Marquette will take on Wisconsin-Milwaukee tonight in hopes of rebounding from its first loss of the year, a Monday night takedown at the hands of LSU, 67-59.
The Golden Eagles have two non-conference tilts remaining, home games against Milwaukee and Vanderbilt, before the Big East season begins.
In this week’s Five Point Play, writers took a quick look at what went wrong against LSU, what realistic expectations are without Chris Otule, as well as evaluations of two players on the offensive and defensive end.
1. What was most concerning about Marquette’s loss to LSU?
Cracked Sidewalks: Defense. To date this Marquette team had defended like no other in the Buzz Williams era, but the road loss in Baton Rouge saw a return to disappointing levels of effectiveness. Marquette won’t be an elite team unless they return to the defensive efficiency they demonstrated earlier this year.
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: To me it was the fact that no one but Jae Crowder seemed to show up. Once Marquette got out to the 13-0 lead, it turned into a scrimmage for everyone on both ends. The full court press was lazy, no one moved their feet defensively and bad shots were taken early in the shot clock. Buzz said the intensity wasn’t there to beat an SEC team on the road, but neither was the effort. I expect tonight’s game to be the best Marquette has played to date. Buzz will have them ready.
Anonymous Eagle: Buzz likes to say that Marquette has to “play like us.” Whatever it was they were doing against LSU, it wasn’t “us.” Both the offensive and defensive sides of two of the Ken Pomeroy Four Factors were completely out of whack for MU on Monday night: 1) They were terrible shooting the ball (43.1% effective FG% vs season mark of 53.7%) and terrible at defending shooters (61.6% vs 44.3%) and 2) they were terrible at getting to the line (24.1% FTA/FGA vs 44.1%) and terrible at stopping LSU from getting to the line (62.8% vs 29.5%).
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: The lack of flow to the offense (but my biggest concern for the rest of the season is the ability to win the rebounding battle). Too often in this game the offense ran as a one-man offense. Whoever had the ball tried to create something for himself with a dribble-drive or jumper – some far too early in the shot clock. The 59 points were the lowest Marquette posted since its 59-57 victory in the Paradise Jam title game.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: The popular answer will be defense, specifically the second half defense, and that’s all well and good, but for the first time since I can remember under Buzz, Marquette was stifled on offense by a man-to-man defense. We’ve seen the difficulties at times against zones, but the lack of penetration against LSU was very worrisome.
2. Is Marquette a contender for a Big East title if Chris Otule misses a majority of the conference season?
Cracked Sidewalks: Nope. But Marquette can still finish in the top four and that would be one heck of an accomplishment.
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: It would be an incredible run if they did. If Marquette is out-rebounded by Green Bay (36-33), I don’t have much hope the front court will fare better against Andre Drummond, Fab Melo, Alex Oriakhi…you get the picture. A top four finish is certainly in the cards and should be expected regardless of Otule, but Chris’ height/frame and stellar inside presence was one major factor as to why Marquette could compete for the Big East’s top spot. Marquette is capable of beating anyone in the Big East without Otule, but not enough to get to 15 or 16 wins.
Anonymous Eagle: Yes, but it’s a dark horse contender. They might be able to sneak through conference play without Big Chris playing a major role on defense because of the lack of truly dominant big men across the league. It’s going to take big step ups by everyone involved, no further setbacks in the form of injuries or suspensions, and a few lucky breaks where the other contenders (Syracuse, Louisville and Connecticut) get caught on a bad night or three.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: I still see Marquette as a top four team in the Big East without Otule. Without Otule Marquette can still play with most teams in the country. But it will struggle on the glass – Marquette has lost the rebounding battle in three of the four games it hasn’t had Otule available for all 40 minutes and it won every game with Otule available for all 40, minus one.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: No. Marquette is good, possibly very good. However, to be in title contention against Syracuse and Louisville (and my pick to win it all UConn), Marquette would have to be very, very good. I just don’t see it. MU is getting killed on the glass and its defense has been suspect without Otule. That’s not a recipe for a Big East title.
3. Assess Junior Cadougan’s offensive play through 11 games.
Cracked Sidewalks: Junior is, as a scorer, bankrupt. I do not understand any game plan that would allow him to put up 10 shots in a game. With a turnover rate of 24% and his inability to slow down opposing point guards, Junior is a weak link on this team.
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Statistically he has been fine, but it just doesn’t look as smooth out there as it should. He is one of the best passers in the Big East and had a couple of excellent finishes in traffic against LSU, but he also has nine turnovers in the last three games and still doesn’t have the confidence on his jump shot, which has looked great at times. The verdict is still out, but overall Cadougan (6.0 assists per game; 37.3 percent assist rate) has been fine.
Anonymous Eagle: He’s one of the 30 best point guards in the country. He has the 26th best Assist Rate (assists/FG made while he’s on the court) in the country and his exclusion from the Cousy Award list is a travishamockery. He’s also developed The Junior Cadougan Patented Free Throw Line Jumper, which is always a welcome sight.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: It’s been an up and down year for Cadougan. Marquette really just needs him to run the offense smoothly – to create for others – while scoring the occasional point. His 60:23 assist to turnover ratio is admirable. His confidence as a jump-shooter has increased. But as THE point guard on a top-25 team it’s on Cadougan to make sure the offense runs smoothly, which hasn’t been a problem in blowouts but in close games it has (LSU, Norfolk State game No. 2).
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: His assist to turnover ratio has been superb and the development of a reasonably consistent midrange jumper is a great asset. However, despite the big assist numbers, Cadougan hasn’t locked down the position as his own. Derrick Wilson, Vander Blue and Todd Mayo have come in and played better at times.
4. Assess Jamil Wilson’s defensive play through 11 games.
Cracked Sidewalks: He’s still finding himself, but over time will be a very good player for Marquette. If he can hit the mid-range jumper with consistency, Marquette will be very tough to beat.
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: It has been average thus far, but it’s ready to blossom. I wrote about it, but Otule’s absence is setting the stage for Wilson to become the most important front court defender on this team (Jae Crowder included). Davante Gardner isn’t going to do it, so it’s on Wilson to be the “five” defensively. He looked unsteady at first but is really starting to get it. He was picked on against LSU and held his own surprisingly well. One area of improvement is boxing out but, then again, everyone on Marquette could learn to do that.
Anonymous Eagle: Quiet? Stats show that he’s providing quality defense in the minutes he’s played, but I can’t point to anything outstanding to show if he’s been good or not. Theoretically, if he plays more due to Big Chris’ absence, he’ll continue his solid play.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: With the entire roster healthy, it was Wilson’s defense that got him on the floor. He has used his length, athleticism and agility to cause havoc for Marquette’s opponents. In 10 games this year he averaged 1.1 blocks per game (11 total blocks). He’s shown himself to be an aggressive, gritty, and intelligent defender. Marquette needs Wilson to continue his defensive performance with Otule out.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Coming into the season I predicted he would be the team’s second best rebounder and although he hasn’t quite hit that mark yet he’s well on his way. He is the team’s best shot blocker with Otule out and he’s versatile enough to guard 3-4 positions. He needs some work on rotations but he has fulfilled expectations.
5. What will be Marquette’s record entering the Big East season?
Cracked Sidewalks: Let’s see what happens with Otule. We’re optimistic about a return to health for the big man and figuring 11-13 wins in Big East play is a very real possibility.
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: 12-1, but the Vanderbilt game is going to be very intriguing. The Commodores boast two players who will eat Marquette’s weaknesses alive: 6-foot-11 center Festus Azeli is a force in the paint and guard John Jenkins can shoot from three with the best of them. Both will be extremely difficult matchups, but Marquette gets the nod playing at the Bradley Center.
Anonymous Eagle: What are the chances that Marquette can contain Vanderbilt’s Festus Ezeli without Big Chris? Or John Jenkins for another 40 minutes like they did last year? Those are some scary propositions there, but let’s go glass half full (sorry, Rubie) and say 12-1.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: 12-1. Marquette’s final two games of non-conference play are at home – where Marquette has been a different team (granted against less than stellar opponents). But Vanderbilt is having an up and down season – so we don’t know which team will show up – and Wisconsin-Milwaukee gave Wisconsin a run for its money but that was a road game for Wisconsin. Marquette is 38-0 against Milwaukee. That should be 39-0 by Thursday’s end.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: 11-2. Vanderbilt scared me before Ezeli came back. Vanderbilt really scares me with him back. I know they aren’t ranked and have some bad losses, but I have bad visions of what could be down low. I’m trying not to look past Milwaukee, but the Golden Eagles will be hungry to take out Monday’s loss against the Panthers.