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2011-12 Player Review: #2 Vander Blue

Like the video game Mortal Kombat says: FINISH IT!
Like the video game Mortal Kombat says: FINISH IT!

With the season wrapped up, it's time to provide the bookend for the Player Previews we wrote to start the season. We'll take a look back at what we thought about each of the Marquette players back in November and see if we did a good job of prognostication. We continue our climb up the list of minutes played this year by moving on to sophomore guard Vander Blue.

Hit the jump!

Vander Blue

#2 / Guard / Marquette Golden Eagles




FG 3PT FT Rebounds Misc
G M M A Pct M A Pct M A Pct Off Def Tot Ast TO Stl Blk PF PPG
2011 - Vander Blue 35 25.7 2.9 6.9 41.3 0.2 0.9 25.8 2.4 3.4 70.8 1.7 2.8 4.5 2.6 2.2 1.1 0.2 1.7 8.4

What We Said:

Minimum Expectations: We got this note from Jeff Goodman at last week, following Marquette's scrimmage vs. Kansas State:

Another little birdie told me that Vander Blue was extremely impressive in MU's scrimmage against Kansas State.

Maybe it's unwarranted, but I'm going to put some faith in Goodman's feathered friends and say this: Blue averaged a very respectable 19.0 mpg; 5.0 ppg; 2.8 rpg; and 1.6 apg last year. At minimum, I expect a 25% increase in those numbers this season: 6.2 ppg; 3.5 rpg; and 2.0 apg. Sounds doable, right?

In My Wildest Dream: I see that's Seth Davis has taken some flack today for calling Vander a point guard in his Big East preview and writing that Blue will look to spearhead Marquette's offense this season. Of course, some of that flack is well-deserved: unless I've missed something, Junior Cadougan is Marquette's starting point guard for the foreseeable future.

And yet: in my wildest dream, Vander is exactly what Seth Davis says he's going to be.

Hear me out before you light your torches, OK? Do you remember Dominic James in his senior season, when he made the conscious decision to sublimate his scoring, used his playmaking abilities to set up Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews and Lazar Hayward, and turned himself into a lockdown defender?** I think Vander could do the same thing. And if that came to pass: look out, Big East.

** Senior-year Dom James is still responsible for my favorite three minutes in college basketball: take a look at the play-by-play from Marquette's game vs. West Virginia on January 10, 2009, when Dom forced then-freshman "Truck" Bryant into two turnovers and two fouls by the 17-minute mark, which earned Truck a seat next to Bob Huggins for the rest of the first half.

In My Worst Nightmare: Briefly: the jump shot is still broke. The decision-making hasn't improved. The defense goes on the backburner in favor of the offensive game. And, as a result, the minutes aren't there, and the numbers from last season don't budge an inch.

I said it before and I stick by it: Vander Blue was Marquette's most improved player this season. All of his averages were up from his freshman year and even when his shot wasn't falling (see also: a combined 0-22 in the second Norfolk State, first Georgetown, UWM, Pitt and UConn games), he still averaged 26 minutes per game in those games. That 26 minutes is actually right on his season average for minutes, proving that Vander's defense is still what's keeping him on the floor.

I'm going to be honest with you: Even though I think Vander improved more than any other player on the team, I honestly have almost nothing to say about his season. He was a completely acceptable contributing member of the team while generally not being remarkable in any way. Perhaps this because Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom were doing all of the heavy lifting for the team, allowing Vander to focus on doing the little things. I am willing to accept rebuttals on this topic.

There is one part of Vander's game that did stand out, though. Previously, we've referred to The Patented Lazar Hayward Trailer Three Pointer (used to great effect by Jae Crowder over the last two years) and this season we started to see the emergence of The Patented Junior Cadougan Pull Up 15 Footer. We've another new patented shot this year: The Patented Vander Blue Layup That Bounces Four Times On The Rim Then Falls Off. How many times did we see this happen this year? How would we remember Vander's season, or for that matter, Marquette's season, if even half of those layup attempts fell through the rim? Is there a drill Vander can do in the off season to get better at getting layups to fall? Maybe just have Chris Otule stand on the charge circle and attempt layups?

Best Game: Like I said, nothing really stands out about Vander's season to me. So I'm going to pick the game at Villanova here. 9 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in just 16 minutes. He only had one foul, so it appears that while his minutes were limited for match up reasons, but Vander was able to make a major impact while he was on the floor.

Season Grade (1 is Worst Nightmare, 5 is Minimum Expectation, and 10 is Wildest Dream): I'm going to go with a 7 here. Vander exceeded the Minimum Expectation and while the shot remains broken, it was less broken than last year. Vander improved both his free throw shooting and three point shooting percentages by 10 points from last year to this year. If he can boost both numbers by another 10 points for next year while maintaining his defensive mindset, we could be in for a heck of a season.