Greska: Playing Hauser was dumb and dangerous

(Editor’s note: Marquette declined to make Steve Wojciechowski available for an interview.)

The biggest story from last night’s season-ending defeat came via the acknowledgement from Marquette that Sam Hauser would require surgery to repair a hip injury that had been bothering him since before the start of the season, and that the recovery would take 4-5 months. 

I have been beating the drum all week that Sam wasn’t right and that his minutes should be limited and this seems to be the confirmation for that.

When you have a player contesting the NCAA 3-point shooting title air-ball a wide open 3 and getting absolutely no lift on his shot like he did against Oregon, there has to be some secondary factor altering the performance. But don’t take my one-possession anecdote as proof. Just look at the numbers.  

Going into the DePaul game in the Big East Tournament, Sam Hauser was one of the hottest players in the country. Including the stats in that game, Sam was shooting 60.9% from 3 with an ORtg of 130.5 on 19% usage. 

Then this happened. 

The MU Wire reporter acknowledged seeing him limp badly even in the locker after the game, but Hauser didn’t acknowledge any injury and didn’t let it sideline him. Marquette’s season was on the line against Villanova, and there was no way you were taking him off the floor. He played 33 valiant minutes, but looked a step slow the whole game and only went 1-6 shooting, scoring 4 points in 33 minutes, his poorest offensive outing of the season since scoring 2 points against Chicago State.

He gutted out a subpar performance to help his team. Again, that just goes to show what a warrior he is and what he means to this program. But as soon as Miami’s logo showed up on Selection Sunday, putting an end to Marquette’s slim NCAA Tournament hopes, Sam should have gotten in a doctor’s office that next hour to plan the necessary surgery and the steps required prior to then.

Don’t get me wrong, it has nothing to do with me downplaying the NIT. I’m the same person who wrote this on it’s value. But the games don’t matter to this season.  Hauser’s value to the team is evident to anyone who has seen a minute of game time. He was the MVP in my eyes as a freshman, and again this year as a sophomore. He has nothing left to prove this season and his health will be vital to both Marquette’s success next year and Wojo’s continued tenure.

Knowing all of that, if I was on the coaching staff, I would take the decision out of Sam’s hands and tell him to get right. Winning a few NIT games isn’t meaningless, but they pale in comparison to making an already serious injury worse. Again, I’m sure the doctors said he was fine to play. I’m sure the prognosis for surgery was set in stone for weeks, if not months.

But the doctors also gave Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson the medical clearance to play a few weeks back after sitting out a few months. You won’t guess what happened next.

One last time for those in the back, playing in the NIT did not cause the injury and I’m not accusing Wojo of rushing Sam back to play in the Arby’s Invitational like Brey did with Bonzie. But there is clear evidence of untreated injuries causing further injuries to unrelated muscles and bones. 

There’s also this from the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine:

The actual amount of intra-articular hip disorders may be underestimated, as the awareness of these disorders has increased only in the past decade. With the awareness of the types of injuries that occur in this region, injury prevention strategies focused on these may be beneficial to players and teams at all levels of competition, not only professional-level athletes.

And this from the American Journal of Sports Medicine:

The most common mechanism of injury was contact with another player, especially in the “key.” Injuries occurred 3.7 times more often in games than during practice.

So hip injuries are commonly underestimated and contact in the paint was a much likelier cause of significant injury for NCAA basketball players than practice. Using this, and common sense, I don’t care what odds the doctors gave Sam for making the injury worse. Any odds, no matter how minimal, was not worth the potential for long term damage, particularly because the games were “only” NIT games.

But fine, he was hurt all season and still put up one of the best season’s in Marquette history. The team needed him to go deep and he willingly signed up. But did they?

Following that slip/pile on sequence against DePaul, Sam played 4 games and averaged 27 minutes per game. In those 27 minutes he only shot 23% from distance and was well below his season average in terms of usage.

  3FG 3FGA 3pt % 2FG 2FGA 2 pt% Ortg Usage Min
Total 32 63 50.8% 29 61 47.5% 124.8 18.0 33.3
Pre Slip 28 46 60.9% 24 50 48.0% 130.5 19.0 36.5
Post Slip 4 17 23.5% 5 11 45.5% 113.4 15.9 27.0

He was less efficient, less aggressive, and much more foul prone. He did not want to be in the paint at all, and posed very little resistance to physical players like Stevens. And it’s perfectly clear why that was. Not sold? Hauser averaged 6.2 2-point attempts in his 8 games prior to that DePaul injury, and only 1.4 after. That’s not normal and tells you everything you need to knwo.

So all of this is to say, Wojo and Sam took a very unnecessary risk by playing Hauser in the NIT and didn’t really reap any rewards. Heck, I’m getting ready to work on a post showing Hauser already measures favorably to senior year Steve Novak. This is the franchise player. No precaution is too cautious for my liking.

This also gets to something I plan to touch on this offseason of process vs. results. It isn’t enough to judge a program by the results, the process matters. For this particular situation both the process and results were negative. The worst of all possibilities.

If Wojo and Marquette are ever put in this position again, the decision shouldn’t even require elongated discussion. 

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2 Comments on “Greska: Playing Hauser was dumb and dangerous”

  1. PatrickSperry
    March 21, 2018 at 12:37 pm #

    excellent post.

  2. hack
    March 23, 2018 at 8:57 am #

    Fake News

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