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2020-21 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Review: #10 Symir Torrence

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We put a bow on the Syracuse native’s career as a Golden Eagle.

Marquette v Providence Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

With the 2020-21 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 sophomore guard that opted to leave the program before his head coach was fired........

Symir Torrence

Sophomore - #10 - Guard - 6’3” - 205 lbs. - Syracuse, New York

Symir Torrence Traditional Stats

Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
Games Min FGM FGA FG% 3PTM 3PA 3P% FTM FTA FT% OReb DReb Reb Ast Stl Blk Fouls Pts
24 13 0.8 2.5 31.1% 0.2 1.5 13.9% 0.6 0.9 66.7% 0.0 1.3 1.4 1.5 0.3 0.0 0.8 2.4

Symir Torrence Fancy Stats

ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate
ORtg %Poss %Shots eFG% TS% OR% DR% ARate TORate Blk% Stl% FC/40 FD/40 FTRate
83.1 15.8% 14.3% 35.2% 40.1% 0.4% 11.1% 21.6% 24.9% 0.3% 1.3% 2.4 2.7 34.4%

WHAT WE SAID:

Reasonable Expectations

I think it is reasonable that Torrence will receive a healthy share of the ball-handling duties and compete to lead the team in assists. Torrence has a natural feel for the game of basketball that no one else on this roster shares. He is adept at finding the open man and making the extra pass when necessary. These are some of the most sought-after qualities in a point guard. Additionally, Torrence stands a full 6’3” and has the tools to be a solid on-ball defender.

As I alluded to earlier, Torrence is not much of a scorer. I do not think Coach Wojo will ask him to carry much of a scoring burden beyond what he can pick up during the natural flow of the game. I expect him to score somewhere around five to seven points per game. While his scoring output may be on the small side of things, I expect Torrence to average somewhere around four, maybe five assists per game. I also expect him to lead the team in “hockey assists” where he passes the ball to a player who then gets an assist.

As for his defense, I expect a significant leap. He was known as a tough defender coming into Marquette, and while he played tough on-ball defense at Marquette, he often struggled in rotations. This is very much a stereotypical freshman problem, and one that should hopefully be tempered by age, experience, and acclimation.

While I expect a marked defensive improvement, I do not expect Torrence to become a ballhawk in the passing lanes. Given that he struggled in rotations last season, and the fact that this has been an abbreviated offseason, I expect he will be focusing more on executing basic rotations, rather than jumping passes. Last season he had a steal rate of 1.3%, right between Koby McEwen and Markus Howard. I expect his steal rate to remain around there, especially as Wojo’s teams are not known for being aggressive in trying to turn their opponents over.

Reasons to Get Excited

Marquette looked good when Torrence was on the court last season. While he was never the focal point of the offense, Torrence’s presence was always noticeable because of how well the ball moved when he was playing. He was excellent at finding the open man with skip passes and did a good job of driving and kicking when he got the ball on the wing. His assist rate was second on the team, trailing only Markus Howard. Given that the new freshmen on the roster are all mobile big men who can shoot it from outside, I could easily see this number jumping to around 30% next year on a steady diet of drop-offs, kick-outs, and skip passes.

While Torrence’s passing and ball handling are his most prominent features, he also showed his ability to shoot the rock. He shot 37.5% from three last year, which is great. It was on less than one attempt per game, though, and he’s probably going to need to get a little more comfortable letting it fly to open things up for himself. If Torrence can keep that shooting percentage up, it should allow him to pump-fake and penetrate defenses, causing them to collapse and open up passing lanes.

What is perhaps the most encouraging part of Torrence’s freshman season was the fact that he was an effective and efficient player (104.2 offensive rating) while still struggling in areas he should be able to vastly improve upon heading into his second season. For example, Torrence had a 30.9% turnover rate, which was more than double that of Markus Howard (who gets a bad rap for turning the ball over, but we’re not here to relitigate that). Freshmen and turnovers go together like peanut butter and jelly. I expect that TO Rate number to drop precipitously in Torrence’s sophomore season. If Torrence can keep up his other offensive numbers, while dropping his turnover rate to a more respectable 18-22%, he should one of the more efficient players on Marquette next season. Fewer turnovers means more passes which means more shots which means more buckets. It’s all connected, and it starts with Torrence staying connected to the ball.

Potential Pitfalls

While I mentioned that having areas where Torrence played like a freshman could be an indicator that good things are to come, these also fall under the heading of Major Red Flags if he does not improve. Even for a freshman, 30.9% is s shockingly high turnover rate, especially for someone who is expected to handle the ball a lot going forward in his career. In fact, Torrence’s 30.9% turnover rate was the second highest for a player in a Marquette uniform over the last 10 years. Only Joseph Chartouny’s ill-fated tenure at Marquette resulted in a higher turnover rate. Oh, man, remember our optimism for Joseph Chartouny? Anyway. If Torrence can’t play more within himself and maintain possession of the ball, Marquette’s backcourt could very well lead the Big East in turnovers—as Koby McEwen and DJ Carton each had about a 26% turnover rate each last season.

Even if Torrence does manage to get his turnovers under control, there are still major questions about the rest of his offensive game. He shot 37.5% on threes last season, but he only took 24 attempts. Such a small sample size is not nearly enough to gauge whether Torrence will end up being a competent long-distance shooter. It’s definitely “Hey, I like this so far” stuff, but we need to see more. Furthermore, his unorthodox technique only increases the skepticism of his ability to shoot from deep. Torrence shoots with his legs slightly bowed out, and does not have the quick release of someone like Markus Howard, the high release of someone like Brendan Bailey, or the “wait, is he shooting or is this a pumpfake oh dammit” ability of Andrew Rowsey. Torrence shoots more of a set-shot than a true jump-shot. These technical anomalies with his shot lead me to question whether he will ever be able to shoot more than just an occasional spot-up three. Without the ability to consistently threaten defense from deep, Torrence may struggle to beat his defender and get into the lane, where his passing skills can shine.

Finally, Marquette will be playing with a lot of new guys this year. With the departure of Markus Howard, Sacar Anim, Brendan Bailey, and Jayce Johnson, Marquette will have a lot of minutes to fill. Guys like D.J. Carton, Dawson Garcia, Oso Ighodaro, and Justin Lewis should fill up a lot of those minutes, and will probably be pretty good. However, none of these guys have played together in a game that counts and — given the nature of this off-season, specifically the recent 14 day shutdown — they will have limited practice time before they suit up for the first time. A guy like Torrence who relies on feel and intuition and familiarity to make plays may struggle playing with predominantly new teammates to start the year. If Torrence struggles at first, he could soon see himself buried on the bench behind the likes of Carton, McEwen, and Elliott.

I can’t help but think that we need to look at Symir Torrence’s season through two lenses. There’s the first one, which involves the first five games of the season where Torrence started the first three and then came off the bench for the next two after D.J. Carton took the starting point guard job from him.

Lens #1: 20.2 minutes, 3.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 turnovers; shooting splits of 26%/14%/64%

Then there’s the second one, which comes after Torrence sat on the bench for Games 6-8 of the season and then played in every game the rest of the way in 2020-21.

Lens #2: 11.1 minutes, 2.0 points, 1.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.7 turnovers; shooting splits of 33%/14%/70%

I have many questions. Most of them center around the fact that Torrence was, on average, mostly the same player before and after his benching. If you look at his stats, he was mostly doing the same thing as he was doing early in the season, just half as much of it because he was playing half as many minutes.

What was it about Torrence that had head coach Steve Wojciechowski and his assistants thinking that he suddenly couldn’t play as many minutes as he did early in the season? After all, Wojciechowski was the one who said that Torrence was the “guy that the other guys like playing with because he makes them better.” That was what put him in the starting lineup to start the year, along with a little bit of a “well, Carton is the new guy and Torrence knows how we want to play” type of thing. That changed after three games, and then after five games, Torrence was out of the rotation entirely.

Why?

Why was he suddenly persona non grata with the coaching staff?

I don’t think it was his turnovers. Seven in five games isn’t a problem, not really, even if that turnover rate for the year ended up being not great at just short of 25%. I think it was his shooting. After going 2-for-4 against Arkansas Pine Bluff from behind the three-point line, Torrence then missed his next 10 three-point attempts before being benched for the next three games. After that, Torrence went 3-for-22 from beyond the arc for the rest of the season as he struggled to get regular playing time.

Marquette wasn’t a good three-point shooting team this past year, ranking #242 in the country and connecting on just 32.3% of their attempts. That’s just under the 33.3% efficiency cutoff where shooting threes becomes just as valuable as shooting 50% on shots at the rim. Wojciechowski didn’t have Marquette depending on shooting threes, which was smart given the struggles, but it’s also hard to play a guard like Torrence who 1) can’t shoot it from outside, 2) can’t keep control of the ball very well, and 3) doesn’t give you anything else in terms of scoring offense.

Which is weird, because again, Wojciechowski said that Torrence makes everyone better. I guess that was only true until it wasn’t any more. Or, maybe, it was only true until Torrence faced defenses that weren’t his teammates and/or his coaches’ defensive schemes in practice.

After Torrence’s three games worth of riding the pine, he was a general rotation guy for the rest of the year. Well, kind of. In the final 19 games of the season, Torrence played less than 10 minutes in eight of them. That barely qualifies him as general rotation guy there. Part of the problem became that D.J. Carton was too deserving of playing time at the point guard position, at least in direct comparison to Torrence. Once it becomes hard to take one guy off the floor and neither guy works well at the other guard position, then the other guy — in this case, Torrence — is left out in the cold. He was getting minutes, but it was clearly more of a “well, D.J. can’t play the whole game” kind of minutes, as opposed to flipping them back and forth to keep both Carton and Torrence energized for the full 40 minutes.

In short, Torrence, a former top 80 prospect, just became a guy on the team. He was an afterthought to the game-in, game-out expectations that we had for how the Golden Eagles were going to play. Is that because he just can’t hack it at the Big East level? Is that because he was never set up to succeed by Steve Wojciechowski, who clearly seems to favor elite scoring point guards as opposed to the table setting type of guard that Torrence actually is? I don’t know the internal discussions and so on and so forth. I just know that this season did not go anywhere close to as well as anyone wanted it to go for Symir Torrence.

And now he’s at Syracuse.

BEST GAME

It is slim pickings when it comes to picking a best game for Torrence this past season. If you go with the idea of “what’s his best scoring game?” as the option, then that’s a seven point outing in MU’s 80-62 loss to Connecticut on February 27th. That was also his high water mark for the season in offensive rating per KenPom.com, racking up a 131 in just 12 minutes of action. But he only had one assist to contribute elsewhere on the court in that game, so that’s hard to say that was it. I think the answer is the Eastern Illinois game, where torrence had six points, three rebounds, and six assists in a season high 27 minutes. Three turnovers knock him down to an Offensive Rating of just 86 in that game, but the across the board contributions are hard to ignore.

SEASON GRADE

At the end of the day, the point of the three categories in the preview is to guide the grade that we hand out in this section. Reasonable Expectations are the 4-5-6 type area, Why You Should Get Excited outlines grades higher than that, and Potential Pitfalls tells you why a grade might go under that.

Look at that section again. Pistol Brad outlined three things:

  • Turnovers
  • Three-point shooting
  • Overall fit with the team

Torrence’s turnover rate improved from freshman year to sophomore year.... but 24.9% still isn’t good. A quarter of possessions while Torrence was on the floor ended with him being responsible for the opponent going the other way with it.

In the shooting department, Torrence’s touch just completely evaporated. He shot 14% from behind the arc this past season — under 14%, technically — which is a far cry from his 38% the year before. 14% isn’t good enough, and not in the “you’re shooting 31%, stop it” kind of way. 14% is “we can’t play you because your defender is openly laughing when you’re rising up to shoot” type of stuff.

Fit with the team is spelled out in Wojciechowski starting him for the first three games and then suddenly realizing that’s not going to work for him. We can have a long conversation about Wojciechowski’s decision making if you want, but the fact of the matter is that Torrence didn’t fit on the court within the coaching staff’s vision of what they were supposed to be doing.

Points for effort, because playing college basketball is hard and playing it in a pandemic is even harder, but because all of the obvious potential problems with Torrence’s season all popped up, I can’t give him a better grade than a 2 out of 10.