With the 2017-2018 season in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of 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 the roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest), which means today we move from the freshmen and into the veterans on the team....
Junior - #12 - Center - 6’10” - 245 lb. - Neenah, Wisconsin
Matt Heldt Traditional Stats
Matt Heldt Fancy Stats
** - denotes KenPom top 500 ranking
If he is not 2012 Drew Gordon , I expect him to quit basketball and be thrown out of town.
In reality, our expectations should involve good defense without foul trouble and to be a not-terrible contribution on offense. As great as Luke Fischer was with his back to the basket with no other options, a decent portion of his 65% field goal percentage can be attributed to dumpoffs. Jajuan Johnson (I’m really going to miss his banana routes to the basket leading to a wrap-around pass) and Markus Howard were incredible last year at driving to the basket, drawing defenders and passing to Fischer for a dunk. If Heldt can avoid turnovers, be a decent passer and grab some demoralizing offensive boards, that will be perfectly fine for keeping the offense going, especially if Harry “He’s From Australia” Froling lives up to his offensive hype.
Defensively, avoiding fouls will be one of the main expectations. Similar to last year, there will only be two centers on the team. We know head coach Steve Wojciechowski is fine with playing small, but losing one of your two main sources of size due to foul trouble is never advisable. We should also expect for Heldt to consistently anchor the defense down low. I can’t emphasize how important it will be for him to continue to improve his pick and roll defense. Seriously, it was awful last year for the team. Saying he was better than Fischer isn’t saying much. He had the tendency to follow the ball handler for a bit too long, leading to an open pass near the bucket. A defensive improvement from last year will likely have a lot to do with his individual performance, and it’s going to be tested right away. Everybody say hi to Purdue’s Isaac Haas.
Rebounding on the whole should also improve, but I doubt it’ll end up resulting in higher rebounding rate numbers for him specifically. Bit more on that later. His ability to block out (I don’t think Luke blocked anyone out ever. Also, Luke was definitely a good player overall. I’m not trying to thrash him, but there were a few things he just struggled with) will mean there are some weak side rebounds he just doesn’t get, but neither will the guy he’s guarding. It puts more pressure on the other players to be alert and not just sprint to the other side, but this year’s team should be more equipped to handle that.
Why You Should Be Excited
Picture National Marquette Day on February 3rd against Providence. Tough team. Big East standings and national recognition are at stake, so it’s a brawl. Marquette is down 10 but they crawled back to being down two with 3:00 left. The Friars have really locked down on the guards, not letting them have an inch of space, so they need another way to score. Heldt comes up for a pick at the top of the key. Howard finds a sliver of breathing room and sees him beeline for the hoop and just tosses up a prayer. Heldt athletically catches the ball and throws it down with authority, drawing a foul. Crowd goes nuts. Wojo has ripped up the floorboards and is eating them for some reason. Jump Around Guy starts sobbing as he rips off his suit.
The point is that Heldt can be a real contributor on this team. The steps he made last year really were encouraging. His effort clearly showed, but that can only take you so far as a player. Not everyone can be Aaron “Why is his face more red than his jersey?” Craft, so the fact that he added some skills to supplement that is a good sign. Just a few steps forward on offense and he could become a guy like Arinze Onuaku. I want to show you all a couple of fun trendlines from last year, courtesy of barttovik.com.
Pay really close attention to the 5 Game Average (explanation linked). Do you see the stretch where he exceeded his season average? Do you remember a significant lineup change that happened around this point? That’s right, once he got more minutes from becoming a starter he was raking. It’s a bit troubling that his Offensive Rebounding % trended in the opposite direction, especially since it coincided with a team-wide slump in that area, but this is the positive section. He proved himself with the starting role. Wojo needs a guy he can turn to for reliable minutes down low, and Heldt told everyone he’s up for the challenge.
Despite being one of two “true centers” in the lineup yet again, he’s going to have more help now. No longer will the next biggest man on the floor be Sam Hauser, Katin Reinhardt or Haanif Cheatham every single possession. If nothing else, Theo John and Ike Eke (and maybe Froling?) should be able to provide an athletic body on defense this year. Knowing he can leave his man just a second earlier to stop the driver because he knows his help is a capable defender should prevent a lot more easy baskets. Keeping the ball out of the paint and forcing more outside shots could mean a top 75 defense potentially. Maybe top 75 defense doesn’t sound that impressive, but hey: a top 10 offense and a top 75 defense last year meant you were Michigan, and things seemed to work out okay for the Wolverines.
I always want to take prompts like this to their absolute extreme just to be a jerk about it, but then every article would just consist of me saying increasingly nihilistic opinions that I don’t even believe and now all of the sudden this is the official blog for anarchists. I maintain my self control for the well-being of our nation, is what I’m trying to say.
Anyway, Matt Heldt. Definitely a basketball player. No doubting that at all. He could be good; he could be bad. Let’s see how he could be bad.
Those trends I showed earlier jump around a bunch for a reason. They’re small samples and can change in an instant, especially coming into a new season. He only started in 7 games. When defenses spend all year preparing for a guy who had completely different offensive strengths, the new player’s numbers can be a bit inflated since it’s something teams haven’t seen yet.
I also worry a bit about that offensive rebounding trend that I mentioned earlier. I’ll show both graphs to you.
The top is just Heldt’s trend, the bottom is the team’s. Overall, Marquette ranked 254th in OReb% and Heldt’s minutes came at a direct expense of Fischer’s. I have a preliminary theory that the team’s rebounding numbers with Player X on the floor matter a bit more than X’s individual numbers, given that a bad box-out will be more likely to cost the team a rebound than a good box-out to give the player one. Anyway, those two trends showing the same thing concern me a little bit, but the sample size issues still apply here.
Defensively he has a high floor, but that means nothing if he can’t stay in the game. The Onuaku comparison could apply negatively here. If he gets in foul trouble and can’t effectively stop drivers because of it, we could see another sub-150 defense. As fun as last year was, another full year of games with both teams in the high 80s might literally kill me, or that’s what my cardiologist tells me.
Back in November, Ben Snider identified — quite accurately, I think — the areas where Matt Heldt needed to contribute to this particular iteration of Marquette basketball.
- Quality interior defense
- A lack of fouls in order to stay on the floor
- Quality rebounding on both ends of the court
- “Not Terrible” contributions on offense
Let’s start with the last two, as they are the two notably positive items on the list. As Ben feared, Heldt’s offensive rebounding took a dip in terms of rate from his sophomore campaign. However, since it turns out that dipping from 12.2% to 9.2% on the offensive glass means that you’re still ranked in KenPom’s top 300 in the country, and that’s pretty damn good. Heldt’s defensive rebounding rate improved year over year, but his 17.4% there was only just barely in the top 500 in the country. Still, though, when your clearly offensively limited center makes sure he’s in the top 500 on both ends, you mark it up as “he did his job” and you move on with your life.
Since we’re talking about Heldt’s limitations on offense, we should probably talk about the dichotomy that he presents. Look, it’s not a surprise that Matt Heldt took one-third as many shots this season as Luke Fischer did the year before in roughly the same percentage of team minutes. They’re just two different types of players. Marquette was never going to lean on Heldt to score buckets this year, and that’s fine. We all knew it going in, and that’s the way it came out. Cool.
What we can say, though, is that Heldt made the absolute most of his opportunities. Did you realize that Heldt finished the season as the 58th most accurate two-point shooter in the country? It’s true! His turnover rate wasn’t anything to write home about, but I’m not exactly concerned about his 15%. Heldt’s superb accuracy — likely heavily boosted by his quality offensive rebounding — and general lack of turnovers ended up giving him the 2nd best offensive rating in the country according to KenPom. Yes, that’s right: Matt Heldt was nearly the most efficient offensive player in the country. Only Arizona State’s De’Quon Lake was better, and only just barely: 138.3 to 138.2. Lake did it on a usage rate that was nearly twice as high as Heldt on fewer minutes, so more power to him.
Okay, so we’ve identified the things that we expected from Heldt that he pulled off in admirable fashion. Now we have to talk about the other two.
Matt Heldt finished the season averaging 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes. When you’re averaging more fouls than are allowed in 40 minutes, that’s probably bad. It’s not the worst thing ever to be just barely over 5 per game, though, as very few players actually hit 40 minutes every single night. When you’re Matt Heldt and you average 22 minutes per game, averaging just short of three fouls per game, it’s probably mostly fine.
I say mostly because it’s probably still too high for this particular team. Let’s put it this way: Marquette went 12-3 this past season when Heldt played at least 25 minutes. That’s 9-11 when he played less than that for those of you scoring at home. When Marquette opted to (Heldt didn’t start in three games, didn’t crack 12 minutes in all three) or was forced to put someone other than Heldt out on the floor for what amounts to a majority of the game, things tended to not go very well. Nothing against Theo John or Harry Froling, Heldt’s most likely replacements, but they just weren’t able to get the job done this season for one reason or another.
Because I know you’re wondering right now, the three losses are: 1) Wichita State in Maui (31 minutes), 2) Georgia at home (32 minutes), and 3) at DePaul (27 minutes). Not coincidentally, two of those losses are pretty much the entire reason why Marquette missed the NCAA tournament.
That brings us to “quality interior defense” as a talking point, and I don’t know what to make of this one. On one hand, Heldt had a block rate that ranked in the top 200 in the country, and that’s pretty damn good. On the other hand, Marquette’s two point shooting defense was horrifyingly awful in 2017-18. As a team, they ranked #304 out of 351 teams in the country according to KenPom, as they allowed teams to shoot 53.8% on twos. If you break it down further, Hoop Math says that MU allowed opponents to shoot 67% on shots at the rim, and when you take blocked shots out of the equation, that goes up to 73%. That speaks to an incredible lack of rim protection, and rim protection was Matt Heldt’s primary role on defense. Of course, he wasn’t on the floor for more than 40% of the season, so it’s a bit of a conundrum.
Here’s what I do know about Matt Heldt’s defense: He chewed up Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado twice this season. Delgado averaged 14 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 51% this season. Against Marquette, with Heldt drawing the short stick of having to defend him? 12 points, 9 rebounds while shooting 43%. Seems good. Heldt also had two of his better offensive games of the season against Delgado, going for nine points and seven rebounds in the game in Milwaukee, and then tallying 10 points and eight rebounds at The Rock.
Y’know what, it might be that road game against Seton Hall. Did a major number on Delgado, corralling him into just 11 points and seven rebounds, then threw together 10&8 on his own stat line, and did that in just 23 minutes. Plus there’s the aspect of Marquette desperately needed that win after losing the previous four contests. Big game on both ends of the court, including a season high in scoring, in a must-win game? Yeah, that’ll do for Matty’s best game of the season.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1 to 10: 7
I feel like we can safely say that Heldt contributed exactly what we expected him to contribute. Could it have been better? Sure. There’s a lot of places to point at and say “hey, this wasn’t particularly good.” There’s also the issue of we didn’t really expect all that much from him in terms of carrying this team, and he didn’t exceed expectations. That sounds like a solid 7 to me.