How can MU neutralize Seton Hall’s strength at the rim?

I don’t normally do previews before regular season games because they get stale quick and I’m not one for reading many previews myself, so why would I subject others to this.

But it’s a pretty special occasion and I have time, so I re-watched the first matchup and had some quick thoughts that were originally meant for Twitter.

Treat Gill like Theo

Romario Gill, Seton Hall’s 7-foot shot blocker, is the most disruptive defender at the rim in the Big East this year, and probably one of the top 2 or 3 in the country. He leads the Big East in Block Rate by an absurd margin (14% to 9.8% for the next closest player) and is 3rd nationally.

But that’s all easy to infer with a KenPom sub. If you want to get a true sense of just what he means to Seton Hall defensively, his on/off splits tell a much broader tale.

Using Hoop-Explorer data, you can quantify that teams shoot almost 8% points less of their shots at the rim when Gill is in the game versus when he’s on the bench.

Gill onoff.JPG

So not only is he rejecting 14% of the shots that do happen, he’s using Jedi mind tricks (and length) to force teams to take tougher shots. And that’s why teams are shooting 5.3% worse from 2 in his minutes on the floor.

When we’re talking about a team in Marquette that has a ton of issues both at the rim and from near mid-range, this would seem to be an enormous problem.

MU Pts per Shot by Distance

And indeed Wojo agreed. Sideline reporter Gary Parrish noted that Wojo had stressed to his team to be cautious in the paint, and was fine with the team putting up 3s in the first tilt.

But in going through the game, it hit me that instead of avoiding meetups at the rim, Marquette should attack Gill the way teams have attacked John at times. Use his aggressiveness against him.

Now, Marquette isn’t a very good lob team, and the big men down low aren’t necessarily to be trusted with passes in tight spaces. In fact, one of the few times MU did pull it out of the bag on a Koby drive, it resulted in Jayce traveling, negating a wide open dunk.


But if it is something you can actively gameplan for, it becomes something John and Jayce can expect, rather than be shocked at.

Cain Lobs

Of course if it were as easy as I was making it sound, Seton Hall wouldn’t be the 11th best defense in the country, according to KenPom. Unlike MU, which can get caught Theo watching on D, the Pirates do a great job of collapsing the rim with defenders on Gill’s block attempts, making it both easier to rebound and preventing the above screenshot from being replicated over and over.

Where I do think Marquette could have success, without completely relying on jumpers to fall, is to ride Cain’s confident form and have his patented lob runs/rim crashes be a feature of the offense.

Cain Crash.JPG Above is one example of where Markus draws the entire team to him after breaking past the perimeter D. You can see Cain starts his run well before Markus has released it, and would be home free for a lob dunk, but this was a possession where Markus only had eyes for the rim.

He has shown the last 3 or so games a knack for making deft touch passes, more-so than at any time in his career, because he hasn’t been going in with his mind set. Giving himself that extra second to recognize both the defense, and Cain’s ability to catch and dunk anything, could yield some pretty easy buckets from time to time, and make the Pirates much more hesitant to send the kitchen sink at him.

Board Crashing

And as you might expect from the last two blurbs, this all came about because for all of their defensive splendor, and they really are tremendous, Seton Hall isn’t a great rebounding team. They rank 8th in conference play, giving up 31.5% of rebounds to Big East opponents.

On Synergy, offensive rebounds is the only place where Seton Hall is below average, giving up 1.14 PPP and ranking in the bottom 25% of the country.

Again, this isn’t really Marquette’s strength, so it’s not something that may come naturally, particularly if Theo is on the floor. But When either Jayce of Cain, and heck even Bailey, are, they will find extra room to navigate the boards if the guards can suck out Gill and use that aggressiveness against him.

Make Shots

These are all shots Marquette missed early in the 2nd half before Seton Hall pulled away. Open Miss.JPG

Open Miss 2.JPG

Open Miss 3.JPG

These aren’t just open, they are wide, no one within 10 feet of you open that Marquette has put in at over 40% this season.

Seton Hall doesn’t give up too many of these a game, though has been a bit fortunate in only giving up 0.927 PPP on these shots. It’s a make or miss league.

Transition Quickly

Marquette has a fabulous transition offense. Seton Hall has an average transition defense.


It’s not a good idea to take bad shots just to say you went quickly, sure, but scoring against Seton Hall in the half court takes a ton of time and energy. A few quick bursts on the can swing the momentum and change the game.

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