Grading Marquette players to date: Guards

The 2021 season has had a little bit of everything for Marquette, and while we did touch on some of the defensive issues at length in Monday’s post, I thought it would be good to get more granular and focus on each individual player’s performance to date.

We’ll start with the guards and go to wings before finishing with bigs.

As a preliminary caveat, grades are always subjective, and I personally do grade on a curve, where expectations coming into the season do affect the overall assessment.

Koby McEwen: A-

Key Stat: ORtg 115.4

Rationale: I’ve already spent a few hundred words praising Koby’s start to the season, so I’ll link you there instead of just copy and pasting. But even though he had a tough game against Villanova in his most recent outing, he has easily been the most consistent offensive presence of the guards, posting a career high in eFG% and low in TO Rate. The only reason he didn’t get an outright A is that his time subbing as PG when Carton needed breathers and Symir was out with an injury hasn’t been positive, and that has put Marquette in a crunch more than once already this season.

Koby compares favorably to any Big East combo guard (as defined by BartTorvik.com) and holds up nationally as well (for combo guard with at least 50% of minutes in a minimum of 5 games).

But his defense on basically all players has been some of the best on the team. When he’s off the floor against top-100 opponents, MU is giving up 107.1 points per 100 possessions, adjusted for team quality compared to just 96.2 with him on the floor. This team needed a leader to take over for Markus, and Koby has more than been up for the challenge.

Best Moment: Although it was ultimately very short lived, Koby hitting on a 4-point play with Marquette down 4 and less than 20 seconds to play at Xavier was one of those moments that you wish you could experience again for the first time. It was just so unexpected and fantastic.

Greg Elliott: B+

Key Stat: 9/17 from 3 (52.9%)

Rationale: On the one hand, the offensive numbers Greg is putting up, even on limited usage are quite absurd. He leads all Big East players in ORtg at 132.1 with a minimum of 30% of minutes played and 10% usage.

Of course, the fact he’s only played 36% of minutes and has a 15.2% usage rate is a very important caveat, and the reason why he doesn’t get an A in my rankings. With Marquette unexpectedly thin at the guard position, Greg hasn’t really done enough to earn the coaches’ trust and get a larger chunk of minutes.

Now, this is where it can be reasonably argued that it’s not his fault he’s not getting more minutes. But with his injury history and the late ramp up time this season, the coaches should be overprotective of someone like Greg who can make an impact over the course of a season. Still, I’d like to see Greg capitalize on a performance like Creighton’s and catapult into a larger role in the rotation. Instead, those 27 minutes were followed by 3 sub-12 minute games of little impact.

And because it always comes back to changing the D with me, I do think Greg is a game changer on that end. Or at least can be. His length and floor awareness combine to give Marquette a legitimate threat, and a team high 2.8% steal rate. That one stat does not paper over the fact that MU has been 4.8 points per 100 better without him on the court. Hence the mixed bag.

All in all, I’m happy for Greg and all he’s worked to get to this point, now I’m hoping he can complete the comeback from good in spot minutes to integral bench piece.

Best Moment: The whole career best 14 point performance against Creighton should go in here, but I’ll highlight this beautiful elevator action that I’d love to see become a staple for Greg the rest of the season.

D.J. Carton: B-

Key Stat: TO Rate 24.4%

Rationale: I’m not sure if there’s much room for debate that D.J. Carton is Marquette’s most important player. That’s not to say he’s the best, though he probably is, but simply speaking, if Carton is off his game against a decent foe, Marquette will not be in good position to win. There is no one who can come close to replacing what DJ does for MU.

And when it comes time to close a game, Carton has done it with the best of them this season. He shook off some rust against Wisconsin and helped close that one out. He almost single handedly brought MU back from the dead against Seton Hall. And he put a dagger in Creighton’s late surge.

But for all the heroics and eye popping play, the turnovers, which are to be expected from a lead guard with so much P&R responsibility, are getting worse instead of better.

He’s by no means the only culprit, but when you have a team full of players that give the ball away too easily, you don’t want the main contributor to be the one with the ball in his hands most often.

Even with the negatives, it’s important to highlight he leads the team in assist rate and is above 100 in ORtg after a tough shooting start. Per Synergy, he’s averaging 1.238 points per possessions when you combine his assist possessions to the other offensive possessions, which is in the top 75% of all players. It’s also 15th best in the Big East, with a minimum of 100 possessions.

So all in all, he has shown how much he means to this team, now it’s just time to tinker with the edges and really show why ESPN has him as a first round pick in the 2022 Mock Draft.

Best Moment: I think this shot kind of got lost in the shuffle after beating Creighton, but with the lead spiraling away, Carton settled the team with a huge corner 3, and gave Marquette the jolt it needed to finish the upset.

Although this call is a close 2nd. Still can’t get enough of it.

Symir Torrence: D

Key Stat: 2-12 in spot up jumpers

Rationale: I had trouble grading Symir so harshly, particularly with an injury costing him 3 games, but even before the toe issue, Sy had really struggled to make an impact. I’ve been as high on him as anyone since last season, and his ability to see the floor and make good passes in practice is evident. It just hasn’t translated on the court.

For starters, he will never be a scoring guard and Marquette doesn’t want or need him to be. But he has to be able to hit the completely, absurdly wide open spot up shots teams are giving him. And he hasn’t. He is only 2-12 on spot ups this season, and that number is only 2-9 in unguarded situations. That 0.667 PPP on unguarded spot ups ranks 534th out of 600 players on Synergy.

And the reason he needs to be able to hit them is that teams can now sag all the way off him clogging driving lanes, passing channels and post dumps. Look how Green Bay is able to completely disregard the screen, on the P&R.

And outside of the stats, which are ugly all around, it just looks like he’s playing without confidence. He’s tentative with his drive, sloppy with the handle and making silly mistakes even while not trying to do too much. A 27.6% TO Rate isn’t acceptable, when paired with a sub par eFG%.

When he was named a starter and Wojo was hyping up his play in the preseason, I really thought he had turned a corner and could at least be a 20 minute positive contributor. Marquette still needs him to be and there is still going to be plenty of opportunity for him, but I don’t think he’ll meet the lowest of expectations.

Best Moment: I don’t have a video, but Marquette has 3 direct baseline assists from ATOs this season, and Symir has all 3 assists. The game is still moving too fast for him, but it’s flashes like these that remind you of his innate ability to help put players in scoring positions. We just need to see it more often.

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Categories: Analysis, Player Review

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