Misix Library

The Big Cupcakes vs. The Big East

January 13, 2016

Marquette (12-4) at Villanova (14-2)
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 13
The Pavilion | Villanova
Radio: Marquette Radio Network


Since our last post, the Marquette Golden Eagles have cruised through a number of cupcakes, been knocked back by a couple of mid-level Big East teams, beat eighth-ranked Providence and had a comeback victory over a pesky St. John’s team. Needless to say, this young and talented team has managed to create the rollercoaster ride many thought they would be capable of. While a lot of this variation could be due to having a starting lineup that includes three freshman, a sophomore and one junior, the quality of opponents has also likely played a role in this up and down season and for the rough start to conference play. The Misix rankings for non-conference games and the first four Big East games help to paint the picture:


Non-Conference Opponent Rank

OpponentMisix Rank
Average Rank199
Arizona State63
Jackson State275
San Jose State272
Chicago State343

First Four Big East Opponent Rank

OpponentMisix Rank
Average Rank109.25
Seton Hall58
St. John's248

The unfortunate truth is that the road only gets tougher as we look at the Big East teams Marquette has yet to play:


Rest of Big East Opponent Rank

OpponentMisix Rank
Average Rank54
DePaul 187

So, we know how the Big East competition level has impacted Marquette’s record, but how have Marquette’s average offensive and defensive efficiency stats been impacted?


Offensive Efficiency

Non-Big East53.0%17.0%29.4%27.0%
Big East47.0%20.2%18.9%33.0%

Defensive Efficiency

Non-Big East45.0%16.5%72.0%14.0%
Big East49.0%20.3%70.0%29.0%

We saw this coming, but ouch…for the most part at least. Before we get too concerned, we thought we would take a look at how other teams in the Big East faired in their switch from non-conference into Big East play. Below is a table of the percentage point changes to offensive and defensive efficiencies seen by Big East teams.


Percentage Point Change From Non-Con to Big East Play

TeamOffensive eFG%Offensive TO%OR%Offensive FTRDefensive eFG%Defensive TO%DR%Defensive FTR
Seton Hall-4.0%1.1%0.0%2.1%-0.2%-1.3%-3.6%8.1%
St. John's-3.7%-2.5%-1.5%-7.2%5.1%4.3%0.8%15.7%

This makes the swoon experienced by Marquette a bit easier to stomach, especially when you look at the drop off Butler is seeing. Of course, three of Butler’s four Big East games have come against ranked opponents, two of which Marquette will be facing this week. Once again, most of the extreme change Marquette is experiencing can be chalked up to an incredibly weak non-conference schedule and the toughness of the Big East conference.

But wait…Marquette won its last two Big East games. Is it just the first two games pulling the averages down? For the most part, this does seem to be the case:


Offensive Efficiency

2 Losses41.1%16.2%18.9%29.7%
2 Wins53.0%24.2%18.9%37.1%

Defensive Efficiency

2 Losses51.2%20.7%65.0%40.1%
2 Wins

Luckily, the most important efficiency stat, effective field goal percentage, was much improved over the last two games, with offensive and defensive free throw rates and defensive rebounding also looking much better. Defensive turnover percentage was solid in all four outings. Offensive rebounding averaged out to the same percentage. However, this only happened because Marquette returned to the boards against St. Johns (OR% of 29.0%) after abandoning them against Providence to stop the Kris Dunn Show on the break (OR% of 8.7%). There were other signs of improved play, as Marquette’s assists finally returned against St. John’s as they used 23 dimes on 28 made field goals.

However, not everything improved in the last two games, as Marquette channeled its inner Yankee fan and struggled to take care of the ball. Against Providence and St. John’s, Marquette posted the worst and the fourth worst turnover percentages of the season, respectively. Some of this can be attributed to a freshmen-heavy team being led by a freshman point guard. Traci Carter managed five turnovers in each game and got some help from fellow freshmen starters, Haanif Cheatham and Henry Ellenson, against St. Johns, as they added five and six, respectively. Luckily, the Golden Eagles were able to force a total of 34 turnovers over the two games to help make up for 39 of their own.

So who’s up next for the Golden Eagles? Reigning Big East Champs, current Big East leaders and sixth-ranked Villanova are up next. Marquette is going to have to do a lot of things right to compete at The Pavilion tonight. Potentially most important of all is taking care of the ball, as they won’t be able to count on forcing turnovers against this veteran team that ranks 18th in the nation in turnovers per game, allowing just 10.4 on average.

While the Wildcats aren’t quite the three-point shooting team they were last year (31.5% vs 38.9%), they have made up for it by shooting 60.8% from within the arc, giving them the second best two point percentage in the nation. Even on bad shooting nights Villanova has managed to put away reputable opponents, beating Stanford and Seton Hall while posting effective field goal percentages below 40%.

So how do you beat Villanova? Well, in their only two losses this season to second-ranked Oklahoma and No. 13 Virginia, their opponents hit 53.8% and 66.7% from behind the arc. Unfortunately, three point shooting hasn’t been the most reliable for Marquette in conference play so far, hitting just 30% of their attempts.

As we have come to expect, Villanova is a really solid and consistent team that isn’t easily taken out of their game. Below are season long and Big East average efficiency stats for the Wildcats:


Villanova Offensive Efficiency

Big East58.4%16.5%21.0%26.7%

Villanova Defensive Efficiency

Big East43.6%15.5%76.3%29.1%

These averages beat Marquette’s in all but defensive turnover percentage and offensive and defensive free throw rates, even when you only consider Marquette’s performance over the last two games. From this quick analysis, things don’t look great for Marquette in this matchup and our simulator agrees. After 100,000 simulations, our model gave Marquette a 9.2% probability of upsetting Villanova and an average outcome of +16.6 points for the Wildcats.


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