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), which means up next is MU’s senior center.....
#40 - Senior - 6’11” - 250 lb.
Luke Fischer Traditional Stats
Luke Fischer Fancy Stats
(** - denotes top 500 national ranking via KenPom.com)
That brings us around to what can we expect from him this season. Fischer’s not going to get better shooting the ball. He had the best eFG% in the Big East in the 18 game league schedule last year. You can’t really do better than that. He’s going to be Marquette’s primary rim protector, so I would expect his blocks to go back up to where they were during his sophomore season when he finished 60th in the country in block rate and averaged more than two per game.
There’s two things that Fischer has to do this season for the team to be successful. Required expectations, if you will. He has to be a better defensive rebounder. In terms of rates, Fischer essentially got to as many defensive rebounds as Jajuan Johnson did last year. That’s a good number for Johnson, but it would be a bad number for Fischer this season. Last year, Ellenson was vacuuming up tons of defensive boards, so it wasn’t the worst thing that Fischer’s numbers were a little on the low end for a starting center. Between Ellenson’s departure and the fact that Marquette was a crummy rebounding team last year anyway, Fischer has to absorb a majority of what his former post partner was doing just to keep the Golden Eagles afloat.
The other thing is he has to stay on the floor. There’s no two ways about it, he has to stay out of foul trouble. I believe Matt Heldt can be a contributor on this team, and I’m not worried about him as Fischer’s backup. I am, however, worried about needing Heldt to contribute 12 minutes a game on average because that’s all Fischer’s going to be able to achieve.
Why You Should Get Excited
I talked about what I think is probably an insane but possible idea on the Rumble In The Garden podcast last week and promised to elaborate on it here, so here we go.
I think there’s a version of this Marquette team where Luke Fischer leads the team in assists and it’s actually a good thing, maybe even a very good thing.
One of the things that I noticed from Fischer last year is his passing ability. Now, it didn’t manifest itself in terms of statistics. He wasn’t quite at one assist per game (32 helpers in 33 games), and no one is going to confuse his 7.0% assist rate with Kris Dunn or Maurice Watson Jr.
What I really noticed from him was his ability to catch an entry pass, sometimes in the air, and then immediately flick it in one motion either back to the passer or in another direction, depending on who was open. Given Marquette’s specific roster construction this season, Fischer’s ability to do this quickly and without hesitation might weaponize the offense.
Think about it: regardless of the identities of the four men on the floor with him, Fischer’s going to be playing with four guys that you’d be comfortable shooting a triple, right? If teams double team Fischer - and as a talented low post scorer, they’ll probably do it a decent amount - that leaves someone on the perimeter open. If Fischer can read the double teams and pass out of them quickly enough for guys to get shots off, more often than not, Fischer’s going to record an assist on that shot.
Even if that doesn’t happen to the degree where Fischer leads the team in assists, the long range benefit is hard to overestimate. Marquette making a bunch of open three-pointers as a result of Fischer’s passing is going to lead to teams having to pick their spots when it comes to double teaming him. Fischer is a talented enough scorer in the low post that if you let him work one-on-one with a guy, he’s going to obliterate his defender more often than not. Pick your poison, opponents. Fischer scoring at will or a torrential downpour of made threes.
We’ve kind of brushed up on it already. What happens when Matt Heldt has to play 15 minutes a game not because Wojo’s giving Fischer a blow because of MU’s tempo, but because Fischer can’t keep his fouls under control as the main central defender? What happens when he can’t find a way to rack up defensive rebounds at an improved rate? How will Marquette function without their most offensively effective big man? Can a barrage of three pointers be enough to propel this team?
Luke Fischer was fine.
I mean, that’s about the extent of it. He was fine. He wasn’t knocking your socks off, and he wasn’t abjectly terrible. He was fine.
Certain parts of Fischer’s season were better than fine, of course. You don’t end up with a top 60 in the country offensive rating on accident, y’know? He managed to actually improve his shooting percentages from last year, but because of his late season minutes issues, he ends up just barely not qualifying for a national ranking. He would have ended up top 20 in the country in effective field goal percentage if not for that, or to put it another way: Markus Howard’s three-pointer fueled eFG% was only 1.1 percentage points better than Fischer.
His defensive rebounding rate went way up, his assist rate went up just a smidge, his turnover rate went way down, and his block rate went way up, all the way into the top 70 in the country. Like I said, certain parts were better than fine. If Luke Fischer’s season was a display room in an art museum, you’d look around and say, “Hey, there’s a lot of really great stuff in here.”
And then there’s the avant-garde installation over there in the corner that you’re pretty sure was made by a crazy person and honestly wants to make you vomit. We’ll call it, I don’t know, how about “Foul-a-palooza.” Somehow, even though he already had a teensy foul problem the previous two seasons, Luke Fischer just went completely off the deep end in the foul department in 2016-17, averaging 5.6 fouls per 40 minutes for the season and — you should probably sit down for this and maybe go pour yourself a drink before you do that — a whopping 6.3 fouls per 40 during Big East play.
Now, that 6.3/40 number is slightly elevated by Fischer’s late season play. After losing his starting spot for the second time in the season (and the second time in his MU career), Fischer responded to that by promptly fouling out of the next three games. Perhaps more impressively, he did that in a grand total of 38 minutes. 15 fouls in less than 40 minutes? Yeah, that probably drove that 6.3 up pretttttttty quickly.
Hey, look, if head coach Steve Wojciechowski told Fischer “hey, Matt Heldt is going to play the majority of the minutes at center the rest of the season, so just go hog wild when you’re out there and I don’t care about your fouls,” then mission accomplished, I guess. That also seems wildly irresponsible for Wojo to do, particularly given 1) Marquette’s lack of size outside of Fischer and Heldt and 2) Fischer’s offensive prowess. Somehow I don’t think Wojo gave Fischer the green light to suddenly turn go all “HULK SMASH PUNY OPPONENTS”
There is the question as to how healthy Fischer was all season, by the way. He made his Marquette debut wearing a somewhat bulky shoulder brace, and wore it all throughout his sophomore campaign. He had offseason surgery to repair the damage to his shoulder, and then looked much more confident and unhindered by his shoulder as a junior.
When senior year started, though, Fischer was wearing kinesiotape on his surgically repaired shoulder. He hadn’t worn it at all the year before, but it was present all the time during 2016-17. Now, I have total trust in MU’s strength and conditioning staff as well as the athletic training staff. It is 100% possible that they felt Fischer would benefit from the kinesiotape and that he wasn’t any more injured in November 2016 than he was in March of 2016 when he wasn’t wearing it.
However, Fischer had two specific in-game incidents during the year where there was justifiable reason to be concerned about his shoulder. Once, and I forget specifically when it was, he ended up falling to the court and landed directly on that left shoulder. Fischer went to the back to receive treatment, but ended up being fine. The other one was this specific play in the Big East tournament:
I’m not even coming anywhere close to blaming Rashed Anthony for anything here. He got tied up with Fischer, and he accidentally ended up cranking Fischer’s shoulder pretty hard. Fischer ended up wearing a soft blue and gray sleeve/brace for MU’s NCAA tournament game against South Carolina and it’s completely possible that the brace was just because of this play. It’s also completely possible that Fischer’s surgically repaired shoulder was giving him chronic problems all season long and it just took one really bad play for things to go sideways on him.
Fischer did a lot of things really well this past season, so I’m inclined to believe that his shoulder wasn’t bothering him all that much. There was, though, something about how he was playing, even with that offensive ability, that caused Wojo to sit him down and primarily go with Matt Heldt or a small ball lineup with both Katin Reinhardt and Sam Hauser on the floor together for a lot of the final seven games of the season.
Best Game: You could make the argument that Fischer’s best statistical game was the Houston Baptist contest in the non-conference slate: 22 points and 11 rebounds in just 19 minutes. But it was (no offense) Houston Baptist and Marquette won by 22. I would counter that with his performance in Omaha against Creighton. In a game that ended up being a big part of why Marquette made the NCAA tournament in March, Fischer carved Justin Patton and Toby Hegner up for 18 points on 8-of-9 shooting, and added eight rebounds, three assists, and SIX BLOCKS. That was a hell of a performance in a hell of a game for the Golden Eagles overall.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1 to 10: So here’s the conundrum when trying to grade Fischer’s season. He defied the odds to become a more accurate shooter, and also made the necessary improvements to his rebounding and shot blocking to play his part to help Marquette on defense. He also committed a lot of fouls, which kind of mitigated the shooting, rebounding, and blocking improvements, and ended up getting relegated to a reserve role when Wojo needed to light a fire under his team. His efficiency didn’t slip when he came off the bench, as KenPom reports that he only had one game with an offensive rating under 110 (a 96 vs Seton Hall in the Big East tournament) in the final seven games. That’s great, but it’s a giant red flag when the coaching staff makes the decision that you can’t play much more than 20 minutes a game..... and also when it works and the team goes on a run. I like Luke Fischer as a player, I liked watching him play, and I think he was a valuable component of the last three Marquette seasons. I also can’t give him a season score better than a 6.