Monday, February 9, 2009

Preview Marquette -- the Second Game

The Wildcats and Golden Eagles finish out their home-n-home series when Marquette comes to the Pavilion Tuesday night. The 'Cats are currently 7-3 in the Big East, riding a 5 game winning streak. They currently have a 25 game winning streak at the Pavilion. The Warriors are 7-1 in the Big East, complements in part to the win against the 'Cats at the Bradley Center to kick off both team's Big East regular season. Marquette comes in off of an unexpected loss to South Florida last Friday. Will the Warriors get back on a winning track? Or will Nova even this year's series & extend their streak in the Pav 26?...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
Villanova and Marquette have played a few more common opponents since they met in January. Aside from Houston Baptist (and their own matchup), consider the :
Houston BaptistW (H)+36W (H)+31
Each otherL (A)-7W (H)+7
CincinnatiW (H)+21W (H)+34
ProvidenceW (A)+3W (A)+9
South FloridaW (A)+9L (A)-1

Marquette's good wins coming out of their OOC included Wisconsin (Big Ten, 8-3, RPI #43) and Presbyterian (Big South, 5-8, RPI #98). Aside from Villanova, Cincinnati and Providence (all good wins), Marquette has also added from the conference schedule home wins over West Virginia (16-7, 5-5, RPI #15) and Georgetown (13-9, 4-7, RPI #36) to go along with a road win over Notre Dame (11-10, 3-7, RPI #81). South Florida (8-14, 1-7, RPI #138) counts as their only "bad loss" to date...

Lineups, Rotations...
...Buzz Williams will go with Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews in the back court, and with Lazar Hayward and Dwight Burke up front. Those five have started virtually every game since the middle of last season. Burke's PT has varied widely over the last month, ranging from a low of 9 minutes (vs Providence) to a high of 32 minutes (vs DePaul), but these starters have (collectively) pulled between 78% & 80%+ of the available PT. I don't suspect there will be a big change for Villanova. Jerel McNeal and Dominic James had nightmare experiences at the line in Tampa, while Matthews did not have nearly as many free throws (8) opportunities as he is used to getting.

Virtually all of the remaining PT is left is distributed to four players, Maurice Acker, David Cubillan, Jimmy Butler and Patrick Hazel. Coach Williams has tightened the rotation, though 9 may see the floor, usually 6, no more than 7 will get double digit minutes. While the exact combination of beneficiaries varies from game to game, you can pretty much expect that Cubillan, who will almost definitely get time, will see the floor no more than 5-7 minutes. Texan JUCO Jimmy Butler, has received a larger portion of the minutes since the beginning of Big East play. That trend will most likely continue as Butler has averaged just under 17 minutes of play in the Warrior's ten Big East games so far. Sophomore Patrick Hazel, listed as a 6-7 forward, has not appeared in Marquette's last three games.

The staff has shuffled Villanova's starting five since the first Marquette game. Dwayne Anderson, now a fixture in the starting lineup, has been joined recently (the last 3 games) by senior forward Shane Clark and junior Reggie Redding. The staff continues to start junior Scottie Reynolds and senior forward Dante Cunningham, and each is generally playing more minutes than they were last month. The Coreys, Fisher & Stokes, continue to make an impact when they come into the game, but they do it off the bench. Even as Antonio Pena has struggled to find his niche, his minutes have hovered around 10.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
Marquette plays for about 69+ possessions, just a bit more than Villanova (except for the last 2 games). This game will match Marquette's #8 offense against Villanova's #13 defense, and Villanova's #30 offense against Marquette's #49 defense. A "Four Factors" comparison for when Marquette has the ball...

When Marquette has the ball...
Warrior O53.016.635.547.3
Wildcat D44.922.130.738.5

Marquette takes most of it's FGAs inside the arc, but the Warrior's scoring efficiency (improved to 53.0 from about 51.7%, per Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report), provides only part of the rational. The yield at the free throw line is too great to ignore. Marquette logs nearly a quarter of its points (24%, ) at the line; which nearly matches the number of points they earn from beyond the arc. That makes the foul situation (and the role of the refs?) a point of interest, as Villanova and Marquette are about as proficient at denying opponents access and getting to the line. Other match ups to watch include Marquette's shooting versus Nova's shot defense. The Warrior's scoring in the first game came (nearly exclusively) from 4 players (McNeal, Matthews, James & Hayward in that order). McNeal in particular took a very uncharacteristic 57% of his FGAs from beyond the arc. His totals, combined with Wes Matthews (the 2nd leading scorer) proved to be devastating to the Wildcat's defense. Combined they scored 43 of Marquette's 79 points (54.4%) on 60% shooting (12-20, 5-10, 7-10 & 14-18 from the free throw line) for an eFG% of 72.5 and a PPWS of 1.51...devastatingly efficient. And the 'Cats could not keep those two off the line. While success like that from the 3 point line may be difficult to replicate in an unfamiliar arena, those numbers have to pose a challenge for the 'Cats game plan. Ordinarily Nova's challenge ought to be defending the interior, not the 3 point line. The defensive boards, especially if Hayward, James and McNeal have their collective shooting slump extend from the USF game, will be crucial. Villanova & Marquette are about equally ranked (#84 & #85 respectively) at rebounding under the basket at that end of the floor. Nova's proficiency at defensive rebounding has been slipping of late, as has Marquette's proficiency at getting those second chance opportunities. In early January the Warriors tended to grab just over 40% of their misses, while today that number is down to 35%. The "Four Factors" look at Villanova's offense versus Marquette's defense:

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O51.218.836.943.8
Warrior D48.521.730.930.0

Look for the Wildcats to try and exploit Marquette's lack of size in the paint -- Marquette is very average on the interior, as their opponents continue to score 2s at a 48.5% clip. Cunningham has had a number of outstanding outings, especially when he connects on his 17 foot jumper. He scored 16 points (and grabbed 8 rebounds) in the first game; he has average 18.6 ppg over his last 5 games. At the Bradley Center, Nova's scoring punch came from 4 players (Fisher, Cunningham, Reynolds & Stokes) who took 48 FGAs (hitting at a paltry 43.8%), most (about 2/3) from inside the 3 point line. The match up to watch will be rebounding on Villanova's end too. The 'Cats do a decent job getting to loose balls (the number has been declining of late), but Marquette, like Villanova, tends to shut down 2nd chance points, holding opponents to a 30.0% offensive rebounding rate (the Warriors typically get 70% of their defensive rebounds).

Want to Beat Marquette? Then...
The most significant determinate is shooting. By far...
1. Challenge their shooting, lock down the lane and stop transition baskets. Marquette is 14-0 when they post an eFG% of 50.0 or better. When held to Nova's defensive eFG% (44.8) or less, the Warriors are 0-2. If they are held to < 50.0 they are 6-3.
2. Hit your own shots. As I suggested earlier, the lane and interior may be the places to exploit. When their opponents shoot 55.0 or better (eFG%) the Warriors have gone 4-2. This trend is consistent for Villanova's own games as well. When the 'Cats run their eFG% to 44.7 or better they are 18-2. Against a not very defensive-minded Syracuse squad Saturday they posted an eFG% of 59.8. Marquette will not be that generous.
3. Get to the line, force them to foul. In two of Marquette's three losses the Golden Eagles allowed their opponents to get to the line more than once per every two FGAs. That is very high and suggests a lot of contention under the baskets (and probably a number of change of possession fouls near the end of those losses...).

...Analysts and Big East observers have suggested the two teams are virtually identical in their personnel makeup, offensive philosophy and defense. True their are a number of common points. But Villanova has better scoring interior options in Dante Cunningham and Antonio Pena (versus Burke and Hayward). The Wildcats rely significantly less on scoring in transition. They are far more likely to grind it out on defense and chew up the clock with perimeter passing and penetration through high post screens. Marquette will challenge the interior defense early and often with penetration from McNeal and Matthews. McNeal consumes a good number of Marquette's possessions, win or lose. He has for the past four seasons. Managing him so that he wastes a larger number of them is one key to success. And keep Matthews off the line. If Matthews is penetrating and hanging fouls on Pena/Cunningham, then the Wildcats will have problems at the end of the halves. In Milwaukee four 'Cats picked up 4 (Redding & Anderson) or more (Cunningham & Reynolds) fouls. The team as a whole picked up 28 fouls. Pena played 9 minutes and picked up 3 fouls.

Pomeroy projects the game to be played for 68 possessions (closer to Marquette's comfort zone than Villanova's) with the 'Cats taking a 6 point decision, largely on Villanova's past 7 games (nearly all exceeded Pomeroy's expectations).


BetFirms said...

Great writeup on the game tonight. The way Villanova has been playing it's tough to see anyone beating them right now and with Marquette struggling themselves I see Nova winning by six.

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, greyCat-

I am always very impressed, with the degree of quantitative analysis that you bring to the contest. I've learned a lot of cool stuff about tonight's game that you've assembled.

Of particular interest to me is the question of the rotation, noting that Marquette, although in theory going to a nine-man rotation, really only has seven (especially since Hazel hasn't played recently). I think that foul trouble could be an issue, and that a tightly called game could be to Villanova's benefit - we're deeper and we have more power coming off the bench in terms of scoring....

The need to protect the interior passing lanes, I agree, is also important, as well as denying Marquette a lot of easy baskets in transition. So the reduction in turnovers has to be paramount.

Also, I thought you might be interested in reading my preview for Marquette-

I have links to all the other Villanova blog previews at the top of my preview, including VBTN's. I also have VBTN on my links category on the side.

Keep up the good work... Go Wildcats!


Publisher, Villanova Viewpoint

Great job

greyCat said...

Thanks for the note. It turns out that Williams did use 8 players, 7 for 10 or more minutes. David Cubillan did not see the floor, but Patrick did log about 10 minutes. Williams employed 10 or more during Marquette's OOC, giving his bench some excercise and taking time to see how the Warriors respond to game situations. He thinned the rotation as the Big East season got underway.