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StatWatch: Marquette vs #6 Xavier

This was a really tight game between the two squads.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Marquette
Trevon Bluiett: Good at basketball
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to StatWatch, the best ongoing feature in the country that talks about whatever random Marquette stats that we want to talk about.

Here’s the Four Factors from the game against Xavier Musketeers.

Xavier Four Factors

Marquette Category Xavier
Marquette Category Xavier
57.2% eFG% 56.6%
13.5% TO Rate 14.9%
30.0% Off. Reb. Rate 29.0%
20.3% FT Rate 39.3%
1.18 Points/possession 1.23

We kinda have to talk about the Effective Field Goal Percentage in this game.

Ok. So. First of all, if you want to argue that we should only be counting MU’s eFG% in this game at 55.9%, I’m not going to argue very hard with you. That’s what it would be if you wipe away Greg Elliott’s buzzer beater three that trimmed the margin from seven to four for official purposes. It had no effect or impact on the game, so if you want to consider Marquette’s performance without it, so be it.

In turn, we also have to consider the impact of Markus Howard on the ol’ eFG%. It was a bad outing for the native Arizonan, going 6-of-19 from the field, 1-of-8 from long range and a “well, actually not so bad” 5-of-11 from inside the arc. That is a personal eFG% for Howard of 34.2%.

I presume that right now you are saying to yourself “oh my god how did the rest of the team shoot?”

Yeah. So.

If you withdraw Howard’s numbers from the team stats: 12-of-20 inside the arc, 14-of-30 outside the arc, 26-of-50 overall. That’s an eFG% of 66.0%.

That’s insanely good, especially against the #6 team in the country, especially against a team with a top 60 defense like Xavier. Not that you needed to be told it, but if literally two more of Howard’s triples fall, it’s an entirely different ball game.

Remember our discussions of the two-point defense?

When we last checked in on Marquette’s efforts at defending inside the arc following the Vermont game, we had reason to believe that things were trending in a positive direction. For giggles, here’s what the two-point defense game-by-game chart looked like then.

See? Things going in a generally positive direction. As a reminder, the red line is last year’s two-point defense, which ranked 225th in the country. That number this year would sit at 190th in the country, and while it would be better relative to how everyone else is playing, it’s still lousy enough to get the point of “it needs to be better than this” across in the chart here.

Anyway, here’s what the game-by-game two-point defense chart looks like now.

Game-by-game two-point defense thru Xavier 12/27

Yep, that sucks.

You can pin Marquette’s loss in the game on a lot of things, if we’re being honest, so they didn’t lose specifically because they allowed the Musketeers to shoot 61.5% on twos, or because they allowed them to shoot 72.2% inside the arc after halftime.

It’s definitely one of the reasons why the game goes into the books as a loss, though.

It’s also a poor omen. From the Wichita State game onwards (ignoring the Chicago State outlier), there is almost a perfectly straight line downwards in Marquette’s two-point defense. Part of that is because Eastern Illinois, Northern Illinois, and American are in there, of course, but there’s also LSU, Georgia, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Marquette was getting better and better at defending inside the arc since the final game of the Maui Invitational, and getting better and better at about the same rate game-by-game.

And then Xavier came in and blew up their spot.

Sure, Xavier might be the best team Marquette has played this season, and they’re definitely the best team that MU has played since Wichita State. Marquette probably wasn’t going to hold the Musketeers to a two-point shooting percentage noticeably below the 38% they allowed to American to continue the downward trend. The chart was going to spike back upwards, and that would have been fine. It’s the degree of the spike in the first game of Big East play that’s troubling. 50%, maybe even 55%, eh, maybe no big deal. 62%? Massive problem, especially if other teams can find ways to exploit Marquette the way that Xavier did.

Trevon Bluiett was 5-of-8, but Marquette might not see anyone in the Big East better than him this season, and honestly, I’m kind of okay allowing him to shoot like that. Tyrique Jones was 5-of-6, and that’s a problem, even if he is shooting 70% on the year. Quentin Goodin and Sean O’Mara were both 3-of-4, which is above average for Goodin, but right on average for O’Mara. Those three performances are the kinds of things that Marquette probably knew that they needed to defend against coming into the game, and XU head coach Chris Mack was able to get his guys the shots that they knew they could make anyway.

You can afford to have these kinds of defensive performances against the #6 team in the country. No one is going to fault you for getting burned by a great team. The flip side of that premise is that you can not allow it to happen against the teams that you’re fighting with for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.