Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Week Recap

First of all, my apologies for not putting up these posts sooner.  I was out of town for the weekend and didn't get a chance to do any writing on MU basketball (you know how it is with the holiday season and all).  Anyways, after losing a close one to Duke, Marquette lost in typical fashion to Gonzaga, and then won in typical fashion over crosstown rival UW Milwaukee.  Here's a review of both games:


Shooting and rebounding were what killed MU in this game, as the golden eagles again fell short, losing 66-63.  As a team, they shot 29% from the field and a pathetic 29% from beyond the arc.  DJO's shooting woes continued, going 4-12 from the field.  The Zags out-rebounded us 42-26, and had 11 more offensive boards than we did.  If you look at last year's stats (according to Buzz), we shot a lot better on second-chance field goals than we did on first-chance field goals.  Assuming that this still holds true, we're shooting ourselves in the foot by not getting these offensive boards (you think Buzz might work on boxing out in the next week?  Absolutely).

Jimmy Butler was his usual spectacular self, playing nearly the entire game at 38 minutes and scoring 22 points.  Jae Crowder put up 10 points and an astounding 5 blocks.  Even though Cadougan and Crowder both came off the bench, they each played for 25 and 32 minutes, respectively (basically says that starting vs. coming off the bench doesn't mean much to Buzz). 

One positive note for the team was on turnovers.  MU won the turnover battle 16-10 and only turned the ball over on 15% of their offensive possessions.  Baby steps, guys.  Baby steps.

I had predicted this would've been a Marquette victory, but ended up on the short end of the stick.  Gonzaga's a good team, but to show you're a good team you have to beat other good teams, losing by 3 doesn't help your cause.

UW Milwaukee

This game was waaaaay to close for comfort, as MU pulled out a 75-72 victory and is now 38-0 all-time against the panthers.  Rebounding plagued this team again, especially offensively, with 2 offensive boards (no, that's not a typo) vs. UWM's 11 and 21 overall vs. UWM's 31.  Other than a 19% turnover rate, there really weren't any other sore spots for this game.  This does show though how crucial rebounds can be.  Let's hope we figure this out quickly before those farm-fed boys from Madison roll into town.

The bright spot for this game?  None other than Darius Johnson-Odom.  DJO finally came out of his shell and put up a career-high 29 points and shot an impressive 71% from downtown (5-7).

MU has the week off before taking on Longwood on Saturday.  Ken Pomeroy has us projected to win by 31, so let's hope we can use this game to fine-tune our weak spots (ahem, rebounding, ahem).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MU Falls to Duke 82-77

Marquette's first real test of the season came against the Duke Blue Devils, the number one team in the land.  The game wasn't as close as the final score might imply, as Duke lead by double-digits for 8 of the last 10 minutes.

MU showed flashes of how good it can be.  For the first 10 minutes of the second half, they erased the 9-point halftime deficit and tied the game up.  As I had noted would be a key to the game, they won the interior battle, forcing turnovers and scoring points in the paint.  As the game wore on though, so did Marquette and the Plumlee brothers torched us inside by simply outhustling us.  All of a sudden Duke was up by 11 points, and the game appeared to be slipping away.  Marquette chipped away at the lead, but it was too late to stage a comeback.  The golden eagles suffered their first loss of the season and are now 4-1.  They will play Gonzaga in the consolation game tonight.

Jimmy Butler had a career night with 22 points.  Jae Crowder had his usual stud performance with 15 points and 4 steals.  Davante Gardner showed some signs of pain on the court after separating his shoulder against South Dakota, but managed to stick out the game.  Fulce was in street clothes, as he also injured himself against South Dakota and is expected to return in 2 weeks.

As far as stats go, 3-point FG% stunk at 20%, and while MU forced an impressive 19 turnovers, they turned the ball over on 17% of their possessions.  Although 17% isn't terribly high, every turnover seemed to have a huge impact.  A lot of Marquette's turnovers seemed to be self-inflicted, a sign that this team is still young and has to get used to playing together.

The one play that absolutely killed me to watch was the three-on-one breakaway they had that ended in a charge.  DJO took the ball down the court against Kyle Singler with 2 options to pass to, yet elected to take the ball himself.  Singler took the charge - Duke basketball (Aaaahhhh!!!!).  What really hurts is that it was DJO who made the charge, a guy who's got a year of D-1 experience under his belt and can beat just about anybody in a one-on-one matchup.  That has to be fixed.

All in all, despite Marquette's woes tonight, they managed to hang in there with Duke for most of the way.  Remember, this is a team that doesn't get blown out, which means on any given night we're capable of beating anyone.  I didn't expect us to win this game, but can't really complain about losing by 5 points to the defending champs and #1 team in the land.

MU plays Gonzaga tonight in the battle for Jesuit supremacy at 6:45.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

MU takes Care of Business Before the Date with Duke

Marquette is now 4-0 after defeating Brian Wardle's UWGB Phoenix and South Dakota.  I'll do a few bullet points on each game and then get to the Duke preview.

- MU dominated the first half of this game, and was up by 20 points at the half.  They played tenacious defense, forced a ton of turnovers, and shot an impressive 53% and 50% from the field and beyond the arc, respectively.  The second half was flat, and Marquette won by a final score of 89-69.  Aside from the first 3-4 minutes, this game was never close.
- Solid performances from the first-year players.  Vander Blue chipped in 14 points, with 2 of those coming from him forcing a steal and taking the ball coast-to-coast for a layup.  Jae Crowder, WOW.  I'm pretty sure this guy can do just about anything on the basketball court.  He positioned himself well in the paint for put-back points, made good passes in the post, and even knocked in a 3-ball from the baseline.  He ended the night with 17 points, 9 boards, 2 steals and a block.  Davante Gardner once again proved to be an effective player in the late stages of the game, putting up all 11 of his points in the second half.
- 3-point defense and turnover % were poor.  The Phoenix shot 47% from long range, which was lower than Marquette's, but they also took 9 more 3's than we did.  MU also turned the ball over on 17% of its possessions, which I'm sure is higher than Buzz wants to see (in case you're wondering how I figured out total possessions, I'll be getting into that as well as other stats later on in the season).
- Solid points distribution amongst the team, as 6 players scored in double-figures.

South Dakota
- This game was a little closer than Wednesday's, but Marquette controlled this won for the majority of the game, and won 82-69.
- Jimmy Butler had the type of performance that people were expecting of him as the unofficial leader of the team with 20 points, 9 boards and 3 steals.  Keep up the good work Jimmy.
- MU was HORRENDOUS from long range, going 1-9 on 3-pointers.  Who had the lone three you ask?  None other than jack-of-all-trades Jae Crowder.  Aside from that, he had a quiet night with just 7 points (a pretty good sign when a "quiet" night is scoring 7 points in your fourth game in D-1 basketball)
- The Golden Eagles turned the ball over 16 times on 85 possessions, or 19% of the time.  Not good boys, that needs to change quickly.

MU/Duke Preview

MU takes on Duke Monday in Kansas City in the CBE (College Basketball Experience) tournament.  The last time these two met in the CBE, Marquette shocked the world and defeated Duke in the championship game.  Here's to hoping history repeats itself.

For the fans that regularly watch college basketball each year, Duke is an easy team to scout.  They are televised just about every week, so by default you'll end up watching them play at least 6 times each year.  In case you haven't gotten a chance to watch Duke recently, here's what you need to know:

- The Blue Devils have great shooters.  Year-in and year-out Duke always has good 3-point shooters (JJ Redick, Jon Scheyer, Demarcus Nelson, etc.), and can quickly change the momentum in a game with a couple quick 3s.  Through their first three games, they have 5 players that are shooting .500 or better from downtown.  Those numbers will come down as the season wears on, but just for frame of reference, they had 4 guys on the team last year that shot 38% or better on 3-pointers.
- They run a motion offense.  This directly compliments their great shooting, in that they are constantly creating open looks from the perimeter.  Defending this requires a lot of discipline in that players need to constantly and quickly shift matchups to prevent the open looks.
- They share the basketball.  There are currently 5 guys on the team that are averaging 12 points or more, including Seth Curry, the Liberty transfer and younger brother of former Davidson star Stephen Curry.  It's very difficult to shut these guys down offensively.
- They play great defense.  Last year they allowed 86 points for every 100 defensive possessions, 4th best in the country.
- Did I mention they have a hall-of-fame coach in Mike Krzyzewski?  Having a coach with 4 national titles and a plethora of Final Four appearances isn't a bad thing to have on the sidelines.

As I had noted before, I don't have a ton of confidence in us beating these guys (and it's not just because there's a #1 next to their name), and everyone at Cracked Sidewalks agreed in their preseason predictions as well.  There's a lot of talent and experience on this Duke team that MU lacks.  According to Ken Pomeroy, we have about a 12% chance of beating these guys.  I'll say we have about a 20% chance of winning, since it's a neutral court and there's more room for big upsets at the beginning of a season.  The keys to MU winning are playing good field goal defense, winning the turnover battle, and winning the battle in the paint with points and rebounds.  This is Marquette's first true test of the season, we'll see what they're made of Monday night.  Tip-off is at 6:30 CST.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

MU is 2-0 After a Rollercoaster Weekend

Is it just me or does it feel like those nail-biting conference games have already started?

Marquette started out the regular season on a high note, dominating the Prairie View A&M Panthers and winning 97-58.  Jimmy Butler lead the way with 18 points, 6 boards, 3 blocks and 2 steals.  To my surprise (and maybe the surprise of others) Davante Gardner put up 17 points in only 13 minutes.  Sure, the majority of these points came during garbage time, but points are points nonetheless.  This was great news to hear given what Buzz told me a month ago about his attitude and skill set.  Eric Williams chipped in 12 points, 3 boards and a steal, which is leaps and bounds above what his typical production was during last year's campaign.  FG% was good (60%), 3-point shooting and free throws could've been better (30% and 63%, respectively)

All in all a good start for Marquette.  Which meant Sunday's game against Bucknell would be a cake walk, right?  Think again.

MU struggled early in the game, and was down 8 points at the half (was anyone else ready to jump off a ledge at that point?)  Bucknell was hot from the perimeter all day, going 9-19 (47%).  In the second half, Marquette went on a miraculous 24-0 run that put them ahead for good.  The Bison wore down as the game went on and MU capitalized, winning by a final score of 72-61.  Dwight Buycks was the stud performer with 17 points while going 3-3 from beyond the arc.  Once again Davante Gardner had a solid performance with 11 points and 7 boards (please don't let this be a fluke).

On a side note, Jimmy Butler played for 38 of the 40 minutes.  Give the guy some rest Buzz!

So the question is, what do we take away from this weekend?  How much weight do we put on the first game vs. the second game?  Which game is a better representation of who this team is?

First of all, realize that you have nothing to worry about after the scare Bucknell put into us.  I tweeted before the game that I would just be happy with a win over the Bison.  Two reasons for this: One, Bucknell puts together a decent squad every couple years.  Remember, they knocked off Kansas in the 2005 tourney, and even cracked the top-25 a few years ago (I think it was 2006-07, but don't quote me on that).  The second reason is that Villanova only beat them by 16 points at home a couple days before.  Villanova is an elite program that's well-coached, and for them to only win by 16 tells me that Bucknell at least gave them a run for their money.

I think both games are representative of us in that they show we're having growing pains.  There's a lot of talent on this team and when they click, they really click.  But given their lack of collegiate experience, games like Sunday are going to happen along the way.  Although a blowout win over Bucknell would've been great, I'm pleased with how the first two games have panned out (for whatever that's worth).

Next game is Wednesday against UW-Green Bay, who is coached by former MU great Brian Wardle.  Let's hope this team grows up a lot more after that game, as we'll take all the help we can get with Duke looming on the schedule for next week.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Preseason Predictions

After a dominating victory over a D-III team, MU is ready to begin the season this Friday against Prairie View A&M.  I'm going to skip the pre-game preview for this and move on to the more important parts of the upcoming season.  Before I do, a couple pre-season predictions:

- Jae Crowder will, at some point, be a starter on the team this season.  Everything I have read and heard about this kid is nothing but positive, and it seems like he'll have an early impact.  He certainly did on Saturday in the exhibition game against SJU with 15 points and 5 boards.  Not a bad start to the season.  Plus, the fact that he has JUCO experience gives him a leg-up on the other freshmen.  Fulce and Otule started on Saturday, but I'm looking for Crowder to replace one of those guys in the next few months.

- Total conference wins for the season will be 10-14.  Marquette doesn't have any brutal stretches like in recent years (see 2008), but the one that stands out in my mind is the two-week stretch from late January to mid February, where they have to play Syracuse at home, at Villanova, at South Florida (who plays pretty well against us for some reason), and at Georgetown.  I see us losing 3 of those 4 realistically, but we've played G-town and 'Cuse pretty tough recently, so maybe we go 2-2 or 3-1.  All in all, if Crowder, Blue, and Cadougan truly step up this year, we'll have a dynamite team.  We already know what we have in Jimmy Butler, and DJO and Dwight Buycks have plenty of room to improve on what were solid seasons last year.  Having one more shooting threat as well as some much-needed size inside will give MU all the tools it needs for a double-bye in the Big East tourney.  If this team doesn't gel though by January, 10 wins is more likely.

Non-Conference Road Ahead

Looking at the schedule from now until New Years, there are clearly 4 games worth noting: Duke in the semis of the CBE, the winner/loser of Gonzaga and K-State depending on what we do against Duke, home to Wisconsin, and at Vanderbilt.  What worries me is that MU could potentially lose all of these games as they're against solid opponents, and only one of these games is at the Bradley Center.  Ideally I'd like to see us go 2-2 against this field.

I'm predicting we'll lose to Duke in the CBE (sorry, Duke wasn't nearly as good when we beat them in the CBE in 2006) and bounce back to beat Gonzaga.  All in all, not a bad start.  For the third time in four years, Marquette will take down in-state rival Wisconsin in a close game.  I'm really hoping that this is the year Wisconsin finally doesn't surprise everyone, something tells me I'll be wrong since they disprove everybody during the regular season year-in and year-out.  Lastly, I don't feel good about going down to Nashville to play Vanderbilt.  Vandy has the ability to take us down given that their home court is a tough place to play (they've only lost 6 times at home in the last 3 years) and they can hang with us in a shootout.  Luckily their star big man A.J Ogilvy is gone, which gives us a nice break in the paint.

Four days until MU's season tips off.  This team has loads of potential and I'm hoping it gets realized very soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Maurice Lucas, Rest in Peace

In case you haven't heard yet, Maurice Lucas passed away on Sunday from cancer; he was only 58 years old.  Lucas was a forward for Marquette from 1973-1974 and then went on to a successful career in the NBA.  He played a crucial role on a team that made it to the national championship in 1974, and played during what is now the greatest decade in the history of MU basketball.

So just how good was Lucas?  To those who are big into basketball stats or the history of Marquette basketball (or in my case, both), John Pudner published a book called "Ultimate Hoops Guide: Marquette University" which is a fantastic book that aims to compile a complete statistical listing of all things MU basketball since 1917.  While some of the stats from the 20s, 30s, and 40s were estimated due to the lack of stats kept at that time, it provides a great history of Marquette basketball nonetheless.  Pudner evaluates every player using the following methods:

- Dominance.  Pudner estimates this based on the opinion of basketball experts (coaches, scouts, media, etc.) as well as the player's NBA career.  Players are scored from 1 to 15, with 15 being one of the most dominant players of all time.  Since Lucas was a second-team All American in 1974, was drafted in the first round and scored more than 12,000 points in his NBA career (did I mention he won a championship with Portland in 1977?), he was given a score of 15.  Only 4 other players in Marquette history were given a dominance score of 15: Jim Chones, Don Kojis, Butch Lee, and of course Dwayne Wade.  Not bad company to be a part of.

- Impact on the program.  This rates both how good a player was as well as how good the team was that they played on during their career, with 1 being little to no impact and 10 being a tremendous impact.  The statistic just looks at their best year as opposed to their career, since guys may leave early for the NBA or not get to play their first year (back in the day, freshmen couldn't play on the team).  There are some exceptions to this if a player did have an exceptional career.  Lucas is one of 7 guys to have an impact score of 9 or higher.  He was clearly the best player on the 1974 team (led the team in both points and rebounds) which merits a score of 9.  Had he played for more than two years on the team, he might've gotten a 10.

- Statistical Rating.  This stat, in my opinion is Pudner's "bread and butter." It attempts to take all of a player's statistics (points scored, rebounds, assists, etc.) and combine them into one statistic to show how many wins could be credited to their efforts.  In short, you take a player's points, rebounds, assists, (multiply steals and blocks by 2) and look at the sum as a percent of total team stats, then multiply by the team's wins for the season to get their "win credits."  After you calculate the win credits, you multiply it out to show the statistical rating, which shows how many wins a player would be responsible for if he had played in 100 games.  Obviously I just gave you an abridged version of it.  To get the full explanation, you can buy Pudner's book at www.  Anyways, this stat is calculated similar to the impact rating in that it only looks at one year rather than an entire career due to the reasons I mentioned above.  While Dwayne Wade leads the way with the highest statistical score in Marquette history of 29.1 in 2003 (and the 6th highest with 24.1 in 2002), Lucas has the 11th highest statistical rating with 22.7.  Again, everybody in the top 10 list is a "Marquette" household name.

Summing up all 3 of these gives Maurice Lucas an overall score of 48 (Pudner adjusted up the Statistical Rating by a point for subjective reasons) which makes him the 7th best player in the history of Marquette basketball.  Looking at these facts and figures shows just how special of a player Lucas was, both in college and the pros.  Thanks for the great memories Maurice; you'll forever be an icon in the Marquette community.