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Scouting The Marquette Defenders: Depressing Tournament Appearance Edition

It’s offseason project szn, and I need your help

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round- Marquette vs Murray State Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

If you bring yourself back to the middle of April last year, you might recall that I made a big deal about a project that I needed the readers’ help on. I asked you to go through the Marquette roster and scout various attributes on a scale of 1-10. Beyond it being a fun exercise of reflection, there is a statistical reason behind it.

Defensive stats for basketball lack much, if any, depth. On even the most advanced levels, there isn’t much you can gather about how good an individual defender is solely based on their ability to get blocks or steals. Even Synergy’s numbers suffer from a sample size and strength of schedule issue, assigning grades based on raw points per possession numbers. The full context of a defensive possession matters, and it’s impossible to determine individual contributions based on play by play data. Only you, the astute observer, have that ability.

You are reading a post about Marquette basketball a month after their last game, so chances are you consider yourself tuned in with the program and are an observant viewer of the games. While your personal observations may not mean much, 100 collective observations say just as much as any number can. I’m certainly not the first person to use this concept, as Tom Tango has been applying this to baseball for years, but I do think last year’s rendition was the first time I used this for college basketball. If you want to see the results of last year’s project, my recap is here with a link to a Google spreadsheet with the tabulated results.

Last year’s results gave us a surprisingly accurate prediction for how this year would go, thanks to your assessments. My conclusion was that the elimination of Andrew Rowsey with additions/developments from Theo John and Ed Morrow alone would be enough to bump Marquette’s defense to the top 75 level that we needed to be successful. Those fixes happened and then some, as Marquette’s team defense ranked 45th in KenPom’s metrics, up from #185 the year before. Your observations worked, so we’re doing it again and seeing what changed.

So How Do We Do This?

Every player will have his own voting page. You’ll click on the link, we will make money from the clickzzzz, we will spend the money frivolously, and you will judge different defensive attributes for that player on a scale of 1-10. Those attributes are:

  • Length (Straightforward. Height and arms)
  • Strength (How much is this guy going to stand his ground?)
  • Shot contesting (I replaced “Vertical Leap” with this one. Are his hands up and straight when his man is shooting? Are players getting open looks because he doesn’t close out effectively?)
  • Lateral Quickness (Different from pure sprint speed. Is he able to get in front of defenders effectively?)
  • Intelligence (Is he anticipating passes before they come? Is he avoiding getting lost in screens/making dumb mistakes?)
  • Hustle (The #grit category. Is he trying hard? Yes I kept the hyperlink the same from last year because that clip is funny as hell.)

There are some other guidelines that I laid out last year which bear repeating.

1. I Don’t Care If You Didn’t Watch Every Second Of Marquette Basketball

Some of you may have only started watching when Marquette got in the top 15 and that’s totally fine. If you picked up on a few things over the games you watch, that’s helpful.

2. Don’t Look At Numbers

Well, don’t *intentionally* forget the numbers that you saw over the course of the season, because maybe some of those helped you notice something later on. But for the purposes of this exercise, don’t go looking at stat pages to determine your opinion for you.

3. This Only Applies To Defense

I thought I would only have to say this last year and forget about it, but a comment was made on Sam Hauser’s voting page that I will never forget for the rest of my life.

IT *clap emoji* IS *clap emoji* CALLED *clap emoji* SCOUTING *clap emoji* THE *clap emoji* MAR *clap emoji* QUETTE *clap emoji* DEFENDERS *clap emoji* *clap emoji* *clap emoji* *clap emoji* *clap emoji* *clap emoji*

And this poor schmuck wasn’t the only one either. Some of you put Andrew Rowsey’s intelligence at a 10/10 last year, which I know can only apply to his offense because he was maybe the dumbest defender that I’ve ever seen. Remember that time that he came to a dead standstill at half-court and let an offensive player run past him in transition? Yeah. Don’t consider the player’s offense, for the love of Yeshua.

4. Don’t Consider The Player’s Position

Probably the most difficult one to grasp, but this is the most important rule. We need a consistent baseline here. I’ll copy the example that I did last year.

Let’s say you’re scouting Jalen Brunson’s strength. I would say that most of us would agree that FOR A GUARD his strength is easily a 10/10.

I don’t want that. If he were to try and post up Isaac Haas right now, an actual 10/10 in strength, Haas would punt him into the stands. I want you to grade him on the scale of all college players. I personally would put Brunson at a 6 in that category. We can figure out where certain positions “should be” on these scales later, but I want everyone to be on the same page here. Some of you made this mistake last year, so don’t make me delete your vote again. Hilary Swank didn’t work her ass off in the 2004 film Iron Jawed Angels for you to just throw away your democratic right like that.

5. Try And Vote On Everyone If You Can

I know it takes time and energy to vote on these, but I want every player to have the same amount of observations. So take the time if you’re able.


Part of my goal last year was to compare the sum of Marquette’s parts vs the team’s actual performance. My line of thinking was that if comparing the two could help us determine if the team’s defensive issues were a result of the personnel or the coaching. Similarly, if I took the raw averages of the players and compared it to the average weighted by the amount of minutes each guy played then we can judge how good the lineup construction was. Those goals will remain the same this time around, but I’m hoping to expand on them.

Now that we have a full year’s worth of similar data to look back on, I finally have a point of reference to use. Last year I was just guessing what the numbers actually meant because I didn’t have anything else. It helped me realize one limitation I have that I want to seek help with.

I am not a data scientist. If I had mountains of data that I could use to compare the fans’ observations to, this would be much easier. It’s quite difficult to put these numbers into a context that isn’t there. If there are any Marquette fans who know how to do number magic beyond my Excel skills that my resume says are “proficient”, please reach out to me. My Twitter DMs are open, so that’s the best way to reach me. Or comment below. Or do nothing and limit the amount of fulfillment that you have in your life. Up to you.