Thursday, October 1, 2009

Preview 2009-10 -- Marquette Golden Eagles

Too Busy for the Details?
The Golden Eagles return 2 players from the team that went to the Sweet Sixteen last season. They were led by an experienced trio of guards, anchored in the low post by a forward who played an out of position #5. The good thing about getting a class like the one Marquette just graduated is that they play together for four years and develop into a very good squad. The bad news is they graduate and move on. Coach Williams has a lot of parts to replace, and while he brings in a stellar class of freshmen, supplemented with a very good JUCO player or two, they will need time to learn how to trust one another and become a team. A good season for the Golden Eagles will have them playing better in February (and March) than in November and December (and January?). Prognosis -- A 3rd quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance

The passing of Dom James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews (& center/forward Dwight Burke) was predictable, all were on track to graduate/finish their eligibility at the end of the 2009 season. Maurice Acker's exit, announced in July, was not. Acker, on track to graduate in December, had a final year of eligibility available, but decided to forego the season. Will his experience/maturity be missed? The staff, judging from the statement announcing Acker's decision, does not appear troubled with the prospect of entering the season with so few returning minutes (and points) available. [Note] -- Maurice Acker did return to the team in late September, after freshman Brett Roseboro left the program and enrolled at St. Bonaventure.

According to Pomeroy...
Overall ORtg117.39116.224113.049
Overall DRtg93.95187.81091.031
Big East ORtg112.12106.15101.38
Big East DRtg103.7898.8398.77
Four Factors -- Overall
All Off. eFG%51.28550.614149.4198
All Off. TOv%16.51118.43721.0158
All Off. OReb%34.89737.82339.219
All Off. FTA/FGA45.41237.513839.990
All Def. eFG%50.925246.33047.258
All Def. TOv%21.112223.44924.326
All Def. OReb%30.78533.419735.0244
All Def. FTA/FGA45.41241.026239.9236
Four Factors -- Big East
BE Off. eFG%52.2448.7947.59
BE Off. TOv%14.9217.5420.612
BE Off. OReb%30.31434.2637.95
BE Off. FTA/FGA41.5335.71141.53
BE Def. eFG%53.21448.4547.26
BE Def. TOv%20.9523.4121.05
BE Def. OReb%32.8835.11335.913
BE Def. FTA/FGA26.5250.01543.914
All Gms Cons21.924125.431520.7172
All Gms Luck-.021200-.034228+.000156

Coach Williams worked with a veteran, Crean-recruited team last season. That team was, by and large, a finished product; the staff was more focused on polishing and perfecting a style shaped by Crean and the unique, collective talent they had, rather than building and teaching a "new" team. Note their year-over-year progress with shot efficiency (eFG%), even as they cut down on turnovers (TOv%). If the Warriors regressed on offensive rebounding, they compensated with better shooting, reduced turnovers and more frequent trips to the line (FTA/FGA) to finish the play. The same process -- becoming more of itself -- can be seen in the defensive factors. If the Golden Eagles let up a bit on shot defense, they compensated by cutting down on opponent's opportunities to shoot (TOv%), reduced 2nd chance opportunities (OReb%) and avoided the fouls that allowed the opponent an opportunity to finish the possession at the free throw line (FTA/FGA). The more interesting numbers will be those generated by the 2010 squad. That squad's mix of four factor stats will probably more closely reflect Coach William's philosophy of the game (tempered by the talent he is able to collect and mold).

For the Record...
Big East1260.6671170.6111060.625
Post Season?NCAA/Rnd 2NCAA/Rnd 2NCAA/Rnd 1

There may be some disappointment with the Class of 2009, but note that those Marquette squads extended their post season in each suceeding season. They went to the NCAAs without pg Dominic James, but nevertheless made it to the Sweet Sixteen, is a tribute to their overall skill and experience. Marquette and Coach Williams start over in 2010.

The Golden Eagles' Nucleus
Coach Buzz Williams will build this season's squad around returning forwards Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler for a reason...both are good.

On Offense

David Cubillan, an off guard recruited out of St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, New Jersey, had a promising freshman season, but has been pushed deeper into the rotation with each passing season. He might get a few looks in practice and early in the season, but if he does not rebound and step up his defense (not to mention his accuracy) he will have problems playing over JUCO Dwight Buycks, among others. Butler is a 6-6 guard/forward who scores by penetrating and gathering putbacks. A good offensive rebounder, he did not show the same knack under the defensive basket. He took all of 4 3FGAs last season, compiling a 100.9 inside/outside rating. That made him possibly the most "inside" rated guard in DI ball last season (but not unusual for a forward). Given their respective roles in the offense last season, expect Hayward to take as much, if not more offensive responsibility, becoming the "go to guy", a role shared unselfishly among McNeal, James and Matthews, while Butler's role will also grow (it has to grow for Marquette to have a successful season), but most likely he will become the 3rd or 4th option on offense, rather than the 4th/5th option as he was last season. Hayward got an early start at leadership, as he was one of the scoring threats on the USA's World University Games men's team this past summer.

On Defense
Lazar Hayward78.921.67.514.00.91.8
Jimmy Butler48.910.86.610.02.51.4
Maurice Acker38.17.519.
David Cubillan21.16.012.420.80.41.6

Competing with an undersized front court was a fact of life under Coach Tom Crean. Buzz Williams, though he recruited a pair of big bodies over the summer in 2008 saw neither Liam Morrow (who left the program) or 6-10/245lb Chris Otule (who played 60 minutes in 9 games) make any impact. Maurice Acker's return, coming as two new members of Golden Eagles' back court contingent log injuries, has to be welcomed by the staff and fans. I suspect Acker's offensive role will grow very little, but his maturity (and assist rate) will help to steady the team during the transition.

Significant Additions
Coach Williams will bring in a combined class of transfers (2 JUCOs) and true freshmen (4 from 4 different states), 6 in all, which should give the early practices the look of a travel team tryout. Competing with senior Maurice Acker for time at the point will be Darius Johnson-Odom, a North Carolina native by way of Hutchenson CC in Kansas. Milwaukee HS scorer Dwight Buycks spent last season in Iowa where he played for Indian Hills Community College. The Golden Eagles will need a shooter who can score on the inside and outside, and Buycks will try to fill that need.

Including Junior Cadougan, Coach Williams brought in five High School recruits (3 by consensus ranked in the Top 100), to fill out the roster. Playing beside (or behind) Lazar Hayward will be 6-6 Jeronne Maymon, a well-regarded if undersized #4 who uses his athleticism to get to the rim, but also shoots from as far out as 15 feet. Small forward Erik Williams will, unlike Jimmy Butler, take shots from the outside. Coach Williams also brings in another tall man, 7-2 (220lb) Youssoupha Mbao out of Stoneridge Prep in CA (the same school as Rutger's Hamady N'Diaye). The entire contingent will not, however, be available at the start of the season, Junior Cadougan, a Top 100 ranked recruit reputed to be jet fast with a high IQ and rocket pass, ruptured his Achilles' tendon during conditioning training in mid-September. Many anticipated he would step right into James' spot in the Golden Eagle offense, but with 4-6 monthes of rehabbing in front of him, his season is over. Johnson-Odom also suffered an injury in early September, but should be ready for the beginning of full squad practice in Mid-October. Whether he will be 100% is another matter. Mbao's amateur status has been the subject of an NCAA investigation, which, according to the Journal-Sentinel's Todd Rosiak, may result in a suspension of 2 - 8 games.

Explode If...
Hayward has to be close to his ceiling as an offensive force. He may be able to replace some of the offense provided by Matthews, James and McNeal (and Burke), but the balance will have to come from the new faces.
1. Dwight Buycks becomes 1st/2nd Team All-Big East good, while Odom & Cadougan step in and share the point with ease.
2. One of the big men, the freshman Mbao or the sophomore Chris Otule, mans the #5 and becomes a rebounding force. The Golden Eagles relied on fast breaks and quick hitters for points. The smaller lineup yielded few 2nd chance opportunities with the three guards, but Williams has taller trees, and no doubt a different approach to the game.

Implode If...
That Marquette will take a step back is almost a forgone conclusion (the coaching staff and die hard fans excepted), the question may be how much ground the Golden Eagles surrender.
1. Injuries to any combination of Hayward, Buycks, Butler, Odom and Cadougan. The team is not deep with Big East level talent (the jury is out on many of the newcomers), so taking out any of the established talent (Hayward, Butler) or the most well regarded of the incoming squad will be problematic. The season-ending injury to Cadougan, Acker's return notwithstanding, will test this theory.
2. The newcomers cannot provide consistent scoring. Right out of the gate, defenses will work to shut down Hayward. If the rest of the rotation cannot punish opponents for over-defensing Hayward, Marquette may be forced to compensate by reverting to a grind-it-out style of basketball.
3. Integrating many new faces can be a challenge, not only in learning the routine and systems of a new staff, but with players learning to trust each other and work together under pressure. Bad chemistry can be an accelerant if the team struggles early.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
Marquette has 4 warmup games against low-major DI squads going into Orlando, Florida for the Old Spice Classic. Should the Golden Eagles struggle against the likes of Centenary, Maryland Eastern Shore, Grambling or South Dakota State, the staff may be nervous when they have to face a field that includes both power conference name programs like Michigan, Baylor, Florida State and Alabama, and Xavier and Creighton, a pair of mid-major conference teams also looking for credibility. The 1st round match-up against Xavier should be telling, as both squads have to replace critical players. The X-Men lost their head coach to Arizona over the summer, an NBA-level forward and all conference guard to graduation (and the NBA draft), so the Muskateers will also be looking for answers. Marquette will follow with a game against either Creighton or Michigan, both squads returning intact from the 2009 season. Their third game will come from a team in the other bracket (Alabama, Florida State, Baylor or Iona). Their post Old Spice homestand includes a visit from a struggling North Carolina State of the ACC, followed by a road trip to Madison to take on Big Ten power Wisconsin. Beating NCSU would be a good sign, as their Head Coach Sidney Lowe is under the gun for managing an underperforming team. But the Wisci game, realistically a loss, should be a good measure of how much ground Marquette will have to cover going into the Big East season.

Marquette's first four games, a road opener at West Virginia followed by a two game homestand (Villanova and Georgetown), followed by a road game at Villanova, could well start the Golden Eagles in an 0-4 hole (anything better would be a mild surprise...and bad news for the 'Eer, Wildcats or Hoyas), but tempered expectations aside, the next four games (hosting Providence, traveling to DePaul and Syracuse, then home again to host Rutgers) has to produce a 2-2 mark if Marquette has any expectations for finishing in the third (or higher) quartile. Through the last ten games, Marquette will host DePaul (their second mirror opponent), South florida, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame. Among those five games the Golden Eagles will need to find 3 (or more?) wins. The home games, plus a road trip to Providence (their third mirror opponent) represent Marquette's best oppportunity to garner 6 (or more) wins. 2010 could be a very tough year for Marquette fans.


John said...

Acker is coming back. He'll be with the program this season. He's not much in terms of talent, but he might be useful for the Golden Eagles.

greyCat said...

Thanks for the heads up John -- while I had made note of Acker (and Brett Roseboro) in an earlier post ("Roster Moves"), I did not update my draft on Marquette to reflect the new circumstances. I agree that Acker's contributions will most likely not come directly from points scored (though he does boost Marquette's 3 point conversion rate), but rather from the maturity a senior can bring to the squad. And he will most likely prove to have a better handle than Buycks or Cubillan, and so be a reasonable option for bringing the ball up the floor and setting up the offense. I have revised the post to reflect the numbers (returning % and team nucleus) that Acker brings (back) to the squad. Best of luck to Marquette this season.

Anonymous said...

Actually we lost in the 2nd round.

greyCat said...

You are right Vladiman27, Marquette lost to Missouri in the 2nd round this past NCAA. Losing James was a real buzz kill on the season. He was not healed enough to contribute anything in the post season. A terrible way to end his collegiate career. Where is he playing these days?

Anonymous said...

Just signed on with Mersin in Turkish league. Hopefully he winds up in NBA eventually.