"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, April 26, 2019

Turnovers of the Non-Transfer Kind

I've given a lot of thought recently to Marquette & turnovers. I believe turnovers are a key to Marquette's 2019-20 success, not just on offense but also on defense. I'll acknowledge immediately that using Synergy, Paint Touches could probably do an even deeper dive, but I'm writing this to at least start the conversation. If anyone else wants to run with the idea, please do.

In 5 years under Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette's offense has been woeful in both offensive turnover rate & opponent steal percentage. The result of these turnovers is empty possessions at best & easy run-outs for the opponents at worst. Considering this has been an issue for 5 years, this seems like a system problem more than just a player problem.

Year Off TO% Nat. Rank BE Rank Off Stl% Nat. Rank BE Rank
2015 19.3 189 10 9.6 206 7
2016 20 292 9 9.5 277 7
2017 17.3 86 4 9.2 245 5
2018 17.3 99 7 8.3 121 5
2019 19.3 239 7 9.7 278 7

Looking at last year, a big part of the problem was Joey Hauser. Replacing his 22.3% TO rate with Brenden Bailey's 6.3% is a big step in the right direction. With 2.1 more minutes per game, Bailey would've ranked in the top-10 nationally. On the other end, if Sam Hauser's 11.9% rate is replaced primarily by Koby McEwen's 19.2% (at Utah State) it will largely offset this, especially as McEwen's expected higher usage rate will amplify his raw turnover numbers.

To illustrate that last point, consider that Markus Howard was hounded by Marquette fans for his turnovers last year with an 18.4% TO rate. Then think back to Derrick Wilson, who was was lauded for not turning the ball over. In 4 years, Wilson NEVER had a TO rate below 20%. His best was 20.1% as a junior.

Again, Derrick Wilson NEVER had as good a TO rate as Markus Howard did last year. The only reason we consider Howard's turnovers to be a deficit while Wilson's lack thereof were a strength were because of usage. In 4 years, Wilson (127) had less than half the turnovers Howard (282) has had in 3 years, but it seemed like less of a problem because Wilson rarely had the ball in his hands at the end of a possession, unlike Howard.

Wojo's offenses have with few exceptions been in the bottom half of both the nation & the league in both overall turnovers & live-ball turnovers. Even in their best seasons, 2017 & 2018, the chart above illustrates that top-150 nationally is at best pretty pedestrian when you are talking about a high-major league like the Big East.

The hope would be that moving to a three-guard offense would help, but of Marquette's returning guards that are expected to take on primary ballhandler roles, Markus Howard's 18.4% TO rate last year is better than any individual season posted by either Koby McEwen or Greg Elliott. If the ball is going to be in the hands of ball-handlers like Howard or worse, why would this be expected to improve? Frankly, I don't have an answer to this, but I do believe it needs to improve next year.

One way to change this is on the defensive end. As bad as Marquette has been on the offensive end, the defensive end is even worse. The reason isn't because the numbers have never been good, but because they have trended consistently down.

Year Def TO% Nat. Rank BE Rank Def Stl% Nat. Rank BE Rank
2015 21 59 1 11.6 29 2
2016 19.1 108 5 10.6 35 1
2017 18.3 186 7 10.1 59 6
2018 18.1 197 7 8.6 180 7
2019 16.6 297 7 6.9 325 10

Let's start with the system. In Wojo's first year, playing zone instead of man created more turnovers. In general, systems that play high pressure & defend space rather than individuals are going to create more turnovers. That's why teams like Washington, VCU, Auburn, & Syracuse will routinely have great defensive turnover rates. Wojo obviously favors man-to-man. Players are asked to stick to their assignment & challenge every shot. If a team defends well & boxes out, that should limit scoring, but it won't create turnovers & won't create the easy run-outs at the other end.

Ultimately, that's what this article is about. Losing the Hausers will almost certainly reduce Marquette's eFG% next year. The loss of their three-point shooting means the easiest way for Marquette to replace that scoring is by getting high percentage looks at the rim. The easiest way to do that is by creating turnovers that lead to run-outs, dunks, & layups. Further, those quick possessions are less likely to result in a turnover. Creating more turnovers on defense will lead to easier scoring opportunities & a lower turnover rate on offense. It's all connected.

I digress. Back to the system. The other thing Wojo had in his first season was long, quick athletes like Jajuan Johnson, Juan Anderson, & Duane Wilson. In addition, the grad transfer Matt Carlino was a good ballhawk going back to his BYU days. Playing a zone with players that excelled in creating turnovers led to the best defensive turnover rate of Wojo's career by far.

In the following years, Wojo moved back to man-to-man & we began to see roster turnover. Guys like Carlino & Wilson who had more length were replaced by Andrew Rowsey & Markus Howard, who lacked the length to get into passing lanes. In the frontcourt, guys like Johnson & Anderson were replaced by Sam Hauser & Matt Heldt, who lacked the quickness to create steals & transition offense. In 2017, when Wojo made the NCAA Tournament for the first time, Johnson & Wilson played just 20% of the total available minutes but accounted for 38% of the team's steals. They were 1 & 2 on the team in total steals. With their departure, we see that Wojo's system & recruiting has not prioritized live ball turnovers.

What really started me thinking about this was watching Joseph Chartouny. At Fordham, Chartouny played for a coach whose teams have ranked in the top-50 of DTO% in 9 of 14 years & top-10 5 times. Chartouny thrived in a high-pressure defense in which he was the tip of a spear specifically designed to create live ball turnovers. This led to him being ranked in the top-2 in the country in steal percentage as both a sophomore & junior & created the on-paper appearance that he was the perfect fix for a team that struggled to create turnovers.

However in Wojo's defense, he was asked to stay home. He looked hesitant, he didn't gamble, & being forced to focus on his defensive assignment muted his best attribute. Despite that, he still led the team in steal percentage. I fully acknowledge Chartouny didn't meet expectations. That said, had he played at Marquette in 2015, MU fans would remember him far more fondly.

While Wojo hasn't prioritized steals in his system, the distribution of minutes is also telling. Over the years we have seen a marked decline in defensive turnover numbers. A big part of that is who is on the court. The best players in terms of steal percentage are not getting the most minutes. In 2019, Chartouny (2.8%) & Jamal Cain (2.5) led the way but ranked 6th & 9th in minutes played. In 2018, it was Cain (2.7%) & Greg Elliott (2.7) but ranked 6th & 7th in minutes. In 2017, Johnson (4.1) & Wilson (3.3) led the way while ranking 3rd & 7th in minutes. In 2016, it was Johnson (3.7), Traci Carter (3.5), & Wilson (2.5) who ranked 5th, 7th, & 3rd in minutes.

This is not to suggest that Wojo shouldn't get his best players on the court. In this most recent season, I understand why Markus Howard & Joey Hauser got more minutes than Joseph Chartouny & Jamal Cain. But I definitely think Joey Hauser, who turned it over too often & created turnovers too seldom while hitting an obvious freshman wall in February, could've used more time on the bench.

Going into next year, it will be interesting to see the minutes given to players like Jamal Cain & Greg Elliott. It will also be interesting to see if the team is allowed to gamble a little bit more to create turnovers. With more long, quick athletes than Wojo has ever had at his disposal, allowing the players more flexibility to create turnovers & score in transition could help offset the loss of the Hausers while simultaneously playing into the strengths of the roster as constructed.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

We interupt your scheduled Sports Movie Bracket with this Breaking News

We are shocked to say the least. As reported all over the interwebs on Monday, April 15th, the Hauser brothers have announced their intention to transfer from Marquette. Instead of the general odds and ends plus the first rounds of the Sports Movie Bracket, we get together to talk about this program altering and unexpected news. https://scrambledeggs.podbean.com/mf/play/hrjvu9/scrambledeggs_edit_041519.mp3

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Something a bit different for CrackedSidewalks, we're doing a #ScrambledEggs Sports Movie Bracket

Welcome to the off season where we search for reasons to continue to be entertained. The Scrambled Eggs podcast has created the idea of a 76 "team" bracket to determine the ultimate sports movie to have ever have existed. We are going to debate the bracket match ups as part of our podcast and "determine" winners and losers. We'll also have a voting system through Google Forms you can access by following us on twitter (@mooof23 and/or @joemccann3). This will very likely take longer than a single podcast so we'll spread it across multiple episodes over the next couple of podcasts and we will of course also have updates around #mubb with each podcast. The movie bracket was generated via S-Curve which in turn was generated by 3 key metrics: IMDB ranking, Rotten Tomatoes Fan Ranking, and Domestic Box Office adjusted to 2019. The movies were then slotted into the 76 team bracket with movement so that sequels don't face each other until the 3rd round and with the last 24 movies in participating in a 12 game play-in bracket.

 Without further ado, below is the S-Curve:

 And here is the bracket itself:

 Enjoy the bracket! Podcast to come later.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Big East 2019-20 Non-Conference Schedules (So Far)

I put together a list on MUScoop today of what we know so far for the 2019-20 Big East Non-Conference Schedules. Feel free to tweet any updates I missed to @brewcity77 on Twitter so I can add them in and update this as the next couple months go on. I'll add a few thoughts after each one based on what we know.

Butler (6)

@ Baylor (Big East/Big 12)
@ Mississippi
vs Florida
vs Purdue (N)
Hall of Fame Classic (2 of Missouri, Oklahoma, Stanford)

This is a nice balanced start. The road games will be tough, but there isn't an overwhelming game on here. I'm assuming the Crossroads Classic continues. Butler seems like a good bet to get a Gavitt Game as they've only played in 2 so far, fewest of any Big East team.

Creighton (4)

vs Oklahoma (Big East/Big 12)
vs Nebraska
Las Vegas Invitational (2 of Iowa, Texas Tech, San Diego State)

Still a lot to flesh out, but both home high-majors are winnable & Vegas provides some good opportunities.

DePaul (3)

vs Texas Tech (Big East/Big 12)
vs Northwestern
@ Boston College

The Blue Demons don't have an exempt tournament yet, not sure if that will change. They are likely to play some of the local schools like UIC & NIU but I haven't seen anything concrete yet. Not a terrible start, but needs work.

Georgetown (5)

@ Oklahoma State (Big East/Big 12)
vs Syracuse
Empire Classic (2 of Cal, Duke, Texas)

A nice mix of quality opponents on here. The Big 12 Challenge game adds some quality & Georgetown seems likely to add a Gavitt Game. This looks like the best schedule so far under Ewing.

Marquette (5)

@ Kansas State (Big East/Big 12)
@ Wisconsin-Madison
Orlando Invitational (3 of Davidson, Fairfield, Harvard, Maryland, Temple, Texas A&M, USC)

 History would indicate MU will add a tourney quality buy game & at least one more high-major home game, either in the Gavitt Games or as a new home-and-home, quite possibly both. A home-and-home would help balance the schedule for this year & give a guaranteed away game opposite hosting UW-M in 2020.

Providence (7)

@ Massachusetts
@ Rhode Island
vs Texas (Big East/Big 12)
vs Boston College
Wooden Legacy (3 of Arizona, Charleston, Long Beach State, Penn, Pepperdine, UCF, Wake Forest)

This is a loaded slate & I love it. If Cooley's team takes a step up, they have a solid schedule with all winnable games. They could add a Gavitt Game but even without it have a solid non-con.

Seton Hall (7)

@ Iowa State (Big East/Big 12)
@ St. Louis
@ Rutgers
vs Maryland
Battle 4 Atlantis (3 of Alabama, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Southern Miss)

This is a meat-grinder. Three road games, a tough home game, & one of the toughest exempt tournaments. They don't need any more quality, but SHU has only played 2 Gavitt Games so they could be in line for another & I'm sure a second quality home game to draw fans would be appreciated, though that's a murderer's row away from home.

St. John's (5)

vs West Virginia (Big East/Big 12)
vs 2 of Central Connecticut State, Columbia, Rider, Vermont (Air Force Reserve Campus Games)
Air Force Reserve Tip-Off (2 of Arizona State, UMass, Virginia)

Is any school more afraid of travel than St. John's? Three home games in here & the two neutral site games are 125 miles from campus. Like to see 2-3 road or neutral site games added that aren't within a 2 hour drive of NYC.

Villanova (8)

@ Temple
@ St. Joseph's
vs Penn
vs La Salle
vs Kansas (Big East/Big 12)
Myrtle Beach Invitational (3 of Baylor, Coastal Carolina, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Ohio, Tulane, Utah)

I love the Big 5. Such a cool concept & guarantees at least decent mid-major games. Add in Kansas at home & a tournament in which they'll likely be favored & this is a great schedule. Nova is another Gavitt candidate, having played just 3 games so far.

Xavier (6)

@ TCU (Big East/Big 12)
vs Cincinnati
vs Missouri
Charleston Classic (3 of Buffalo, UConn, Florida, Miami, Missouri State, St. Joseph's, Towson)

X is a strong Gavitt candidate, hopefully playing someone other than Wisconsin. This could probably use another home-and-home starting on the road or road Gavitt Game, but it's a solid schedule so far.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

The Next Buffalo

With Marquette's season done, the focus shifts to coaching changes, the transfer portal, & non-conference scheduling. Since Marquette was assigned Belmont as a campus game in the 2015 Legends Classic they have consistently followed that with one NCAA Tournament tested buy game on the schedule.

In 2016, it was Fresno State. The Bulldogs finished #98 at kenpom & 76 in the RPI, just one spot away from qualifying as a Quadrant 2 home game. In 2017 it was Vermont. The Catamounts finished #76 at kenpom & 60 in the RPI, good enough to qualify as a Quadrant 2 win. This past year it was Buffalo. The Bulls finished #22 at kenpom & #15 in the NET, making them just one of two teams that played away buy games & qualified as a Quadrant 1A home win, which made Buffalo one of the best wins you could possibly buy...assuming you won (ask West Virginia & Syracuse about that).

Here's what we know about Marquette's 2019-20 schedule so far:

  • Away vs Wisconsin-Madison
  • Away vs Kansas State
  • Neutral (x3) vs Davidson, Fairfield, Harvard, Maryland, Temple, Texas A&M (please, please, please), & USC
Most likely Marquette will host a Gavitt Game to help balance out the schedule and/or try to start another high major home-and-home series at Fiserv Forum. They will also likely want to get a quality buy game to add some shine to the home non-conference slate for season ticket holder interest. With that in mind, here are five teams (pending coaching changes & transfers) Marquette could line up to be next year's Buffalo.

1. Utah State: Put flashing lights on this one. Utah State earned the Mountain West autobid but would've been an at-large last year without it. They return most of that roster, including MWC Player of the Year Sam Merrill & NBA prospect Neemias Queta. With most of Nevada's roster graduating, the Aggies will be heavy MWC favorites next year. While this might seem like a big target for a buy game, it's no bigger than Buffalo was & comes from the same league as Fresno State.

2. East Tennessee State: When #3bidSoCon was trending, it was Wofford, UNC-Greensboro, & Furman that Twitter was talking about. Next year, it will likely be the Buccaneers. While the three teams above lose their best players, ETSU could return their entire rotation from a squad that went 13-5 in a quality league. Barring transfers or a coaching change, this will be one of the best buy game options in the country next year.

3. New Mexico State: Chris Jans had a top-40 NET team in the WAC this year & will likely have 5 senior starters next year. They lose two rotation players but will still be experienced & deep. The Aggies won 19 straight before falling to future Final Four team Auburn by 1 point in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They should be even better next year.

4. Vermont: Next year's Vermont could be...Vermont. John Becker's team has won 20+ games 8 years running (11 if you count Mike Lonergan's last 3 years) & has finished top-100 at kenpom each of the last 3 years. They return 6 of their top 7 in terms of minutes from a NCAA team. More likely to be Quadrant 2 than 1, this will still be an excellent buy opponent.

5. Northeastern: They have to replace Vasa Pusica's scoring, but have 4 of their top-5 scorers back. The Huskies made the NCAA Tournament & should be favorites in the Colonial. They were just outside Quadrant 2 (NET #78) as a buy game last year but have a very good chance to improve on that next year.

Five More to Watch: Missouri State, UC Irvine, UT Arlington, Grand Canyon, Northern Kentucky