Early MU observations in late November

It’s way too early and the competition too subpar to be able to come to any conclusions about Marquette. Two games, particularly against a sub 300 team and sub 150 team, just isn’t conducive to real analysis.

So don’t think of the following as anything but fleeting thoughts I wanted to quantify.

P&R Ball Handler Struggles

Coming into the season, I noted that Marquette’s returning players were quite poor in scoring situations directly off of pick and rolls.

This was was particularly problematic, since a big component of Marquette’s offensive success the last 4 years was predicated on P&R Ball Handler excellence.

This helped explained why Marquette was targeting so many immediately eligible scoring guards in the transfer market (Carlik Jones, Justin Turner, Bryce Aiken) and, ultimately, why landing D.J. Carton was such a big deal.

So that’s partially why I chose to pick this stat out over the weekend, just to start keeping tabs on it. The other reason was it felt like Marquette’s guards had a very difficult time generating offense off the dribble so far.

Sure enough, the stats matched the eye test.

Through a very tiny 2-game sample, Synergy has logged 16 of Marquette’s offensive attempts as coming from P&R Ball Handler, leading to 3 points and 7 turnovers on 0-6 shooting. Of the 183 teams who have logged at least 10 possessions, Marquette is sitting dead last with a 0.188 PPP.

It’s been 2 games. Don’t take this as a panic reaction saying Marquette is doomed. With a tiny sample, little changes make huge differences. Once more, this is not me saying Marquette is the worst P&R team offense the country. Simply speaking, even against pretty inferior opposition, MU has had difficulty scoring directly from pick and rolls.

In particular, Carton has yet to find his sea legs. He’s tied with Symir with 5 possessions, coming away with 0 points and 3 turnovers. D.J. proved he could score efficiently in P&R at a high level while at Ohio State last season, it has simply taken him some time to get into a groove with his new team.

Against inferior opposition, where MU has a clear advantage in speed, skill and athleticism, poor P&R play won’t really matter as much. But with two high level opponents coming this week, running offensive sets gets more difficult, and being able to use the space created by the pick and roll aggressively will become much more necessary.

Dawson’s marvelous start

Expectations were already high coming in to the season for Marquette’s first All-American since Henry Ellenson, which makes it that much more astonishing that he’s already blown them away.

As with the section above, 2 games against weak opposition means you can’t get too high or too low about anything in particular, but it is worth recognizing that Dawson Garcia has been better that advertised.

If you take the current crop of freshmen and filter for those playing impactful minutes (60%+) and carrying a decent offensive burden (20%+), you get a great gauge of just how ridiculous Dawson’s first week was, from both an eFG% and ORtg perspective.

He’s not going to stay at 65% for eFG% or 130+ ORtg all season, no use in becoming attached to that chart. But it does show that he compares favorably offensively to pretty much any freshman in the country in the early going.

The praise has come pretty steadily from non-MU homers as well.

What has impressed me almost as much as his scoring is his vision for passing lanes and soft touch when needed. He’s played well within the offense, letting the game situation dictate scoring opportunities, and been a very willing, and smart, distributor.

Theo John Love

I still don’t quite believe it.

As much fun as it has been to discuss Theo’s sudden renaissance as a deadeye shooter, it’s more important to salute the strong start that has made him, in my eye, MU’s MVP through the first week.

He’s been a terror to in the paint on both ends, posting a scintillating 13% block rate, snagging a team-high 23% of rebounds and posting an absurd ORtg of 153.6%. Of course, the sample an competition factors in, but even in this tiny stretch, he’s looked as polished and impactful as he ever has in any tiny sample with MU uniform.

He has stated having 2 working hands makes a big difference, so the offseason surgery has helped tremendously, but aside from the skill elements, he’s more limber/agile than I think I’ve ever seen him. Just the way he runs down the court looks different.

He has such a drastic impact even without registering in the box score. According to Hoop-Explorer, opponents are taking 25.8% of shots at the rim when he’s in the game, vs 36.8% when he’s off. These numbers will both go up over time, but the way he alters opposing team’s shot selection will remain constant.

The guard play may still have some question marks, but Marquette’s frontcourt looks to be as deep and impactful as it has ever been under Wojo (and even Buzz). Theo’s development can take this team to a different level.

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Categories: Analysis, Synergy


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