By the numbers: Todd Mayo’s improvement

Todd Mayo has been more aggressive in 2013-14. (USA Today)

Todd Mayo has been more aggressive in 2013-14. (USA Today)

Of anyone not named Derrick Wilson, Todd Mayo has become the player who invokes the most opinion among Marquette fans. You either love what the versatile, shoot-first guard brings to the table, or you think his isolation and lack of true ball-handling skills hurts the Marquette offense. Either way, he’s a player worth talking about and certainly one worth analyzing (get ready for some serious number crunching).

To put it lightly, his sophomore season was abysmal. After sitting out the first half on academic suspension, his minutes fluctuated anywhere from 3 to 26 minutes in conference play, he had a short leash on Buzz Williams’ bench and failed to score in three NCAA Tournament games — he didn’t get off the bench in the Golden Eagles’ Sweet 16 win over Miami, being bypassed by freshman Jamal Ferguson. With Vander Blue’s emergence and Trent Lockett’s versatility, Mayo was a virtual non-factor the majority of the second half.

The West Virginia native needed a boost in his junior season, and he seems to have found it. In 13 games off the bench, Mayo is averaging 9.1 points on a career-best 43.4 percent shooting, has brought back that defensive intensity that made him such a special freshman and is passing the ball as well as he ever has, already eclipsing his assist total from last season in 10 fewer games.

Attacking the basket

His biggest jump from last season to this has been his attack. Last season Mayo attempted just 19 percent of his shots at the rim, down from 34 percent as a freshman. True, his field goal percentage at the rim increased from 63 percent to a remarkable 74 percent in Year 2, but his points per possession around the basket were down.

And in Year 3, his trends are moving back toward that impressive freshman season. Almost 28 percent of his field goal attempts are coming at the rim, and he’s shooting 70 percent, third on Marquette behind Davante Gardner (76 percent) and Jajuan Johnson (71 percent). He’s averaging nearly three more 2-pointers per 40 minutes from last season (4.1 vs. 1.7 per game), and his free-throw rate this season (44 FTs/83 FGs; 53 percent) is his best in three seasons. Simply put, Mayo is attacking the basket and drawing fouls at a stellar rate, and it’s boosting Marquette’s offense.

Mayo’s aggressiveness also is yielding benefits in transition. His 2.7 percent steal rate is third on the team, and his 13 field-goal attempts on the break are third on the team. He’s averaging 1.5 points per possession on the break, one of the best marks in the Big East. Those numbers are far better than the 1.05 PPP he averaged in transition his first two years. Against DePaul, Mayo scored twice on the break, finishing with solid finger rolls to swing momentum in Marquette’s favor.

Mayo the point guard?

One area Mayo hasn’t thrived is at point guard. It’s impossible to know when exactly Mayo has played the point in the Golden Eagles’ offense, but consider this: Mayo has been the ball handler on 24 pick-and-roll situations this year, per Synergy. Of those, he has turned the ball over six times, a whopping 25 percent of the time. In his first two seasons, Mayo had just 19 possessions as a pick-and-roll ball handler, turning the ball over one time (5.2 percent of the time).

It seems as though the pick-and-roll situations Mayo found himself as a freshman and sophomore were more natural and on the wing. Mayo has done more ball handling as a makeshift point guard in 2013-14, and as far as pick-and-roll situations go he has struggled. Maybe Jamil Wilson isn’t the answer for Marquette’s point guard problems, but it doesn’t seem Mayo’s the answer, either.

Then again, Mayo’s turnover rate this year is similar to that of his first two seasons, meaning he’s taking care of the ball better when he isn’t put in those pick-and-roll situations.

Post-Wisconsin turnaround

Mayo was suspended a month and a day ago for Marquette’s matchup against Wisconsin, and it brought about a scare that he may have played his last significant game with the Golden Eagles.

Instead, Mayo has played his best basketball since that suspension.

In his last six games, Mayo is averaging 8.0 points on 48.4 percent shooting and 5.5 shots per game. He’s averaging just 1.5 rebounds and 1.6 assists, but his worth always will be seen in his scoring and defense. Though that scoring is down from his first seven games (10.0 points) he shot just 40 percent and 6.6 attempts in those games.

Mayo has been much more efficient while playing consistent minutes — he’s played between 20 and 29 minutes in five of the last six — since Wisconsin, perhaps buying into the team concept more than he was when he jacked up 15 shots against Ohio State, making just three.

Mayo has been a better player since the Wisconsin suspension. They’ll need him to continue that run as they move into Big East play and fight for an NCAA Tournament berth.

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