#1 - The defense doesn’t need to be great for Marquette to win.
On Tuesday night, Marquette held Seton Hall to 0.94 points per possession, or if you prefer, 94.1 points per 100 possessions. Relative to how the rest of the season has gone, that’s damn near a miracle. MU’s adjusted defensive efficiency for the season according to KenPom is 102.6 points per 100 possessions, and the raw (as in not adjusted for opponent difficulty) efficiency is 106.2 per 100.
94.1 per 100 would rank 20th in the country if it were a season long adjusted rank on KenPom, and it would be 26th in terms of raw ranking. That’s a far cry from the ranks of #148 and #231 that MU’s actual numbers carry. The point here is that the defense was amazing against the Pirates.
But it doesn’t need to be.
Marquette won the game by 20 and led by fewer than 10 points for less than six total minutes in the second half. Most of that was the first 5:28 after halftime, and the Golden Eagles led by eight at the break. For the wide majority of the last 25 minutes of the game, the outcome was never in doubt, as Seton Hall couldn’t close it within three possessions.
Part of that was the outstanding defense. A lot of it was the MU offense doing what the Marquette offense does and providing a metric ton of points. That’s why the defense doesn’t need to be great. Marquette still wins this game going away if they allow a point per possession, which would be 68 in this case. Most games, Marquette is going to win if they allow a point per possession. The defense doesn’t need to be great like it was against Seton Hall. It just needs to do enough for the offense to carry it.
#2 - This team can be an amazing rebounding team if they want to do it.
It’s not a secret that Steve Wojciechowski’s Marquette teams have struggled to rebound the ball on both ends of the floor. Through his first three seasons on the MU sideline, the team has ranked somewhere between #229 and #254 in offensive rebounding rate and between #173 and #340 in defensive rebounding rate, both via KenPom. This year’s team is not much different, ranking #185 on the offensive glass and #202 on the defensive glass.
The season long percentages are 29.5% on offense and 29.4% on defense.
Marquette grabbed 32.4% of their own misses against Seton Hall (not that there were a whole lot of them) and held the mighty Pirates rebounding machine to a mere 23.5% on the defensive end. That’s a Seton Hall team that grabs up nearly 37% of their misses usually and ranks #13 in the country in that department. Marquette shut them down. Hard.
Angel Delgado is the eighth best offensive rebounder in the country according to KenPom. Marquette held him to one second chance creation. One. He averages more than four. Michael Nzei is just outside the top 100 in offensive rebounding rate. Marquette held him to one offensive rebound in 21 minutes.
This was a team effort by the Golden Eagles. Five players grabbed at least three defensive rebounds, and everyone had at least one. Everyone except for Jamal Cain grabbed an offensive rebound, but we’ll let him off the hook because he was one of the five with 3+ on the defensive glass and he only played 10 minutes.
Maybe Marquette can’t equal this kind of performance the rest of the season. Maybe Seton Hall does some damage at The Rock a month from now. Doesn’t matter. Wojo and the coaching staff can point at this game over and over and say “Look. That’s what you can do. You did it there. We’ve been telling you that you can do that. Do it again.”
#3 - The support section of the roster continues to flourish.
A large quantity of any discussion about Marquette is going to center around the shooting and scoring prowess of Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard, as well as Sam Hauser to a lesser extent. It should! Marquette can probably beat anyone in the country if all three of those guys are all hitting shots on the same night.
Marquette’s consistency is going to come from the other guys on the roster, though, and you have to feel good about that after seeing what they did against Seton Hall.
Sacar Anim: three points, two rebounds, two assists. Matt Heldt: nine points, seven man-sized rebounds working against Angel Delgado, and a steal. Theo John: six points, two rebounds, a block, and a steal. Jamal Cain: No points, but three rebounds. Harry Froling: No points, but two rebounds and two assists.
We have to give Greg Elliott his own paragraph, because BOY HOWDY, can that dude do things. nine points (including 4-for-4 at the free throw line), five rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Wojo’s last addition to the recruiting class has been doing all of this on a hand that’s been held together with training tape all season, too.
Those six guys combined to only turn it over three total times, and two of those were Harry Froling trying to reach a little far to make a pass that he probably shouldn’t have tried to make. Given that guy’s court vision at his size, I’m not going to grouse too much about it.
We’ve said it all year long: This team’s ceiling was completely dependent on those guys providing a foundation for the scoring from Howard, Hauser, and Rowsey. The evidence is clear: They can absolutely do it, and if they’re going to get better at it the rest of the way? No telling what Marquette is capable of accomplishing.