A few weeks back, the Paint Touches co-founder had a random thought on Twitter that passed through the internet without much fanfare.
There was no Tweetstorm or further explanation to follow, but it stuck with me. That 2013 team is no one’s favorite. It doesn’t elicit the nostalgia of Jae or DJO or Jimmy or Zar or Wes or Jerel or DJames. It was a chore to watch and covering it was rather bland. Sure Vander broke out, Davante was auto-offense and Otule successfully defended his 6-year lane-sealing PhD thesis. But no individual gives you that feeling that they will go down in the annals of history.
Yet, it is hands down the most successful post-Wade Marquette squad, winning a Big East regular-season title and making it to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament. Despite the trophies and plaudits, it just has never resonated in the same way other teams did and still do.
I don’t know why, and trying to answer why illogical fans think illogically is a waste of time. What isn’t futile is trying to discern what made that team as successful as it was, despite poor aesthetics and zero NBA players. Enter Mark’s Tweet.
Trent Lockett was seen as a fantastic acquisition via the graduate transfer route and he was predicted to step right in where DJO and Crowder left off in terms of scoring and creating offense for Marquette. Yet, by the end of the year, Trent was a third or fourth option at best on offense. He was taking 3 less shots per game than at ASU, shooting 9% points worse on field goals, with an 8% point drop from behind the arc on only 33 attempts.
It wasn’t just the “box-score” stats telling this tale, either. KenPom classified him as a role player alongside Juan Anderson and Steve Taylor, using less than 20% of possessions (18.0% to be exact). There is no sugar coating that he did not live up to expectations on that side of the ball.
And yet, here was Marquette, winning the Big East for the first time and heading into the NCAA Tournament as a 3-seed. You see, basketball is played on both sides of the court, even if highlights don’t show it. And on the defensive side, Lockett was the glue holding a rather pedestrian defense together. (Marquette was the only Elite-8 team to rank outside the KenPom top-40 for defense, and only 1 of two teams outside of the top-25.) Let Mark expand on that a bit more:
Not only did Lockett rank near the top of the 2012-13 team defensively, he actually ranked as Marquette’s best perimeter defender since Buzz Williams became head coach (based on PPP-against). A quick look at the graph below shows Lockett’s points-per-possession-against was the best of any guards under Williams, and only Wesley Matthews’ 2.3 defensive win shares were better than the Golden Valley, Minn., native’s 1.3 mark. (In the chart, we took the best perimeter defender from each season, not the top-five from any season.)
Lockett was such a valuable piece despite struggling on the offensive side because of the versatility he gave the team. Buzz could put him anywhere on the perimeter, and even in the paint at times, without having to worry about matchups. You obviously need more than one talented defender to make it work, but with Vander and Jamil working in the switchable mold at times, the defense had enough to bend without breaking, particularly with Gardner patrolling the paint.
The other crucial point in that chart is Lockett was an abnormally good rebounder for a guard. He was the second best-rebounder on the team of players playing more than 50% of minutes, and just barely trailed Wes Matthews for best-ever marks for a guard. In fact, no guard has been close to hitting his 14.9 DReb% since then.
Which brings us, finally, to the crux of the article. With rebounding being a soft spot last year, and Marquette losing its most competent rebounder in Henry Ellenson, rebounding on the defensive glass looks to be an area of huge concern for the Golden Eagles. Can Katin Reinhardt, a 6-foot-6 graduate transfer from USC, fill in and do what Trent did in 2012?
While Reinhardt has 2 inches and a few pounds on Lockett’s 2012 size, he has not shown anywhere near the knack for rebounding Trent had coming in. You can compare their numbers prior to coming to MU below, but the DR% really stands out. Lockett was just in a different stratosphere.
Putting the numbers from their sophomore and junior years side by side gives us a great look into their offensive games as a whole. Katin was a better, more efficient scorer coming in, while Trent was a better-all around player (assists, rebounds, blocks). While both were considered good shooters, Katin took over three times as may treys his junior year, while Lockett made almost three times as many free throws.
This whole offseason, I had pegged Katin as a Lockett-lite, a well-built guard willing and able to play both inside and out. However, upon looking at their makeup, as the stats show, they are quite different. That’s not to say Katin can’t or won’t make as big a contribution as Trent did, but the fit isn’t as seamless.
Marquette needs a player who can guard on the perimeter, the paint and is willing to do the dirty work on the glass. With a loaded backcourt full of scorers, offense doesn’t look to be a necessity from that 4th guard/small forward. It needs everything Lockett was. Katin has the build to match the mold and has made it known he is willing to sacrifice for the good of the team. But from a defensive and rebounding perspective, it may be up to Sandy Cohen, Sacar Anim and Sam Hauser to pull that weight.