With the 2015-2016 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that 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 roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). Next up on the list is the junior center from Germantown....
#40 - Redshirt Junior - 6'11" - 240 lb.
* - Denotes Top 500 national ranking
What I Think We'll See
Well, as it turns out, if you have a shoulder that's not 100% healthy, it's not fun to smack it up against other human beings and/or get it cranked in weird directions. From watching Fischer last year, I never got the impression of "hey, that shoulder's really bothering him," other than a few occasions where he got bent in a slightly awkward position or someone crashed into him a bit on a rebound, causing Fischer to wince.
Then I watched the four games in Europe.
Now I'm left to believe that the shoulder was REALLY hampering Fischer all of last season. It's like he was a totally different player in Europe. Taking the ball straight at the rim instead of relying on floaters and baby hooks, running the floor and getting fed in transition, and even finding time to find an open teammate once a game. Whatever mental limitations he was putting on himself to avoid further discomfort with his shoulder are COMPLETELY gone.
So, to answer the question of "What do I think we'll see from Luke Fischer this season?" We're definitely going to see the player that was a 247 Sports Composite Top 100 recruit coming out of Germantown High School.
What I Want To See
A lot was made on the Europe trip of the play of Henry Ellenson, and all of it fair. The big man from Rice Lake averaged 21 points and eight rebounds against some mostly weak opposition in Italy and Switzerland.
Did you realize that Luke Fischer averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds on the trip?
Now look. Fischer's not averaging a double-double this coming season. Let's not get carried away here. But 75% of that? 13 to 14 points per game along with 7 or 8 rebounds? That's not crazy, is it? Fischer averaged 11/5 as a sophomore, so asking for one extra basket and two extra rebounds per game doesn't seem like all that much at all. It especially doesn't seem like all that much when you consider the fact that Henry Ellenson's going to be out there drawing double teams, and thus leaving Fischer open for some quick and easy baskets as the game goes on.
Here's the thing, though: IF Fischer were to pull those kind of averages off.... well, I think he's a candidate for Big East Player of the Year. Those numbers are basically what Sir`Dominic Pointer of St. John's (13.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg) put together last season, and that landed him on the all-Big East Second Team at the end of the year after finishing in the top 10 in scoring and top five in rebounding. Once you enter the "well, I gotta put him on my ballot" territory, you've officially a candidate for Player of the Year.
What I Don't Want To See
Luke Fischer's improvement over last season is completely dependent on a surgically repaired left shoulder. I think it's quite obvious what the thing I want to see least of all is, but there's no chance in hell that I'm going to type the "i" word out for you.
As you can tell from what was written in the Preview back in November, it's very clear that there was reason for optimism for what was going to be Luke Fischer's first ever full season of collegiate basketball. In fact, you could go so far as to argue that whatever optimism that you had about Marquette's season overall was in some way tied to your optimism about Fischer.
And... well. It didn't happen, did it? Those two stat charts up at the top are standard issue for every Player Review, but I want to circle around to them again. This time, though, we're going to grab last year's numbers and slap them up next to what Fischer did this season. Ok, brace yourself for this...
One slight note before we continue: KenPom requires 60% of the team's minutes for effective field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, and free throw rate, but only 40% for everything else. That's why you see slight drops from last year, but national ranks marked with the asterisks anyway. Fischer probably would have been ranked in those three categories in 2014-15, except he only played 55% of the minutes because of his transfer.
Ok, moving on. As you can see here, the only real significant improvement for Fischer year-over-year is in the offensive rebounding department. Well, okay, yes, his offensive rating is up as well, buuuuuut when you stay fairly static in everything else, including wobbling down in a few places, I think it's safe to say that the boost in ORtg is almost completely tied to his boost in OR%. The good news is that Fischer's offensive rebounding being much better this past season is that it's paying off on the promise he showed in his very limited minutes at Indiana. In his 13 games wearing Crimson and Cream, Fischer posted an OR% of 11.1. It was kind of surprising to see him be objectively bad at offensive rebounding as a sophomore, so I suppose we're stuck wondering how much of that was system in Wojo's first year and how much of that was Fischer's bum shoulder.
We're also stuck wondering how much of Fischer's rebounding swings this season has to do with the presence of Henry Ellenson. We'll deal with Ellenson on a larger scale later on (surprise, he led the team in minutes played), but he was also top 500 in offensive rebounding rate and, more importantly, top 75 in defensive rebounding rate. With Fischer checking in at #60 in OR%, the two of them provided a pretty relentless pairing on the glass. The downside of this, at least when it comes to looking at Fischer's season, is that Marquette was an atrocious rebounding team. The Golden Eagles finished ranked #229 (out of 351, remember) in the country in offensive rebounding rate and #225 on the defensive side. Essentially, we're looking at a team with two elite rebounders and nothing else. That's why we have to ask: How much did having Henry Ellenson out there vacuuming up so many missed shots actually ended up negatively impacting Fischer's rebounding? You'd think that the two of them together would have a symbiotic relationship, thus making the whole team better at rebounding, but that wasn't the case.
I'm actually really surprised by Fischer's blocks being so far down. In his first season with Marquette, Fischer was the only guy over 6'7" on the roster, which ended up leading to a whole hell of a lot of Fischer having to mind his knitting near the rim. You'd think that with Ellenson (#243 in the country in block rate) around, Fischer would have been able to freelance a little bit more and end up with more blocks. This probably brings us around to a discussion of Fischer actually playing fewer minutes per game this season because he was constantly in foul trouble. I know, it seems like a slightly silly thing to say when his fouls per game and fouls per 40 minutes were both down. But this is where the intersection of "gotta watch the games" and "analytics are awesome" pops up, because we all know that he *was* in foul trouble an awful lot. The difference, I suppose, is that Wojo didn't gamble on leaving Fischer out there because of Ellenson's presence, and that's how fouls drop.
I want to make this clear: I don't think Fischer had a bad season. Far from it. In fact, when he was out on the floor, he looked really great. Heck, I can't help but wonder how much better Fischer would have looked if he didn't have Haanif Cheatham and Traci Carter coughing it up all over the court. Fischer isn't a guy who can get his own shot, remember. How many times do you remember entry passes going horribly awry for the Golden Eagles this past season? It was a lot, right? What if half of those turned into buckets for Fischer? How different do we look at his output if that's the case? Hell, how differently does the whole season go if that's the case?
Best Game: Uh, DUH. When you score a collegiate career high in a one point win when the best player went down with an injury with seven minutes left and ON TOP OF THAT, you, as a 68% free throw shooter on the season, drain a pair of freebies with 1.3 seconds remaining to win the damn game? THAT'S YOUR BEST GAME OF THE SEASON. Fischer scored 23 points, including 19 in the first half on 8-9 shooting as Marquette beat Georgetown, 88-87 on the first day of March. He also chipped in five rebounds and an assist, but it's not like that mattered to help decide this category.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: Like I said, this wasn't a bad season for Fischer. It just wasn't remotely close to a very good season, or at least the kind of season that most people would have hoped was possible. It's probably unfair to hold "well, it might go this well!" expectations against Fischer, though. We're still stuck with the fact that while he looked better, largely due to having a healthy shoulder, his stat lines didn't provide any big improvements. Grading Fischer's season requires striking a balance between those two ideas. I can't give him a very good grade, but he was nowhere near a detriment to the team, or even close to anything that you'd call underperforming. Let's call it a 7, and let's hope that Wojo can find a way to unchain Fischer's potential in his senior season.