Markus, MU have a big, short and midrange problem

If you have a Twitter, like well made informative charts, and don’t follow @jgtrends on Twitter, you’re really missing out on some of the most insightful advanced metrics in college basketball as a whole.

Yesterday in particular, he put out this chart of the points each shot has been worth to top-25 teams this year, based on distance. It’s beautiful.

You can see exactly how valuable shots at the rim are, particularly compared to shots just 4 feet away. Conversely, you can also see just how much more valuable 3-pointers are compared to midrange jumpers, as the value of the average midrange never rises above .75 until you get right to the border of the 3-point line.

That’s all well and good, but you’re not interested in everyone else, just Marquette, so I took to Synergy to try and recreate that chart to the best of my abilities, as I had a feeling Marquette’s was going to look much, much different.

And sure enough, it did.

MU Pts per Shot by Distance.JPG

Though not by as much as I initially thought it would be.

The 0 ft (which encompasses shots from 0-2 feet) being a tad lower in pts/shot than shots from 26-28 ft looks alarming, but it’s mostly a volume issue. MU has 214 attempts at close range vs 52 from 26-28 ft. However, the 0.23 gap between the MU number and the top-25 number means that if Marquette scored at the same rate as the average top-25 team, it would have scored an additional 49 points at the rim this season, a bucket or so a game.

If you include the shots from 2-4 feet as well, and assume they hit at an average rate, Marquette would have scored an additional 85 points this season. Not the end of the world, but an additional 3 or so points a game can definitely come in handy.

Where it does become a bigger deal, is that Marquette isn’t only missing more shots than average, it gets to the rim less than that as well. According to TRank, Marquette ranks 301st in the country at shots close to the rim, not exactly an apples to apples comparison, but close enough to point us in the right direction. It only gets 30.6% of shots at the rim, the worst percentage in the Big East, as well.

But this isn’t really news to anyone, just another arrow in the quiver. We’ve seen this with our own eyes. This team can’t get anything easy going at the rim.

So I wanted to isolate just Markus, as he takes such a heavy load of the possessions.

Markus Pts Per Shot.JPG

Ah, that definitely looks a lot different. (There is an enormous caveat that should be noted, this only accounts for the shots that were made or missed, not the ones that drew a foul, which when we’re talking about one of the nation’s leaders at drawing fouls makes a huge difference, particularly at the rim.)

If Markus isn’t drawing contact, his efficiency is worse from 0-2 feet than anywhere between 16 and 28 feet. Forget his size, an obvious impediment, he doesn’t have the athleticism to glide in the air or really go around defenders, when he’s in among the trees. He usually takes contact, so it becomes a matter of how tightly the refs want to call it. As one of only 4 players in the country to surpass 200 FTs attempted this season, can’t really complain much there, though that won’t stop me from complaining.

Instead, I wanted to focus on a different part of his game that seems to have fallen off from previous years, the short midrange.

He’s a wizard from 3. An anomaly from long midrange, poor at the rim, but below average from 5-9 feet, on the outskirts of the paint where he used to paint some masterpieces.

Check out his short-mid stats from 2018, when I specifically noted how this skill had transformed his game.  Markus 2018.JPG

(For reference I’m including the 2 sets of rings outside of the main one at the basket for the short-mid designation.)

He finished that 2018 season shooting 53.8% on these shots at a pretty decent volume (50/93). It was something he could wield against defenses that played him too closely on the perimeter and against teams that walled up the rim.

As it stands, Markus has the exact same number of attempts this season (93) at this range but has made 16 less of them, shooting an underwhelming 36.6%.

Markus 2020.JPG

Here’s what the numbers look like in chart form his career to date, to make it easier to compare. Capture.JPG

The most glaring one to me is SS (Short Straight), where he has taken the heaviest load the  last 3 years, and done it effectively the prior 2. This year, he’s only 5/18, an anemic 27.8% with 7 more shots there than anywhere else.

I initially thought it could be a spacing issue, without Hauser on the court to draw help defenders and just generate more traffic or chaos, but even his numbers last year, with two Hausers, don’t come close to matching the 2018 season.

I don’t have an answer. I do think teams are more than willing to help off the corner man when Markus is driving, and we saw that play out to Creighton’s great success last time.

I also think he’s willing to take shots with a higher degree of difficulty now than in 2019, so even though the location may be similar, the probability of making a running bank instead of a straight floater is shorter.

I can even be convinced that in an attempt to draw fouls, Markus himself is putting himself in more precarious positions to shoot, even 5-9 feet out.

Finally, there’s a confidence factor. Markus isn’t one to lack for confidence in his shot, even if he’s shooting on a busted wrist, but the closer to the rim he gets, the less fluid his shooting motion becomes. I don’t have data for this one, but one play against Creighton where he beat Ty-Shon off the dribble and had an easy, open 9-foot jumper in front of him that he normally cashes with ease. Instead of just shooting though, he paused an extra beat to make sure Alexander wasn’t behind him, giving the defender time to catch up. Although he did get it off cleanly, the hesitation led to an ugly brick.

So what happens now?

I don’t think, and don’t want, Markus to change his approach to the game. Marquette’s best option is and will be to ride his scoring as far as it will take them. And he has done a decent job of getting others involved of late, even if the results haven’t been exemplary.

It’s probably going to come down to making shots, 3s in particular, and ideally from people that aren’t the all-time scoring leaders at Marquette. Non-Markus MU players have shot 37.8% on Catch & Shoot jumpers this season, not eye-popping but more than respectable. That 1.14 PPP would rank 19th best in D1, so actually way more than respectable.

That percentage has dropped to 33.3% and 1.0 PPP during the losing streak, though. Again, that’s not exactly bad, it just drops the margin for error both defensively and in other parts of the offense. And with 3s, where luck is heavily involved, some blips of this nature do happen. They are just more glaring when you’re facing double-digit deficits each first half.

Markus needs to continue to stay aggressive in probing the defense, and shooters need to stay confident that he can get it to them. Attacking the paint and forcing the ball to the middle is just not something Marquette has done well this season. I don’t think that’s going to magically change the next few weeks.

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