#1 - Andrew Rowsey means a lot more to this team than we may have originally realized.
As I write this on Sunday morning, KenPom.com says that Andrew Rowsey is the sixth most valuable player in the country. There’s an awful lot of Small Sample Size Theater involved there, and I’ll almost guarantee that Rowsey doesn’t stay in the top 10 of the kPOY rankings after the Purdue game on Tuesday.
I think it is safe to say that no one expected the Rowsey who went for 12 points, two rebounds, and two assists in 20 minutes last season to explode for 23 points, three rebounds, five assists, and three steals against Mount St. Mary’s. Well, maybe you did. Rowsey scored at least 20 on nine different occasions last year, and he dished at least five assists in three of MU’s final seven games last year. He only did both of those things once, though, in the 95-84 road win over a crippled Xavier team. So the odds of both happening in the same game? Kind of low.
Here’s the point, though: Marquette struggled mightily to beat Division 2 Lindenwood last week Saturday in an exhibition game, and Rowsey didn’t play in that game. He turns up here against a Mount St. Mary’s team that’s admittedly running with way too many freshman playing key roles, and MU runs through the Mountaineers like a hot knife through butter. Sam Hauser, a popular pick for team MVP? Four points and 0-for-3 long range shooting. Markus Howard, a popular pick for team MVP and leading scorer this season? 11 points, no assists. And yet, even with those two showing up a little light in this game, Marquette would have won this game by 50 if head coach Steve Wojciechowski hadn’t taken his foot off the gas at some point early in the second half.
#2 - Marquette can win without stellar three-point shooting.
I want to make this perfectly clear so we’re all on the same page here. Mount St. Mary’s is not very good, at least not right now. Maybe Jamion Christian rounds his troops into shape by the time NEC play comes around, but for right now, they’re a sub-250 KenPom team.
Marquette beat the brakes off of them while shooting 6-for-21 (29%) on three-pointers.
The Golden Eagles shot 42.9% on three-pointers last year, the best mark in the country. That pushed them to the fourth best effective field goal percentage in the country at 57.4%. Odds are that they weren’t going to shoot the ball that well again this season. It’s hard to be the best in the country two years in a row! Michigan State was the best three-point shooting team in 2016. 2017? 68th. Things were probably going to roll back a little bit in 2018. That’s fine. Sub-30%, though? That is not going to go well long term.
BUT! It’s good that MU was able to shred The Mount while not connecting from long range. Matt Heldt showed that he can finish with regularity (he only missed his sixth and final shot of the game), Haanif Cheatham appears to be back to freshman year form, and Sacar Anim looks like he can contribute. It’s probably going to be hard to beat a Big East team while shooting 30% on threes, but it’s never a bad idea to have a back up plan.
#3 - Leading by 37 and winning by 21 does not mean the defense was good.
Overall, yes, the defense was good. Marquette held the Mountaineers to less than 0.90 points per possession. That is very very good, and I am not trying to diminish that in the slightest.
HOWEVER, allowing The Mount to shoot 70% on two-point shots is a very bad thing. The per possession number ends up looking shiny because of bad three-point shooting by MSM, and their 16 turnovers helped Marquette out, too.
There is another aspect to this. Did you realize that Mount St. Mary’s connected on their final seven two-point shots of the game? It’s true! From the moment that Marquette went up 37 with just over 10 minutes left, The Mount had seven two-point attempts for the rest of the game, and all seven went down. If you wipe that off the board, it’s still not good news for MU’s defense. That means MU allowed 9-for-16 (56%) shooting on twos up until that point, and that’s a bit of a problem. Allowing the seven straight makes is also a problem, because that’s when Wojo started shifting to giving his freshmen a chance to play most of the minutes, and it was layup city for the Mountaineers. It’s not a surprise or a revelation that Marquette will only go as far as the freshmen can push them this season, and they’re going to have to get better defensively going forward.
Or maybe just not play together all at once.