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Notes on a good start to Big East play

Markus Howard

Photo by Anthony Giacomino/ Paint Touches

I have lots of thoughts after Marquette’s victory over Georgetown, but don’t have a coherent structure to tie them together. So bullet points it is.

  • I went on a little Tweet Shower yesterday after doing some KenPom surfing:

    https://twitter.com/PaintTouches/status/814152833570394112

  • I bring that up because after last night’s 10-point victory, Marquette is now up to 35 on KenPom and trending in the right direction. Also, the initial Tweet was incorrect, this is actually the 2nd best ranking to start Big East play, not the 3rd. So for as bad as the defense has been, the potent offense has put this team in a very good position.
  • Speaking of defense, Marquette posted one if its best efforts of the year, and came away with one of its best results. It was only the second time this season it held a tier A/B opponent under 1 PPP, with Vanderbilt being the other. 
  • There were lots of good defensive plays on the night, and some really flashy ones from Jajuan Johnson that got the highlights, but the one that stuck with me most was Sam Hauser helping Luke Fischer in the post and presenting a perfect double team that led to a travel. The turnover in and of itself is a win, but it helped protect Luke from picking up a foul, as (I think) Hayes was pretty deep in the point. As much as I harp on initial pick and roll defense being an issue, the help and rotations haven’t been too hot either. This was a really smart play from a really smart freshman. 
  • Hauser has hit a bit of a rut with his shot the last four games, going 6/17 in the process. He’s no longer an unknown, though, and is being guarded like the lethal shooter he is. He’ll adjust. In the meantime, keep shooting young man. Even his misses were of the in and out variety. 
  • And if we’re talking about shooting, we have to bring up fellow freshman phenom Markus Howard. After his 5/6 debut in conference play, he’s up to 54.4% from beyond the arc, good for 20th in the country. Of those top 20, he has the 4th most attempts as well, so it’s not just a small sample size blip. He’s shot 48 in 12 games, exactly 4 per game. That’s not nearly enough. There was an amazing article at 538 that I kept thinking of last night about how Steph Curry’s high volume of 3-pointers shot was not nearly enough. It’s long and very analytical, but the gist is Curry’s bad shots are still better than his teammates good shots, so he should chuck  and chuck some more. Don’t get me wrong, I am not comparing Howard to Curry, the greatest shooter the world has ever known. Howard is a 17-year-old with only a handful of games under his belt, so coaches aren’t yet making him the focus of the defense. Even if he’s still shooting in the high 50s and leading Marquette to the Elite 8, I’m not dumb enough to compare the two. What I am getting at is that Howard has proven in small-ish samples that he is tremendously efficient. Even his questionable shots have a better likelihood of going in that some of his teammates open looks. I think it’s time to push him a bit more. I don’t think Wojo is limiting him to 4 attempts per game, per se, but Howard needs to have an even brighter green light than he already has. Averaging 7 or 8 (or more) 3-point attempts per game will bring his efficiency down and might make for some real clunkers, but over the course of the season, he should more than make up for that in points added. Missing a few should not be a deterrent. 
  • One more point on why Howard is so special. Hauser had a very hot start to the year from the arc, but cooled down as defenses paid special attention to him. But Hauser’s long-range game is a bit different than Howard’s. According to Hoop-Math, 96.6% of Hauser’s makes from 3 were assisted this year (28/29). By comparison, only 65.5% of Howard’s were assisted. He is much better at creating his own shot, which makes it a much tougher proposition to guard him. I’d love to have Synergy stats to see his splits on assisted/unassisted attempts, but don’t have that kind of data. In the meantime, I’ll rely on my eyes, my gut and some Hoop-Math.
  • On a related note, if you want to know why last year’s team struggled so mightily from beyond the arc, 94.3% of all 3s made were assisted and only one player was lower than 90% (Haanif). It couldn’t generate points from the arc from any one player, so defenses has an easy time defending against it.
  • If Howard makes four 3s on Sunday, he’ll be tied for 10th most for a freshman in Marquette history. Travis Diener has the freshman record with 57 makes. I don’t think it’s a question of if he’ll break it, but rather how soon. 
  • I think most fans get it by now, but the win was huge for Marquette in getting off to a good start and keeping the Tourney in sight. The next 3 games are very tough, with Seton Hall (away), Villanova (away), and Seton Hall (home) coming up. I felt Marquette needed to go 2-2 from this 4 game stretch to be in decent shape, so with a win in the bag, you only need 1 win to keep par. Get 2 and I’ll get really excited. Get 3 and… LOL, this team is not beating Nova in Philly.
  • I’m in love with Andrew Rowsey’s PUJIT 3s.
  • Duane Wilson hasn’t put up eye-popping numbers like his freshman year, but I think he’s been fantastic for this team. He adapted to his bench role without causing bad blood, he is still the leader when it comes to pre-game huddles, and he’s making smarter decisions than ever on the court. So while his injury does decimate the already decreased guard depth, I think this team will miss his steady hand just as much. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.
  • I really liked seeing Wojo’s lighter side.
  • Jajuan Johnson killed Georgetown with a dunk, killed them repeatedly off a simple curl play, then killed them in the post-game press conference once more for good measure, saying the video review showed they were a little lazy on defense. No Chill in this guy.

  • Last thing, Markus Howard is a 17-year-old who skipped his senior year of high school. I’ve spent about 500 words praising him, but I’m speechless.
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