Merry Christmas, everyone.
I hope your day is going well, surrounded by your family or friends or whatever it is that makes you the happiest.
I also hope that Santa Claus was generous to all of you, but specifically, I hope Santa was generous to YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles.
I really hope Santa brought Steve Wojciechowski’s team some defense.
We don’t need to worry about the Marquette offense. They’re currently ranked 12th in the country in effective field goal percentage, according to KenPom.com, 18th in three point percentage, 22nd in two point percentage, and second in free throw percentage. MU has the 22nd best adjusted offensive efficiency rating in the country. Five players have individual offensive ratings good enough to rank in the top 250 in the country, again according to KenPom, with both Sam Hauser (#14) and Luke Fischer (#93) registering in the top 100 and Markus Howard (#107) falling just barely outside it.
The defense, though......
Let’s be clear: With an adjusted defensive efficiency rank of #84, this is not a bad defensive team. They cause a lot of turnovers, specifically Jajuan Johnson and Duane Wilson, both of whom have steal rates ranked in the top 100 in the country. They end possessions with a defensive rebound very well, and that second one was something that was sorely lacking last year even with an NBA draft pick caliber rebounder on the team. Believe it or not, it’s Johnson and Hauser leading the way in terms of rebounding rate on the defensive end, although Luke Fischer and Haanif Cheatham aren’t far behind them.
Marquette’s raw points per possession number on defense this season is 0.96. If you prefer it this way, that’s 96 points per 100 possessions. Generally speaking, holding your opponent below a point per possession is a good way to end up winning. Like I said, this is far from a bad defensive team. This is the season long average, though, and with Big East play starting on Wednesday, things are about to get tougher for Marquette.
Eight of the nine non-MU Big East teams currently rank in the KenPom top 100 with DePaul as the lone team screwing things up down at #198. So, if Marquette is going to play 16 of their next 18 games (17 of 19, if you want to include the Big East tournament game that’s guaranteed and likely won’t be against DePaul) against top 100 teams (we’ll presume that #98 St. John’s stays in for the purposes of this discussion), we need to see how Marquette’s defense fared in their five games against top 100 teams.
Two things are probably popping up in your head right now. Item #1: Marquette is 2-3 against top 100 teams, including a smoking at the hands of Michigan. Item #2: Marquette’s defense was really goddamned awful in the second half against Wisconsin.
Marquette’s raw defensive points per possession number against their five KenPom top 100 opponents is....... 1.09, or 109 points per 100 possessions. That’s 13 points per 100 possessions higher than their overall average.
The Marquette offense is scoring 1.17 points per possession across all 12 games of the season. If we could guarantee they’d keep that up, then things would probably work out more often than not while allowing 1.09 points per possession. Sure, there’d be games when the offense and/or defense would be worse than average, leading to a Marquette loss. But you’d feel pretty good about those two numbers as the conference play averages.
Except.... those top 100 teams have better defenses, just like they have better offenses. Marquette is only scoring 1.09 points per possession against top 100 teams, which, you’ll notice, is the same amount as they’re allowing top 100 teams to score against them.
Essentially, on average, it’s a coin flip as to whether Marquette’s going to win or lose every Big East game, as they’re scoring and allowing the same amount against the kinds of teams they’ll see night in and night out in conference play.
In fact, a coin flip is almost exactly how KenPom sees Marquette’s Big East season right now. The Golden Eagles are predicted to finish 9-9, which seems like a reasonable guess as to how many times you’d get heads and tails each if you flip a coin 18 times. Right now, Marquette fans are pretty optimistic that the Golden Eagles can meet or exceed that expectation.
KenPom is currently projecting #mubb to go 9-9 in league play, finishing 5th. Where do you think they’ll finish?— Anonymous Eagle (@AnonymousEagle) December 22, 2016
I don’t think that 9-9 will be good enough for an NCAA tournament berth, regardless of whether that means a fifth place finish or if it means a a spot or two lower. 10-8 has to be the goal to hear Greg Gumbel call out Marquette’s name on CBS on a Sunday evening in March.
It’s going to require a much better defense than we’ve seen to this point of the season. Hopefully the jolly man in red dropped some defense off at the McGuire Center last night.