How Valuable Is Chris Otule?

Oh, man. I miss this stuff.

With whatever that was against Vanderbilt on Thursday night, Marquette has finished their non-conference schedule. There were 7 games and a handful of possessions before Chris Otule went down with an ACL injury about 2 minutes into the game against Washington. Marquette was 7-0 in those games. Since Big Chris went out, Marquette is 4-2 and hasn't looked like the same team that went 7-0 to start the season.

So if Marquette looks different to the average observer without Chris Otule in the lineup, there has to be some statistical change between how Marquette played with him in the lineup and how Marquette has played without him in the lineup. I've taken the Four Factors and done the math to see if there is anything that has massively shifted. For clarification, I read the play by play from the Washington game and added the handful of possessions before Otule got hurt to the "Before" calculations and then put the rest of the Washington game stats into the "After" calculations. Let's get to it then, shall we?

When Marquette Is On Offense

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

Before Otule Injury (BOI) - 56.3%
After Otule Injury (AOI) - 45.7%

UGH. That's terrible. Here's the thing, though: losing a 6'11" guy who only shot the ball 25 times in 7 games shouldn't cause a rapid change like that. Obviously Big Chris' shot attempts are all high percentage attempts, so that would help, but losing them shouldn't be that big of a deal. But I think I've figured out a large component of why Marquette looks different. I think Otule is a lot better at realizing where Darius Johnson-Odom or Vander Blue or Todd Mayo was coming from when they were driving to the rim and putting his man on his back and keeping him out of the way. This is a really short clip, but look at how Chris gets his man out of Lazar Hayward's way as Lazar heads to the rim.

Turnover Percentage (TO%)

BOI - 18.1%
AOI - 18.0%

Statistically irrelevant.

Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OReb%)

BOI - 34.7%
AOI - 35%

Again, statistically irrelevant, but this one's actually surprising. When you lose your tallest guy and starting center, you don't really expect to see offensive rebounding to stay the same. Maybe Big Chris' road grading for drives puts him in bad position for rebounds, so without that it evens out? I'm willing to listen to suggestions.

Free Throw Rate (FT Rate)

BOI - 47.3%
AOI - 40.3%

Not to beat this into the ground, but I think this goes back to my theory on eFG%. If Otule isn't clearing space for drivers, then they're not getting close enough to the rim to get a shot off. If they're not getting shots off, then they're not getting fouled while shooting.

When Marquette Is On Defense

Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%)

BOI - 40.6%
AOI - 48.3%

Yuck. eFG% is fueled by good three point shooting, so the outstanding efforts to that end by LSU and Vanderbilt help damage this number and I don't know what if anything Otule could have done to change a hot night behind the arc. But there is a certain amount of obvious impact that Otule made here. If Big Chris had continued playing and blocking shots at the same rate, his Block% (blocks/FG attempted while the player is on the floor) would be rank him 33rd in the country. To give you a better idea, that would be good enough for 4th in the Big East behind Syracuse's Fab Melo, Connecticut's Andre Drummond and Louisville's Gorgui Dieng. There's no shame in being 4th best behind those three guys, that's for sure. In any case, while the blocks themselves help lower eFG%, Otule's sheer existence near the rim alters shots.

Turnover Percentage (TO%)

BOI - 25.1%
AOI - 25.2%

Just like on offense, statistically irrelevant. It's weird that it's the same amount of change, right?

Offensive Rebounding Percentage (OReb%)

BOI - 33.1%
AOI - 35.7%

Mostly statistically irrelevant. It's not terribly surprising that Marquette is a tick worse at stopping their opponents from a second chance on offense without Otule in the lineup. The really troubling thing is that Marquette is allowing shots to go into the net at a faster rate AND they're allowing a higher rate of offensive rebounds. In short: On the rare occasion when an opponent misses, they're more likely to grab an offensive rebound now. That's really not good.

Free Throw Rate (FT Rate)

BOI - 27.1%
AOI - 36%

EEP. While FT Rate is the least important of the Four Factors, a 33% jump in allowing free throws is terrible. This is what happens when you lose a high quality shot blocker like Otule, though. I'm guessing that Marquette's perimeter defenders are suddenly more aware that they have to do a better job of staying in front of their man instead of allowing Big Chris to clean up behind them which is leading to more fouls called as guys start to get a step or two on Marquette's defenders.

So there are the numbers. I've offered my thoughts on what the possible causes are. I don't know if there are any solutions to those causes outside of putting Chris Otule back in the lineup. Your thoughts and insights on both causes and solutions are welcome in the comments section.

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