Wednesday, December 29, 2010

VSL Gets You Ready: Vanderbilt Hosts Marquette

With Davidson struggling this season, Marquette is probably the last good opponent the Commodores will face before starting SEC play in January. At 9-3, the Golden Eagles are definitely a quality team, although one the Commodores should be able to handle.

Overview of Marquette

The Golden Eagles are led by 3rd year coach Buzz Williams, who took over for Tom Creen after he departed Milwaukee to take over the Indiana Hoosiers program. One of Sixteen Big East teams, Marquette is a physical, defensive minded team who can make things very uncomfortable for opponents.

Marquette has beaten 8 teams (with the exception of Bucknell) you've probably never heard of. Their 3 losses came to 3 of the nation's elite programs, including unanimous #1 Duke, who beat the Golden Eagles in the opening round of the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic 82-77. Williams' squad lost their next game, the next day, to Gonzaga (preseason #12 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll) 66-63. Marquette then lost at home to Wisconsin (#28 in the AP, #24 in the Coaches Poll) 69-64. To give you an idea of the discrepancy between the quality of the teams Marquette has faced, none of the teams they've beaten has a winning record (4 are 6-7), and their combined win/loss record is an unimpressive 36-56. Compare that to the teams that have beaten the Golden Eagles, who are a combined 28-7. At 9-2, Vanderbilt's opponents are a combined 73-54: the teams the Commodores have beaten are a combined 53-51, while the 2 teams to have beaten Vanderbilt at 20-3. Strength of Schedule so far: Advantage Vanderbilt

Marquette's Starting 5

The Golden Eagles start 2 seniors, 2 juniors and a freshman. Under-sized, Coach Williams starts 3.5 guards (Senior Jimmy Butler is listed as G/F) and only 1 true forward (Junior Jae Crowder). The 3 true guards for Marquette are Dwight Buycks (Sr., 6'3), Darius Johnson-Odom (Jr., 6'2), and Vander Blue (Fr., 6'4). Buycks is the point-guard, and averages 9.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in about 27.7 minutes of action. Johnson-Odom averages 14.2 points a game in 27 minutes of play, while the freshman Vander Blue is usually good for 10 points in 27 minutes. Blue is currently 4th among Big East freshman in terms of scoring and minutes.

Senior Jimmy Butler is the team's leading scorer and rebounder. The 6'7 swingman enters tonight's game averaging 15.3 points and 6.5 boards per contest. He is averaging just under 32 minutes of action per game, and is the only player Coach Williams has started in all 12 Marquette games. Jae Crowder, a 6'6 junior, rounds out Marquette's starting 5. Crowder averages 11.8 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. Crowder is also the team's best 3 point shooter, hitting 44.8% of his attempts. An interesting nugget from the Marquette Game Notes, Crowder is shooting a perfect 10-of-10 from behind the arc on his first attempt in each of his last 10 games. Crowder has only started 2 games this season, but is projected as one of tonight's starting 5.

Marquette's Bench

There appear to be two primary players Vanderbilt has to worry about coming off of Marquette's bench: 6'11 sophomore Chris Otule and 6'8 freshman Davante Gardner. Otule is the team's only center, who has come off the bench in Marquette's last 2 contests, despite starting the team's first 10. Otlue is averaging 5.2 points and 3.1 boards in 12 1/2 minutes of action. Despite only playing 150 minutes all season, Otule is tied for the team lead in personal fouls committed at 27. He does lead the team with blocks (20). Gardner adds 7.4 points and 2.9 rebounds a contest. Junior Cadougan, a 6'1 sophomore, is averaging just under 20 minutes a game, but missed Marquette's last game due to illness. While only averaging 2.8 points a game, Cadougan has 39 assists as compared to just 20 turnovers and is the team's back-up point guard.

Things to Watch For/Key Stats
Rebounding: Marquette is small and the Commodores need to take advantage (unlike they did against Missouri). The Golden Eagles are 1-3 when getting out-rebounded, with their only win coming over UW-Milwaukee 75-72.

Leading at the Half: Coach Williams' squad is 1-3 when trailing at the half, while they are 8-0 when leading at the midway point. Marquette trailed Bucknell by 8 at the half and needed a 24-0 run to eventually pull out a 72-61 win. This is the only game the Golden Eagles have won when trailing at the half. The Commodores are just 2-2 when trailing at the half, while a perfect 7-0 when winning after 20 minutes.

FG%: Marquette is 9-1 this season when shooting a higher percentage than their opponents. Vanderbilt has only lost 1 game this season when shooting a higher FG percentage than their opponents

Free Throws; The Golden Eagles have made more free throws (216) than their opponents have attempted (177). This has been good enough for 10 point edge per game. The Commodores have made 9 fewer free throws (202) than their opponents have attempted (211), although after Vanderbilt's 11-22 performance from the charity stripe at Missouri, Commodore fans will continue to worry whenever the black and gold steps to the line.

Turnovers: Marquette averages a +3.9 turnover margin this season, while the Commodores have a -.7 margin. Clearly, the Commodores must take care of the ball to be successful this season, especially against an athletic team like the Golden Eagles.

Final Thoughts

On paper, Vanderbilt is the superior team. They've got a better record, have played better competition, and have more size and depth. With Andre Walker coming back from Mono, and Lance Goulbourne's status unclear based on weather an minor NCAA violations, Kevin Stallings' bench might be more shallow than we're used to seeing. Still, the Commodores should give Marquette all kinds of match-up problems, most notably 6'11 Festus Ezeil and 6'9 Steve Tchiengang. I didn't add Rod Odom because, despite his 6'9 frame, the freshman hasn't shown much acumen scoring inside. Walker's status with the mono makes him an unknown quantity.

Without much of shot-blocking presence inside, should Jeffery Taylor be able to penetrate, he should be able to score, and John Jenkins is bound to get open looks if Festus can score inside buckets early. Marquette is not a great 3 point shooting tea, connecting on just 33% of their 169 attempts as compared to their opponents who have hit 36.8% of their 247 3's. That fact, coupled with their clear desire to get to the basket and draw fouls, makes me think we might see more zone from Stallings than we're used to. Vanderbilt's clear height advantage should be enough to limit Marquette to 1 shot per trip. It might clog the middle and prevent the Golden Eagles from getting to the hoop as much as they'd like.

Like most games, pace will be key in this one. Marquette would probably not prefer a track-meet because they aren't a great offensive team. The Commodores are unique in that they are a team that can (or at least should be able to) succeed either playing in the half-court, as well as getting up-and-down the floor. Marquette isn't particularly deep, especially if Junior Cadougan hasn't fully recovered from his illness.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 82 - Marquette 74


Anonymous said...

i can't disagree w/ anything said there but the fact is, the golden eagles have only lost 3 games, all to quality opponents, and all 3 games were very close. their wins may be shotty, but they've shown they can play w/ great opponents. BUT, we're only their 2nd true road game, so that should cause some issues for their guys as well. hope the crowd is strong tonight. i hate games like this when the students are out.

VUAllIn ShortStack said...

Free Lance! Hopefully he is able to play.

Anonymous said...

What about that Henderson kid we got? Hes a freshmen center and I didnt think he was redshirted. If he isnt, why havent we seen him at all?

Anonymous said...

Henderson is expected to redshirt

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the solid analysis, Bobby.

Anonymous said...

true - only second true road game but all three losses were neutral site losses