Benchmarking Marquette 2023 vs 2022

I keep seeing fans and analysts (including myself on both counts) compare this season’s Marquette team vs last year’s in a way that makes it seem like there are a ton of similarities, and even though I already wrote on this once in November, it bears scrutinizing once more.

If you drill past the record and overall surprise that both teams that were predicted to finish 9th in the Big East haven’t played like bottom feeders, the two squads couldn’t be more different.

Computer Love

For starters, the computers absolutely hated Marquette even though the record was ok. Through Dec 29th, 2021, when Marquette was 8-5 with wins over Illinois at home, West Virginia in a neutral court and Kansas State on the road, TRank had MU as the 112th best team in the country, and 9th best in the Big East.

KenPom was a tad higher on them, putting Marquette at 76th in the country. If you want to take a broad look at over 40 computer and human rankings, Massey’s composite had them at No. 73, and the 8th best team in the conference.

There wasn’t anything that screamed MU was on the verge of becoming an NCAA caliber squad.

Future Projections

And if you want to put some numbers behind that, TRank gave Marquette 0.4% odds of making the NCAA Tournament on this day last year.

When it came to the Big East, there was only a 2.5% chance Marquette would notch 11+ victories in conference play.

We are numb to it at this point, but last season’s 9 game run through the Big East was so glorious because it literally came out of nowhere. There weren’t any leading indicators that Marquette had it in them.

For reference, Bart has MU’s chances of winning 11+ Big East games at 92.5% and NCAA odds at 97.1% this season.

Offense and Defense

If you want a look under the hood, Marquette was rocking a 100.7 AdjO rating at this point last season, good for 169th best in the country. Right now, it’s at 118.0, which TRank places as the 4th best.

On the other side of the ball, both defenses are roughly equivalent, with this year’s a nick above despite allowing a much higher eFG% so far.

Turnover rates have improved significantly on both ends, going down 2.7 points on offense and up 3.1 points on defense. The rebounding, well, it’s still an issue.

This team is not as good at getting to the line, but has taken a jump into the elite for 2 point percentage.

Finally, and surprising me quite a bit, this team is playing much slower than last season.

Strangely enough, the WAB (Wins Against Bubble) which measures how much better or worse a team’s resume (wins and losses) is compared to what an average bubble team would be is pretty close. That means even though the computer numbers (which predict future performance) are miles ahead than the resume, which looks backward at what you already did. That tells us despite looking pretty in terms of how its playing, Marquette doesn’t have a huge cushion to fall back on should it hit some rough patches, even if it is a tad better that 2022.

Set Identity

I think the biggest difference between the two squads is that this Marquette team already knows what it is, and what is expected of each player.

I mentioned this yesterday but it bears repeating:

Of the 36 5-man lineups that have played at least 200 possessions together this season, Marquette’s starting 5 has put up the 2nd best Net Rating in the country at a pretty ridiculous +37.8 pts, meaning the offense scores almost 38 more points than the defense allows per 100 possession.

At this point, what would end up being the most used lineup (Kolek/Morsell/Prosper/Lewis/Kuath) last season had just completed a 6 game stretch where it had only played 6 possesions together. Combined.

And for good reason, the raw +/- in the 104 possessions together (against 3 cupcakes no less). Justin Lewis had yet to find its stroke and although it still found ways to win, the team wasn’t set in what roles everyone had.

All of this is to say, even though it’s no guarantee of success, the position Marquette is currently in this season is well ahead of the one it held last year. A torrid 9-game stretch at last year’s level won’t be required just to get into the NCAA conversation, and the underlying numbers are an indicator this team is already a good team.

We’ll check back in a few months and see where the comparison stands.

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Categories: Analysis

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