With the 2013-2014 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we're at it, we'll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We'll run through roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). That brings us to our penultimate entry...
#23 - Senior - 6'3" - 205 lb.
Minimum Expectation: Jake Thomas came to Marquette with a reputation as a dead-eye three point shooter, having posted yearly marks of .441 his freshman year and .347 his sophomore year at South Dakota. He shot .278 from distance for Marquette last year. For comparison purposes: Vander Blue hit on a better percentage of his shots. So the minimum is this: Shoot 33% from the arc. That mark (or Flying Spaghetti Monster help us, something better) will help Marquette find some spacing on the floor for the frontcourt guys to get some room to operate.
He never plays and I don't have to listen to the disappointed exhales.Thomas turns into a prolific shooter and is reasonably competent on the defensive end, letting Buzz rotate Mayo and Thomas at will and letting JaJuan Johnson develop at his own pace.
Worst Nightmare: Thomas doesn't find his shooting touch, but due to Todd Mayo doing Todd Mayo Things and Johnson struggling to adapt to Division 1 basketball, Buzz is forced to rely on Thomas for long stretches of the season that will assuredly feel even longer than they actually are.
Ok, so this is complicated. Thomas definitely hit on the minimum expectation, shooting 39% behind the arc. You could make an argument that Thomas finishing with the eighth best three point shooting percentage in the Big East makes him a prolific shooter. I think we largely all agree that Buzz definitely relied on Thomas for long stretches of the season that felt longer than they actually were.
We're going to have to figure something else out here.
Let's revisit a breakdown of Thomas' shooting that I did back near the beginning of the season. The basic point of that post was that 1) Jake Thomas was not a good shooter against KenPom.com top 100 teams while at South Dakota, 2) Jake Thomas was a really bad shooter while wearing a Marquette uniform, and 3) Marquette was going to have to play a lot of KenPom.com Top 100 teams this season.
So, what happened this season? Marquette ended up with 21 games against teams that finished in the KenPom Top 100. While the Golden Eagles went 7-14 in those games, Jake Thomas made 50 of 126 three point attempts for a three point shooting percentage of 39.7%. Yes, that's right, playing bad teams actually weighed Thomas' shooting stats down this season, even if it was ever so slightly. If you switch that over to effective field goal percentage, which is important given the value of three point baskets, that's 59.5%. You're not going to hear me complain all that much about that kind of season. Even if you take out the 12-23 shooting in three games against Xavier this season, that still only dips Thomas' shooting percentage to 36.9% on the season. Convert that to effective field goal percentage, and it's still a pretty great 55.3%.
It seems pretty simple: When Jake got shots off against top competition, they went in at a pretty good clip. So why didn't this help Marquette at all, as they lost twice as many of those games as they won? Well, unfortunately, Jake was the only thing resembling a legitimate three point shooter on the team. Amongst guys who took at least nine three point attempts (and wow, is that a low barrier), Thomas was the only one on the team with an eFG% of over 50%. So, on top of being the only real threat to shoot the ball, Thomas was also completely one dimensional. He shot 9-35 inside the arc (25.7%) on the season, and every single one of those shots came against KenPom top 100 opponents. Somehow, the scouting report on Jake Thomas was "don't let him shoot, unless he's inside the arc, then let him do whatever he wants." It's just weird.
Best Game: I'm going to give this one to the home game against Xavier. Even after the Musketeers watched Thomas go wild against them in Cincinnati, he still went 6-10 behind the arc for what was at the time a career high 18 points. He also chipped in two rebounds and two assists.
Season Grade (1 - Worst Nightmare, 10 - Wildest Dream): I don't think I solved anything by looking at Thomas' shooting numbers against top 100 teams. Dammit. Okay.
I listen to the Marek vs Wyshynski hockey podcast, and a frequent guest on the show is former NHLer and two time Stanley Cup Champion Bobby Holik. In 2002, Holik signed an exorbitant free agent contract, leaving the New Jersey Devils where he had won those two Stanley Cups to join the New York Rangers. Holik looks back on his career by saying the following: "If Bobby Holik is your third line center, you're going to win the Stanley Cup. If Bobby Holik is your first line center, you're not going to win the Stanley Cup."
Jake did Jake things this season, and he did them REALLY well, especially compared to his junior season. But when Jake Thomas plays the second most minutes on the team, you're not going to win a lot of basketball games. I'm giving Jake a 7. I didn't think he was going to turn into anything resembling a reliable shooter, and I was wrong. A player with his skill set should not have been playing as much as he did, but that's not his fault.