When Marquette Golden Eagles had that 7 point lead with 10 minutes left, what was your internal win probability? I always find that question interesting as it relates to whether we are optimists or pessimists as fans. We have decades worth of data to determine what the likelihood of Marquette winning in that situation would be, but it still does nothing to quell your worries or stymie your confidence. Marquette was considered “likely” to win for the span of a minute, peaking at 70.4% odds.
I was still worried.
Kelan Martin could have played the rest of the games upside down and I still think he could’ve crossed someone up. I find that odd, because Marquette had come back from a 14 point deficit to take that lead. They showed some real cojones at the end of that first half to shave the lead to 6 in a raucous arena. They’ve also shown the #grit and #heart to never give up when the going gets tough. But that can only take you so far when the Butler guards would have been allowed to lick the floor without much resistance if they really wanted to. I know we’re 18 games into the year and we’ve harped on this before, so let’s try to find some new things that we learned.
1. The Only Way Marquette Will Ever Be Out Of A Game Is If Sam Hauser, Markus Howard, AND Andrew Rowsey Are All Having Terrible Games
Hauser has had a weird year. His offensive rating is even better than last year’s even with the extra usage, but that’s not saying much. He’s only in the 32nd percentile of usage this year, and last night was the first game since the American game where he even eclipsed 20%. Really the only two times he gets a shot are on his beautiful pick-and-pops and in one-on-one post ups where he does the weird twisty shot that somehow goes in every single time. That didn’t change too much last night, but he was at least getting fed more because of subpar performances by Howard and Rowsey. Rowsey for some reason thought that releasing the ball four feet off the ground against giant people would result in something other than getting swatted into next week, and Howard just had an off shooting night from deep.
Even with the two best players being a bit off and Hauser hitting every possible shot, Sam was still the fifth most used player on the team. Marquette still had a real shot. TV analyst Nick Bahe praised his first half performance saying that he saved the game for Marquette as if that type of performance was unexpected, but I saw it as the third best player on the team is still able to put the team on his back. If he gets an ounce of agility by next year, his junior year will be something special.
2. The Defense Really Needs To Pressure The Ball More
Guess how many turnovers Butler had last night. I’m not waiting for your guess because I know it’s wrong. It was three. 3. Tres. Trois. They turned it over thrice. For the whole game. Mike Leake, a pitcher, has hit more home runs than Butler committed turnovers. It’s not a perfect correlation, but Marquette has typically performed better on defense when they’re getting in passing lanes. Last night was just bad. Players were getting lost like they had never seen a screen before and there wasn’t much pressure at all. I can’t tell you specifically how the defense is doing when they do that three-quarters court press, but it at least looks good and they’ve forced teams to earn every inch. I know the guards are small and that fouls have been an issue all year, but they need everything they can get on defense.
3. Harry Froling Might Not Be The Savior Yet
I try to be careful about criticizing athletes, especially student athletes. I’ll poke jabs at them with good-natured intentions, but that’s it. With that, I’ll start by emphasizing that Harry Froling could likely (read: definitely) beat me one-on-one. That’s not incredibly bold. He has also been a tremendous rebounder when he’s on the court. He’s snagged some really difficult boards while getting bumped around, so I think it’s clear that the “lack of effort” cloud that hung over his head before he came here was due more than his situation at SMU than his attitude.
He also doesn’t look that comfortable in the offense. His missed layup last night led to an easy bucket on the other end, which helped Butler vault itself ahead. He’s also 1-12 from deep this year after being 3-10 last year. Howard, Hauser, Greg Elliott, and Jamal Cain have set unreasonable expectations for what incoming players should be right when they enter, so that’s partially why I used the word “savior”. It’s less of a knock on him and more a little bit of a dose of reality for us that young players take time and that all we can hope for is for him to be better tomorrow. In the meantime, though, I think 10-15 minutes should be about his maximum playing time.