How does this year’s start compare to last season?

The layup would be to say worse. After 4 games last season Marquette was 4-0 with a win over nationally ranked Illinois team, one of the favorites to win the Big Ten. And to be honest, I wouldn’t fight you if you believed that. After all, the name of the game is to win and 4 wins are greater than 3.

But seeing as I’m not one to be content with simple toplines, I thought we’d look under the hood a little bit and see how last year’s torrid start compared to this year’s first two weeks.


Let’s put all the caveats right at the top, because a 4-game sample in which 75% of the opponents are sub-250 isn’t indicative of much. Stats in small samples can swing wildly based on just a few possessions, so one more time, there is no need to panic or rejoice at any of the numbers to come.

With that being said, I feel very comfortable in saying the process Marquette has used on the offensive end these first 4 games has improved significantly over what we saw at the start of last season.

Check out these shot charts of the first 4 games from the past two season.

The biggest thing that sticks out is the huge reduction in midrange shots. This is where I’ll get on my soapbox and yell that no, midrange shots aren’t “bad” in isolation, and having elite shooters (like Darryl Morsell last season) take them is perfectly in line with playing efficiently. But as no one on this squad has yet proven to be adept at the dark arts of the midrange, it makes seeing the almost complete elimination of those attempts come as very welcome sight.

Sticking with the shot chart, you can also see the uptick in volume both at the rim and from corner 3s. Per Bart Torvik, Marquette is 5th in the country for dunks both in total number and rate compared to all FG attempts. Per CBB Analytics, Marquette is in the 89th percentile for corner 3s as a percent of FG attempts (13.2%). Add that up and it makes sense why Shot Quality currently ranks Marquette 12th in the country (and best in the Big East) at rim and 3 shot percentage.

That was a crap ton of numbers to say that, even though the results haven’t been eye-popping, the process is both sound and ahead of where the team was at the same point last season.

And if you want to use the small samples, Marquette’s Adjusted ORtg at Bart Torvik is 107.7, which is 6.1 points ahead of where it was last season through the first 2 weeks.


At first glance, the defense this season has been a bit below where I expected them to be, ranked 82nd in the country on TRank’s unweighted Adjusted D ratings. But I think I had completely forgotten about Marquette’s struggles last season on this end, where an AdjD rating of 97.9 was good enough for 156th in the country.

Of particular note, opponents are only grabbing 25.3% of their misses, compared to 33.1% at the same time last year. Rebounding was an enormous point of emphasis coming into the season, so seeing improvements early on is satisfying on a few levels.

This is also where I’ll note that one part that is weighing down MU’s current D is an out of body shooting night from Radford on midrange 2s.

To put some context on that, no team MU has faced since the 2019 season has made double digit midrange shots, let alone on 64% shooting. Forcing teams into midrange attempts is great. Giving up 51% on those shots, a bottom 3% number in D1 is rather unlucky. If Marquette keeps teams out of the paint and into the midrange, there should be plenty to be happy about on defense.


When you take the improvements on both ends of the court, Marquette (58) sits 85 spots ahead of where it ranked last season through 4 games (143). Why does that matter? The NET won’t be calculated exactly the same as Bart’s site, but generally speaking, beating bad teams by a larger margin than the models projected matters immensely.

Even with that huge Illinois upset, and with the lack of victory at Purdue, the computer numbers significantly favor this squad over the one last year.

Another good way to visualize this is to check out the Game Scores as calculated by TRank through the first 4 games. Even with a loss, Marquette has had better underlying performances each game this season compared to last.

Now, this is where I’ll throw up a yield sign once more to not extrapolate too much from a 4 game sample. If Marquette puts up a clunker against Mississippi State, the 5 game YoY sample will look completely different. It is not worth getting too upset (or excited) at this point in time.

Simply speaking, what is encouraging is that the foundation Shaka intended to build with last year’s squad is already showing early dividends this year, with a style and system that are ahead of last year’s pace. We’ll see if it can continue.

Tags: , , ,

Categories: Analysis


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: