With the 2019-20 season long since 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 going from lowest to highest, which means today we move on to the older than you think sophomore......
Sophomore - #1 - Forward - 6’8” - 200 pounds - Salt Lake City, Utah
Brendan Bailey Traditional Stats
Brendan Bailey Fancy Stats
*** - Denotes a top 500 national ranking per KenPom.com
As I just mentioned, Brendan will play a ton of minutes because they’ll need him to occupy the minutes. While that essentially means he’ll become Sam Hauser’s replacement, he does not have that same skillset. Both take excellent care of the ball and can be somewhat passive, but Bailey is nowhere near the shooter that Sam is and actually needs to work on making his shot more consistent.
If you remember the days of Katin Reinhardt, then that’s probably a better starting point for what to expect. Brendan looks a lot more comfortable putting the ball on the ground and has excellent body control around contact, even if he’s not quite strong enough to consistently fight through it. That extra mobility should give the offense a lot more flexibility if he’s able to improve on his shot to stretch the floor. He’ll likely be the third scorer, at least at first, behind Markus Howard and Koby McEwen.
On defense, his Elastigirl limbs will let him take the toughest assignment on every opponent. He closes out on three pointers so well, which is critical in a conference where seemingly every team stocks up on snipers every year. Even if his offense doesn’t develop as much as fans would hope, his versatility on defense will be enough to keep him in the lineup.
Why You Should Get Excited
Alright I’ve held onto my cards for long enough. If you follow this community well enough to know my opinions, you will know that I am stupid high on Brendan Bailey. Want to know why?
Look at this.
When he was in the game, Bailey was not used much at all. Only 5.8% of players in the country had a lower usage than him while on the court, actually. But when he got the ball and decided to go he showed flashes of a star in the making. He absolutely was not perfect, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but the way he finished the year really made it seem like things were starting to click for him. That last clip shows how much of a nightmare he can be even on defenders smaller than him. Keeping them honest with a more consistent shot could make him deadly.
Speaking of which, in that previously mentioned 5 games stretch, Bailey shot 38.9% from deep after. In the closed door scrimmage against Indiana, he made 4 of his 6 attempts from behind the arc. I KNOW that the sample size is small and I KNOW his season-long percentage was 25%, but taking into consideration his time off for the mission and the jump players normally take between their freshman and sophomore years, it’s worth a much closer look. He does not need to be a sniper to become a weapon, but it would add another level to his game if he can bump his three point accuracy to 35%, and it really does seem reasonable.
The biggest area of need for the team coming into the year is finding players to take better care of the ball. Marquette barely scraped the top 250 in turnover rate rate last year and needs consistent offensive players who don’t cough the ball up. Bailey has the makings of one of those players. His season high for turnovers in a game last year was 1. The first issue that would come to mind when describing a freshman with a two year gap from basketball would be carelessness with the ball. This wasn’t an issue that plagued the freshman last year and there’s no reason to believe it will this year.
On defense he can guard every single position. Yes all of them. Centers like Nate Reuvers from Wisconsin, Luka Brajkovic from Davidson, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree from Villanova, Sandro Mamukelashvili from Seton Hall, and the tall scarecrow that Creighton decides to put under the basket in lieu of the injury-riddled Jacob Epperson are all guys that Bailey’s length can really disrupt. He’s also quick enough to keep up with smaller guards, and even if he isn’t his recovery skills are superb and can make up for any miscues. He’s a Swiss Army Knife that would be the perfect fit in a defense that already boasts guys like Greg Elliott, Theo John, Ed Morrow and Sacar Anim. Even though Markus Howard displays enough effort to make himself a halfway decent defender, putting guys around him to make up for the lack of size can put the defense on a level not yet seen in the Wojo era.
To summarize all that rambling, I think Brendan Bailey will be First Team All Big East this year.
Obviously there’s a scenario in which he is not First Team All Big East. Perhaps even many scenarios. I’m fully aware of how bold that prediction is and I’m not blind to the reasons it might not happen. The development between freshman and sophomore year is the most important leap a college player can make, as the growth in subsequent years in much less pronounced, on average. It can never be assumed that anything not shown consistently in previous years will now be likely to happen. Think about the amount of times national media members began a sentence with, “When Ethan Happ learns how to shoot...” It’s not easy to take an offensive game to the next level, and there’s a very real chance that Brendan Bailey doesn’t shoot better than 25% from deep next year.
Look at this.
Yes it’s a freshman mistake and yes it’s the type of non-Markus aggressiveness the team needed at the end of last year, but this shot was completely out of rhythm without his feet being set. There are numerous other examples even during his Good Stretch in which he catches the ball without his feet being set and hoists it up without moving said feet. There were a ton of airballs and rim grazers that good shooters don’t do.
On defense, the same principles apply. While his floor is still “Above Average Defender” and he can keep up with smaller guards, sometimes he just...didn’t.
Look at this.
Mustapha Heron just waltzed right past him to get the easy bucket plus a foul. Brendan’s reaction time was never the greatest thing in the world and while the length makes it easier to recover, it’d be neat to not need to in the first place.
Any hiccups are also going to be looked under a microscope from the coaching staff. The schedule picks up quickly and if the freshman-sophomore jump doesn’t happen quickly, Wojo will not hesitate to give a combination of Ed Morrow and Theo John minutes at the 4 to give Jayce Johnson more of a chance to show his worth. If Bailey does not react well to that sort of pressure, any flaws could be made worse.
So I wrote the preview on Brendan at the start of the year as part of my campaign of predicting he would be First Team All Big East by the year’s end. I fully realized the boldness of that take and the strong possibility of it not happening. My reasoning for this take was a combination of the following:
- A predication that Koby McEwen would be a nonviable complement to Markus Howard offensively, thus leaving the door open for Bailey to seize the available opportunity.
- His established defensive presence as a freshman being vaulted by his even higher ceiling as well as a chance for more playing time.
- A hot stretch of outside shooting at the end of the 2018-2019 season that could carry momentum through the offseason. Coupled with an underrated ability to finish at the rim, he could become a lethal offensive player.
- An assumption that his limited offensive aggression would jump merely because he was in his sophomore season and thus fully reacclimated to high level competition.
If we’re keeping tabs, two of those predictions were correct. Despite a few #KrunchTimeKoby moments, McEwen’s production for the season was poor overall and the door for Brendan was wide open. Bailey’s shooting also improved dramatically, as he was a 38% shooter from deep on 120 attempts, tied for third most on the team and only five behind second place Sacar Anim. Unfortunately, his defense took a turn for the worse and he was a frustratingly passive player on offense, which you can see from his mere 72 attempts inside the arc while averaging more than one offensive rebound per game. You’d like to think that 39 offensive rebounds on the season would result in a lot more than 72 two point attempts merely by opportunities available, but here we are.
The story of the 2020 Marquette season will be told with the simple statement that Markus Howard, who comprises 20% of the players on the court when he’s playing, took 40% of the team’s shots during those minutes. Markus earned every single one of those shots, but it’s no way to build a successful team. Brendan in particular had a golden opportunity to take a giant step forward offensively to emerge as more than a role player, but he found himself hidden in the deep corner far too often.
There’s still a ton of upside to his game, so this isn’t intended as me ragging on him in the slightest. I was personally hoping for his three point shot to be a weapon for defenders to stay honest against him, and he made himself the best shooter on next year’s team. His finishing ability somehow improved as well, which was nearly impossible since he shot 73.5% around the basket as a freshman. That got bumped up to 81.3% in his sophomore campaign. Those percentages would have me frothing at the mouth if it weren’t for the amount of mid range jumpers he took.
For a guy of Bailey’s height and body control, to be able to stop on a dime and pull up at the free throw line is an incredibly valuable skill. The problem was that he does not have this skill yet. The amount of his shots that were neither three nor attempts at the rim more than doubled between his first and second seasons while his attempts at the rim actually decreased in that time. The midrange jumpers don’t even have a 25% success rate over his first two years. Most of these shots would come as the result of settling for a non-risky attempt when he had a driving lane with some resistance and it’s just not there yet. Brendan would massively benefit from using those opportunities to aggressively push to the basket and work through contact. As weird as it feels to say in the context of the team’s makeup, Bailey’s low turnover rate tells me that he should be taking more risks inside the three point arc.
On defense, I still believe that he has an elite ability to recover from mistakes without fouling. He uses his length wonderfully and disrupts shots on the run as well as anyone that I’ve seen. Where I think I overestimated him was in the footspeed area. When I asked you all to rate Brendan’s defensive abilities a month ago, Bailey’s effective quickness was barely rated ahead of the three bigs and it probably should’ve been lower than that. Theo John and Ed Morrow were at least able to use their size to stay in front of would-be drivers. John in particular was able to consistently be successful on switches during the home win against Villanova, where he smothered every wing he encountered that tried to take advantage of his presence outside the paint. Bailey just did not have the reaction time necessary to keep him in front of guys smaller than him.
Part of this struggle was due to his role. I think the coaching staff had high hopes for him as a flexible defender who can take on any assignment. This led to him getting switched onto guys that he just wasn’t ready for and simple crossovers would lead to open drivings lanes. With an ensemble of athletic bigs coming into the fold next year, the assignments won’t get easier as he and Jamal Cain fight for minutes at the three spot.
It’s funny how Brendan’s best game contained what I would imagine is his least favorite moments. When Marquette lost at home in overtime to Providence, it was a horrible loss to a team that, at the time, appeared to have almost no shot at the tournament due to a wretched non conference performance. The Friars ended up playing their way into a likely tournament spot by the end of conference play, so the result of this game looks a little rosier over time.
The game, as most were, was carried by Markus Howard. He ended up with 39 points with around his season average in offensive rating (112.5 that night) and overall usage (41.8). Ho hum. The big issue this evening was both Sacar Anim and Koby McEwen playing dreadfully. They finished with a combined 14 points on 5-for-21 shooting. Marquette desperately needed literally anyone else to step into the fray, and Bailey did. It was one of his best shooting nights of the year, hitting four of his six long shots, including one that tied the game in overtime with a minute left.
There were two game changing moments that the sophomore received the short end of the stick on. At the end of regulation, Marquette was up three and head coach Steve Wojciechowski decided not to foul. AJ Reeves had a screen set for him and Brendan fought through it perfectly to contest the attempt and stick a hand in the shooter’s face. It went in, but had it not gone in we would’ve talked about how his drive on defense saved the game.
Then with four seconds left in overtime, Bailey got fouled on a three point attempt needing to sink all three attempts to keep the game going. He only made two of them, so it’d be natural for him to blame himself for the loss. The reality was that he kept them in the game over the previous 44 minutes and change. His 19 efficient points more than made up for the rough performance put forth by the other guards on the team. We tend to look at the differences between wins and losses being determined by what goes on in the final seconds, but every point is scored equally.
Season Grade, On A Scale Of 1-10
So Bailey did not turn into the star I predicted him to be, which might be unfair on my part. Every former top-100 recruit can become one of the five best players in their respective conferences if you squint hard enough, but there are only so many spots on those all-star teams. The only reason the light is shining brightest on Thurl Bailey’s son is how desperately the team needed secondary production alongside Howard and he was the most capable of taking that role. The frustrating part about that is how it seems like the only thing stopping him from becoming that star is a lack of confidence in his ability. With the role he ended up taking, he was decent. I would categorize his defensive production this year as “bad”, but he had the second best offensive rating on the team. That’s objectively helpful to the team. The problem was that he was one of many on the team that appeared to take the safest role.
With that in mind, I can’t fully grade him on the scale of my own preseason expectations, because they were admittedly high. I also can’t fully grade him on the role he made for himself, because I think he could’ve done much more with his skillset. In a mushy combination of the two, I’m giving him a 4/10.