Monday, December 6, 2010

November Recap

The month of November is officially in the books for the 2010-2011 campaign, with Marquette compiling a record of 5-2.  Typically there isn't much to take to heart at this point as the season is still very young, and the majority of teams MU typically plays at this time of the year are cupcakes.  With this in mind, there are still a few things to note.

Marquette has started slow out of the gate.  Sure, they've beaten the teams they were supposed to beat, but couldn't come up with wins against their two quality opponents, those being Duke and Gonzaga.  Buzz Williams even mentioned this after the loss to Gonzaga, talking about how coming close to beating a good team but ultimately losing isn't good enough.  A "pat on the back" is certainly not as good as a win.  Knocking off one of those two would've put us closer to the conversation of being a legit team this year, especially with a win over Duke.  After the loss to Gonzaga, MU needed a spectacular run and a 29-point performance by Darius Johnson-Odom to beat UWM by 3, a team that is a perennial doormat for us.  Along with that win, Bucknell also gave us a very good run for our money.

While 3-point shooting was our bread and butter last year, Marquette has nose-dived from that status.  For the month of November they shot 30% from beyond the arc.  Dwight Buycks was the only guard to shoot above 30%, which is pathetic as far as Marquette standards goes (I'm sure Buzz agrees).  Conversely, they allowed opponents to shoot an astounding 40% from long range in November.  For us to have any kind of a shot at a double-bye in the BE tourney, both of these stats have to reverse by January.

Size and depth have improved dramatically.  Lazar Hayward's inside presence has been replaced by Jae Crowder, Davante Gardner, and a healthy Chris Otule.  Ken Pomeroy doesn't have stats posted yet on where we rank in the country in terms of height, but I'll be sure to post that here once it's up on his site.  Marquette could only run about 7-8 deep last year, but now we're running at about 9-10 deep each game.  This added depth not only helps us down the stretch late in games (might not have come back against UWM and Bucknell if last year's squad was in the same hole), but allows us to play more aggressively on defense.

All in all, I can't be too displeased with how the season is going.  While I would've liked to have one more win in November and have our two close wins be a little more convincing, this team has plenty of room for immediate improvement.  Scoring in the paint will be crucial once conference play begins, and Marquette has already shown they're capable of that.  They've also made a few too many turnovers along the way, especially against Duke, but this will improve as the team matures throughout the season.

Marquette has two statement games coming up in December, those being at home against in-state rival Wisconsin and at Vanderbilt.  While I think one loss in December is the realistic outcome, a perfect record in the month before conference play begins would show us as a serious threat in the Big East.

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