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Marquette’s Known Knowns, Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns

Howard

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

It’s officially opening day for Marquette, and although the season won’t start for another month, we have learned enough over the summer to lay down some knowledge about what we know about the 2018-2019 version. In the interest of comedy, we have taken some liberties from former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and organized this text by what we know, what we know we don’t know, and what we don’t know we don’t know.

Known Knowns

Markus Howard

His freshman year, Markus had one of the best individual shooting seasons of all time. His sophomore year, he  conquered the floater and became lethal near the rim.

The next step in his progression will be to become a better distributor, but at this point in time, Markus is a stone cold lock to get buckets each and every night.

Sam Hauser

I don’t need to elaborate here. I’ll just leave Wojo’s recent comments and keep moving on.

“But in my opinion, Sam is one of the top players in the United States. He’s a guy who does so much for our team on both ends of the floor – has such winning qualities. I don’t think I’ve been around a college player who is less maintenance than Sam Hauser. He is no maintenance and he’s high delivery. Those are the kind of players that coaches love.”

Matt Heldt

Matt may be the 6th option on offense any time he’s on the floor, and his defense will rarely make any highlights, but he is the ultimate known known. Efficient putbacks, solid D, no fuss. And that’s really downplaying the impact he’s had on the team the past 2 years.

With the addition of Ed Morrow and Theo’s added experience, Heldt might not see a big increase in minutes, but you know exactly what you will be getting from him.

Improved P&R Defense

This may seem like a bit of a stretch, or a belief rather than a sure thing, but I can’t emphasize enough just what a difference replacing Rowsey with an adept defender will make.

As pitiful as Rowsey’s defending was, I’m not willing to put improved overall D on this list just yet. I’m very confident they won’t be as bad, but that is a projection, not a certainty. But it is 100% certain that the pick and roll defense won’t be quite as bad as it was last season.

Toughness

The first thing every write-up and analysis has mentioned about Ed Morrow has been the physicality/toughness he brings. Something that Marquette has lacked in all aspects.

I can’t quantify this with a fancy analytical stat, but Marquette has been Charmin soft the last few years. As a self described “soft” person myself, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but the personnel just didn’t intimidate in the slightest. I am whole-hardheartedly against the old put them on the ground mentality, but one of Marquette’s most serious issues has been allowing way too many shots near the rim, and allowing way too high a percentage to go in. In 2018, opponents shot 61.8% near the rim, tied for the 249th worst mark in the nation. As if that wasn’t bad enough, opponents took 38.7% of shots near the rim, again putting MU among the worst 100 teams in the county.

Toughness alone won’t improve those numbers, but combined with added experience and length on the perimeter, we should expect to see some positive movement.

Shooting

I’m not as confident about the offense as a whole as many are, but there should be 0 doubts that Marquette will continue to be near the top of the country when it comes to 3-point shooting. Having Markus and Sam alone is enough, but Cain has proven to be able to knock down open shots while both Brendan Bailey and Joey Hauser have range past the arc. Losing Rowsey will definitely cut down on the Holy Shit moments from distance, but it won’t change the overall makeup and quality of this team from the floor.

Known Unknowns

Defense

The whole season hinges on Marquette being able to improve defensively, and pretty drastically TBH. I think and predict the defense will be leaps better, but after last season’s showing, I’m not willing to put any money on that assertion.

A third year of sub-150 defensive efficiency would prove beyond a doubt that the issue isn’t personnel based, but schematic, and would leave Wojo with lots to answer for. Defense is the key to living up to expectations, we shall see what happens.

Sophomore Leaps

Greg Elliott, Theo John and Jamal Cain saw some great stretches at times, and all saw plenty of minutes throughout the year, but between their body composition and general inconsistency, they all finished the season as complementary players.

We usually expect players to improve from their freshmen to sophomore year, and this checks out with quick look at freshmen vs. sophomore year BPMs. The only true freshmen under Wojo to get “worse” from his freshmen to sophomore year was Markus Howard, according to BPM. That doesn’t mean Markus was worse, he was just less efficient on much higher usage. But the point stands.

The question is how much improvement will we see from these three? I believe all 3 will be coming off the bench most of the year, and all 3 have at least 1, sometimes 2 players ahead of them in the rotation. It may not stay that way, but from our vantage point, it’s not easy to say if any will be bigger contributors than they were last year.

Should Cain cut down on his turnovers and improve his defensive awareness, his athleticism and precision from the rim could make him a crucial piece at 3 different positions.

Should Elliot’s use of 2 hands this season improve his handle and shot-making ability, his elite defensive instincts and guard mentality could make him an even better option at the point than Chartouny.

Should Theo learn to defend without fouling, his elite blocking ability and overall physical presence would make him a tremendous defender for a team that hasn’t been great at containing penetration from the perimeter.

I could make a case for each of those players to start by the time conference season arrives, but until we see this team in action, we just don’t know how much of a leap to expect.

Freshmen Contributions

When teams usually add top-50 freshmen talent to a roster, we can usually predict that those players will contribute from Day 1. But Joey Hauser and Brendan Bailey are two fairly unique cases. Joey missed all of his senior season due to injury while Brendan hasn’t played competitively since 2016 after going on a 2-year Mormon Mission.

Those layoffs, as well as the existing talent already in place, make it very difficult to project any type of impact either might have this season. Personally, I think Joey will end up cracking the top-8 rotation by mid-season, while Brendan will be limited to spot minutes, but there is nothing behind that projection other than gut feeling. Joey could end up being too slow to guard 3s and too small to guard 4s and 5s. Brendan could end up a perfect spot-up 3 opposite Sam.

Again, we just don’t know.

Joseph Chartouny

Since the hour it was announced that Chartouny would look to grad transfer from Fordham, I have been beating the drum that he would be an absolutely perfect fit on the roster.

I still stand by that opinion 100%, but it’s not a slam dunk. I can easily see teams sagging off him so much that it cuts Howard’s room to penetrate and dramatically decreases the amount of open looks Sam gets. I can also see his lack of athleticism showing up more prominently against high major opponents, and hurting his impact on defense.

I don’t think he will shoot the ball as poorly as last season, when he was injured to begin the year, and he has shown to be a better distributor than anyone Marquette has had since fellow Canadian Junior Cadougan manned the point. I also think he could be a bad defender at this level and still be an improvement over last year.

Marquette has done extremely well with grad transfers under Wojo, with Carlino putting up most of the offense in 2015 and Katin playing a large role in this admin’s only NCAA appearance, so the adjustment shouldn’t be terribly painful. Then again, Marquette hasn’t had as much depth in previous instances.

Minutes/Chemistry

Speaking of depth, having enough is vital so you don’t have to rely on a Derrick Wilson/Jake Thomas starting backcourt, but having too much is a recipe for disaster. The only year under Wojo where “too much talent” was an issue was in 2017, with Traci, Markus and Andrew each needing minutes at the point, and that was resolved fairly quickly with Traci Carter’s mid-season transfer.

This year, there are 3 capable players at the 5, with Heldt and Theo unable to realistically play the 4 for any stretch of time. Sam Hauser will get precedence at the 3 or 4 all season, but there is still a bit of a logjam behind him with Sacar, Joey, Jamal and Brendan all in play. Markus owns the shooting guard spot, but I can see Greg getting frustrated by a lack of opportunity at either the 1 or 2.

We know there is an abundance of talent, but we have no idea how that will manifest itself in the locker room. It would not surprise me to see 1 or even 2 mid-season transfers. We just don’t know how this particular group will handle this challenge, one most haven’t faced before.

Unknown Unknowns

It’s tough to write down anything in here, since by it’s very name we don’t know what that unkown will be, but we have seen from previous years how unforseen challenges never fail to arrive.

Injuries

For all the depth that I was just touting, should either of Markus or Sam go down for more than a few games, expectation for this team will plummet. There is simply no replacing players of their elite ability in-season.

NCAA Issues

With the FBI’s NCAA probe in court as I type, and new allegations against teams like DePaul and Creighton popping up, we can’t 100% say that Marquette will be spared just because there has been no mention to date.

Earlier this summer, Marquette’s name briefly appeared in a negative light when allegations that a former players were selling custom Jordan shoes against NCAA protocol. Marquette was cleared of any wrongdoing, but it just goes to show you can never really know when NCAA issues will pop up.

Increased expectations

No team under Wojo has come into a season with as high of outside expectations. Some teams are better able to handle this than others and we don’t have any evidence to show how Wojo’s teams, or this one in particular will react.

NET Impact

This could probably go under the known unkown section, because we do know the NCAA will use it, but seeing as we have no idea how teams will be graded with this replacement for the RPI, I figured we’d boost this portion. There are infinitely more questions than answers about it at this point, with the only commonality being that it probably can’t be worse than the RPI.

A brief conversation with Deputy AD Mike Broeker made it clear that dumping the RPI was a win, full stop, but when playing in a high major league like the Big East, it will always come down to quality wins and quality losses. “Those two won’t change.”

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