid off.  Marquette won four of its final five games heading into the Big East tournament.  Despite a loss to Seton Hall in the quarterfinals, most experts had the club safely in the tournament.  Earning a 10 seed today, proved those prognosticators correct.

Marquette will play seven seeded South Carolina in Greenville, SC.  The Gamecocks are one of the better defensive teams in the country, but offensively challenged.  The exact opposite of MU's strengths and weaknesses.  If the Warriors are fortunate to advance, second seeded Duke is likely awaiting them.  The Gamecocks are 1.5 point favorites.  USC has not won a NCAA tournament game in 40 years.

Wojo's rebuild in three years should be commended.  Major roster turnover the past three seasons, young players thrust into important roles, and playing in a top three conference could have made the rebuild longer.   

Social media captured the Warrior celebrations today.

St. Patrick's Day in Greenville, a blessing for bar owners as Marquette fans descend to the Palmetto state. 

Monday, March 06, 2017

A year without Henry Ellenson equals a better team for Marquette

April 5, 2016, Marquette forward Henry Ellenson declared for the NBA draft.  The extremely talented freshman was off to greener pastures and a Marquette basketball team that missed the NIT was left wondering what was next.  Few blamed Ellenson for the decision, though many felt he wasn't ready, myself included.  The draft was weak and this was his chance to earn serious money doing what he loves to do. He was slotted to be picked anywhere from 9th to 19th by the time draft day rolled around.  My thoughts at the time were he would be unproductive this year in the NBA and probably even spend time in the D-League.  I had interviewed Jonathon Givony of DraftExpress and put those questions to him in May of last year.

The bigger question on the minds of Warrior fans was the void filled by Ellenson's departure.  How does one replace that kind of talent and what on earth was Marquette going to do without him in Wojo's third season.  The answer, you don't replace him and you get better in the process.  Addition by subtraction.  That statement is not meant to diminish the talents of Ellenson at all.  The reality is the team too often deferred to Henry last year, and didn't grow as a result. Henry took the big shots, Henry got the rebounds, Henry played a lot of minutes, Henry was the face of the team on and off the court.  Mostly this was by default, he was the one guy Wojo could rely on consistently.

Would a team this year with Howard, Hauser, Ellenson, Rowsey, Fischer, Wilson and Johnson be lights out?  On paper, wow!  In reality, I get the feeling guys that have grown so much this year would not have if that lineup were in place. Would the have overcome the urge to defer to the future NBA draft pick?  Impossible to know for sure, fans can debate the what if scenarios.

As for Ellenson, he was drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the 18th overall pick.  His first year has been one of struggles, not overly surprising to many of us. To date he has appeared in 14 NBA games and scored just 21 points with 12 rebounds in 56 total minutes.  He has played more games, sixteen, for the Grand Rapids Drive of the D-League than for the Pistons.  His D-League stats are fairly impressive, averaging over 17 points and 9 rebounds per game. With time, Ellenson will get stronger, develop a better NBA body and hopefully become the player many hope he can become.  Critics have already listed him and others as potential busts, but it seems way to early at this point in his career to make that judgment.

In the end, it appears that the departure was a net positive for both parties.  Henry is learning the ropes of professional basketball. Although he is struggling as rookies often do, the MU faithful are certainly hoping for major success for him.  He has enjoyed his first year in the NBA.  For Wojo and the Warriors, a year of uncertainty and turned into a year where young guys have filled major roles and likely led this team back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013. Sometimes things have a way of working themselves out just fine.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Regular season finale had it all: offense, big leads, missed free throws, and a proposal.

You are looking live, at least live to tape as both of us were in Milwaukee for the senior day festivities and final regular season game. So we recorded a podcast to discuss the game and where we stand for the NCAA tournament. First, we discuss the game against Creighton and JjJ's big first half, how nervous we got in the second half, and of course the Luke Fischer proposal. Then it's time to talk NCAA tournament chances, with both of us feeling pretty confident we're in regardless of the Big East Tournament results. However, we do have to talk about the Big East tournament and the 2nd round match up of Marquette against Seton Hall. After talking about the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament we talk about the All Big East team and bemoan the lack of Marquette players on the list and question the fact that Markus Howard was not a unanimous freshmen All Big East selection. Let's get a win on Thursday to remove all doubt but we should probably get our dancing shoes ready. Enjoy! Download this episode (right click and save)

7 of 10 Would Give Howard Greatest 3-Pt% in History of College Basketball

As I recorded Andrew Rowsey before the Creighton game asking a defender to come out and guard him at half court, dribbling, and then calmly sinking a 45-footer (see here and photo above), I dwelled on the fact that he might be only the third best three-pointer shooter in the Bradley Center. Steve Novak was sitting a few rows in front of me, and then there is Markus Howard.

If Markus Howard hits seven of his next 10 three-pointers he would be hitting at a 56.08 percent clip - giving him the greatest season in the history of college basketball. Of course, we do not now how many more three point attempts he will take between the Big East and NCAA tournament,

Howard can also become the greatest three-point shooter in the history of college basketball if he finishes the season 4 of 4, 13 of 20, 19 of 30 or 24 of 40, as shown on the table below. Howard is chasing only the 56.03 percent mark of Micah Mason of Duquesne a couple of years ago:

1Micah MasonDuquesne2013-146511656.03
2Markus HowardMarquette2016-177613855.07
1?Markus Howard (if 4 of 4)Marquette2016-178014256.34
1?Markus Howard (if 7 of 10)Marquette2016-178314856.08
1?Markus Howard (if 13 of 20)Marquette2016-178915856.33
1?Markus Howard (if 19 of 30)Marquette2016-179516856.55
1?Markus Howard (if 24 of 40)Marquette2016-1710017856.18
3Nick MastersonKennesaw St.2016-178816154.66
4Roosevelt MooreSaint Peter's1992-9353.28
5Travis FordKentucky1992-9352.88
6Royce OlneyNew Mexico1997-9851.28
7Troy HudsonSouthern Illinois1996-9751.15
8Brad LechtenbergSan Diego2003-0451.08
9Ross LandNorthern Arizona1998-9950.92
10Giddy PottsMiddle Tennessee2015-1650.64
11Salim StoudamireArizona2004-0550.42
12Jon DieblerOhio State2010-1150.22
13Josh CarterTexas A&M2006-0750.00
14Jeremy CrouchBradley2006-0750.00
15Chris WestlakeGreen Bay1994-9550.00

As long as Howard closes the season reasonably well he will finish as one of 15 players to ever shoot 50 percent from behind the arc for a season. Nick Masterson also matched the feat this season with Kennesaw State, a team that was eliminated from the ASun Tournament as the 252nd best team in the country, and played some non-Division 1 schools.

As a team, Marquette is now at 43 percent on three-pointers, a full 1.5 percent ahead of second place UCLA.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Getting closer

Last night's win moved our RPI up to 58.  All other ratings now 30 or better (click on graphic below). Despite the crazy talk after the Providence game by some fans, this team and staff continue to make very good progress.  A NCAA berth is within reach if they can stay focused and come away with a win against Creighton and perhaps a first round win in the Big East tournament.

A difficult loss to Providence could have left this team shaking their heads, but the Warriors output was one of the best of the season against a desperate Xavier squad playing at home for the last time.  Tremendous job by the players and coaches to get this team ready.  A lot riding on the Creighton game, but this team is playing lights out offensively and good enough defensively to get it done.  Matt Heldt is no longer just a bit player, he is someone we can rely on for 20 minutes a game.  The guards are shooting lights out, and despite size issues our rebounding is keeping teams honest.

Marquette's Ken Pom rating is nearly identical now to the 2013 Elite 8 squad at this point.  Sagarin and BPI also very close.  Though our defense is troublesome, no NCAA team is going to want to play this offensive juggernaut when we are shooting well.