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Player review: Chris Otule

chris

What he did well: Had there been a comeback player of the year award in the Big East, the fifth-year senior Otule would have been the unanimous winner. What began as a painful sight to watch early in the year, Otule regained his form after missing most of the summer recovering from a torn ACL and was one of Marquette’s most important pieces the last two months of the season. That culminated in an Elite 8 run, one of the best defenses in the league and Otule’s decision to return to Marquette for a sixth and final year.

Otule saw improvement in many areas of his game, but nowhere else was he better for the Golden Eagles than guarding the post. Per Synergy, Otule ranked in the 92nd percentile in man-to-man defense (points per possession), and opponents shot under 40 percent in the post against him. Those numbers alone–and his 36 blocks–do his defensive performance justice, but Otule was just as good denying shot attempts, altering others and playing help defense in the 2-3 zone Marquette used more of this year. In all, Otule was arguably Marquette’s best defender, despite averaging 3.5 rebounds as a 6-foot-11 center.

But where Otule made the biggest jump was with the ball in his hands. His 5.1 points per game matched a career-high, and his 63.4 field goal percentage ranked in the top-10 nationally. He was smooth around the rim, tough when he needed to be and was a monster on the offensive glass, ranking in the top-100 in offensive rebounding percentage (12.2 percent). He peaked in March against Notre Dame, when he made all eight of his attempts for a season-high 16 points, and he had a stretch during the season where he made better than 87 percent of his shots. Otule can’t create on his own, but his Marquette teammates found him as soon as he made space in the paint. Otule was incredible to watch inside. Consider this: his offensive rating went up nearly 20 points, from 90.5 two years ago to 110.2 last year. Not bad.

What he could have done better: It sounds silly for a guy who played 17.7 minutes per game, but there wasn’t a whole lot better Otule could have done last year. It’s not fair to have wanted him to play more minutes, his fouls per game and turnovers per game were down from the last two seasons and he was an average passer out of the post, something he wasn’t asked to do often.

Since it’s a category, we’ll bite on Otule being more aggressive in the paint. True, he was most times the fourth of fifth offensive option on the court, but his free throw rate was down almost 15 percentage points and he went to the free-throw line just 49 times after doing so 72 times two seasons ago, his last full year.

Part of what makes Davante Gardner such a special player is his ability to get defenders in foul trouble. Otule didn’t do that as well, drawing 2.9 fouls per game, down from two years ago when he drew 3.7 fouls per game. Otule wasn’t timid in the paint, but he did shy away from contact at times. Perhaps that was an effect from his knee surgery, but it’s something he can improve on next season. But that’s getting sort of picky for a defensive-minded center.

Best performance: A no-brainer here. It’s worth noting that Jack Cooley was battling a nasty illness the night before the Irish came to Milwaukee, but Otule’s 8-for-8 shooting in 25 minutes against Notre Dame couldn’t have come at a better time. Otule was aggressive, quick around the basket and also supplied suffocating defense on fill-in center Garrick Sherman, who missed all five of his shots in 19 minutes.

Otule added two blocks and four rebounds in the win that propelled Marquette into serious discussion for a Big East title (as far as the standings were concerned) on the heels of the Golden Eagles’ win over Syracuse. It was the perfect performance to push Otule into an impressive run in the NCAA Tournament, where he had arguably his best game of the year against Davidson.

Worst performance: A pretty easy one here, too. It was tough to watch Otule limp around early in the season, and nowhere was it seen worse than in Gainesville. Marquette was trounced by the Gators, 82-49, but Otule looked awful, borderline injured, in the loss. Florida center Patric Young ran circles around him, and Otule wound up with one rebound, one assist and one personal foul in 18 minutes. Young, on the other hand? Ten points, 10 rebounds and three blocks off the bench.

It’s not an overstatement to say that game left serious doubt as to whether Otule had anything left in the tank. Five months later, he was a key piece to the Marquette puzzle. It was an absolute 180, but that Nov. 29 night was the lowest of the lows.

2013-’14 outlook: CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman revealed last week that Otule will return for a sixth season. It’s great news for Otule–one of the true good guys in college basketball–and the team, who return their 6-foot-11 starter and a major defensive presence. Forget a young player Marquette could have recruited or kept with Otule’s scholarship, bringing him back makes the Golden Eagles a much better team than if he were gone.

That being said, his role isn’t going to change much next season. Buzz Williams has found a near-perfect complement between Otule and Davante Gardner, and it’s producing both serious match-up problems for opposing teams and wins for Marquette. Perhaps Otule will see a minute or two more than his 17.7 average from a year ago, but a repeat of last year’s numbers seems fair, given the talent surrounding him in 2013.

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Categories: 2012-13 Review, Analysis, Home, Player Review

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One Comment on “Player review: Chris Otule”

  1. John Mazos
    April 14, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    I guess “Nasty Illness” is the new way to write “Diarrhea.” Cooley didn’t have malaria…he had the drizzle shitts. Otule and Gardner owned his bitch ass. Saying Cooley couldn’t play because he had the Trots is BS.

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