Prior to the season’s first game, we shared some quick thoughts. After a long layoff, Marquette is back in action tonight and sitting at 8-2. Below is rambling where we compare actual results thus far to our projections, including select player commentary.
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State of the Program
The team needed shooting and scorers. The staff added it. Juniors Sam Hauser and Markus Howard are both sensational shooters, but there are several others capable of having exceptional shooting seasons.
The team needed length and athleticism. The staff added it. We saw an influx last year with Jamal Cain and Greg Elliott. This year you add in 21-year old freshman Brendan Bailey and there are numerous options for guarding long wings.
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Overall, the Big Ten’s composition is such that a couple of teams that look to be bottom-half teams could sneak up and snag a top half (and tournament) spot, especially with some consensus top-half teams we have concerns about, such as Nebraska. We see Minnesota as a bottom half team (around 10th), but there are several areas where, if they perform well, they can elevate their standing. Two of those are discussed below: 2-point field goal percentage and Amir Coffey’s usage.
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We recently commented on the difficulty in projecting minutes for Marquette’s stacked 2018-19 roster. Today, we look at projecting usage play-by-player, which is (or at least feels like) a much easier task.
Before getting to our projections, we also looked at how many games each player posted a single-game usage greater than 25% thus far in their career (using KenPom.com data; minimum of 10 minutes playing time in a game).
Only three 2018-19 eligible Warriors have had more than five >25% usage games in their career, led by Markus Howard’s 34 over two seasons.
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Marquette’s Experience Ranking in 2018-19
Last season it was said that Marquette was a young team and that was true. The Warriors’ KenPom experience ranking sat at #313 (of 351 teams) with an experience score of 1.21. The NCAA D-I average was 1.70, with the median slightly higher at 1.74.
Going through the process of projecting MU’s experience score in 2018-19 highlights the mostly-wonderful dilemma the upcoming season brings: how do you distribute the minutes?
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Sam Hauser Sits at #2 Nationally in 3FG%
Markus Howard of Marquette was awarded an NCAA statistical plaque for having the nation’s best three-point field goal shooting percentage in 2016-17. His teammate Sam Hauser is currently second in the nation for the 2017-18 award, but two non-NCAA teams may keep him away from the hardware.
Some rules related to the honor are fairly simple: you must make at least 2.5 three-point field goals per game and play in at least 75% of your team’s games. That’s why you don’t see Michigan State’s Cassius Winston on the leaderboard despite his lofty 56.5% shooting from deep this season. He’s only 70/124 in his team’s 31 games (31 x 2.5 = 77.5).
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Greg Elliott Posting Impressive Defensive Stats Early for Marquette
With the departure of Haanif Cheatham earlier this week, Marquette freshman Greg Elliott may need to play a bigger role than he otherwise would have. This may be a good thing.
Elliott (41.4% minutes played) has a block rate of 8.4% and a steal rate of 4.3%, both ranked in the top 70 players nationally per KenPom.com.
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Markus Howard Off to a Strong, But Different, Start
As a freshman, Markus Howard shot a nation-leading 54.7% from 3-point range. As we projected his sophomore campaign, expecting him to best or even match that percentage was not reasonable. We expect his 3-point shooting percentage to decline in 2017-18.
How, then, could he improve this year? The answer includes turnover rate and 2-point field goal percentage. So far, so good. We should note that in Marquette’s first four games they’ve played our preseason pick for second place in the Big Ten (Purdue), the nation’s #6 ranked team (Wichita State) and a pesky VCU squad. It’s not as if he’s faced a long string of weak opponents.
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