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Markus Howard is still ridiculous

Happy Howard

Marquette Men’s Basketball

Since early last Spring, I’ve been preaching the gospel of regression when it comes to Markus Howard and his 3-point shooting. It’s not that last year was a fluke, per se, just that statistical outliers are outliers for a reason. Being the most accurate 3-point shooter in recent NCAA history (minimum 150 attempts) denotes tremendous ability, but also means it was going to be near impossible to match or exceed that efficiency, particularly on the increase of volume that such accuracy required. 

Anonymous Eagle wrote the opus on this, and for the most part, the #mubb fanbase on Twitter and MU Scoop I’ve seen has been surprisingly understanding about this. Still, it was strange to see Howard go only 7/28 (25%) from distance in Maui, on their notoriously friendly rims. I didn’t think Howard had regressed as a shooter, but was wondering if the increased volume and responsibility had ramped up too much too soon. 

Nope. 

Howard proceeded to torch the nets against Chicago State, hitting 11 of his 15 attempts from beyond the arc. Breaking a 25-year-old school record (sort of, he matched it last year) is a feat that requires no additional context, but it still doesn’t do justice to how impressive Howard’s performance was. In the past 8 seasons, (as far back as the data in basketball reference goes), only 14 times has a player hit 11 or more 3s in a game. None have done it in fewer attempts, and only 2 matched Howard with 15 attempts. 

Having a historically accurate night still doesn’t do his performance justice.

I think Howard put up one or two shots that weren’t either wide open or within the rhythm of the offense. I went on Synergy to see how that memory held up and according to their log, only 6 of his 15 shots came in “guarded” situations. And of course Howard hit 5/6 guarded bombs. But the more important fact from last night, and really the season as a whole is that he is taking what the defense gives him. The performance may not always be there, but so long as the process is, the results will come in time. 

But I’m not 350-words deep to build another verbal statue to Howard, Twitter would suffice for that. What really got me going were some late night Tweets from ESPN analyst Jeff Goodman. 

I’m not an irrational fanboy. It’s quite alright to praise someone on a night they hit 10 of 12 3s in a game. In fact, doing so for a player most have never and will never hear of makes it even more important. It raises awareness to someone that won’t get the accolades from the fans or the press and does zero harm to Howard or anyone else on Marquette. 

But to Tweet that on a night Howard did what he did, and then not acknowledge it seems silly. Goodman got lit up by Marquette fans in the mentions and usually that is that, but he then followed up with some more stats to back up his assertion and still didn’t acknowledge Howard. Trust me, if 20 of those 22 comments weren’t negative/about Howard, that original would not have needed a follow up. 

And if that wasn’t bad enough, his follow-up lacked total context. 

There were plenty of inches written about Howard this offseason, so I wouldn’t even claim it’s a lack of respect. Ask any of the big national writers, and he’d be in each and every one of their top-3 shooters. But I think he’s gone from being completely under-covered, to having his brilliance become sort of expected, even at a national level. I only saw a handful of national accounts mention his crazy night and it’s not because they didn’t know, but simply because he has normalized ridiculous shooting. My argument in this piece notes that this was not your ordinary ridiculous performance, but against a miserable opponent, you can see how this become just another nice stat.

Don’t let that be the case.    

Markus Howard is younger than Theo John and Greg Elliott. He’s 17 days older than Jamal Cain. We rightfully grade those freshmen on a curve and don’t expect them to produce much yet. The potential in all 3 is tantalizing, but being so young, the development will take time.

This is not the case at all with Howard. He’s no longer 17, so it isn’t cool to bring up his age, but what he’s doing and how well he’s doing it is unheard of. Consider that he’s currently tied with Duke’s Grayson Allen for 4th in D1 on points from jump shots (82) with an identical 1.302 PPP. Of course Howard has done this in 2 fewer games. He’s in the 97th% for his PPP on P&R ball handling, and 96th for his spot up shooting PPP.

And even with the step back in the shooting numbers, Howard has shown improvement in almost every other facet of his game. This post on Late Night Hoops is a from a week ago, but still a good reminder just how elite he already is. Age be damned.    

In case you had become accustomed to it, Wednesday night was a reminder of just how ridiculous Howard still is. 

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