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StatWatch: Marquette vs Georgia

I’m not usually a fan of plus/minus, but I think it does tell a story here.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-South Carolina vs Marquette Bob Donnan-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 Georgia Bulldogs.

Georgia Four Factors

Marquette Category Georgia
Marquette Category Georgia
44.4% eFG% 52.0%
17.6% TO Rate 14.7%
27.5% Off. Reb. Rate 25.8%
22.6% FT Rate 60.0%
0.97 Points/Possession 1.07

In the past, I’ve been critical of plus/minus as a basketball stat. Basketball is so reliant on all five players operating as a unit that I struggle to understand the value of a stat that tells you how much of a positive or negative impact a single player had on the game.

However, I recognize that a lot of people do value it for some reason. I also recognize that when presented with a particular outcome from a game, looking at plus/minus helps us properly gauge what our eyes were telling us that we were seeing.

Against Georgia, head coach Steve Wojciechowski made the decision to move Andrew Rowsey to the bench to start the game. However, whatever Wojo’s plan was for the game in terms of the senior guard, it went out the window pretty quickly when Markus Howard picked up two fouls in the first 45 seconds of the game. We’ll never know exactly when Wojo was planning to bring Rowsey off the bench, but given that Greg Elliott played 26 minutes, odds are that Rowsey was not supposed to play 34 minutes.

What we do know is that Rowsey, uh, was not good in the game after being given the opportunity to replace Howard shortly after tip off. He missed his first seven shots before going 4-of-8 the rest of the way to finish at 4-of-15 shooting for the game. He committed six of Marquette’s 12 turnovers in the game, three in each half.

This seems like a perfect candidate for a look at plus/minus.

We’re not just going to look at Rowsey’s plus/minus. We’re also going to take a look at Howard’s plus/minus in an effort to try to determine what Marquette lost by the sophomore sharpshooter being limited to just 20 minutes of action. On top of that, we’re also going to look at Rowsey’s plus/minus with and without Howard on the floor as well as Howard’s plus/minus without Rowsey on the floor. Obviously, Howard’s plus/minus with Rowsey is the same as Rowsey’s with Howard.

Rowsey’s playing time in the game came in three segments: He came into the game when Howard got his second foul and played for the next 12+ minutes. He returned to the court after a two minute break, and then played the final 4+ minutes of the half as well as the first seven minutes of the second half. After another three minute break, Rowsey returned to the floor and played all of the final 10 minutes.

He finished at -14.

Marquette was in the positive for just one of Rowsey’s three segments, the middle one that bridged halftime. MU outscored Georgia 19-18 in that run. That’s just +1, so yes, Rowsey was a -15 for his other 22 minutes of action.

Conversely, Markus Howard finished the game at a +8. He gets credit for his own basket that he scored on MU’s opening possession before picking up his two fouls before Georgia scored. He returned for a six minute run late in the first half, where MU outscored the Bulldogs 13-5 to tie the game at 28. At that point he picked up his third foul of the game and did not return to action until almost the 13 minute mark of the second half. Marquette was outscored 32-30 as Howard played all of the remaining minutes of the game, so he was a -2 for that run.

From there, let’s turn to the with/without numbers.

Rowsey played 20 of his 34 minutes without Markus Howard on the floor with him. It was broken up into two pieces: the first half span when Howard was sitting with two fouls, and then the final 42 seconds of the first half and first seven minutes of the second half. Rowsey was a -10 in the first half and a -5 for the bridging halftime run for a total of -15 without Howard on the floor.

Rowsey and Howard played together for 14 minutes. There was a four minute splash late in the first half, and then they were out there together for all of the final 10 minutes of the game. In the quick first half burst, Marquette had a six point advantage on Georgia, 11-5. The final quarter of the game was a little different, as Georgia outscored Marquette 26-21. All told, the undersized backcourt had a +1 mark for the time that they played together.

That leaves us with Markus Howard’s numbers for while he was out there with Rowsey on the bench. I will pause here while you formulate a guess in your head as to what the number is.

Ready?

Markus Howard was a +7 with Andrew Rowsey on the bench.

Here’s the other part of it: That’s in less than six minutes of game action.

The first 44 seconds (2-0), a two+ minute segment late in the first half (2-0), and a just short of three minute segment midway through the second half (9-6).

To review:

Andrew Rowsey: -14
Markus Howard: +8

Rowsey without Howard: -15
Howard without Rowsey: +7

Together: +1

Now, I’m not calling for Andrew Rowsey to be benched for all eternity. Marquette does not have the manpower with the departure of Haanif Cheatham for that to be a workable strategy in any context. I’m only pointing out that there’s actual math to back up what we all watched: Andrew Rowsey was a drain on Marquette against Georgia on Saturday.

Maybe he plays better if given a limited role, if that’s what the MU staff was planning on doing. Maybe it was just a bad day against a big roster for the 5’11” Rowsey, as Georgia played just one guy shorter than 6’4”, and that was for only 10 minutes of action. Maybe it was just Rowsey getting the idea in his head that he needed to step up into a big moment with Howard having to fight through his very early foul trouble. Maybe getting to play more with Howard will help him fight off his worst tendencies.

What we know for sure is that 27% shooting performances and six turnover nights are not going to be helpful against any opponent, and they’re definitely not going to be helpful against the seven Big East teams that have a better KenPom ranking than Georgia. After the Lindenwood exhibition, I half-joked that Andrew Rowsey might have to win Big East Player of the Year for Marquette to make the NCAA tournament. While that’s probably not true, he also can’t play like he did in this game ever again.