If you watched more than, eh, let’s say three Marquette men’s basketball games this past season, you probably noticed something about Shaka Smart’s first team. They were, in a word, bad at rebounding the basketball, and not only that, they were bad at rebounding the basketball on both ends of the floor.
Sometimes you’ll see a very good defensive team be very bad at gathering up their own misses, but they’re at least passable on the defensive end. This can probably just be attributed to the coaching staff saying “look, we trust our shooters, but we need to defend, forget getting second chances, we need stops.” If that’s what was happening, then that’s just a style choice.
Looking only at Marquette’s offensive rebounding, you could definitely argue that Smart and his staff were making that call. For the entirety of the season, according to KenPom.com, MU grabbed just 22.5% of the available missed shot on their offensive end of the floor. That ranks Marquette at a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad #325 in the country out of 358 teams in Division 1. It’s bad, but if it was a style choice, then you just have to throw up your hands and deal with it.
But Marquette was bad on the defensive end, too. The Golden Eagles let their opponents get to 398 of their misses this past season, which ends up being 31.6% of them. That ranks MU’s defensive effort at #314 in the country.
Sub-300 on both ends of the floor is bad, very bad in fact. Probably limiting to Marquette’s chances of winning basketball games at worst, and definitely limiting to their margin of error in each and every game. Let me put it a different way: Marquette went 10-3 when they held opponents to 28.2% or fewer of their own misses. When Marquette grabbed at least 27% of their misses? 7-1 this past season.
So, what can be done to fix this?
I don’t know.
If I had to prescribe a solution, I’d first have to have a detailed explanation of what Smart and his staff are instructing the players to do. I don’t, and I don’t expect that asking nicely is going to make that happen.
But, I can tell you this: Marquette’s not that far from being a passable rebounding team.
I did the math: If Marquette gets just one more rebound per game on either end, they are suddenly a passable rebounding team. Not good, just passable.
Last season, the Golden Eagles grabbed 251 of an available 1,114 rebounds on their own missed shots. If we merely shift 32 rebounds — one per game — to Marquette, making their total 283, the rebounding rate goes from 22.5% to 25.4%. It doesn’t seem like a massive shift, does it? But that’s a change from #325 in the country to #268. Not great, not top 100 or anything, not even top half of the country, but that’s a change in the rankings of 57 spots. That’s a 16% change in a positive direction all by just being able to claim one extra offensive rebound per game. Not even an extra basket per game, just one Oso Ighodaro tip back out to Tyler Kolek every single night.
To the defensive end! As mentioned before, MU let their opponents get to 398 of the available 1,260 shots that they missed. Shift 32 of them — one per game — in favor of the Golden Eagles, dropping that total to 366. Redo the math, and that’s a rate of 29.0%..... and that’s #221 in the country. Again, not excellent, not elite, but a nearly 100 spot jump in the rankings is much better than where the Golden Eagles were last season. All because Olivier-Maxence Prosper boxed out a guy and hauled in one extra miss to prevent a second chance.
Going from bad to amazing is probably not happening in one season, not without a major shift in what the coaching staff declares to be the big emphasis on the court. But can they get to passable, all the way up to “y’know, this could be better, but at least it’s not a disaster” next season? Yeah, that seems doable, all with just one more extra grab per end, just a little bit extra effort here and there.