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What Marquette’s Losses Have in Common

Marquette Men's Basketball

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

High average height, experienced point guards, and slow tempo is the correct answer. The only exceptions to the rule are Seton Hall, whose adjusted tempo is just outside the top third of division 1, and Butler, who has a short player at the 2 position, but makes up for it with the massive Kelan Martin at the 3. Let’s take a quick glance at the rosters.

Michigan: 347th in adjusted tempo
1: Derrick Walton: 6-2 (Senior)
2: Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman: 6-5
3: Zak Irvin: 6-6
4: DJ Wilson: 6-10
5: Moritz Wagner: 6-11
B1: Duncan Robinson: 6-8
B2: Mark Donnal: 6-9

Pittsburgh: 243rd in adjusted tempo
1: Chris Jones: 6-6 (RS Senior)
2: Jamel Artis: 6-7
3: Cameron Johnson: 6-8
4: Sheldon Jeter: 6-8
5: Michael Young: 6-9
B1: Ryan Luther: 6-9

Wisconsin: 336th in adjusted tempo
1: Bronson Koenig: 6-4 (Senior)
2: Zak Showalter: 6-3
3: Nigel Hayes: 6-7
4: Vitto Brown: 6-8
5: Ethan Happ: 6-10

Seton Hall: 129th in adjusted tempo
1: Madison Jones: 6-2 (RS Senior)
2: Khadeen Carrington: 6-4
3: Desi Rodriguez: 6-6
4: Ish Sanogo: 6-8
5: Angel Delgado: 6-10

Villanova: 328th in adjusted tempo
1: Jalen Brunson: 6-3 (Sophomore)
2: Josh Hart: 6-6
3: Mikal Bridges: 6-7
4: Kris Jenkins: 6-6
5: Darryl Reynolds: 6-9
B1: Donte DiVincenzo: 6-5
B2: Eric Paschall: 6-8

Butler: 296th in adjusted tempo
1: Tyler Lewis: 5-11 (RS Senior)
2: Kamar Baldwin: 6-0
3: Kelan Martin: 6-7
4: Andrew Chrabascz: 6-7
5: Tyler Wideman: 6-8

Providence: 272nd in adjusted tempo
1: Kyron Cartwright: 5-11 (Junior)
2: Alpha Diallo: 6-7
3: Jalen Lindsdey: 6-7
4: Rodeny Bullock: 6-8
5: Emmitt Holt: 6-7
B1: Isaiah Jackson: 6-6
B2: Kalif Young: 6-9
B3: Ryan Fazekas: 6-8

It is a poorly kept secret that Marquette’s defense is terrible. This is true regardless of the opponent. So while defense is Marquette’s weakness, it is not why they lost these games. They lost because these teams were able to slow down the Warrior’s torrid offense, which is currently ranked in the top 10 by KenPom. Take a look at MU’s shooting stats in these games:

180/418 FG (43.1 FG%), 116/230 2P (50.4 2P%) 64/188 3P (34.0 3P%), 50.7 eFG%

Compare that to their average on the season:

617/1254 FG (49.2 FG%), 405/747 2P (54.2 2P%) 212/507 3P (41.8 3P%), 57.7 eFG%

Now first, can we appreciate that “bad” shooting nights for Marquette means shooting an eFG% north of 50%? That’s amazing. However, with a defense as porous as Marquette’s, it is simply not enough firepower to win. The most striking difference comes at the three point line, where Marquette is shooting a full 7.8% worse in losing efforts. Why is this?

Quite simply, teams with a higher average height have an easier time closing out on shooters. It is simple math. A player who is 6-6, like say Michigan’s Zak Irvin, does not need to get as close to shooter to challenge a three pointer as a a shorter player, say Creighton’s Khryi Thomas who is 6-3 and plays the same position as Irvin. This is especially true when most of Marquette’s shooters are 6-5 or shorter. It may not seem like much, but this added height allows defenders precious extra milliseconds which are often the difference between a wide open shot and a challenged one. The other things that average height does, is give defenders extra length to disrupt passing lanes. Marquette’s offense relies heavily on making crisp, on time passes to open shooters. Teams with added length, especially at the 2 and 3 positions, have a greater ability to clog passing lanes, slowing down Marquette’s offense.

The next factor is slow adjusted tempo. What this means is that these teams literally have less possessions in their games than average. This can happen in a number of ways. Holding onto the ball until deep in the shot clock, forcing your opponent to do the same, limiting turnovers, and limiting offensive rebounds all contribute to this. High or low tempo does not usually indicate the skill of a team (for example The Citadel [#286 KP] is the highest tempo team in D1 and Holy Cross [#204 KP] is the third lowest tempo) but more of their play style. A slow tempo team can really pull down a high scoring offense like Marquette because they literally have less possessions to score on. Its almost comparable to a football team that wins by keeping their opponent’s offense off the field. Marquette has averaged about 72 possessions per game this season. In their 7 losses, they have averaged about 69. That may not seem like a lot, but with Marquette’s average of 1.17 points per possession this season, that 3 possession difference is worth about 3.5 points, which theoretically would have been the difference between winning and losing against Pittsburgh, Seton Hall (Road), and Providence.

The last similarity between the opponents is veteran PGs. 5 out of the 7 PGs in these games were seniors (two of them 5th year seniors), 1 of the remaining 2 was a junior (Providence’s Kyron Cartwright) and the last was Villanova’s Jalen Brunson who was a 5 star recruit and a starter for a national championship winning team. This similarity is more anecdotal. It is widely accepted that the PG is the most valuable position on the court. Marquette seems to struggle against teams that have quality, veteran points running the team. Or it could just be that teams with experienced point guards are better as a general rule.

So what does this mean going forward? It means that Marquette has a weakness and they will need to find a way to overcome it. Twice already they have beaten teams on the return trip after losing in the initial game (Villanova and Seton Hall). They will need to make similar adjustments when they get rematches against Butler and at Providence, both of whom are very beatable. Fortunately, 4 of Marquette’s 9 remaining opponents (SJU x2, GTWN,  and CREI) feature teams with lower average height, adjusted tempos in the top 100, and inexperienced point guards. An article came out yesterday suggesting that Xavier might shut down Edmond Sumner due to a lingering shoulder injury. If that were to happen, then the two games against X would also meet all three checks for a good matchup for Marquette. That would leave the return games against Providence and Butler and cellar dweller Depaul as the only three games that have any of Marquette’s identified weaknesses.

The loss to Providence was rough, but Marquette bought itself some breathing room with surprise wins at Creighton and vs. Villanova. With 4 (potentially 6) favorable matchups, 2 return games (Marquette is 2-0 when facing an opponent for the 2nd time this season) and 1 trip to good old doormat DePaul on the horizon, Marquette has a clear path to the NCAA tournament. There will be bumps along the way but the season is shaping up to be much more enjoyable than any of the last three.

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Tags: , ,

Categories: Analysis

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

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