"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

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. 


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.

The Case for Shaka Smart

Yesterday the Porter Moser to Marquette narrative picked up speed, punctuated by this solid column from Matt Norlander. The columnist rightly pointed out that Marquette is a very good job, one that a career mid-major coach like Moser could naturally step into immediately. As Norlander said on Twitter, “the iron will never be hotter.”

But is buying high the right call?

After all, Shaka Smart is presumed to be available. Smart has a track record with spectacular highs, consistent results (always in the top 70 on KenPom), and evidence of coaching adaptability while maintaining a true program identity.

What is the identity of the Ramblers' program under Moser? I'll say inconsistency with a side of matador defense.

For all the attention paid to Loyola Chicago's extraordinary defense this season, note that outside of the Ramblers' two breakthrough seasons, Moser's teams turned in an average defensive efficiency rank of 138. Moser's teams have finished lower than 100 five out of the last seven years.

Marquette just fired a coach who turned in an era with an average defensive rank of 100.

Smart turns out consistently excellent defensive teams. Every one of his Longhorn teams has finished in the top 40 in national defensive efficiency, a sure sign of a coach who is able to impart a sustainable identity in one of the nation’s best conferences.

Furthermore, Smart's teams have had ten straight top 40 defenses across two teams and three conferences. He's coached four top 30 offenses over the same period.

Thank you, Mr. Pomeroy.

Meanwhile, Smart is a proven recruiter at a major program, and his association with USA Basketball speaks to his professional reputation. Smart is a national brand, so is Marquette basketball.

Smart recruits well. During his last three full years at VCU, his average class was ranked #45 nationally, which mirrors Wojciechowski's average class rank during his run at Marquette. Smart has dominated as a recruiter at Texas, and even if he did not recruit at Texas levels consistently in Milwaukee, he's sure to outstrip his own performance from VCU, and that of his predecessor.

Smart has also shown an ability to adapt. His VCU teams were all about defensive turnovers. Remember that Havoc defense that keyed the Rams' Final Four run? Those teams led the nation in defensive turnovers three straight years. At the same time, VCU's defensive eFG% averaged a rank of 7.5 while in conference play.

Instead of bringing Havoc along to Austin, he changed his coaching philosophy to focus on eFG% defense. His Texas teams were in the top-80 nationally every year in that category as he maintained top-40 defenses despite a complete change in style. Even while having defensive success, Smart hired Luke Yaklich in 2019. Yaklich, widely regarded as the best defensive assistant in the game at the time, had transformed John Beilein's defense from never reaching the top-30 in efficiency to a unit that was ranked in the top-3 every year Yaklich was there.

Smart would bring a defensive identity yes, but don't presume this is just about defense. Moser's best-ever offense at Loyola Chicago would only be the fifth-best of the Smart era, and he's willing to adapting on offense.

Smart adjusted his team's tempo dramatically, playing fast at VCU (#22 peak in 2014) to playing slower at Texas (#320 in 2019).  Smart sped it up last season (#147) and he has proven his teams can play slow or fast and still get the highest level of players to join his team and buy into his system. He adapts across the board.

Success in March has been fleeting while in Austin, but at age 43, Smart already has proven his mettle with a Final Four, an NIT title, a CBI title, this year’s Big12 conference tournament crown, and a more than a handful of NCAA bids. Recent tough luck in March will turn.

Smart's tenure in Austin leaves some Horns fans wanting, but in the end his greatest crime might simply be that he is competing against the best coaching roster of any league - Self, Huggins, Kruger, Beard, Drew, Dixon, and Weber. Yet Smart fits right in with that crew.

Want to win regularly and be in position to win in March consistently? Hire a coach who deploys effective strategies with an adaptive mindset, and turns out teams that do the most important parts of the game well, every season. Hire Shaka Smart.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Keegan considers MU coaching possibilities: Smart or Moser

By Tom Keegan

Marquette understandably fired a basketball coach who in seven seasons was sub-.500 in conference games in the regular season and never won an NCAA Tournament game. His teams routinely performed below expectations created by relatively highly ranked recruiting classes.

In six seasons at Texas, Shaka Smart has a sub-.500 conference record in the Big 12 regular season and is 0-3 in NCAA Tournament games, the most recent loss to mighty Abilene Christian.

So unless you believe that it’s a great deal easier to build a basketball powerhouse at Marquette than at Texas, why would you want to hire Smart as Steve Wojciechowski’s replacement?

If Smart didn’t get it done at Texas, where he still works, what convinces anyone that he would bring Marquette back to the winning ways it enjoyed under Tom Crean and Buzz Williams?

Smart’s a big name, thanks to leading VCU into the 2011 Final Four, but big names tend to be more important in winning press conferences than games. Wojciechowski is a big name in college basketball too, and not just because it has 13 letters. You slap the floor at Duke and you’re a big name forever.

Smart would bring 12 years of head coaching experience to the job and Wojo brought none, but the standard here isn’t “better than Wojo,” it’s the best coach you can land.

In that regard, Smart doesn’t measure up to Loyola’s Porter Moser, whose team is favored to score a win Saturday against Oregon State that would advance the Ramblers to the Elite Eight.

Moser, who coaches with confidence and has a strong presence, remains in contention to coach in the Final Four for the second time in four seasons. His career record in NCAA tourney games is 6-1. Smart’s is 7-8. Moser has won three Missouri Valley Conference regular-season titles at Loyola. Smart’s Texas teams have finished as high as third and as low as 10th. At VCU, he competed in the Colonial Athletic Conference in three seasons and the Atlantic 10 in three seasons. He never won a regular-season title in either conference. He has fared better in conference tourneys, winning one in each of the three leagues.

Smart, from Madison, was offered the Marquette job before it went to Wojo. He turned it down and left for Texas the next year. Many still haven’t forgiven Crean for leaving Marquette for Indiana, yet would welcome Smart, even though he turned down Marquette to stay at VCU. Explain that one.

Some coaches get significantly better with experience. See: Rick Majerus, Scott Drew, Moser. Others don’t. Moser was 35 when he took the Illinois State job after three seasons as head coach at Arkansas Little Rock. Fired after four years at Illinois State, Moser obviously learned a ton from Majerus working for him for four seasons at St. Louis.

Moser’s in his eighth season at Loyola and is 99-35 in the past four, compared to 67-66 in the first four.

Talent evaluation, the most underrated recruiting asset, includes knowing what type of players fit your system. Analysts Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, both very impressed with Moser, had an interesting discussion that started with Barkley saying, “We get so enamored with finding players who can jump over buildings” and finished with Smith saying it’s important to find players smart enough to know that it’s easier to “open the front door and walk through the building to get to the other side.”

If hired by Marquette, Moser could recruit his type of players and choose from the pool he has recruited from at Loyola and become even more selective by adding Wisconsin and national recruits to the mix.

Smart’s a proven recruiter with national contacts, but his recruiting ability hasn’t translated to victories as well as Moser’s has. Not only that, recent news of players transferring out of Texas draws another similarity to Wojo.

Moser over Smart is an easy choice, but that doesn’t guarantee Moser would come since Loyola no doubt will make it hard for him to leave and Indiana might be an option as well. If Moser’s not interested in coming to Marquette, Cleveland State’s Dennis Gates, a Chicago native and Cordell Henry teammate (Whitney Young) who wanted to come to Marquette but headed to Cal after the scholarship went to David Diggs, was a great recruiter at Florida State and has staged a quick turnaround in Cleveland. Gates spent the 2003-04 season as a graduate assistant under Crean at Marquette. Speaking of Crean, his Georgia team scored 98 points in a 10-point victory over Smart’s Longhorns on Jan. 26, 2019.

The gap between Moser and Smart is big enough that there’s no reason to think that if Moser isn’t interested, better candidates than Smart can be lured to Milwaukee: Winthrop’s Pat Kelsey, Utah State’s Craig Smith, etc., among them.

Moser, though, should be the clearcut No. 1 target. He would excel with the opportunity for which his late, great friend Majerus wasn’t quite ready.

—Tom Keegan is a graduate of Marquette University, as are three siblings, two sons, four nieces and three nephews. He most recently was sports columnist for the Boston Herald and in the past has been sports editor/columnist at the Lawrence Journal-World and baseball columnist at the New York Post.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

It happened, it actually happened

So that was a crazy 24 hours. We're back to talk about the pretty surprising news that Wojo has been dismissed by Marquette. We talk about the news overall, speculate on what went on at 12th and Wells, and talk about what the next coach needs to be able to do. We close out with some coaching name speculation and what the timeline for an annoucement looks. A new day is dawning for #mubb. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/n9a5wv/scrambledeggs_edit_032021.mp3

Friday, March 19, 2021

Steve Wojciechowski Fired

Per a release from Marquette Basketball this morning, Steve Wojciechowski is no longer the Head Coach of the Marquette Men's Basketball program.

Wojciechowski posted a 128-95 record in 7 seasons at Marquette, including 59-68 in Big East play. He earned two NCAA bids in that time and certainly would've earned a third had COVID not shut down the 2020 tournament. His team went 13-14 this past season and lost in the opening game of the Big East Tournament.

Avid followers of this website are aware we, along with writers at Paint Touches and Anonymous Eagle, came together to lay out the reasons we felt it was time for Marquette to make this move. We planned from the start to address options for the future both in the event of Marquette retaining Wojciechowski and in the event of what happened today. We still plan to go ahead with those options, but will obviously alter those plans based on this new development.

For now, we look forward with anticipation to the next chapter in Marquette Basketball. We are Marquette!

Why is Steve Wojciechowski Still Marquette’s Coach?

By Tom Keegan

The surprising aspect of Marquette message boards is not that there are so many threads that debate Steve Wojciechowski’s worthiness to continue as Marquette’s basketball coach, rather its the abundance of posters who whine about “yet another” Wojo thread.

Only total apathy would make those threads vanish, so until you don’t see those anymore, know that there are still fans who care about Marquette basketball. To care is to wonder why Wojo, at least for the moment, remains Marquette’s coach. 

Never mind that he has coached six seasons that included an NCAA tournament, only made two of them, and has not won a single NCAA tourney game. That’s not good, but not nearly as strong an indictment as his winning percentage in Big East games in the regular season, compared to those of his predecessors. Buzz Williams: .639; Tom Crean: .620; Wojo: .465.

Somehow, the insightful, “Play basketball! Play basketball!” And “Fight! Fight!” exhortations during timeout huddles haven’t translated to victories. 

The low point of Wojo’s tenure wasn’t treated as such by his boss. Sam and Joey Hauser ranked second and third on the team in minutes played and bolted, yet that didn’t sound any alarm bells?

The Marquette administration’s reaction to the news was even more startling than the brothers’ departures. Wojo was given a contract extension, as if the transfers were a good thing. They were in fact a very good thing for Virginia and Michigan State.

Sam Hauser leads the Cavaliers in minutes (34.1), scoring (16.0), 3-point percentage (.434), is shooting .881 from the line, and ranks second in rebounding (6.7), third in assists (1.8). He’s a coach’s dream. Coach’s dreams seldom morph into a coach’s nightmare. He did.

Joey Hauser ranks second on the Spartans in scoring (9.7) and is tied for first in rebounding (5.7).

Unless there is value I can’t comprehend in becoming a feeder program for elites, the announcement of the extension seemed so strangely timed, even though Virginia Tech had an interest in following bolting Buzz Williams with Wojo. The timing for letting Wojo walk could not have been better.

At some schools, Wojo’s status as a Duke legend might carry weight. Anyone who thinks that’s the case here would be guilty of executing a cold slap to the face of Marquette’s rich basketball tradition: Al McGuire, Dwyane Wade, Butch Lee, Maurice Lucas, Bo Ellis, Jim Chones, Earl Tatum, Oliver Lee (Vince Carter’s uncle), Tony Smith, Tony Miller, Travis Diener, Steve Novak, Markus Howard, Freeway, Jump Around Guy, Gail Pudvan, Rondell, the Marquette Special at Real Chili with Blondie reminding to “mix it up, boys,” Archie pouring quarter Old Style drafts at The ’Lanche.

If MU athletic director Bill Scholl is enamored of Duke, then he’s not a good fit. Marquette basketball need not glom onto the coattails of Duke or any other blue blood to feel good about itself.

Most who have been around Wojo—I’ve never met him— describe him as a nice guy. If true, he is proof that not all nice guys finish last. He didn’t finish last. He finished ninth out of 11. DePaul’s Dave Leitao finished last. He was fired, reportedly without costing the school any buyout. So was Indiana’s Archie Miller, $10.35 million buyout and all. Iowa State fired Steve Prohm, who lands with a $5 million parachute.

And a Marquette fan base floats in limbo, awaiting a definitive word on Wojo’s status. To most, no news is bad news since schools don’t necessarily announce non-firings.

It’s undeniable that Wojo has been more impressive as a recruiter than a coach.

Class of 2021 recruits, as-yet unsigned Jonas Aidoo (No. 33, per Rivals) and Stevie Mitchell (No. 82), are the 10th and 11th top 100 recruits, excluding already committed Sandy Cohen, to be wooed to Marquette by Wojo.

Two of the nine top 100 recruits who started their careers at Marquette played four seasons. Markus Howard shattered the school’s career scoring record with 2,761 points and as a senior led the nation in scoring with a 27.8 average.

Jamal Cain (9.6, 6.3) played well enough at both ends as a first-year starter as a senior that it begged the question as to why he wasn’t allowed to play through mistakes in his first three seasons.

One of the nine top 100 recruits, Dawson Garcia, is coming of a terrific season that was recognized when he was a unanimous selection to the Big East all-freshmen team. 

Four of the nine top Rivals 100 recruits who started their careers at Marquette transferred: Haanif Cheatham (Florida Gulf Coast, Nebraska), Traci Carter (La Salle and then Hartford), Joey Hauser (Michigan State), and Symir Torrence (uncommitted).

Two turned professional. Henry Ellenson stayed one season, was drafted in the first round by the Pistons and is on a 10-day contract with the Raptors. He has appeared in 83 NBA games for four different organizations.

In Ellenson’s one year at Marquette, the Golden Eagles went 20-13. Ellenson led the team in scoring (17.0), rebounding (9.7) and blocked shots (1.5). He was allowed to launch 104 3-point shots, despite a poor .288 accuracy rate.

After taking two years off to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Brendan Bailey spent two seasons at Marquette before leaving for an overseas basketball career. As a sophomore starter, he averaged 7.1 points and 5.2 rebounds. We’ll never know how much it would have helped Cain’s development if he had been given the minutes that went to Bailey.

Rankings aren’t everything, as evidenced by Wojo’s third-best recruit’s ranking (Sam Hauser, Rivals 135), but they do tend to be how recruiters are judged.

Judging a coach on postseason performance alone is a little dicey. After all, Creighton, Illinois and Texas haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game during Wojo’s time at Marquette.

Even so, just 24 of the 76 schools in the big-six basketball conferences are winless in the tourney during that stretch. Marquette ranks near the top in quality of facility and pays a competitive salary, so should do better than rank in the bottom of 32%.

Plus, nine of the 24 schools have a chance to end their droughts.

Colorado, Creighton, Illinois, Oklahoma State and Texas are favored to win their first-round games. The underdogs: Georgia Tech (slight), Missouri (slight), Oregon State. 

Rutgers is favored on some sites and getting points on others.

In the event five of the nine schools end their droughts, that would put Marquette among 19% of the power-five schools winless in the tourney during Wojo’s reign. So although it’s not as damning as his regular-season record, it does weigh against him.

And then there is the eye test. His lack of feel for the position he played, point guard, weighs against him. The fact he tried Cheatham at the position ranks as Exhibit A. He didn’t seem to favor pure point guards in the mold of Junior Cadougan, who in his two years as a starter for Williams led MU to a Sweet 16 and an Elite Eight. Carter and Torrence, Wojo’s lone pure point guard recruits, transferred.

Seven years is a long enough sample to render meaningless excuses about young rosters, etc. Marquette started three seniors for many games this season.

So why is Wojo still Marquette’s coach? The best explanation is that either the administration is convinced that next year will be different with a strong recruiting class joining Garcia and Justin Lewis, or that in the midst of a global pandemic, no donor has stepped up to offer to take care of the buyout, a reported $6 million. 

Meanwhile, Cleveland State’s Dennis Gates and Loyola of Chicago’s Porter Moser, both of whom would be well worth exploring, are preparing their teams for the NCAA Tournament before turning their attention to attractive offers bound to come their way.

—Tom Keegan is a graduate of Marquette University, as are three siblings, two sons, four nieces and three nephews. Tom was most recently a sports columnist for the Boston Herald following roles as the sports editor and columnist for the Lawrence Journal-World, and a sports columnist for the New York Post.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Wojo Era - A Review

If you haven't read the #mubbPAC article, we strongly suggest you do so. This podcast will be a discussion around the facts in that article, why it was written, and what we hope the fanbase takes from the article. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/x2ggci/scrambledeggs_edit_031721.mp3

The Case Against Steve Wojciechowski: Enough is Enough

Photo by Ryan Messier | Paint Touches

The Case Against Steve Wojciechowski

Enough is Enough

Editors’ notes: For the first time over a decade of existence, Cracked Sidewalks, Anonymous Eagle and Paint Touches have united to create and publish a post concurrently. We have seen enough. 

It’s not criticism. It’s just facts.

This article serves as a consensus among the three longest-standing Marquette blogs regarding Steve Wojciechowski as Marquette University’s head men’s basketball coach.  

Wojciechowski has proven incapable of succeeding as Marquette’s head men’s basketball coach. There is nothing in his record or the underlying statistics to indicate that he will be able to meet or exceed the expectations commonly associated with success at Marquette. There is ample evidence to indicate that, while he may be able to recruit talent to Marquette, he will continue to underachieve. The Wojo tax is real; the sum is less than the parts. 

When reached for comment, Marquette Athletic Director Bill Scholl noted, "We aren’t satisfied with how the season played out. It was a difficult year, particularly with the inconsistency more than anything. But our coaches and staff are working every day to solve the issues and get better." 

The issue, however, is not a one year blip. It's a consistent pattern of underperformance. 

The Record

With this season complete, Wojciechowski is the first coach to lead Marquette to multiple losing seasons since Bob Dukiet, and joins Dukiet as one of the only two men to notch that feat since the 1950s. His winning percentage of 0.574 is also the worst since Dukiet and the worst by any non-Dukiet head coach since the 1960s.

Let’s look to March, because over the long term, Division 1 college basketball coaches are measured by their success in March. After seven years with Wojciechowski as head coach, Marquette has zero NCAA wins, and just two official NCAA appearances (though the team was projected to earn #9 seed in the COVID-19 ended 2020 tournament). Both of those invites resulted in convincing double-digit losses. In fact, on June 14th, 2021, Marquette will reach the ignominious milestone of 3,000 days since its last NCAA victory, the second-longest drought in modern program history.

If you want to call March nothing but a crapshoot, his head coaching record is even more disappointing in Big East play. Marquette has only finished in the top half of the Big East twice under Wojciechowski. The program’s average finish is just 6th. 

This season the team once again underachieved by finishing 9th after being picked 6th in the pre-season by Big East coaches. We are forced to say “once again” here because that’s just the facts of the matter.  During Wojciechowski’s tenure, only Georgetown has underperformed preseason expectations more regularly than Marquette. MU has exceeded expectations only once in the last seven seasons while underperforming four times. 

And if preseason coaches polls aren’t convincing, KenPom.com data gives us an algorithmic measure of what the Golden Eagles have accomplished. The data notes that Marquette has only exceeded their preseason expectations once in seven seasons of Steve Wojciechowski’s guidance, and it’s not even the season you think it is.


This isn’t a case of mercurial fan perceptions demanding that this head coach pick up right where Buzz Williams left off (he didn’t, actually) with three straight Sweet 16s.  This is an analytical, statistical-based evaluation which reveals that Marquette’s end of season performance is about 14 spots worse than what unbiased pre-season models projected, based on the talent retained and brought in. 

The fact of the matter is that Marquette has enjoyed just one high-quality season during the last seven years. That season ended in disaster, with the team losing six of seven down the stretch and missing out on multiple chances to win the Big East title. This happened in large part or perhaps almost exclusively because Wojciechowski refused to alter rotations or at least change the game plan with his clearly injured star guard playing subpar basketball. Moreover, during each of the last three seasons, MU endured a skid of six losses in seven games during the latter half of the conference season.  One could easily argue that each successive skid was exponentially worse than the one before it, as one would have hoped that the head coach learned something about what he was doing during the previous one.

Regular season struggles might be easier to take if Marquette were having Big East Tournament success, but that too has also been an exercise in failure. Marquette’s record in the Big East Tournament is 4-6. While that might seem just slightly below average, three of those four wins came in the Wednesday first round games. When Marquette has reached the quarterfinals and (only once!) beyond, they are just 1-5.

At this point in his tenure as head coach, Wojciechowski has cycled through two complete senior classes, welcomed his fair share of highly regarded recruits and transfers, enjoyed substantial program resources, and coached during a generally average era for the Big East. Despite that there is little evidence to suggest that he has the ability to deliver results commensurate with Marquette’s basketball heritage. In fact, the evidence — seven seasons of facts, not criticism — clearly points out that he will not breakthrough in the role.

The Stats

When we look deeper into the statistical trends of the Steve Wojciechowski era, it demonstrates exactly why his winning percentage is the worst of any Marquette coach not named Dukiet during the past 57 seasons. 

He can coach a Markus Howard offense, but not a defense of any kind. During the current era, MU has three top 20 offenses and one top 35 offense. All four of those coincide with the tenure of the best scorer in program history. 

Yet there’s not even a guarantee that Wojciechowski can coach an offense that doesn’t involve a generational shooting and scoring talent. With Howard graduated, Marquette dove to an offensive KenPom rank of 87 in the 2020-21 season. The average offensive KenPom rank during the last seven years is just 60th in the country, nowhere near what is required to regularly compete for postseason appearances and conference titles. 

Defensively, Marquette’s best defensive KenPom finish is a rank of 45. That figure is an outlier as the second best is a defensive rank of 69, and it only gets worse from there. Over seven years, MU’s average KenPom defensive rank is 100, far below the level needed to be a consistent, high-performing program in a major conference.

The conference-only numbers are even worse. According to KenPom, Marquette has finished in the bottom half of the Big East defensively in six of the past seven seasons, and twice were the worst (including 2020-2021). On average during the era, MU ranks in the bottom quartile defensively.

The Four Factors (click the link and read if you’re not familiar) demonstrates the program’s struggle to perform at a high level. Wojciechowski teams do well on offensive effective field goal percentage (eFG%), but nothing else that helps contribute to winning basketball games. MU is consistently a bottom half of the conference team when it comes to keeping the ball long enough to shoot it and grabbing a second chance opportunity. 

Defensively, MU is a bottom half of the Big East team in every single category, nearly every single season. As noted, this season MU was once again the worst defensive team in the league. MU’s era-long struggles defensively have been chronicled for years and years and years.



















































































This is a repeated pattern of underperformance in critical aspects of the game, unrelated to wins or losses.

The Coaching - the sum is less than the parts

What makes Steve Wojciechowski an ineffective coach?

Under his guidance, Marquette rarely improves as the season goes on. In the table below, we’ve shared MU’s winning percentage by month for each of the past seven seasons. When conference play begins, MU is essentially a .500 team, they get worse from there in February, and are consistently playing some of their worst basketball of the year in March. 

Win %











It’s worth noting that maybe this is actually not Marquette getting worse. After all, Marquette traditionally has a load of buy games in November and December to stack up wins and thus boost winning percentage. However, based on the decline to a sub-.500 winning percentage in February and March, opposing coaches may be learning how to adjust to what the Golden Eagles are doing on both ends of the court. In the first game of a conference matchup, Wojciechowski’s teams have gone 32-32. In the return game in the Big East’s double round-robin system? MU underperforms with a record of 25-36 (41%). 

Wojciechowski’s system doesn’t respect the value of a possession on either end of the court. In a hallmark of the era, his teams are sloppy with the ball on offense and do not force enough turnovers on defense. Marquette only posted two seasons in the KenPom top-100 for offensive turnover rate, 2017 and 2018. Coincidentally, those were the program’s two most efficient offenses during his tenure. In league play, Marquette has only finished ranked in the top-half of Big East teams in offensive turnover percentage once, when they were 4th in the league in 2017. 

Defensively, while Marquette has never been average at forcing turnovers, the past three seasons everything has focused on protecting the paint at all costs. Under Wojciechowski, Marquette has posted the three worst defensive turnover rates in program history according to KenPom (going back to 1997), indicating a commitment to a defensive strategy that yields consistently poor outcomes. Turnovers are about 20% of defense, and deliberately eschewing turnovers is roughly equivalent to trying to create a defense that is capped at 80% maximum efficiency. The result is the consistently below average defenses we have seen from a head coach that was named National Defensive Player of the Year in 1998. 

This is not about talent. When the Hauser brothers left, the one “saving grace” discussed was that replacing them with quicker, more athletic defenders would bolster the defense and jump start transition opportunities. Instead, both the turnover rate and defense as a whole took a step back.

When Markus Howard graduated, many said the saving grace would be the chance to really improve defensively because Marquette would accidentally have a larger defender on the floor in Howard’s place.  Instead, both the turnover rate and the defense nosedived with Howard gone. The issue has never been Andrew Rowsey or Sam Hauser or Joey Hauser or Markus or any one player. It’s the scheme and the coach. 

Inefficient Lineups

And speaking of Rowsey, 2018 was a glaring warning sign. Marquette boasted one of, if not the, most potent backcourt combinations in the country with Markus and Andrew. Both shot over 40% from 3 on massive usage, combining to shoot 576 3’s on the season. Of course, two small, weak defenders made for one of the worst backcourt defensive duos in the country. Quite the dilemma and one identified by regular fans throughout the season.

Instead of working out rotations to split up the tandem as much as possible to ensure max minutes individually with minimal floor time together, the final decision was to load up on the duo and try to just outscore the opposition. That worked…. all the way to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

After Rowsey graduated, Marquette needed another ball-handler. In addition, it was obvious that a defense that had regressed every year in turnover percentage, from #59 nationally in 2015 to #197 in 2018, needed someone that could get stops and create turnovers. Enter Joseph Chartouny, a senior transfer from Fordham who ranked in the top-100 of Assist Rate all three years on Rose Hill, had just posted a career-best 16.8% turnover rate (on par with Rowsey’s 16.4 in 2017-18), and was ranked in the TOP TWO NATIONALLY in steal rate each of the previous two seasons.

Chartouny was the perfect fit to create for Marquette’s shooters while energizing the defense. Instead, Chartouny experienced career worsts in Assist Rate, Offensive Turnover Rate, and Steal Percentage. This was either a gross misevaluation on the part of the staff in terms of Chartouny’s ability to contribute at the Big East level or a misuse of a player’s skillset. Either way, it raises the question of what the point was of bringing him in to Marquette.

This tendency to cut back on steals was not exclusive to Chartouny.


Fr Steal %

So Steal %

Jr Steal %

Sr Steal %

Jamal Cain





Traci Carter


1.7 / 4.3








Sandy Cohen



0.0 / 2.5


Markus Howard





Katin Reinhardt





Andrew Rowsey





Duane Wilson





Four-year Marquette players like Cain and Howard consistently saw their steal percentage decline in Wojciechowski’s system, almost as if they slowly had it drummed into their head that they should never ever attempt to steal the ball. Players that transferred in, like Chartouny and Reinhardt, experienced their lowest career steal percentage while playing for Marquette. Andrew Rowsey’s solid steals rate as at UNC-Asheville cratered when he hit the floor in Milwaukee. Players like Carter and Cohen were the opposite and saw their steal percentages decline until they left Marquette, when they improved. At the bottom of the table, Wilson’s junior year rate jumped but that also resulted in a career low in minutes which led to him transferring. It is not by accident that Marquette is bad at creating defensive turnovers. Those skills decline the more time a player spends in the system, are coached out of incoming transfers, but flourish in players who complete their basketball careers elsewhere.

Coaches make personnel mistakes all the time, either in the scouting department or the deployment department. The longer they coach, the more mistakes they’ll make. That’s not enough to call for their removal. In the case of Wojciechowski, it’s an egregious pattern that seems to keep repeating itself.

In 2020, Paint Touches tracked the most efficient lineups, and most included Jayce Johnson over injured Theo John and Jamal Cain over Brendan Bailey. Of course, neither Jayce nor Jamal ended the season at over 50% of minutes played while John and Bailey did. 

This season, efficiency metrics showed Marquette was misallocating the frontcourt minutes, and although Justin Lewis’ injury mooted the point, a late change in the starting lineup and a reduction of minutes for Koby McEwen showed a marked improvement in the team’s output. 

It’s not a blip. It’s not a nitpick. Wojciechowski’s poor use of readily available analytics and insistence on lineups that produce at lower rates than other available groups once again taxes the team over the course of a season. The sum of the parts is less than the whole. 

The beginning of the end?

We’re 2,000 words in and still haven’t touched on one of the most program-altering moments in Marquette history. Seeing Sam and Joey Hauser transfer rather than play on a team with legitimate national championship hopes is still resonating around the college basketball world to this day. 

But before we can get to that, we have to bring up that Wojciechowski’s choice to play a clearly injured Markus through groin and wrist injuries at the end of the 2019 season was baffling in real time. Marquette’s best off-the-dribble shooter in a generation went almost three full games without hitting a shot off the dribble. But instead of identifying the limitation and using it as a reason to either rest your star guard or limit his minutes or alter the team’s approach in general, Markus was given full leeway to play as if he was healthy. 


And, well, you already know the rest, don’t you? Marquette lost six of the last seven, failed to win any of three games that would have given it a share of the Big East title, and slipped to a 5 seed where it proceeded to get embarrassed against 12th seeded Murray State and soon to be NBA Rookie of the Year Ja Morant.

We don’t know what would have happened if the ball bounces a few different ways against Georgetown in the regular season finale or the refs don’t butcher the Seton Hall Big East tournament game. We can’t say for certain if a different, more favorable matchup in the NCAA Tournament doesn’t result in an alternate scenario. A lot had to go wrong to lead to the exact outcomes that did happen. 

What we do know is that two integral parts of the program who had played leading roles all season would rather sit out a year under a different coach than come back to a top-10 team. There are plenty of fingers to point, but the executive of any organization ultimately owns responsibility. So while Wojciechowski undoubtedly deserves credit for building a team that painted to be a Final Four quality squad, you can’t live off of what could have been.

Whatever happened behind the scenes, a potential banner-worthy team didn’t even make it into May. It’s time we stop pointing to that hypothetical as a positive example of roster building.     

What is MU paying for?  

Marquette spends more on basketball than any other Big East team, and in the top 10 nationally, per the 2019 Department of Education report. The accounting on how schools get to these exact numbers isn’t always clear, but even with that caveat, it is fair to say that MU is in the top 3% of all schools when it comes to funding the men’s basketball team.


Data per Department of Higher Education website

















Florida St.









Big 12




Pac 12




Big East








Big East


Simply spending money doesn’t grant MU success, but it does show that the university is committed to the program. This isn’t the 80s or early 90s, where resources put a hard cap on just how much success a coach could have.

But that cap is no longer there. And yet, when you look at the past 7 years of results, there is a clear dropoff from the 7 years before that.          

(Barthag is Bart Torvik’s play on pythag, which is an estimate of what a team's chance of winning would be against the average DI team. So it is between 0 and 1, and higher is better.) 

As seen in the chart above, Wojciechowski’s best season would be the 3rd worst season from 2008-2014 under Buzz and Crean. Put another way, of the past 14 seasons, Wojciechowski owns 7 of the bottom 9. 

All of this is to say, the losing record in 2020-21 was not a 1 year blip. Rebuilding years do happen, but when the “good” years only put you in the top 40 or so, instead of the top 20 or so Marquette had become accustomed to, it has to be called out and addressed.

If you want to blame the “New Big East” or say that Marquette fans just have irrational expectations, I’d point you to South Orange, New Jersey, where a Big East bottom feeder has not only found new life, it has probably surpassed Marquette in the conference pecking order from both accomplishments and relevance. 

In the 7 years before Before Wojciechowski, Seton Hall was a better team zero times. With Wojciechowski at the helm, the Pirates have been the better squad 5 of the last 7 years, including three separate seasons better than Marquette’s best. 

Teams rise and fall all the time, so it can be considered a little bit of cherry picking to pit Hall’s best run in almost 3 decades against Marquette’s current form, but it’s not an isolated incident. As the conference currently sits, Marquette is probably not a top half team. 

Let me repeat, Marquette’s extended run of form the past 7 years mean that all of Villanova, Creighton, Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence, Butler and now even old friend UConn have had more success both in the Big East and in the Tournament and would have the upper hand slicing up all sorts of benchmarks.

So that leaves us with St. John’s and Georgetown as once dominant programs that have yet to really make noise post reformation, and both have a higher ceiling for 2022 than MU. It is not an alarmist overreaction when we claim that Marquette’s status is that of a bottom half Big East team. Is that really satisfactory?  

One Last Time  

In the early 2010s, the online arguments we’d have with the national media were about whether MU was a top-20 program instead of the top-30 or so nationally. Lately, it’s only to yell at media members for being too positive or too soft on Marquette.    

And for all of the words that have been spilt, what it ultimately boils down to is that Marquette basketball under Steve Wojciechowski’s guidance has lowered the bar as to what is a satisfactory result.

All 3,000 words above point to one thing. We care. 

We want the team to be good. We wouldn't write these blogs or do these pods if we didn't care. As tough as games have been to watch recently, we watch them all with the hope the team wins consistently and proves us wrong. It hasn't, but when the program is good again, we'll still be there with all the support and none of the negativity. If you're mad about this, don't direct it at us. We've just presented facts. Who you need to worry about are the fans who don't care, the ones who aren't even watching the games because Wojciechowski's tenure has made it a chore to support the team.

A move needs to be made to get them back.