If you watched the Marquette vs Lindenwood exhibition game, you know there are many bad things to take out of this game and very few good things. However, I need to find three good things about the game, so now you get to see how I can expand the definition of the word “good.” It’s like you’re getting a free fourth good thing!
#1 - Haanif Cheatham was not scared of the ball.
Last season, once Haanif Cheatham started to struggle he became afraid to shoot the ball. He was in his own head to the point here he would essentially not shoot no matter how open he was. However, today Cheatham looked pretty confident and made three out of his four three point attempts. Cheatham being a competent offensive player is key for the success for this team.
#2 - Markus Howard’s floater looks like a legitimate weapon.
Howard made three floaters in the lane today and it looks that this will be his go to move inside the arc this season. His floater is important because Howard’s diminutive stature makes his shots around the basket very blockable, the floater that he shoots from about eight feet is much more difficult to block. In addition, as word gets out that it’s something that he can pull out of his pocket at a moment’s notice and teams start defending for it, that can open up new avenues for Howard.
#3 - Pick-and-roll defense wasn't terrible.
Our defense as a whole was about as pretty as a Shaquille O’Neil free throw, however, most of this damage was not done through the pick-and-roll which the team struggled with mightily last year. (I told you I would have to stretch the definition of “good.”)
#1 - Markus Howard dribbled himself into tight spots and could not get out which resulted in five turnovers.
It’s not just that Howard turned the ball over, it was how he turned it over. Howard could not get around the hedge of the Lindenwood big men and this resulted in Howard picking the ball up 35 feet away from the basket and trapped in a double team. Howard also inexplicably dribbled the ball over half court against a press and picked up his dribble. If I were Wojo and teams keep hedging on Howard like that, I’d run the pick-and-roll with Sam Hauser as the big and have him pop and the three would be open all day.
#2 - Defensive rotations and communication was abysmal.
Many times Lindenwood would penetrate and kick the ball to a player standing behind the arc, Marquette would end up with two guys closing out on that guy, leaving another player wide open. Marquette already has difficulties with keeping in front of opposing guards and if they can’t rotate properly to cover shooters, they are going to get abused from the three point line. Most teams aren’t going to shoot 14-for-26 from long range, but 11-for-26 isn’t exactly a picnic, either.
#3 - New guys couldn't shoot.
I am not going to cry about Markus Howard going 0-7 on threes today. Bad shooting days happen and I’m going to take the mountain of evidence we accumulated last year that Howard is a great shooter over the single game 0-7 sample size from today. However, I am more concerned with the shooting of Sacar Anim and Greg Elliott. Anim finished the day shooting a respectable 50% from the floor but whiffed on both of his threes, bricked four of his eight free throws and his shot looked very flat. Elliott had a few open looks from three but struggled to even find the rim. Neither of these guys need to be knock down shooters but they need to be able to make free throws and open threes. At the very least, defenses need to respect the other guys in order to keep Howard, Hauser, and Andrew Rowsey (inactive due to his magically reappearing suspension) open for shots.
Overall that game pretty much sucked. The biggest take away fro today is that this team has work to do and I am sure that is the message they got today. Let’s hope they work hard and bring it on Friday against Mount St. Mary’s.