Does this Marquette team have a switch?

Sam Hauser Dunk

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

With just over 3 minutes to go in the half and Butler up 8, Marquette looked like it was a half step slow defensively, and on another planet offensively. Decent looks were missing by a bunch, no one seemed to be able to finish inside and there was just a lack of urgency all around.

That Marquette was able to cut down the deficit to 1 was fairly impressive, but even before that quick burst, it didn’t feel like the team was in any sort of danger of actually losing. I think the Tweet below perfectly encapsulates that feeling, but JB did it in real time, which is much tougher than writing 14 hours after you know the final score.

Butler busted out of the gates with a 7-0 run, but a quick timeout from Wojo lit the needed fire into the team, and Marquette ran away with it pretty comfortably, even if Butler coach Lavall Jordan didn’t know how to take an L.

But this one individual game is beside the point. What I’m trying to say is that, even when Marquette was playing poorly and down by a significant margin, at no point was I worried they would lose. I knew they had a barrage of 3s and better D in the bag, and it was only a matter of time before they called on it.

Or to put it more bluntly, they have a switch.

You hear this in a negative connotation all the time, usually along the lines of “teams can’t just rely on flipping the switch.” But the thing about teams with a switch is, they are usually elite or near elite teams.

To have the reputation of having a switch, you have to have overcome decent deficits more than once, and usually have to win by a significant margin, too. Having a switch means being able to overwhelm an opponent in a fairly small amount of time, to the point where an opposing fanbase doesn’t just fear a comeback, they expect it.

Reading through the Butler forum gamethread, this particular post stood out:

Up 1 at half, held the Hausers and Anim to 4 points combined, +6 in rebounding, pretty solid on the road against the #11 team in the country. Going to need more from Kamar in the second half, but McDermott, Jorgs, etc need to keep contributing to withstand the inevitable flurry that Marquette’s going to unleash at some point.

Inevitable flurry indeed.

Unlike most of my posts, I don’t have hard data to back up this feeling, but I do know that I haven’t felt it for Marquette games since the 2012 season when Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder were at the helm. I can even tell you the precise moment that made me think of all this.

I was visiting my now wife in college and was watching Marquette play at Villanova, on CBS I believe, on a Saturday morning. Marquette came out terribly and was down double digits at the half. My wife wanted to turn it off and go get food, but I told her we had them right where we wanted. The game didn’t turn into a blowout in the second half, but it took less than 5 minutes for a 10 point deficit to turn into a 2-point lead.

The details are hazy, but the feeling is not. Like the tweet above mentioned, there are still nerves, but a supreme confidence that the outcome will be positive.

I Tweeted out that this was the first MU team with a switch since DJO/Jae leading to a great discussion with <checks notes> the starting point guard on that 2012 squad.

And to elaborate a bit on Junior’s question about the 2013 team, it just didn’t have the offensive firepower to turn a game around in the course of 3 minutes. Of course, it did manage one of the most improbable comebacks in NCAA Tournament history in the first round against Davidson, but the fact that this type of output was so out of character made it that much more unbelievable.

If we do try to put a few numbers on it, I think I’d use TRank’s +/- feature, which is on the right hand side of the game log. The +/- number tells you what the average lead (or deficit) was throughout the game. So against Butler, despite the fact that Marquette won by double digits, being down for almost all of the first half and the start of the second led to a +/- of -0.2. For teams with a switch, you’d expect to have more wins that fall in the negative category, as the offensive burst comes rapidly, usually when it’s most needed.

Negative wins Biggest
2019 6 -4.9
2018 3 -3.5
2017 1 -9.2
2016 1 -1.3
2015 1 -0.8
2014 3 -3.2
2013 4 -5.3
2012 4 -6.6
2011 4 -5.7
2010 2 -3.1

Sure enough, this team has as many wins with negative +/- differentials as all of Wojo’s previous teams combined. (Here’s where I’ll note that defense also plays a large role in overcoming deficits late, as 2017’s results will show you.)

So I do have to give it to Junior, that team had as many negative margin wins as 2012. However, I will note that all 4 came in the final games, with two in the NCAA Tournament. While that team may not have had a switch for most of the season, it definitely found one down the stretch.

The last thing I’ll note is that the switch isn’t some magic elixir that fixes all flaws. When faced with a team that neutralizes your strengths, not having it early on can put you in  too big a hole to dig out of. See the most recent St. John’s game as a perfect example. A terrible, lethargic first 28 minutes followed by a very good final 12. It came down to the last possession, so it very easily could have been a win, but the inverse can be said about Marquette’s plethora of tight victories this season.

So having a switch isn’t inherently a “good” thing on its own. You would still much rather have a team play well all 40 and not leave it to second half rallies. But it is a sign that the team does have a gear above that of most opponents.

This team most definitely has it.

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