Turnovers, Anim and other early worries

Wojo mad

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

When Marquette opened the season with a 35-point drubbing of Loyola Maryland, the 21 turnovers committed were an issue that could be easily explained by rust and lack of focus in a blowout opening game.

When Marquette committed 21 turnovers on Saturday against a much worse opponent in Robert Morris in what turned out to be a rather tight game, the issue isn’t so easy to dismiss or put away. The season started 3 weeks ago and turnovers had been a huge area of concern just one game ago in a humbling loss at Wisconsin.

Marquette currently ranks  316th in the country, turning it over almost 24% of possessions each game. To put that into context, one of the most glaring spots of concern last year was TORate, and it was only 19%. Yes, the sample size of 4 games will overplay the importance of a bad performance or two, but this is not an issue that’s going away soon.

Watching all 67 turnovers back to back, I noticed that while the team seems very cognizant of the issue, in that there were a pair of negative demonstrative responses immediately after the turnovers occur.

That may just be a product of a frustrating game against a supposed cupcake, but to me, it feels like the team and staff is putting plenty of attention on the issue, and the team is playing rather tight.

Howard Frustration.gif

Howard is probably upset that he missed a good shoot, played poorly most of the game,  and didn’t get a chance to redeem himself with what good have been an open look, but frankly, that reaction is how most Marquette fans watching most of the game.

Digging in to those stats a bit more, the nature of the turnovers the past 10 days is a little different than from the first two.

In the first two, Marquette committed 31 turnovers, but only 1 (3.1%) of them came on a bad/stolen entry pass or a travel under the basket.

Turnovers full team.JPGIn the last two games, Marquette committed 36 turnover, and 13 of them came on botched entry feeds or poor footwork at the basket. A full 36% of turnovers on basic, fundamental actions that aren’t caused by opponents, for the most part.

Of those 13, 7 came on feeds into the bigs from the paint, with an outrageous 5 tunrovers against Robert Morris. Of the 6 travels, 4 came against Wisconsin.

Any turnover is bad in and of itself, but the team is just killing itself with unforced errors. Morrow’s footwork in particular has been concerning since last year, so to see it not only not improve but get worse over the summer doesn’t bode well for in season adjustments. As for the entry passes, it’s on the guards mostly, making bad passes in tight spaces or lazy bounces into covered players.

Marquette doesn’t have as much margin for error on offense this season. If the turnovers don’t get addressed, the NIT show will be the one this team is sweating out.

Sacar Anim Regression

I was incredibly high on Sacar Anim coming into the season. He had closed last season as the 2nd best returning offensive player on Marquette, proving he could not only make teams pay for leaving him uncovered, he could also create for himself in an efficient matter.

And yet, 3 weeks into the season, he’s been among the worst offensive high major players. His ORtg currently sits at 76.5, down from 100.1 last year and 104.5 the year before. He’s also turning it over every 4 possessions.

It’s still super early and he did bounce back from the field a bit against Robert Morris, but even that decent game came with below-decent metrics, thanks to his career high 5 turnovers. He’s always had more turnovers than assists, so this isn’t to say I expected otherwise this year.

But Marquette desperately needs his playmaking ability to punish teams for closely guarding Koby and Markus. The 3s should come for him, the sample was too large to think he’s back to 2018 Anim, though the free throw shooting hasn’t improved, so it could all have been an aberration.

What I do know is that his poor offensive start is contributing to lackluster defensive effort at times on the other end, which should send sirens to the coaching staff.

It’s very, very early, so don’t take this to be some call to replace him. I don’t feel like Cain or Bailey or Elliott have really played that much better, and Anim has tougher defensive assignments each night.

But his performance is currently a net negative. If it continues to be that after Orlando this week, I think the hook might need to come a bit quicker each game.

Plus Minus Leaderboard

Plus minus is a flawed enough stat with a large sample size, that it probably does more harm than good to focus on a few games’ worth of scores, but if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll see that I update it after most games, based on the box score stats provided by MU.

The big takeaway so far is that the team has been markedly worse with Theo John on the bench. The two other bigs have a combined -21, which is tough to do for a team that’s 3-1 with a 30+ point blowout under its belt.

Seeing Howard’s middling plus/minus is also a bit curious, as it’s felt like the offense craters when he’s not in. Again, let’s check back in a week with almost double the box scores to work with.

Shaky Defense

I don’t think I was alone in projecting defense to be Marquette’s calling card this season, but through 4 games, I don’t think the defense has been as good as advertised.

There have been 3 phenomenal halves defensively, (Loyola 1st, Purdue 2nd, Robert Morris 1st) so it’s not like the defense has been bad, but it just feels like it’s going unpunished on missed shots rather than this be the work of a smothering team.

It doesn’t help that Marquette is 350th in steal% at this point, getting a steal only 4.6% of possessions. And as a whole, MU is 305th in TO%, meaning it isn’t causing opponents to cough it up at all. So even though Marquette has the 6th best 2pt% defense, it hasn’t felt overpowering.

And I also think it’s very susceptible to teams that can shoot. Marquette has given up 64 catch and shoot opportunities, with over half of those being the Unguarded variety where, luckily, teams are only shooting 35.3%. For context, that’s the 4th best “defense” in the Big East against unguarded catch and shoots and only 3 other teams have given up as many of these per game.

Limiting easy looks inside is still the calling card for Marquette, but if it doesn’t start creating at least a semblance of havoc defensively, teams are going to continue to get more and more comfortable in their sets, as was the case against Robert Morris.

One last time, it’s too early to say anything is a problem just yet. Use this as guidance on what to watch for in Orlando this week and we can proceed with panic if/when the results don’t improve.

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