Postseason statistical primer: Marquette offense

Davante Gardner has made Marquette a dominant team in the paint. (USA Today)

Davante Gardner has made Marquette a dominant team in the paint. (USA Today)

Marquette’s offense has had its struggles–it failed to top 60 points five different times-in 2012-’13, but it’s impossible to deny the team’s efficiency. KenPom ranks the Golden Eagles as the 16th most efficient offense (113.9), almost three points higher than last year’s group (110.9), which featured Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom running the show.

Having the luxury of going 10-deep on any given night, plus four players able to spout off for 20 or more points, has given Buzz Williams’ team versatility on the offensive end.

But where are they best? What do they do well? Who struggles in certain areas and who is ranked at the top of the national lists in certain categories? We try to break it all down here:

– Slow-paced, yet excellent in transition

Buzz Williams has applauded Vander Blue’s decision-making as the main reason for his increased efficiency, but these numbers show it’s more than just the junior shooting guard.

Marquette is playing at 64.7 possessions per game, the second slowest pace since Williams took over. Subsequently, the Golden Eagles have used 14.2 percent of their offensive possessions in transition, also the second fewest in Williams’ tenure.

But the numbers show that Marquette’s transition numbers, despite its pace, isn’t an issue. Check it out:

Marquette statistics in transition
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The Golden Eagles’ field goal percentage in transition this year is as good as it’s ever been, as has its points per possession. Don’t let the slow pace fool you with this team…they can run, and run well.

And who have been Marquette’s best players in transition in 2012-’13?

Davante Gardner (19 poss., 1.37 PPP, 77.8%), Vander Blue (92 poss., 1.26 PPP, 68.2%), Jamil Wilson (30 poss., 1.33 PPP, 53.8%) and Todd Mayo (22 poss., 1.14 PPP, 50.0%).

– Vander Blue’s chilly Marches

Because his sophomore year stats weren’t minuscule, Blue has to be considered a snub for the most improved player in the Big East this season. Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams and Providence’s Kadeem Batts shared the award, but given Blue’s development in the scoring department, he’s an easy sell on being the biggest improvement.

But there’s another area Blue needs improvement if the Golden Eagles are to have success in their postseason tournaments. Here’s a quick look at Blue’s career scoring averages, by month:

Vander Blue’s career statistics, by month
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The first obvious note is that November and December are almost always going to be a Power Six conference player’s top shooting and scoring months, given the non-conference opponents.

But Blue’s career stats in Big East play and beyond, beginning Jan. 1, are 41.2 percent from the field and 7.7 points per game. Even considering those numbers, his March stats leave plenty to be desired.

Now, Blue has also turned a corner in his junior year. He’s made those improvements and is finally the go-to scorer for Marquette. This March, Blue has averaged 14.6 points on 46.1 percent shooting, but now the real fun begins. If Blue wants to complete his transformation (yes, we have said in the past the peak of the transformation has been reached) he’ll improve on his career March numbers. Let’s see what happens.

– Continued dominance in the paint…wait, what?

The common misconception with Buzz Williams’ teams is they are a guard-oriented, run-and-gun offense with other players considered “forwards” in name, rather than skill set and size.

But that’s not necessarily the case. Williams’ offense, more times than not, runs through his post men. If you haven’t noticed, we enjoy tracking paint touches. And while most of those come through guards slashing to the basket, Marquette’s bigs are skilled in the post.

Using Synergy’s statistics, we looked at where Marquette stacks up in terms of scoring on post possessions. This is different from two other categories, offensive rebound putbacks and baskets around the rim. Simply put, this statistic tallies when a post player receives the ball on the block and looks to score. Here’s what we found:

Marquette’s post-up possession statistics (Big East rank)
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This season Marquette not only has been the most efficient Big East team when looking to score in the post, but it has gotten to the free throw line more than any other team and, outside of Villanova (10.9%), spends the most amount of possessions on post-up attempts.

That may come as a surprise, but where it comes front shouldn’t. Davante Gardner is near the top of the country in those individual statistics, but Chris Otule and Jamil Wilson aren’t far behind.

Individual post-up possessions, 2012-’13
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– Is the book out on Marquette’s zone offense? There’s two sides

When Buzz Williams took over as Marquette’s head coach, the trio of Wes Matthews, Jerel McNeal and Dominic James in the backcourt made it difficult for teams to justify playing zones against the Golden Eagles.

But Williams’ admitted struggles with zone offenses the past few seasons–at this year’s media day he said he spent a whole month studying it–has opened the book on teams scouting to defend Marquette.

And while the ugly performances seem to stick in fans’ heads (2012… Louisville… Big East Tournament … Junior Cadougan…) more than the good ones, Marquette’s field goal percentages have actually improved. Take a look:

Buzz Williams’ teams vs. zone defenses
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You’ll notice teams have played more zone against Marquette each of Williams’ five seasons, and while the field goal percentages has increased, points per possession are down. The main reason? Turnover percentage.

Marquette’s turnover percentage against zone (Z) and man (M)
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As a side note, Marquette’s turnover percentage against man-to-man defense has increased each of Williams’ five seasons. But what we’re looking at, its turnover percentage against zone defenses is alarmingly high. It won’t do Marquette any good hitting more of their attempts against zone if the Golden Eagles are turning over the ball at such a high rate. Take both stats for what they’re worth.

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2 Comments on “Postseason statistical primer: Marquette offense”

  1. Andrew
    March 14, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    Congrats on the mention in SI this morning

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  1. Daybreak Doppler: Happy Big Ten Tournament Kick Off Day | PocketDoppler.com - March 14, 2013

    [...] Paint Touches keeps getting you ready with this Postseason statistical primer: Marquette offense. [...]

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