So Marquette lost 96-73 to Indiana on Wednesday night and it was never a close game. The Hoosiers went on a tear to start out the game and opened up the ribcage of the Marquette defense. There were a couple 3 minute long stretches where they looked like they could at least wiggle their way out of being laughed out of Bloomington, but those were immediately followed by Romeo Langford being escorted to the basket by his defender. There’s your short version recap to remind you of the damage.
Marquette sucked. As one of the bigger optimists of the AE writers, barely sneaking past Sam for that title, there isn’t much I can give you in the realm of positives. I’ll go over things in more detail once I get to the Three Things, but I want to put the loss in a broader context first.
I expected, and wouldn’t have necessarily minded, a loss. Indiana is a good team and they played what amounts to a perfect game on Wednesday. In a binary world where games are determined simply by wins or losses, this game can be brushed aside knowing that there are a lot of opportunities for this team to pick up wins against quality opponents. The problem is that we don’t live in that world. Results don’t just give us a summary of the things that happened; they also give us an idea of how we can expect results to happen in the future. “Losing by 25 to an unranked team” being in the realm of possibilities is not a heartwarming sign when there are about 7 more high quality games left on the schedule. The good news is that there is room for a game like this, so long as they perform well in those other critical games. This showing at Assembly Hall doesn’t give me much confidence in this, however.
“Please elaborate,” you ask. Well, how about I break it down into 3 digestible segments for you, as ascribed by the title of this article?
1. Jesus Herbert Walker Christ The Defense Needs Work
The most important part about defense is preventing shots from going in. This is intuitive, so I don’t mean to patronize you, the beloved reader, but I say that because we have a number we can tack onto that idea. Dean Oliver posited that shot defense accounts for 40% of a team’s overall defensive success. Of all the shots, those taken inside the arc are the most indicative of how good a defense is because 3 point shooting is mostly driven by the offense. So it stands to reason that two point defense is the most effective barometer of defensive success. I use it almost every time I reference Marquette’s struggles on that end, so I feel the need to explain my reasoning every once and a while.
Indiana made 74% of their two pointers. They missed 2, total, in the first half. Theo John reverted back to his old foul-committing ways, Matt Heldt is showing that his offseason foot injury is affecting his mobility, and Ed Morrow has some rust that isn’t helped by the fact that he’s a 6’7” power forward/center. That’s the interior defense which I lauded after the Bethune-Cookman game. Once Indiana players set foot into the paint, they were not met with much resistance.
“So why not just keep them out of the paint?” you ask. Well, my beautiful gumdrop, that’s a fantastic idea. The problem was that the Marquette guards didn’t quite agree. One play in particular that stuck out to me was early in the second half where Romeo Langford drove along the baseline. Sam Hauser was in good position to force Romeo to make a difficult pass from right under the basket, but simply didn’t move his feet and Langford got an easy layup. Indiana’s wings were able to dribble penetrate to the basket after basic screens and the guards somehow weren’t able to stop it.
Wojo’s style of defense heavily emphasizes switching. It explains his recruiting affinity for guys like Brendan Bailey and Joey Hauser. That doesn’t work when there is no communication between the players. Way too often were defenders caught in no man’s land while a Hoosier was left with either an open shot or a mismatch. The individual defenders have real upside, but games like that show that the cohesiveness as a unit just isn’t there. I’d be willing to give more benefit of the doubt had I not seen this type of thing for 4 years prior to this. And the defense needs to get way better just to be on par with last year’s NIT team, because....
2. The Offense Is Merely “Very Good” Instead Of Elite
I’ll give you a second to faint on your couch holding a monogrammed handkerchief. The way I titled this section makes it seem like sour grapes, but there’s no doubt the offense will be not as good as last year’s unit. Last year, Andrew Rowsey was such a weapon that defenses had no other options beyond hoping everyone has a bad night. While most of the pieces remain in place this year, there is now 1 flaw that can be exploited instead of 0. If Markus Howard can be contained, the team lacks other shot creators.
That “if” in the previous sentence needs to be capitalized, underlined, and tattooed on your throat. Markus Howard is one of the 5 best offensive players in college basketball. Containing him requires a combination of perfect defense and luck. Indiana hedged screens perfectly and Howard was sloppy. It happens, but that should make it easier for other players to contribute, in theory. That didn’t happen on Wednesday. Sam Hauser couldn’t create shots for himself inside the arc against bigger defenders, Sacar Anim couldn’t penetrate effectively (I’ll always giggle typing the word “penetrate”), and the bigs were completely overpowered on the low block.
Those are the negatives of what happened, and there were a few of them, but I advise against saying that it sucked. They still scored over a point per possession. They will be Very Good with the ball in their hands, but the difference between a top 10 offense and a top 20 offense is enough that it can’t be a crutch.
2.5 Joey Hauser Looks Excellent
I can’t make this a whole Thing, since that would imply that a full third of the game was positive. That is not the case. This is simply a subpoint. Joey had 18 points on 6-9 (nice) shooting and was the only one other than Markus who showed a consistent ability to get to the bucket from the wing. I don’t think he’ll go to the NBA after this year, but I think we should take in as much as we can because I doubt we get to see him on campus for long.
3. I Really Want The Transfers To Be Happy And Maybe They Are Happy Outside Of Basketball Developing Lasting Relationships But I Can’t Imagine They’re Particularly Happy With The Basketball Part Of Their Lives So That Makes Me Sad
I have no idea if a dip in production is normal for transfers early in their first season. On one hand, it’s a new program and culture that they’re entering into, which takes time to become fully comfortable. On the other, these people have been playing basketball their whole lives, have a good idea of their own style and were likely recruited to their destination program because of that style. It’s not like they’re learning how to navigate Spanish war vessels from the 1700s here.
However normal it may or may not be, Joseph Chartouny and Ed Morrow just aren’t contributing right now. On Wednesday they combined for one (1) point (notice the lack of “s”), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 fouls, and 21 minutes. That’s combined, in case you didn’t notice it the first time I said that.
It’s not like their full capabilities would’ve made up the difference in this game, but we could at least have some pieces to show that there is reason to believe in improvement this year. The scouting reports and the numbers both showed them as plus defenders with offensive upside, but they haven’t shown either of those things yet. I’m not going to throw in the towel on those two considering how absurdly wrong I ended up being on Katin Reinhardt, but Marquette needs some positive contribution from Morrow and Chartouny if they have Big East title aspirations. It seems weird to be saying this three games in, even though this was a thing that we knew back in August.
I’ll leave you all with some optimism, since that is my #brand. There is a nonzero chance that Marquette just sucked because they were off their game. I’m even willing to entertain that as a legitimate possibility. Bad games happen and we are fixated on this one simply because we don’t have any other data points. There are a ton of opportunities for this team to make everything I said go away. The season isn’t over and everything we originally hoped for with this squad is still very much within reach. I wouldn’t suggest that you bank on everything turning around against Kansas, but after that we can still expect great things from these guys.