Can Marquette exorcise the MSG 3-point demons?

Big East Tournament

(USA TODAY Sports)

Prior to Marquette’s game against St. John’s at MSG earlier this year, I did a bit of research on MU’s record at MSG and went on a bit of a Tweet storm to document it. Here are the important bits.

My theory was that having an NBA arc on the court both caused Marquette to take longer shots and affected the normal-range 3s they usually hit at a frightening clip. 

Marquette did end up losing to the Johnnies that night, but the 3-point shooting wasn’t really the culprit. The Golden Eagles hit 13-of-32 3s (40.6%), only a bit below their average for the season (43.0%), but not terrible by any means. In fact, Marquette had hit 11 of 23 treys in the first 32 minutes of action and was still down by 10 pints. The 2-9 finish didn’t help matters, but it was definitely not the cause for the loss. 

If we updated the states to include every game since 2012, Marquette has shot 33.2% from 3 at Madison Square Garden, shooting better with the arc (38.5%) than without it (28.9%). So while  we can assert that something about MSG throws off Marquette’s long distance shooting, we can’t really pin the blame on the arc.

But I’m not really interested in historical data for this analysis. Marquette hasn’t ever had a team shoot with this accuracy at this high volume. Comparing Derrick Wilson and Vander Blue to Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey, doesn’t tell us much. I want to see why this team, this year, has struggled in comparison to their norm.

We’ll start with a comparison of Marquette’s shot chart at MSG this year compared to the season as a whole. 


As you can clearly see, it has struggled in places it usually thrives. But this overview is still too general. A simple comparison of 3-point averages gives us the same answer. I wanted to go back to the theory that the 3-point arc was the culprit in tricking players into taking longer shots. So I went into Synergy and pulled out the data for shots from 22 feet and beyond (the distance for the NBA arc) for the season and compared them to all 3-point shots. If Marquette was taking a higher percentage of long shots with the line, that would go a long ways to confirming the theory that the arc affects the shot attempt, though not so much the made-shot percentage.

Marquette has played 4 games this year with the NBA 3-point line in tact, 3 at MSG and 1 at Nova (Wells Fargo Center). In those games, 67.7% of Marquette’s 3-point attempts have come from 22+ feet, just a tad more than the average of all its games 66.6%. What that means is that MU is not really launching from distances it doesn’t normally launch from. In these games with an NBA arc, Marquette is shooting 36.2% on all 3s, and 35.3% on NBA distance 3s. With the caveat that this is a small sample, we can safely say the 3-point arc didn’t affect the quantity of shots Marquette took, or the number of makes (too much).

Maybe its a sight-line thing? A common complaint of the NCAA Tournament when games are hosted in Domes is that the backdrop is too different from the norm, resulting in some poor shot making. NBA arenas are usually bigger than the normal college one, and usually have different lighting, so it was worth looking in to.

If we expand our search to include all NBA arenas, with or without a 3-point arc, we can also rule out this theory. Marquette shot 41% in NBA arenas and 39.9% from NBA range. Seeing as Marquette plays all its home games in an NBA arena, this was a no brainer. 

But that led me to another question, what if this wasn’t a venue issue, more than a familiarity issue. Most teams shoot better at home than they do on the road (for a number of reasons). Marquette is not one of those teams, shooting  43.1% at home and a robust 45.2% on the road. In fact, they were even more lethal from NBA range on the road, hitting  84-177 attempts, a 47.5% average. 

This brings us back to the target of this investigation, MSG. This season, Marquette is shooting 42.8% on all 3s, and is actually better on shots from 22+ feet, hitting at a 43.2% clip. If we limit that to just shots at MSG, we get a bit of confirmation. MU’s 3pt% at MSG is 32.9% on all 3s, and only 29.3% on 3s behind the NBA arc.

However, this is not due to the length of the shots taken. In all venues, 66.6% of 3s Marquette takes come from 22+ feet. At MSG, only 56.2% of their 3s come from 22+ feet. So while Marquette has shot worse from long distance at MSG, it has taken fewer NBA-distance 3s than it usually takes. 

3Pt comparison.JPG

Again, this is small sample size at work. One robust shooting day can take poor average to an ok one when we only have 3 games worth of data. Not to mention that the Marquette team that played against Pitt and Michigan is nowhere near the team that is playing now. Rowsey played 1 minute against Michigan while Howard played 4 against Pitt. As I highlighted yesterday, that is no longer the case.  

So while I don’t have an answer to what ails Marquette at the World’s Most Famous Arena, we can say that something changes when they step foot in MSG.

I do know this, if Marquette isn’t proficient from long distance, it will be a quick stay in New York.

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