You know that one kid in your neighborhood who begged his parents to get a BB gun when he was 8 and then spent a little bit too much of his free time shooting rabbits with it? Well he and his girlfriend who knew he was the one when he suggested wearing camo to prom are happy as a direct result of this game. That’s not what America needs in this time of strife.
As is the case every year, emotions ran high to start off the game. Marquette appeared to have the jitters and let Wisconsin jump to a 12-5 lead. Markus Howard quickly showed why he is a preseason All American and dragged the team to a 20-19 lead at the under 8 timeout. That would be the last lead the Golden Eagles would see for the rest of the game. From that point on the Badgers guards, particularly Noted Concession Stand Item Brevin Pritzl, shot the pants off the Marquette defense and the Golden Eagles couldn’t get anything to fall from inside the arc.
The offensive effort was stymied by a phenomenal effort on the Badgers to contain Markus at all cost. A great defense like Madison’s combined with even more attention to stopping one guy means that others have to step up. Koby McEwen played his second straight flawless game and Greg Elliott gave his case to be in the starting rotation. The rest of the team was frankly awful on the offensive end.
It’s still early, but something is off with Brendan Bailey. On his way to an 0-4 effort, he airballed a wide open 3 and came surprisingly close to doing the same on an equally open layup. Not to be entirely outdone, Sacar Anim went 0-5 from the floor and fouled out of the game, but not before allowing Brevin Pritzl to have his way on the other side of the floor. No one else was able to effectively penetrate to get Theo John and Ed Morrow touches in the post, as they combined for 3 total shots. Neither big was effective at post positioning after the shot, either, because the team snagged only 17% of their misses.
In the vacuum of head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s offenses at Marquette, the performance today ranks low. Taking into account Madison’s defense makes it more understandable, but still well below average.
On defense, it was obvious that Wojo wanted to take the ball out of Nate Reuvers’ hands. That gameplan, to his credit, was executed. Reuvers only took 9 shots and made 2 of them, one of them coming after the game was decided. John and Morrow did excellent jobs at denying his opportunities. The game was won because the Badger guards took advantage of the opportunity presented by the No Reuvers Strategy. Anim was the only one to allow anything egregious near the bucket. Marquette dared the Badgers to shoot and that’s exactly what they did.
The strategy itself was not poorly founded, either. The Striped Whites came into this game shooting 27% from deep while playing a mostly inside-out style of play. They ended up shooting 23 treys, four more than Marquette’s total, and made 11 of them. The 16 point loss will look much worse than it does because of that.
What will likely be Marquette’s Achilles’ Heel throughout the year is their weakest link. Koby McEwen has quickly proven himself to be the complementary scorer that Markus Howard needs and Wojo has proved that he can coach a good defense. The team needs improvement from the guys who are taking fewer than 5 shots a game. The symptoms of this issue are being shown in the two point offense.
It’s only been three games buuuuuuuuuut Marquette is only shooting 41.5% inside the arc after going for 31% on Sunday afternoon. That ranks #307 in the country right now per KenPom and that’s a generous ranking. 41.5% would have been in the bottom 10 in the country the past two seasons.
This has sneakily been an issue in Wojo’s offense for a while. Not utilizing the center as a primary scoring option is one of the main reason the Golden Eagles boasted an elite offense the last 3 years. But the system of using all wings in pick and roll situations is way less effective when half of the ball handlers don’t need to be defended closely. There isn’t a center in the country Theo John can’t back into a corner right now. It’s time to start giving him a bigger role in this system. Putting teams in a position where they need to think twice about extending their defense to the three point line can be massive for giving Markus and Koby the precious space that they need.
Anyway that’s probably more of a high level paragraph than this recap deserves. Wing depth was poor and Badger shooting was good.