Misix Library

A Productive Holiday for Marquette

December 4, 2014

Wisconsin (7-1) at Marquette (4-3)
11:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 6
BMO Harris Bradley Center
Radio: Marquette Radio Network

MiSIX Keys to the Game
1. Orlando! Orlando!
2. Turnovers and rebounds.
3. Win some, lose some.
4. Balancing act.
5. Wisconsin’s strengths …
6. … and weaknesses?


Oh man. It’s almost here. The Badger game. The one game on the schedule every Marquette fan wants to win so they can lord it over the smarmy jerks from that school to the west for the next 12 months. We can’t get to that quite yet, though. Not before giving proper attention to a trip to Orlando that provided a nice little ray of hope and optimism. Like a dad finding out they serve beer at Disney World.

There was very little sparkle to the Golden Eagles prior to their southern sojourn, which was preceded by the loss to Omaha and a fairly sludgy win over NJIT. But winning two of three for a third-place finish has a way of putting a shine on things, as does a handful of numbers from the holiday weekend. In all three games, Marquette had:

  • An effective field-goal percentage of 50.0% or more.
  • A scoring efficiency above its season average of 105.2.
  • A turnover percentage of less than 20.0%.
  • An opponent turnover percentage of more than 24.0%.
  • An opponent assist-to-turnover ratio under 0.90.

Those ball-handling numbers are particularly illuminating because it looks like the Golden Eagles’ success is at least partly reliant on winning the turnover battle. Lord knows they won’t get any additional opportunities based on their rebounding prowess, which to this point in the season looks kind of like this. And just in case hilarious dog videos aren’t your thing, we have supporting data:

  • Offensive rebounding percentage — 25.7% (257th of 351 teams nationally).
  • Defensive rebounding percentage — 59.7% (341st).
  • Total rebounding percentage — 43.4% (334th).
  • Rebounds per game — 26.9 (346th).

The other bonus of holiday tournaments is that they vastly increase our sample size and subsequently our confidence when it comes to trend spotting. We put those numbers to good use to determine what goes right for the Golden Eagles in wins and what goes Mariah-Carey-performing-at-Rockefeller-Center wrong in losses.

Marquette OffenseMU WinsMU LossesDifference
Marquette OpponentsMU WinsMU LossesDifference

From an offensive perspective, two things stand out: free-throw rate and possessions. The former’s a big deal because Marquette’s smaller stature could make the players reticent to hurl themselves basket-ward with several ogre-like impediments blocking their path. According to the numbers, however, hurl they must. As for the possessions stat, it appears the Golden Eagles prefer a slightly slower pace, which seems counterintuitive since you’d think teams that lack size would prefer to push the tempo. But there it is — slow and steady wins the game.

Defensively, teams that paid attention in kindergarten and like to share appear to give Marquette fits. The latter part of the assists-to-turnover equation has been startlingly consistent regardless of the outcome (19, 18, 19, 17, 16, 16, 16, 15), but that first bit is all over the place (in wins: 8, 7, 13, 9; in losses: 23, 17, 14).

There’s another piece of inconsistency that jumped out at us, although this one may be a good thing. In the Golden Eagles’ four wins this season, contributions in a few key areas have come from several players.

Team LeadersPts3pt%FTMFTAStl
UT-MartinJ. JohnsonD. BurtonJ. JohnsonJ. JohnsonJ. Anderson
NJITJ. AndersonJ. Johnson/
S. Cohen III
Du. WilsonJ. AndersonJ. Johnson
Georgia TechM. CarlinoM. CarlinoM. CarlinoM. CarlinoD. Burton
TennesseeDu. WilsonDu. WilsonDu. WilsonDu. WilsonJ. Anderson/De. Wilson/Burton

While it appears nearly everyone on the roster is capable of stepping forward when called upon, three in particular stand out when we parse out individual numbers: Jajuan Johnson, Deonte Burton and Duane Wilson. The last member of the trio merits inclusion based on his last two performances in Orlando, when he averaged 22.5 points, shot 53.5% from the field and 58.3% from three, and tossed in a couple assists, steals and boards for good measure. Johnson and Burton’s value emerges in the old win/loss comparison.

Performance in Wins vs. Losses3pt%FTAStlTOAst/TOeFG%Pts

That’s a lot of digits we just threw at you. Forgive our exuberance, but we always get a little Benny the Spaceman-ish after the holiday-tournament numbers roll in. So let’s figure out how some of this applies to Saturday’s intrastate dust-up.

First, there’s the possession stat. Obviously, Wisconsin has never taken issue with a leisurely affair, and its average of 63.0 possessions per game this season suggests that hasn’t changed. But the “slower is better” theory starts to go a little sideways when you look at how maddeningly efficient the Badgers are with those limited chances:

  • Effective field-goal percentage — 56.0% (25th nationally).
  • Points per 100 possessions — 115.2 (14th).

One of the reasons for their success goes back to something we mentioned in passing earlier: turnovers. The Golden Eagles have successfully goaded the opposition into giving them extra opportunities, which isn’t something Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan tolerates. His team’s high-water mark in that area this season is just 14, and the related numbers reflect that stinginess:

  • Turnovers per game — 9.1 (fifth nationally).
  • Turnover percentage — 12.6% (10th).
  • Assist-to-turnover ratio — 1.58 (14th).

In fact, if we rehash the chart from earlier comparing Marquette’s opponents in wins vs. losses and toss in the Badgers’ averages, there’s little to suggest an enjoyable Saturday for the home team.

Wisconsin's Key Metric PerformanceMU WinsMU LossesWisconsin

So where is Wisconsin vulnerable? Because most of our readers limit themselves to watching every minute of only one of the state’s teams, we asked our resident UW alum to provide a scouting report on the starting five:

  • Frank Kaminsky — His struggles (relatively speaking) have come in matchups against physical centers: Georgetown’s Joshua Smith and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. This does Marquette no good unless it puts someone on someone else’s shoulders, also known as the “Chicken Fight” defense.
  • Sam Dekker — Grew two inches in the offseason but still seems to disappear if he doesn’t get on track early. The best approach is to stop the ball from going in the basket at all costs, even if it means subscribing to the JaVale McGee School of Defense.
  • Nigel Hayes — Displaying a more consistent perimeter game this season after shooting a lot of threes during the offseason. A lot. Also the funniest member of the team, so get him to tell a joke early and don’t laugh. He’ll get self-conscious, and it’ll throw him off his game.
  • Josh Gasser — Doesn’t score in chunks (hits double digits a little more than half the time), but his biggest contribution comes at the defensive end, where he annoys two people into making mistakes in his favor: the guy he’s guarding and the referee.
  • Traevon Jackson — The quintessential Bo Ryan point guard. Sat until his predecessor graduated and has steadily improved since then. He’s also the most important player to keep track of when the shot clock or game clock winds down. You’ll know this because he’ll be the one with the ball at the top of the key while everyone else stands around waiting for him to lunge at the rim.

Outside of those helpful tips, the best thing Marquette can do in this one is follow Duke’s blueprint for beating the Badgers: shoot 65.2% from the field and hope they make just 14 of 33 attempts from inside of 15 feet, including two of eight layups in the second half. If the Golden Eagles do that, they’ll disprove our projection, which gives them a 14.1% chance of winning with an average margin of 11.1 points.