With the 2016-2017 season now in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance that each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we're at it, we'll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We'll run through roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). That means we kick things off with everyone’s new favorite starting center....
#12 - Sophomore - 6’10” - 245 lb.
Matt Heldt Traditional Stats
Matt Heldt Fancy Stats
With Henry Ellenson gone to the NBA after one season, Heldt is now the #2 big man on the team behind senior Luke Fischer. I’m not going to say something silly and claim that Heldt can vacuum up the minutes, the points, or the rebounds that Ellenson provided the Golden Eagles. But, he’s going to be the only real backup that Fischer has, and he’s going to have to pull his weight.
It’s really simple: If Wojo wants to go 10 deep every night, Heldt has to be one of the 10. He doesn’t have to be a major contributor, he just has to pick up the slack when Fischer needs a breather. 10, maybe 15 minutes a night of no drop off on the defensive end is all I’m really asking for. Anything Heldt gives you on offense is just a cherry on top. Oh, and I gotta come out and just say it: He’s gotta rebound. Has to has to has to rebound. Marquette was a bad rebounding team last year and that was with a naturally gifted glass cleaner like Ellenson. Heldt has to put every single inch of everything he’s got into getting those loose balls off the rim on both ends of the court.
Why You Should Be Excited
Have you seen the video of the “secret” scrimmage against Dayton? You should check it out.
Yep, that’s Matt Heldt starting and taking the opening tipoff.
Let’s all pump our brakes a little bit here. As you can see in the video, Luke Fischer has the kinesio tape all over his shoulder. Specifically his surgically repaired shoulder, but that’s a discussion that we can take up next week. Odds are that Wojo was just keeping Fischer a little bit on the safe side with whatever injury he’s dealing with, so Heldt took the tip. No big deal, let’s not get over our skis here.
Buuuuuuuuuuuuut if Heldt can push Fischer...... well. That’d really be something, wouldn’t it? I don’t think the two of them can play together this season, but it’d be really nifty to be able to finish this season with a sense of “well, MU will be fine at center next year with Heldt” because of what he was able to accomplish this year. If Heldt’s just as capable a defender as Fischer, especially with an up and down tempo, then it’s completely reasonable to expect him to play more than expected, and I’m totally here for that.
Heldt was really bad at committing offensive fouls last year. I mean, REALLY bad. Through the game at Xavier last season, Heldt had committed six offensive fouls. While that’s not a lot in general particularly through 24 games, you have to remember that he wasn’t playing all that much. Those six fouls accounted for 38% of his total personal fouls and 75% of his turnovers to that point of the season. This is a thing that can not continue this season if Heldt is going to be carrying any kind of responsibility to back up Fischer.
Now, in fairness to Heldt, he didn’t commit a turnover at all in the six final games that he played last year and only committed six total fouls in that stretch, none of which were obviously offensive fouls. That’s the kind of play that Marquette will need from him.... except that Wojo is going to need him to play about twice as many minutes on average.
I don’t doubt his effort, I don’t doubt his determination, I don’t doubt his heart. But until I see Matt Heldt pulling off 10-15 minutes a game while being able to defend his man, I don’t know how comfortable I’m going to be with the idea. We’ll see.
Matt Heldt provides us with one of those odd circumstances where looking at his full season of work doesn’t actually provide us with a picture of what he provided for the team this season.
In the first 25 games of the season, Heldt was averaging 10.9 minutes per game almost exclusively off the bench in relief of Luke Fischer, as he had one start after the 2K Classic when head coach Steve Wojciechowski attempted to light a fire under his team by juggling the lineup. He averaged 1.8 points on 65% shooting, but attempted less than one shot per game, and averaged 2.2 rebounds per game.
In the final seven games of the season, after Wojo threw everything out the window in an effort to save the season following the post-Villanova victory tailspin, Heldt started six of seven contests, only ceding the starting spot back to Fischer on Senior Night. He played nearly 21 minutes a game (probably would have been more but he fouled out twice), shot 76.5% from the floor while attempting more than two shots per game, and averaged 4.3 points and 5.7 rebounds.
Look, I don’t know about you, but if those last seven games are an indicator of what we can expect from Heldt over his final two seasons in blue and gold, I’m pretty comfortable with that.
With that said, Heldt’s performances this season were kind of all over the map. If you charted his minutes played on a game by game basis, you’d see a kind of an up-and-down roller coaster pattern to it. Three minutes in the opener against Vanderbilt, but a five game stretch where he played at least 10 minutes in every game, then way back down, including just three minutes against Wisconsin, but a four game run in the early conference schedule where Heldt was on the floor for at least 11 minutes, then back down, including just two minutes of action in the Villanova win. Back up, back down, and then the final seven games, where his smallest PT was 14 minutes, both on Senior Night and in the NCAA tournament against South Carolina.
A lot of this is match-up based, and isn’t really anything that Heldt had any control over. If Wojo thought he could get away with defending the opponent with both Sam Hauser and Katin Reinhardt on the floor, then that was absolutely the right move to make. Max out the shooters on the floor and try to outscore people. That means Heldt has to sit. When he was called on, though, we got every last bit of effort from Heldt. That’s not up for debate, and credit to him for being ready to go every single time Wojo called on him.
Even without the booster pack of seven games at the end of the season, it was clear that Heldt was having a much better sophomore campaign relative to his first season with Marquette. He improved on his offensive rating (71.3 to 133.1), his shooting (40% to 70%), his offensive rebounding rate (7.2% to 12.2%), his defensive rebounding rate (11.6% to 14.8%), his turnover rate (37.2% to 14.7%), and most importantly, his foul rate, going from 7.1 per 40 minutes to 6.3.
I know, you’re saying “hey, 6.3 isn’t very good,” and you’re right. But consider this: Heldt’s foul rate in Big East play was a mere 5.1/40 minutes. He also had an almost non-existent turnover rate in the 18 game conference slate, coughing it up on just 5.6% of the possessions where he was on the floor. I’m not going to go back and comb the box scores to check it, but it sure looks like Heldt has figured out how to play without committing offensive fouls.
Best Game: Oh, this is pretty easy. On Al’s Night, Heldt went for 15 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes for his first career double digit scoring game, first career double digit rebounding game, and first career double-double. Oh, and Marquette beat St. John’s, 93-71.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: The good news is that Heldt met expectations pretty solidly, even before the final seven games of the season. Averaging 10+ minutes, rebounding well, defending without fouling. There was a lot to like for the first three quarters of the season. I don’t know exactly how much credit to give him for taking Luke Fischer’s starting spot, because Wojo was doing anything he could to jumpstart the team at that point, but Heldt did make the most of his opportunities. I’m going to give him an 8, but that 8 carries with it a certain amount of increased expectations for next season.