"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

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

An "Ultimate" Mistake

My first real exposure to Marquette's nickname obsession was at my graduation ceremony in 2004. The commencement speaker was Wayne Sanders, a wealthy alum who offered $2 million if Marquette University would change the nickname back to Warriors. The offer was refused, but that was only the beginning of a torrid debate that led to Marquette's Board of Directors changing the nickname to the short-lived "Gold" before a voting process settled back on Golden Eagles.

On May 24, 2021, the checkered nickname past was reignited by the Golden Eagles Alumni TBT team when they suddenly announced they were changing their name to "Ultimate Warriors." To this writer, it smacked of irony that this team decided to pay homage to a racist homophobe as a way of calling back to a nickname awash in racist iconography. For younger readers, this may need more explanation. The Ultimate Warrior was a professional wrestler who rose to prominence in the 1990s. However, the individual that played the role, born Jim Hellwig, changed his name to Warrior and also became known for racist and anti-Semitic comments he made during speaking engagements. I would recommend starting with this Vice article on the past of Jim "Warrior" Hellwig. Anonymous Eagle also dug into why Warrior was problematic, and their article is particularly salient given its recency and focus on this specific decision.


This Ultimate Warriors logo is a clear homage to Warrior's image

The decision by Golden Eagles Alumni to change their name is a mistake. First of all, there can be no disputing they are attempting to honor Warrior when they do this. The new logo is a clear representation of Warrior's signature facepaint and ties the team to Warrior himself. As Warrior chose to legally change his name, the reality is there is no separating Ultimate Warrior the wrestling character from Warrior the racist homophobe. The two are one and the same. And because of that, this new moniker is one that represents those ideals, whether intended or not. A simple Google search would've revealed the problems inherent in paying homage to Warrior.

To make this poor decision even worse, any use of the Warriors name when associated with Marquette will always hearken back to the nickname that was in use from 1954-1994. While some try to paint this as a proud legacy, the reality is that this is imagery Marquette University at the time chose to associate with that nickname:

Former Marquette mascot Willie Wampum

For anyone unfamiliar with the use of racist iconography in sports mascots, you're looking at it. Marquette is not the only university that had to reckon with this in its past. Stanford, St. John's, and Syracuse made similar changes to distance themselves from the racism inherent in caricature nicknames. Professionally, the Washington Football Team and Cleveland Indians are going through the process of changing their names now and frankly should have long ago.

Let that sink in. The Golden Eagles Alumni chose a racist homophobe to call back to a time when Marquette had a blatantly racist mascot. This is a disgraceful decision not just to the people managing that team, but to the university and fanbase they are associated with.

In addition, as the Golden Eagles Alumni TBT Twitter account interacted with two Tweet responses to their announcement, there can be no doubting they have seen the negative reactions to the announcement as well. As of this writing, there are 46 responses directly to the tweet, 40 of which are either negative or point out why this was a poor decision. Maybe they could've plead ignorance when this was posted, but when you are seeking out and interacting with the small percentage of positive interactions, it's dishonest to pretend you don't see the landslide of negative ones. At this point, continuing down this road is a deliberate statement not only that they are okay with the racist, homophobic connections to Warrior but also that they want to recall a past that Marquette University has spent decades trying to distance itself from.

There are those that will try to point to the Golden State Warriors as an example of why this is all okay. Maybe in an alternate reality, if Marquette had walked away from racist iconography completely in the 1960s like Golden State did, they would still be the Warriors today. They didn't, so they aren't, and that ship has sailed.

Students react to the Gold announcement in 2005

Maybe in an alternate reality, the above picture never would've surfaced. It shows students displaying a mix of disgust, disbelief, and outright laughter at the name Gold when it was announced in 2005. But was it really that different from Harvard's Crimson or Stanford's Cardinal? It could've been unique and over time would've been embraced, because what's the alternative?

Maybe we would've been Hilltoppers, or Golden Avalanche, or Jumpin' Jesuits. But all those maybes are just that. Alternate realities that don't change where we are now, which is a program that has been Golden Eagles for 27 years, long enough that the first Golden Eagles' children could be graduating as Golden Eagles today. Marquette has tried to leave its racist past in the past. It's time for the Golden Eagles Alumni TBT team to do the same, even if that past means walking away from a bad decision they made just days ago.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Some things have happened

It's been a whirlwind for #mubb with new coaches and practically a whole new roster. We break down the changes that have happened and any changes that could still happen. It's a.....lot. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/rppgm9/ScrambledEggs_Editted_042921.mp3

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

This So Called Marquette Roster Exodus

Theo John is going to Duke. Good for him. 

No, really I mean it. 

The young man gave Marquette everything for four years and now he gets a chance to play at one of the blue bloods and a free year towards a masters degree at Duke to go along with his Marquette degree.

What bothers my make believe gold alumni sweater vest was the headline announcing his Duke arrival. Also the article focuses more on Marquette's roster additions and subtractions and less on what John can bring to Duke. I wonder if this happens to be a coincidence considering this is from the Durham perspective and Marquette just happens to recently fire a Duke legend.

Anyways, it is a Marquette basketball exodus folks. 

Yep, four players have left the program and one is thinking about the NBA as new head coach Shaka Smart shakes up the roster to meet his programs needs. Calling it an exodus is a bit of a stretch and doesn’t even take into account any context whatsoever.

A roster exodus is like what is happening at Cincinnati where the players are fleeing a toxic situation. 

What is happening at Marquette is it’s three seniors got an extra year of eligibility because of COVID-19 and have chosen to use it at other programs. In any other year, it would be called replacing departing seniors.

Also Jamal Cain, Koby McEwen and John first made it clear they were not using that extra year. When they most likely found out most overseas teams have US players sitting at home waiting for restrictions to be lifted and therefore blocking their route to an immediate pro career, they smartly decided to take their extra year. 

Plus, Cain considered coming back but decided it was better to play closer to his hometown and most likely be the man at Oakland. Hardly fleeing the program.

Symir Torrence announced his departure before Wojo’s firing. Even then, he considered returning when Shaka was hired but the prior head coach created a bad taste about MU that he couldn't get out. I charge that departure to Wojo and not Smart.

Dawson Garcia is making a smart move by testing the NBA Draft waters. He is most likely to hear go back to school and hit the weight room but what is wrong with getting some feedback on his game and taking a chance on impressing one team enough to maybe take a gamble on him and making him a millionaire?

If Garcia returns, then yes. someone has to go because Marquette is at the 13 scholarship limit. Even then that is one player leaving under Shaka (If Greg Elliot gets granted a roster exemption then no one has to leave).

Really to reach exodus status it would take Shaka landing more players in the transfer portal (Like transfer guard Darryl Morrsell of Maryland), or another incoming recruit along with Garcia’s return. Then that means more players got to go but do we want to be the type of fan base hoping to get rid of players (Got to give credit @brutus_87to98 for that take)?

On a related note, Shaka's recruiting haul will bring seven new faces to Fiserv Forum next season. The question I keep getting is with seven new players is Marquette better, worse or a push? I would say talent wise they are better and poised to have some big seasons ahead with Shaka’s haul. MU will have some growing pains next season as Shaka implements his style of play, five freshman learn the college game and everyone learns to play together. They do have the talent to compete for a NCAA appearance next season if they can narrow the learning curve.

Only time will tell though. Until then, I guess we should just be worried about this roster exodus.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Make Believe Transfer Chaos

The NCAA officially announced its Division I Council voted to allow college athletes transferring in football, baseball, men's hockey and men's and women's basketball will be granted a one-time immediate eligibity. As some of the old men yelling at clouds out there like Dick Vitale call the decision complete chaos.

The three major chaos theories are I have observed (Besides coaches scared to death about their job security and not having complete control)...

1) People like Vitale believe the transfer portal is out of control and will just cause roster chaos.
2) Others believe it will destroy mid-major basketball.
3) Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard fears it will teach the wrong life lessons.

First, lets address the out of control transfer portal. There are currently over 1300 players in the Division I men's basketball transfer portal and counting. Just an eye popping number that is going to collapse the game.

Except it is not. First, the most recently collected data (The data is from 2019) on transfers affecting rosters shows 58 programs out of the 350 Division I teams didn't have a transfer (17% for those that love percentages), while 183 programs had no more than two (52%) and 110 experiencing three to five players leaving (31%). Yes, the data shows programs have to deal with the transfer portal but not to the point where it is literally a whole new 13 players every year like some of the exaggerators would make you believe.

The against the immediate eligibility crowd though will argue now that the sit out rule is gone, transfers will jump even higher. I will point out that those folks like Vitale (Why he is still relevant anyways?), usually love to emphasize the student before the athlete in the argument. So okay, let's look at the current state of the transfer portal and how it relates to the normal student transfer rate.

There are 350 Division I men's basketball programs which at 13 scholarships a pop means there is 4550 Division I scholarships available. Say the current 1390 players (as of this writing) in the transfer portal all transfer (because some can return), that is a 31% transfer rate. Which guess what folks is right within the typical transfer rate of normal students.

Second, this belief that mid-majors will be destroyed is something I give a raised eyebrow to. The belief that players wanting a new challenge (or some mid-majors will call it being poached) will destroy the mid-majors is something I do not buy. Heck, as some mid-major coaches point out in this article there will be a balance of those going up and those going down (Especially since mid-majors can offer shots and minutes where some players at the higher levels might not be getting and legitimately yearning for).

The life lessons argument I find humorous. What is the lesson to be learned? Stick it out in toxic situations? Be loyal to a coach who at a moments notice will not be loyal to you? Be miserable in a situation because when you made a commitment to the program you thought it was one thing and it turned out to be completely something else? 

If that is the life lesson being taught, you might as well just teach these athletes to prepare to work a job they hate for 30 years and enjoy the gold watch at the end. 

The only reasonable life lesson argument I have found when it comes to dealing with adversity comes from Milwaukee's 97.3 the Game's Brian Butch (Yes, that Brian Butch). He pointed out on his show Nine to Noon with John Kuhn recently that if players run from actually competing for shots and playing time that will have an impact on a players future pro prospects. It makes some sense since most DI players have a shot to play professionally in the NBA, G-League or overseas. At the pro level, they are not going to care about a players feelings towards shots or playing time. They are going to care about the contribution to the team and what are you doing to get better. Butch summarized the players who jump from program to program to chase shots to improve those pro aspirations usually backfires. He has saw it time and again in his pro career. The players finally had to face competing for playing time, could not handle it and were sent home.

Maybe the whole sky falling argument just comes down to fear because this will change the game. It will change for sure how college coaches recruit. It has already begun to create this perception that players are now hired guns (Total irony here with that analogy considering these hired mercenaries will be paid--for now at least--in tuition along with room and board while the NCAA makes billions and the schools make millions off the relationship). 

What I hypothesize is what this rule change will do is create more and more of the perception that the God-like coach and his outstanding culture may not be so outstanding after all. Coaches may be exposed and have to deal with a change that will only at best zero-sum benefit them. There is one thing I have observed in my time when I covered college hoops is most coaches only love changes that benefits them. The best response to that is adapt or die because the times are a changing.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Home Run Hire

“The first thing I realize about (Haynes) is he seems like a great family man. He and his wife had their kids around, and that just shows you what type of individual he is and what he values. He’s been a great help for us. He’s like the coach I’ve never had since I’ve been in college. I’ve definitely enjoyed his time since he’s been (at Maryland). From the perspective that he played and had success while he was playing, he brings another dimension. He’s great with film. He’s a great coach all around.”

--Darryl Morsell, 2021 Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year

 

Marquette officially announced their three Assistant Coaches today. As previously reported on Cracked Sidewalks, Cody Hatt and Neill Berry are following Head Coach Shaka Smart from Texas.

Cracked Sidewalks had been told over the past couple weeks that the third assistant was going to be a home run hire. It was a big target that the staff was looking to add. Today we can confirm the third assistant will be DeAndre Haynes. Coach Haynes joins Smart's staff after spending the past two years on the bench at Maryland. The upcoming season will be his tenth as a Division I assistant, having additional stops at Kent State, Toledo, and Michigan.

Every article written about Haynes, and there has been a lot of digital ink spilled on his behalf, puts a focus on his ability to build relationships. The 37-year old Haynes retains an ability to connect with younger players that isn't always natural for coaching staffs. That was exemplified by his relationship with Maryland guard Anthony Cowan. Haynes and Cohen bonded not only over basketball, but when Haynes told Cowan about his mother's health troubles, multiple surgeries, and how compared to that, Cowan could relax because they're just playing basketball.

Haynes' route to Marquette was a long, divergent path. He got his start in college basketball as a player, spending all four years at Kent State while also winning MAC Player of the Year as a senior and leading the Golden Flashes to the MAC regular season and Tournament titles as well as a NCAA berth. From there, he played professionally in Europe for six seasons before retiring and joining the Kent State coaching staff as an assistant in 2012. That was when Haynes began to demonstrate his ability to build relationships. Of Haynes, Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said, "The work he’s willing to put in with those guys on the court is where the relationship starts."

Haynes holds Kent State records for career assists and steals

Photo Courtesy of Kent State Athletics

After four seasons learning the ropes of coaching, Haynes moved on to Toledo for one year under head coach and one-time Marquette assistant coach Tod Kowalczyk. From there, Haynes had a very (very, very) brief stay with Illinois State. Haynes made an immediate impression on head coach Dan Muller. His initial hire in Normal was on May 16, 2017. Then, 343 miles away in Ann Arbor, something unexpected happened. Within the span of a week, Michigan assistants Jeff Meyer and Billy Donlon left the program for similar jobs at Butler and Northwestern, respectively. For John Beilein, it was rare to have to replace an assistant in the middle of summer, but replacing two within a week that late in the year is almost unheard of.

This is where Haynes' boss at the time, Dan Muller, comes in. When he heard about the vacancies at Michigan, he called John Beilein and recommended he hire two assistants off his own bench. The first was Muller's long-time friend Luke Yaklich, who was shortly thereafter regarded as the guru that reshaped Michigan's defense. The other was DeAndre Haynes, who went from the new guy at a mid-major to a Big 10 bench in just 72 days. "I learned a long time ago...you can't control when things happen," said Muller. "If it's right for you and your families and a progression in your career or the money, whatever it may be...we'll be okay. That's what I told them."

Haynes unquestionably delivered in his first year at Michigan. He was credited with the improvement of guard Zavier Simpson, who became indispensable for the Wolverines as they won the Big 10 Tournament and made a NCAA run all the way to the Final Four before losing in the Championship Game to Villanova.

Haynes connected with players like Jordan Poole on and off the court
Photo courtesy of USA Today
 
The job had to seem like a dream come true. By his second summer in Ann Arbor, Haynes was running the Michigan offense on their international trip to Spain. The Wolverines started the year 17-0, climbing all the way to #2 in the AP Poll on their way to another Big 10 Title Game appearance and Sweet 16. And then, for the second summer in three years, Haynes found his life radically changed by one of those things you can't control. John Beilein left Michigan for the Cleveland Cavaliers in May, leaving Haynes facing a summer of uncertainty as most assistant positions are filled by that time of year.

Coincidentally, the man that came to Michigan with Haynes, Luke Yaklich, was hired by Shaka Smart at Texas. The Wolverines' other assistant, Saddi Washington, was retained by new coach Juwan Howard. That left Haynes as the odd man out, and the process of filling Michigan's staff had taken nearly a month. In early June, the only high-major assistant positions open were at Miami and Maryland.
 
It was once again a fortuitous phone call that gave Haynes a lifeline. Two weeks before he took the Cavs job, Beilein called Mark Turgeon at Maryland. One of Turgeon's assistants had taken a head coaching job and he still needed to fill the spot. Beilein recommended all three of his assistants to Turgeon. In College Park, Turgeon watched the Michigan situation and waited as Yaklich and Washington secured employment. When Haynes looked to be left in the cold, Turgeon reached out.

After Haynes' interview, Turgeon was driving him back to the airport for his flight back to Detroit. Haynes received a text from Hurricanes Coach Jim Larranaga to tell him they went with another candidate. He quietly closed his phone as they approached the airport. Just before arriving, Turgeon offered Haynes a job at Maryland.

Haynes is known for his skill development and work with guards
Photo Courtesy of Washington Post

In the past two years, Haynes has continued to develop both players and relationships. In his first season at College Park, Anthony Cowan was a first-team All-Big 10 selection. This past year, Darryl Morsell was named Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year. Turgeon said, "Players love him, and they love being around him. He's a great teacher."

Working in one of the premier basketball conferences and having so much success, some might wonder why Haynes would leave Maryland to join a new staff at Marquette. The first reason that comes to mind is stability. When Lon Kruger retired in late March, Mark Turgeon was one of the first names mentioned with the opening. While Turgeon signed an extension on April 7th, that circumstance could have left Haynes in a difficult situation once again. Would he really want to be back on the market for the third summer in five years?

Another consideration could be salary. While the Maryland job came along at the right time, thanks to our colleagues at Paint Touches, we have learned that Haynes took a major pay cut, from $275,000 per year at Michigan to $156,000 per year at Maryland. Not only that, but the two other assistants on the Maryland staff, Orlando "Bino" Ranson and Matt Brady each make $278,000 per year. As Marquette is a private institution, we don't know Haynes' exact salary, but having to take a 43% pay cut and making a little over half what your peers make might be a major incentive for Haynes to move on.

Haynes may also be a particularly good fit for Marquette. This isn't just because he's a Midwest guy who grew up in Detroit, went to school in Ohio, and has coached in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. It's also because two of the men that sat in this seat before him recently are Dwayne Killings and Justin Gainey, who helped form Coaches For Action. Haynes and his wife have focused on the importance of serving as and discovering black role models, not just in sports. His wife, Tierra Haynes, wrote a children's book about the first black astronaut, Guion Bluford, Jr that also includes their own children as main characters in the book. As Marquette did for Killings and Gainey before them, the University can provide a platform for Haynes to be similarly influential, especially as he works alongside the first black head coach in Marquette history, Shaka Smart.

In addition, Smart has talked repeatedly about building a culture through relationships. The word relationships comes up repeatedly when people talk about Haynes. It seems to not just be the reason for his success but the calling card of his life. At every turn, his colleagues talk about his ability to connect with others, something that will be instrumental on a young team that will look to blend players and recruits from two different coaching staffs into one cohesive unit.

After noticing Cody Hatt's instant Marquette embrace and seeing Neill Berry on some of the videos Marquette was releasing on Twitter, it was clear that two of the three assistant coach positions were filled. The announcement of Haynes was reportedly delayed because while this was agreed on in principle, Haynes was still in the mix for the Eastern Michigan head coaching position until it was filled by Stan Heath on Monday. The Eagles' loss looks to be the Golden Eagles' gain. Looking at his history, his connections, and his successes, DeAndre Haynes looks like the signing Smart truly hit out of the park.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Take a Breath, Marquette...

In the past two days, we reported out the commitments of Emarion Ellis and David Joplin to join Shaka Smith at Marquette. Before the digital ink dried on the Joplin article, it was reported that Keeyan Itejere (ee-TEEZ-your-ray, from what we are told) had also committed to Marquette. Those three additions joining already affirmed Stevie Mitchell and Kameron Jones rocketed Marquette's class from #52 nationally all the way up to #17 per 247 Sports, as of this writing.

Before Marquette fans could finish celebrating their good fortune, we learned that Atlantic-10 Freshman of the Year Tyler Kolek was also going to be joining Marquette as a transfer from George Mason. That was followed early this morning by the addition of Clemson freshman transfer Olivier Maxence-Prosper. With immediate eligibility passing, this is what Marquette's roster looks like:

Freshmen: Emarion Ellis, Keeyan Itejere, Kameron Jones, David Joplin, Stevie Mitchell

Sophomores: Dexter Akanno, Dawson Garcia, Osasere Ighodaro, Tyler Kolek, Justin Lewis, Olivier Maxence-Prosper

Juniors: D.J. Carton

Seniors: Greg Elliott, Jose Perez


So what are Marquette fans going to see with these players coming in? Let's go in chronological order of commitment and get a bit of a breakdown on the three newcomers.

Keeyan Itejere

Itejere is a 6'9", 190-pound forward from Raleigh, North Carolina. His stock shot up in the past few months, from #265 in the 247 Sports composite in November, 2020 all the way to #156 currently. At this point, he still looks fairly raw and will likely need to add weight. Itejere could be described as bouncy, with the athleticism to both dunk and block shots. He also runs the floor well and looks like a forward that will be comfortable in transition. According to MaxPreps, he averaged 9.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game in 2020-21 for GRACE Christian High School. Itejere is probably more of a long-term prospect but his high school coach raved about his NBA athleticism and that he has only been playing basketball seriously for the past four years, which could indicate a higher ceiling as he is still just scratching his potential.


Tyler Kolek

Kolek first came up as a target shortly after Smart was hired. Kolek was an unranked player coming out of high school in Rhode Island. Despite that, his shooting helped him quickly move into the starting lineup at George Mason. Kolek ended up leading the team in minutes while averaging 10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. He was named Atlantic-10 Freshman of the Year and had a number of high major options, including Providence, Oklahoma, and Penn State. Perhaps the most impressive from Marquette's perspective is that he chose Milwaukee despite having grown up with season tickets to the Dunkin' Donuts Center, home of the Big East rival Friars.

In terms of his game, Kolek loves to shoot threes, with over 74% of his FGA coming from beyond the arc. Not only that, but looking at his highlights, it's clear he has Andrew Rowsey type range. On a team in need of shooting, Kolek and his 51 made threes will be very welcome as the most prolific long range shooter in terms of makes is DJ Carton with 33. Kolek can also score through traffic, doing well to use his body to shield off defenders. He is a reliable ball-handler as well who can create for others. The video below shows off those specific skills, and bear in mind, it's against A-10 competition, which may not be the Big East, but is a much better method of comparison than high school or AAU teams.

In discussions behind the scenes, the staff used words like "toughness" and "balls" to describe his style of play while also comparing his level of competitiveness favorably to Marquette and TBT legend Travis Diener. It is no coincidence that Shaka Smart tweeted the gif of Travis' TBT Championship winning shot right after Kolek made his announcement. While those are lofty comparisons, the staff at least seems to believe Kolek is the kind of player you want with the ball in his hands in the closing minutes of a tight game. Here's a look at his freshman year highlights:


Olivier Maxence-Prosper

Looking at his statline from Clemson, it could be understood why some fans might not get overly excited about this transfer. O-Max, as he's nicknamed, averaged 2.5 points and 1.9 rebounds per game playing 9.7 minutes per contest. While he didn't light up the ACC the way Kolek did in the A-10, there are reasons to be optimistic about the long-terms prospects here, not the least of which is that he came to college after his junior year in high school, so he's young for his class.

Maxence-Prosper was also a freshman who came in more highly lauded, checking in at #106 in the final 247 Composite after spending most of the year just inside the top-100. He is listed at 6'8", 216 pounds, so more filled out than Itejere and likely more ready to contribute from day one. He has adjectives like "NBA athleticism" mentioned with him as well, though that clearly didn't pave the way to minutes at Clemson. That said, the Tigers did have three 6'8" or taller upperclassmen in front of him while playing a slow-down style that likely didn't fit his game particularly well. There are legitimate reasons to believe he will fit better in Smart's system than he did in Brad Brownell's.

The following (lengthy) video shows his highlights from Clemson and gives clues as to why he was a highly regarded recruit and also why Marquette was after him:


What's to Come?

It should first be noted that Marquette is still actively pursuing a number of players. Tamar Bates is the most prolific high school player, ranked #56 by the 247 Sports Composite. The 6'4" combo guard has excellent athleticism and can score both inside and out. Bates originally committed to Smart at Texas though he is being heavily recruited currently, with Missouri and Oklahoma State among the perceived leaders as well. Were he to commit, Marquette would move into the top-10 in 247 Sports recruiting rankings. Marquette has also been associated with transfer guard Darryl Morsell of Maryland. Morsell is widely regarded as one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. While he won the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year, Marquette fans might remember him from the Orlando Invitational Championship Game in 2019, when he was the primary defender on Markus Howard. After scoring 91 points in the first two games of the tournament, Howard was held to 6 points on 1/12 shooting with Morsell as his primary defender.

Those that can do math can also see Marquette is currently one over the scholarship limit as they continue to recruit. There is some speculation that seniors like Greg Elliott could be allowed to stay over the limit based on a COVID loophole, but barring that, it would seem that at least 1-2 players could be transferring if nothing else changes. There's nothing abnormal about that in a coaching change, but don't be surprised to see some departures before all the dust settles.

Finally, there is the matter of the last Assistant Coach spot. As we reported earlier this week, Cody Hatt and Neill Berry have followed Smart from Texas to take spots on his bench, but his other assistant, K.T. Turner, has taken a position at Oklahoma with Porter Moser. There are many rumors swirling on Twitter and message boards. We will address this in two ways without pointing to any specific coaches. First, there has been a lot of talk that Smart is looking for a big hire with the final assistant position. Whether that is a sitting head coach or a high-major assistant, we can't say for certain, but his past three associate head coaches at Texas were KT Turner (hired from SMU), Luke Yaklich (hired from Michigan), and Darren Horn (former high-major head coach). Don't be surprised if one of the big rumors out there proves to be true. Second, prominent assistant hires often come with relationships to recruits already developed. Look at how quickly Jonas Aidoo committed to Tennessee after former Marquette assistant and lead Aidoo recruiter Justin Gainey joined Rick Barnes' staff. Don't be surprised if the final assistant has a relationship with a recruit that ends up in Marquette colors as well.

It's been a whirlwind 48 hours. 5 new players and according to Shaka Smart, they aren't done yet. So take a breath, and as you exhale, say "We Are...Marquette!"

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Joplin Comes Home to Marquette

Shaka Smart has won the commitment of his first Wisconsin player as David Joplin, a 6'7" forward from Brookfield Central, has committed to Marquette. Joplin joins prior 2021 commits Stevie Mitchell, Kam Jones, and Emarion Ellis and according to the 247 Sports Class Calculator moves Marquette up to the #20 recruiting class in the country.

Joplin drives past a Sussex Hamilton player
Photo courtesy of Rivals

Joplin is a four-star recruit and rated as the #114 player in the country by the 247 Sports Composite Ranking, though he checks in at #74 on the site's internal metrics. He put up a monster senior season, averaging 25.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game for the Lancers. Joplin had committed to Texas last summer, picking the Longhorns over Georgetown, Iowa State, and Minnesota, among others. Today he chose Marquette over a list that included Virginia, Minnesota, and Missouri, among others.

There has long been speculation that Joplin would've been receptive to a Marquette offer, but until the recent coaching change that offer never came. Joplin lives just 13 miles from Marquette's campus and he's grown up in the shadow of Milwaukee. The addition of Coach Smart, who similarly grew up in a suburb of Madison, made what was already a good fit, ideal.

Joplin always had the physical tools to play at the D1 level, but the biggest knock on his game was his shooting from distance. He broke through in that regard first as a sophomore, shooting 38.5% from deep, then backed that up as a senior as he connected on 37% of his shots from beyond the arc. Joplin is also regarded for his prodigious dunking ability and the way he uses his length and athleticism on the defensive end of the court.

The Brookfield forward has also shown the ability to come up big when the lights are brightest. He led Brookfield Central to the WIAA Division I State Championship game in 2019 as a sophomore. In that game, he exploded for 23 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks with a cool 70 eFG% as he was also named to the 2019 Wissports All-Tournament Team.

So what is Marquette getting in Joplin? Listed at 6'7", 215 pounds, he should be able to play at this level immediately, though time in the weight room will only refine his physique. He has the ability to score at all three levels, attacking the rim, showing the ability to create his own shot in the mid-range, and as mentioned above shooting well from deep. His length and athleticism make him disruptive on the defensive end both in man-to-man and as a help defender. Joplin is a high-upside prospect that should contribute this year and develop into a starter, if not outright star, in the years to come. Here's a look at some of his senior year highlights, though we at Cracked Sidewalks always caution those watching to take mixtapes with a grain of salt, impressive though they may be.


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Smart Lands First Recruit

Emarion Ellis became the first new commitment to Marquette under head coach Shaka Smart today when he posted a commitment poster on Snapchat. Corey Rholdon of WHBF in the Quad Cities was the first to report the announcement. Ellis is a 6'5" combo guard from Assumption High School in Davenport, Iowa. The 247 Sports composite rankings list Ellis as a four-star prospect, just outside the top-100 at #105. Prior to today, the only talk of Ellis to Marquette was hypothetical as he was still listed as a Texas commit.


Ellis was a bit of a late bloomer. He was ranked #189 according to 247 Sports before transferring to Assumption for his final season. According to his guardian, Travis Thomas, "I feel like if I would have known the way it fit the way it fits now I would have transferred him freshmen year. Like it’s a perfect fit." Ellis was also being recruited for football by Iowa before he transferred to Assumption and focused strictly on basketball. That move saw his stock go up as he jumped into the top-100 briefly before settling just outside. By that time, he had already committed to Shaka Smart and Texas.

The young guard (he doesn't turn 18 until July) led his Knights team to the brink of the state championship, falling in the semifinals. Ellis was named to the Iowa Class 3A all-state first team after averaging 18.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game. Ellis led his team in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, proving he is a well-rounded player on both ends of the floor. He will likely need to add strength, but his size and athleticism make him an intriguing talent in Smart's system. He is the kind of player that can attack on both ends of the floor.

This starts what Marquette will hope is a successful recruiting weekend. Brookfield Central forward David Joplin, a 6'7" four-star is set to announce his college destination Wednesday morning with all signs pointing toward Marquette. The Wisconsin native never received a Marquette offer under the previous staff, instead committing to Smart at Texas. He had a monster senior year, averaging 25.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game while also connecting on over 37% of his shots from deep. Now he has the chance to stay close to home for his college career. If insiders count for anything, the writers at 247 Sports have tallied three Crystal Ball predictions for Joplin to Marquette since his announcement date became known.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Smart's Staff Coming Together

Internet sleuthing has found that two of Shaka Smart's three assistant coaches are now listed in the Campus Contacts, as is a new support staff member. While no one has been added to the official gomarquette.com page, Cody Hatt, Neill Barry, and Nevada Smith are joining Smart's Marquette staff. All three were also on his staff at Texas.

Cody Hatt started his career as a content editor at ESPN, including time working on SportsCenter. From there, he worked at New England Recruiting Report with Adam Finkelstein. Hatt got his coaching start as an assistant at Vermont Academy, the same institution Symir Torrence attended before coming to Marquette. That's where Smart found him. Hatt joined VCU as a graduate assistant in 2015-16 before following him to Texas. He initially served as Director of Basketball Operations while also helping Coach Smart coach the 2016 USA U-18 Basketball team. He was promoted to Assistant Coach for the 2020-21 season.


Neill Berry started his coaching career at Western Kentucky with familiar Marquette name Darrin Horn in 2005-06. He followed Horn to South Carolina and remained there until Horn was fired in 2012. Berry moved on first to High Point then spent three years on Steve Prohm's staff at Iowa State, which included two NCAA Tourney berths. Berry was hired by Smart in 2018-19 to replace Horn, who had left for a head coaching job. Berry has a total of 16 years as a Division I assistant, including 12 as an assistant coach.


The last member of the staff we can confirm is Nevada Smith. Smith spent a little over a decade coaching Division III before moving to the G-League in 2013 with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. From there, he took another G-League job, guiding the Sioux Falls Skyforce for 3 seasons. Smith helped move 14 players from the G-League to the NBA before joining Smart's staff at Texas as the Director of Program Development. He was at Texas for the 2020-21 season before taking the Special Assistant to the Head Coach position at Marquette which was previously filled by Rob Judson.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Retired Numbers Vs. Retired Jerseys

It was great news to see Kameron Jones confirm his commitment to Marquette shortly after Shaka Smart was hired as the new men's basketball head coach.

 


While having Tennessee's Division 2A Mr. Basketball in the fold shows that players are excited to be playing for Shaka when they originally committed to play for former head coach Steve Wojciechowski, something struck me as odd in Kam's announcement.

He is wearing a Marquette uniform with number three on it! You know Dwyane Wade's number. The one that currently hangs in the Fiserv Forum rafters.

  Photo courtesy of my first ever trip to FiServ Forum

I could not help wondering would Marquette actually let him wear number three


I was soon surprised to get my answer from Marquette Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker and Jones himself.

 

So, it turns out No. 3 will never be worn again. 

It got me thinking is Wade's number officially retired then? I thought Marquette retired jerseys and not numbers. 

That was the position going back to 2006 (and again in 2015 with Haanif Cheatem) when Lazar Hayward started his freshman campaign wearing No. 24. Problem with that number was it hung in the Bradley Center rafters in honor of the great George Thompson. The controversy was legendary head coach Al McGuire told Thompson at the time No. 24 was retired and Thompson was taken aback suddenly to find out it was not true. 

I remember having an off the record conversation at the time with a Marquette Athletic Department official who explained why it was jersey retirement and not number retirement. The simple explanation was citing North Carolina's policy on retiring jerseys because if they retired numbers, UNC would run out of numbers. The analogy makes sense, even though UNC does have eight retired numbers, since the NCAA has a rule banning numbers starting or ending with six through nine and any number over 55 (If you want to know why, it is all explained here).

Broeker’s tweet and the two attempts to issue 24 only to be changed still makes it feel like some numbers are retired. So is it retired numbers or jerseys?

The official Marquette stance on retired jerseys vs. numbers according to Senior Associate Athletic Director Scott Kuykendall is Marquette retires jerseys. Although he told me during our email exchange that conversations will be had before issuing any of the retired jerseys (Page 47 when you click on the link) numbers to a future player (I would assume that is one of the reasons no one is ever wearing three again).

Now that Marquette is playing in the Fiserv Forum, will there be more jersey going into the rafters? Can Marquette even put any more jersey banners in the rafters or does the lease with the Fiserv Forum limit how many banners Marquette can have?

The answer according to Kuykendall is there is no limit on how many jerseys Marquette can hang in the rafters. If it got tight up in the space alloted, the university can always adjust the banner size. 

He also added that the program does have some jerseys on its radar it would like to add to the rafters. He was unable to disclose though what the criteria is to be considered for jersey retirement as it is university classified internal document. For those who have never worked in document classification or in the corporate world, it is a nice way of saying we have standards and it is written down but it is not for public knowledge. Hey, Marquette is a private institution so that can do what they want I guess.

I am left thinking then what other jerseys should retired? Also what numbers should have a hard no always when future conversations might take place? Well, I will tackle this in a series throughout the off-season. 

If you got some players you feel should have a banner with its number hanging at Fiserv, feel free to tweet me your suggestions and safe for work reasons why to @toddjdub

Shaka Smart speaks with Jim Rome

Marquette head basketball coach Shaka Smart (damn, that sounds great) was on The Jim Rome Show today. Here are the links: 


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

What Should We Expect Now?

By Todd Welter

The old saying goes if you never have any expectations, you will never be disappointed.

Yet, my fellow Marquette hoops lovers, we just cannot help ourselves but to put expectations on our beloved team. What has that gotten us lately? Lots of frustration and disappointment.

There seems to be a new hope that the disappointment will fade away now that #DoneDeal Shaka Smart has actually arrived as the next head coach. Although there also lies some doubt that brighter days are ahead for the program given Smart not exactly living up to his billing at Texas.

Expectations and standards, a blessing and a curse at the same time I guess. Lately, I have been wrestling with what the appropriate standards should be for this program.

Maybe it was the athletic department actually pulling the plug on the Wojo era and those dancing on its grave that got me wondering. Granted I fully support the decision as the program was sliding back into place of irrelevance not seen since the Bob Dukiet and Mike Deane eras, but it was not like a halleluiah from the choir was needed.

Maybe I have been triggered to delve into this after CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander described the fan base as “fevered.”

While Marquette’s fan base does not have the completely unhinged expectations of say these programs


...the Marquette faithful can be known to have lofty standards. Although it those standards can fluctuate based on certain factions within the fan base.

There is The Al Days Faction that still does not realize how much dust that 1977 championship banner has collected. This faction will compare anything that is going on today to the glory days of AL even though it has been 16,069 days and counting for those scoring home between that magical night on March 28, 1977 and Shaka Smart agreeing to be head coach.

There is The Drink The Blue and Gold Kool-Aid Faction. This faction always has a positive spin on the program no matter how many lows it reached under the previous administration. It ignores how well or bad Marquette does come tournament time or what the final record was. Instead they will reveal in say winning the Great Alaskan Shootout or a great recruiting class coming in as success. They ignore that outside the Marquette bubble success is measured in final record and what is done in the Tournament. Hey, they have a positive outlook on life.

Then there is The Financial Faction that will cite over and over again that Marquette spends a lot of money and is a hoops-only school, so just win. The Financial Faction expects a high yield return on Marquette’s substantial investment in the basketball program and heads should roll if NCAA glory is not achieved.

Yes, there is The Rational Faction but even the majority of that faction was starting to grow tired of the previous head coach.

The cold hard fact, regardless of what faction you might be in, Marquette has gone 736 days since the last time it played in an “official” NCAA tournament game (Official is in quotation marks because Marquette probably would have gotten in last season had COVID not wiped out last year’s tournament) and more than 2900 days since Marquette last won a tournament game. For a basketball only, high spending program, that type of drought is astounding and why change was needed.

Now that change has arrived, what are the appropriate standards now that Shaka is running the program?

Besides the obvious standard of running a clean program, the quick easy and expectation is Shaka replicates what he did at VCU (Havoc!!) along with his recruiting success at Texas. You combine those two and you get a sky’s the limit era of prosperity. This is the brand and track record Shaka has built and this is what hopefully Athletic Director Bill Scholl and school President Michael Lovell envisioned when they finally convinced Smart to come home.

It still leaves me wondering though what is the appropriate standards and expectations the fan base should have overall. I mean we do not want to be delusional like say Indiana or NC State. Also, coaches come and go, but Marquette hoops is here forever.

Should it be hoping the Al glory days return for forever? Should it be demanding Marquette reach the first or second tier program level or accept that Marquette is probably a third or fourth tier program? Should it be let’s funnel more money into academics and less into the hoops program?

I would recommend these following standards and expectations. Please note, these are just suggestions based on being a MU fan since birth (it is in the late 30’s for those scoring at home), an alum and someone who covered the team for 13 years for various local media outlets (add or subtract at your own discretion).

First, the bare minimum standard, and I mean bare minimum, is no overall losing records.

Since Al McGuire came to campus 56 years ago, Marquette has had just seven seasons under .500 (with two coming under Wojo’s tenure). Some of those winning season numbers can be skewed since Marquette controlled its full schedule through 1989 and non-conference afterwards to build in some wins. Then again, it is not like in those 56 years Marquette was playing a schedule made up of just playing the Little Sisters of the Poor as some Marquette haters like to stereotype.

Second standard is winning conference records and competing for conference titles. Since Marquette first joined a conference in the 1989-90 season, the program has had just six losing records-four came under Wojo-with the rest of those records being at or above .500. Although having more chances at conference championship banners would be appreciated. Marquette has only three regular season conference championships and one conference tournament championship.

Sidenote .... I am aware of Shaka’s relative lack of success in the Big 12 but again, the hope is MU gets the combo of Havoc Shaka and Shaka, Texas Recruiter for Big East conference greatness.

Oh, and avoid March Madness invite-breaking losses to DePaul (the Wojo era had plenty of those) which brings me to postseason expectations.

This is the one that is harder to establish than it seems. Is it reasonable to demand yearly NCAA Tournament appearances and lots of Sweet 16’s, Elite Eight’s and maybe a few Final Four’s and dare I dream a National Championship here and there?

Yes, you can hope for that, but I would caution against expecting it because there is this pesky thing called reality.

Reality is Marquette has been battling a myriad of issues that gets in the way of NCAA Tournament shining moments. You have the shocking setback transfers (the Hausers for example) or just the transfer issue in general that typically leaves the MU roster on the being more inexperienced side (because one path to sustained NCAA runs is to get old and stay old as they say).

Then there is the injuries issue and good old fashion bad luck that gets in the way of making the dance or making deep runs especially over the past 21 years.

There was Travis Diener’s hand injury in the 2004-05 season which stopped any chance of making the dance (and any chance of the ball getting across half court). Let’s not forget the unexpected departure to the pros by Vander Blue that completely threw off the 2013-14 season (Okay maybe Buzz Williams should have had a better back up plan then a JUCO transfer who leaves two weeks into being on campus).

Continuing on with injuries that derailed possible March runs, there was Jerel McNeal’s late season thumb injury in the 2006-07 season that led to an eight seed and early exit against Michigan State. Dominic James’ broken foot late in the 2008-09 season derailed a possible Final Four run.

Oh, and then there was that heartbreaking first weekend moments that stopped a NCAA run in its tracks. The pain still stings from Steve Novak missing the wide open three in 2005, Brook Lopez’ 1.3 second corner shot in 2008, Lazar Hayward stepping over the inbounds line late in 2009 and the last second loss to Washington in 2010.

What is the proper standard then for postseason expectations? I would say take the 2000’s with a mix of the early 2010’s success as realistic expectations. Marquette never had a losing record in the 2000’s, made two NIT’s, seven NCAA’s and had a Final Four run (hence combine the Sweet 16 runs like the early 2010’s as the rest of the 2000’s decade did not have a second weekend appearance and just two second round game appearances after 2003) and missed the postseason once. A pretty good run because sometimes you are going to get what happened in 2004-05 (see above with Diener) or a season where you just have a mix of youth and underachievement (the 2003-04 season after the Final Four) or a season where the talent can only muster the bare minimum.

You could be saying what about always being ranked, being in the top 10, having big non-conference regular season wins, beating Wisconsin or top 10 recruiting classes?

Well, beating Wisconsin is nice but it does not define the season. Being ranked is fine and all, but you can be in the top 25 all year and still end up with an eight seed. Yes, you should hope for getting tournament resume wins in the non-conference but a poor conference showing can wipe those out (like what happened this season). Of course, you want the best talent possible but right now Marquette is still say losing more than its winning in its recruiting battles for the best of the best (hopefully Shaka will change that).

In the end, you are entitled to have whatever expectations you want. This is meant to be suggestive only. Just remember if you do not expect anything, you will get nothing in return. That is called being a DePaul fan.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

The Four Factors and Winning Teams

This post was inspired by this tweet from @PaintTouches. One thing led to another and here we are.  

First, if you want to catch up on the Four Factors, here are some links. Some of this stuff we have been talking about for over thirteen years. 


Using data from Bart Torvik’s site, I went and looked at eight seasons worth of Wins, which adds up to almost 20K games. I wanted to break down the profiles and see what actually was in the historical data. Now that the analysis is complete, we want to keep the information available for reference. . 

The team that wins the game wins eFG% 85% of the time. 


If you didn’t already believe and know that eFG% is the most important aspect of winning basketball, this is additional support. 85% of teams that actually win their basketball games win the eFG matchup. 



This is not the case for TOs, ORs, or FTR. Each of these factors are still important, but not as important as eFG%. 


The most common situation is to win three of the Four Factors


In almost half of all cases, the winning team takes three out of four of the matchups. The second most common situation is for a team to win two out of four matchups. That’s over 80% of all victories. The most infrequent situation is winning only one Factor. 



Also, the average efficiency margin (or margin of victory) continues to increase as teams win more of the four factors. Dominate more areas of the game and the team dominates more of the total margin of victory. 


The most common winning combination is eFG and any two other factors


That totals up to 88% of all popular combinations. The most common combination is winning the shooting matchup, offensive rebounds, and getting to the line. As much as I like to disparage Free Throw Rate, it shows up in the top two most common combinations. 



eFG and another Factor adds up to 79%


eFG doesn’t show up as strongly when a team wins by only two factors. Again, the margin of victory is weaker in these situations. In addition, there are more options. However, eFG still shows up in almost four out of five scenarios. 



If you absolutely have to pick one factor


As a reminder, this only happens for 6% of all situations. However, a team that wins only one factor is winning by eFG two thirds of the time. 



This is even consistent when looking at data for just the Big East. 


Maybe I could argue increased importance on rebounding and getting to the line, but it’s close enough that we are talking about details.  



In addition, the profile of games won is consistent with the national average. 



Summary


I find these results surprising. As much as we like to emphasize the importance of eFG, it’s a bit of a shock the extent to which winning teams exhibit these characteristics. Want to win 80% of your games? Win eFG and at least one other factor. If a team can consistently win eFG and two other factors, then the winning percentage is 88%. Regardless, winning teams win eFG.


Friday, March 26, 2021

One of us is professional, the other is a raving lunatic

Well, it took 7 years, but it's finally a #DoneDeal. We react to the big news out of 12th and Wells, that they finally landed their Smart guy. We spend the episode talking about the move to Shaka and what we think of the fit. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/ad6ztu/ScrambledEggs_Editted_032621.mp3

Marquette Gets Smart

Shaka Smart is expected to be named Marquette's 18th Head Coach

Photo courtesy of CBSSports.com
 

Marquette University is expected to announce they have hired 43-year old Shaka Smart as their new Men's Basketball Head Coach. A Madison, Wisconsin native, Smart comes to the Golden Eagles by way of Texas.

Smart is best known for his improbable Final Four run with VCU in 2011. He won seven NCAA Tournament games while with the Rams as he became one of the hottest young coaches in the country. Smart was connected with the Marquette job in 2014 as well, but negotiations fell apart at the eleventh hour as the much-publicized agreement never materialized. Instead, Smart stayed at VCU another season before taking the Texas job.

Smart's Texas tenure had highs and lows as he amassed a 109-86 record with three NCAA appearances and a NIT Championship there. All three NCAA trips ended in the first round, as did his last two appearances at VCU. Those early exits are likely what made him available to Marquette. Smart lost those five NCAA Tournament games by a combined 13 points, with three of the games going to overtime. If the ball bounces the other way in a couple of those games, there's little chance Marquette could have pried him away from the Longhorns. Smart's teams had a chance to win every one of those five games, as opposed to Marquette's combined 39 point margin of defeat in former coach Steve Wojciechowski's two appearances.

Defense has typically been the calling card of Smart's teams. He made his name with his Havoc defense at VCU. It was a high-pressure, attacking defense that pestered opponents for 94 feet. There was speculation that wouldn't work at a higher level like Texas, and rather than challenging those assertions, Smart shifted defensive philosophies to limit Opponent eFG% (the most important defensive metric in determining winning outcomes) and managed to maintain a top-40 Adjusted Defensive Efficiency every year with the Longhorns.

Smart is also regarded as an excellent recruiter. In his time at Texas, he had 3 top-10 recruiting classes and was only once outside the top-20. That 101st ranked class was made up of just one recruit, McDonald's All-American and projected NBA First Round Draft Pick Greg Brown. In addition, it should be noted that in his final three seasons at VCU his average national class ranking was 45.0 while Marquette in the past seven years has had an average class ranking of 45.7. So while recruiting in the Colonial Athletic Association and Atlantic-10, Smart was recruiting on about the same level as Steve Wojciechowski was in the Big East. 


National Rank League Rank
2021 11 2
2020 101 10
2019 17 3
2018 8 2
2017 6 1
2016 6 1
2015 18 2
2014 25 1
2013 59 1
2012 51 1
Average 30.2 2.4

While it is true that fans were calling for Smart's time at Texas to end and the departure of the athletic director that hired him has had many speculating over his job security, it is worth noting that Texas fired Rick Barnes six years ago and he rebuilt the Tennessee program to the point where it has earned a 5-seed or better in each of the past three NCAA Tournaments. Texas fans thinking a basketball coach should be fired isn't necessarily indicative of that coach's likely future success.

In addition, having had the "big" job, Smart may be someone who stays at a program like Marquette longer even if he does have success. Not only is he from Wisconsin, but he has already learned that the grass is not always greener at the bigger program. For now, Marquette Basketball can get back to pursuing what we all want to see, which is restoring our tradition of winning. Welcome, Coach Smart.