"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, March 18, 2022

Season-ending observations for Year One of the Shaka Smart Era

We shared our thoughts on the 2021-2022 season in a Twitter thread, & figured we should post it here for easier reading and posterity. It's not TLDR; take a look and join us on Twitter @CrackedSidewlks for the conversation:


A wild ride this past #MUBB season was ... low expectations that were raised dramatically before achieving a laudable milestone and finishing with a thud. In preparation for Year One, Shaka threw together a roster in about 45 days and developed that bunch into an NCAA tourney/top half of the #BigEast team. A remarkable achievement. Because of our first rate Marquette education, we can believe two contradictory thoughts. The team both exceeded expectations and was disappointing.

The late season bitterness is made worse by previous recent program history, of which the present staff had nothing to do with, of course. But #MUBB fans are thirsty for sweet satisfaction in March, the program's present albatross. The next time #mubb plays in an NCAA game it will be >3500 days since their last NCAA victory.

This MU team peaked early & we all drank the Kool-Aid. Pre-season and in-season player development was extraordinary, the coaching staff did more w the talent, in different ways than expected, & it led to a successful season.

  • Kolek, Morsell, and Oso performed in ways their careers never indicated they could; this staff knows how to open up new avenues for success for players. Future transfers should and will pay attention.
  • #mubb developed players. Smart elevated the play of Lewis, coaxed promising frosh campaigns from Jones & Mitchell, and patiently developed an increasingly effective OMax
  • With the 10th youngest roster in the nation, #mubb played a top 25 schedule and made the NCAA in his first season. This is a remarkable achievement worthy of celebration. Nobody expected this.
  • MU was competitive in almost every game, they beat Q1 opponents, they beat many Q1 opponents. They had a top 25 defense at one point. For a 7 game stretch, we saw the future of #mubb.
Unfortunately, Shaka's 10 year streak of top 40 defenses came to an end. However, MU finished w the program's second-best defense of the past 8 seasons, topped only by the '19 squad. Yet the D got significantly worse late in the season, a concern the staff must address. #MUBB was either figured out, the players tuned the coaching staff out, or the talent is not quite there for Shaka.

There are legitimate coaching questions. In yesterday's game we saw Smart roll out and stick with a poor defensive lineup, despite hundreds of possessions since February proving its ineffectiveness. If we can see this, can't the staff see it? In addition, the coaching staff purposely ignored the value of rebounding on both ends. #mubb was the worst team in the BE at both ends by far. This lowered the ceiling for team performance. The truth is that Wojo did this kind of thing with TO%. It's a bad strategy to be terrible at anything, and it's worse strategy to be terrible at both ends. We believe that there is some thoughtful reasoning from the coaching staff behind these choices, but the questions remain.

Having said all that, more than anything the *juice* is back with #mubb. How many of us had increased group texts? Spent more time on #mubb Twitter? Smashed every single like button possible yesterday? MU is back big time.

Honestly, if you are selling your Shaka stock, #mubbpac will buy it. Our holdings are already substantial, however, because we believe in the future of #mubb. Comfortably finishing in the top half of the Big East, as a "solidly in" choice on Selection Sunday shows how far the program came in just one season.

Optimism should remain high; this program is going places. #WeAre #mubb

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