Tuesday, December 28, 2010

MU/Vandy Preview

Marquette takes on Vanderbilt tomorrow in its final non-conference game of the season.  Tip-off is at 8:00 CST in Nashville.  So far MU has gone 0-3 against quality opponents, and has one last chance to make a statement before conference play begins.

Before I get in to the game preview, a different issue needs to be addressed.  In case you haven't heard yet, Reggie Smith has decided to transfer from Marquette.  Reggie suspiciously did not show up to campus on Christmas night, as all players were supposed to do.  He then missed the team's next practice, the first of a two-a-day on Sunday.  Buzz later reached out to Reggie and his stepfather to find out that Reggie wanted to transfer, and his wish was granted.  From what I've read and heard, this situation is very similar to that of Jeronne Maymon's last year, nothing more than a lack of playing time (Smith was averaging just under 10 minutes per game).  I haven't heard anything yet as to what Reggie's plans are regarding basketball outside of MU.  This is a blow to our depth, hopefully we'll be able to function with just 4 guards.

Now on to the preview of tomorrow night's game.  This test will be just as tough as any other Marquette has faced this year, as we don't match up very well against Vanderbilt.  There are a couple areas that favor the golden eagles, but the cards are stacked in Vandy's favor.

All of the stats below are courtesy of Ken Pomeroy, http://www.kenpom.com/

To start out, here are three stats where we're pretty evenly matched:

Offensive Efficiency111.7112.1
Effective Field Goal %53.60%55.40%

At a high level, it looks like the offenses are fairly similar, in that each team scores about 112 points for every 100 possessions, and when counting 3-pointers as 1.5 shots made, MU and Vanderbilt are pretty evenly matched.  They also average between 69 and 70 possessions per game, so neither team should be dominating the other in transition or on half-court offense.

First the good news, here are the statistical areas where Marquette has the advantage over Vanderbilt

Offensive Turnover %18.4%21.3%
Defensive Turnover %23.8%20.2%
Defensive FTA/FGA24.8%32.0%

The first two stats tell a pretty clear story: MU takes better care of the basketball than Vanderbilt.  Not only does Vanderbilt turn the ball over more often that Marquette, but the golden eagles also force turnovers on more possessions than the commodores.  Coupling these two stats together points to Marquette needing to exploit turnovers on both sides of the court.  The third stat is the ratio of free throws taken to field goals taken on the defensive side of the ball.  In Layman's terms, this stat shows that MU fouls less often than Vanderbilt.  Hopefully the added fouls for Vandy will put their key players on the bench and result in additional points for us.

And now the bad news.  Here are the areas where Vanderbilt has the edge:

                                            Marquette  Vandy
Defensive Efficiency                    92.9      87.9
Defensive Effective FG%           23.8%   20.2%
Offensive FTA/FGA                   24.8%   32.0%
3-point FGA/Total FGA           23.6%    40.1%

The first two are clear: Vanderbilt plays better defense than us.  Despite forcing less turnovers than we do, they play better overall defense and force opponents to take low-percentage shots.  Since offensive efficiency and effective field goal % are both a wash between these two teams, this means that Vanderbilt is overall more efficient due to the defensive advantage.  The FTA/FGA combats directly with our defensive advantage, so these two stats may cancel out at the end of the day, depending on how foul-happy MU gets.

I know, you're still wondering why I put the last statistic in bold.  I think this is the most important one because it poses as the most dangerous threat for Marquette.  This stat shows that Vanderbilt takes a lot more 3-pointers than we do.  No big deal, right?  Well, it is because Marquette does not defend the 3-ball well at all, as they're letting opponents shoot 37% from beyond the arc (258th in the country).  Vanderbilt can potentially have a field day with us from long range through good ball movement and collapsing defenders on dribble-drives.  If Vandy gets going in a hurry, they could shoot us right out of the gym by the end of the first half.

A couple other points to note:

- MU shoots 55% from 2-point range, Vandy allows 41.4% from 2-point rage.  Seems like a wash.
- Average MU height is 76.8".  Average Vandy height is 78.3".  Advantage: Vandy
- MU has 5 guys scoring in double-digits, Vandy only has 3.  Advantage: MU

Overall I think Vanderbilt has the upper hand on us.  They play better defense and take more 3-pointers against a team that defends the 3 poorly, and have 2 players that are shooting 40% or better from downtown in John Jenkins and Jeff Taylor.  Not to mention, Vanderbilt has only lost 6 times in the last 5 years in non-conference play (the floor is elevated and the benches are on the baseline which can throw off players).

Given the factors above, here are Marquette's keys to the game:

- Win the turnover battle
- Defend the 3-ball
- Stay out of foul trouble
- Play smart on offense

MU needs this win to show they're a threat in the Big East this year, let's hope they come home with a W.                                                          

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