Providence is going to need that and more this upcoming Saturday, when the #14 ranked Marquette Golden Eagles (15-2, 4-0 BE) visit THE DUNK for an ESPN2 nationally televised contest.
Marquette is similar to the Friars in that they have an experienced core group of players. Three seniors guards (Jerel McNeal, Wesley Matthews, and Dominic James) account for 60% of the Golden Eagles offense. It seems that over the past four years, each of these guys has at one point been considered the team's best player / go-to guy. James has tailed off a bit after his superb Freshman campaign, Matthews leads the team in scoring this year, and Jerel McNeal?....well [it's good to be Jerel McNeal] (http://www.crackedsidewalks.com/2008/12/its-good-to-be-jerel-mcneal.html ). Rounding out their offense is Junior forward Lazar Hayward, who rocks an impressive 16 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Marquette comes in playing at a slightly slower pace than the Friars –
|-||Raw Possessions||Adjusted Possessions|
|Marquette||70.1 (83)||69.8 (88)|
|Providence||72.6 (27)||72.1 (29)|
However, things have slowed down for them in BIG EAST play (through 4 games)
Marquette – 66.5 per game
Providence – 70 per game
Despite playing slower paced games, Marquette's offense has been phenomenal – their 117.1 adjusted efficiency ranks 8th in the nation. Their 81.1 PPG ranks 19th.
Let's take a look at the Four Factors
When Marquette has the ball...
|Marquette Offense||52.9 (46)||17.9 (34)||38.3 (39)||48.4 (10)
|Providence Defense||48.4 (153)||22.2
(103)||34.6 (226)||30.3 (54)
Marquette and Providence have similar eFG% numbers so far this year. However, Marquette has been much better behind the arc, compiling a 36.5% 3FG%, and reaching double-figures in three-pointers made 5 times. Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews both average over 40% from three-point land, so the Friars are going to need to keep up their excellent 3-point defense. Providence opponents have only shot 29.7% (28th in the nation) overall, and a similar 28.5 % (16-56) in BIG EAST play.
Even though Marquette takes slightly less threes than PC (19.6 per game versus the Friars' 22.4), they both get a similar percentage of their points from the long balls (~27% each). So how do you explain Marquette's incredibly efficient offense? Those Golden Eagles know how to get to the line. And you know how Dean Oliver (who pioneered the concept of the Four Factors) says you just need to get to the line to be effective? Well, Marquette decided to go the extra mile and shoot pretty well once they get there, hitting 72.7% of their freebies (4th in the BIG EAST). Add it all up and you get an incredible 25% of their points coming from the foul line – 18th in the nation. However, Providence has been generally very good at keeping opposing teams from reaching the line, even though Georgetown was able to break through against the Friars in that category. If PC is going contain the Golden Eagles, they are going to have to find a way to limit Wesley Matthews' trips to the line – he's been one of the best in the nation, compiling an 82.8 FT Rate. How good is that? To put it in perspective -- Geoff McDermott, who does a good job at getting to the charity stripe (making them once he gets there, well that's a different story), leads the Friars with a 68.8 FT Rate.
When Providence has the ball...
|Providence Offense||51.1 (99)||19.3 (90)||38.0 (43)||36.2 (159)
|Marquette Defense||47.3 (112)||22.3
(100)||31.1 (97)||32.2 (93)
Providence has put up decent, but not spectacular overall numbers in each of the categories. One number that obviously jumps out is their 43rd ranked offensive rebounding percentage. Their 38% ORB% might look good on paper, but they have been beaten in that category in each of their four BIG EAST contests – a definite cause for concern. Given Marquette's lack of size and strength in the their guard heavy lineup, you have to wonder if Randall Hanke is going to see increased minutes. Even though Hanke is only averaging 1.9 offensive rebounds per game, he was able to pull down 4 against a tough Georgetown team in only 19 minutes of play. How has Hanke faired against Marquette over the years against these similar players? Like Jerry Seinfeld once said to George – “You're eating unions, you're spotting dimes, I don't know what the hell is going on!” Hanke played an insignificant 10 minutes and scored 2 points last year when they were spanked 96-67. He missed all of 2006-07 when the teams split games at home, but scored 23 points and pulled down FIFTEEN rebounds in an 88-78 loss in 2006. James, McNeal, and Matthews were Freshman then, while Steve Novak was drilling threes as a Senior forward – apparently not too worried about covering Mr. Hanke. The Golden Eagles were not in the BIG EAST during Randall's freshman year.
Providence's offense is simply going to have to keep pace with Marquette's dangerous scoring attack. The Friars are definitely in a position to do so after apparently finding their long range shooting (it's always where you last left it!). Since the BC debacle (oh wait, I have to be more specific -- Providence's loss to BC), the Friars are sporting a 40.5% 3FG% to go along with a fantastic 56% eFG%. Even Brian McKenzie is getting hot from dowtown, hitting 7-15 threes (46.6%) over that same span. However, don't expect Marquette to sit back in a zone and give Efejuku, Curry, and Xavier room to bomb away. Dominic James is much like Jeff Xavier on defense – often drawing the toughest defensive assignment and being an absolute ball-hawk. Just look at what he did to Cincinnati's Deonta Vaughn (who scored 20 points versus PC) – ZERO points on 0-8 shooting. Whichever Friar is lucky enough to be guarded by James (I'm assuming Curry, but maybe Efejuku if he gets going?) better prepare to be smothered. One of the forwards is going to have to step it up offensively.
OK, so we know Marquette is really good. What did Dayton and Tennessee do to beat them?
1.Dayton held Marquette to 4-20 shooting from 3-point land. Even though Marquette was 8-25 (32%) from downtown against Tennessee, they shot poorly from inside the arc and had a 18-48 (37.5%) complete shooting night (ten two-pointers made!)
2.Both teams had an eFG% of around 55%
3.Neither team could stop Marquette's ongoing quest to get to the line as much as possible, but both actually got to the stripe at a better rate, if not better (Dayton – 68.4 FT Rate, Tennessee – 73.5 FT Rate)
4.Dayton took great care of the ball, committing only 11 turnovers for a 14.6 TO%.
The Friars are going to have to bring their A shooting game if they want to pull of a nice home upset on Saturday night. However, the responsibility cannot solely be put on the Friar guards. McDermott needs to shake off that 5 turnover, 1-8 shooting performance against Georgetown and give Providence more reliable scoring options – or better yet, use that keen passing eye to find the big man, Mr. Randall Hanke, down low for easy buckets.
Before the Georgetown game, I expressed my concern over the fact that our Senior class has only won 7 BIG EAST road games, comprising of only 5 teams – UCONN (2x), Cincinnati (2x), DePaul, Rutgers, and USF). I initially had the same concern with Marquette coming to THE DUNK as a ranked team, but I was slightly mistaken. Over the last 4 seasons (including this one), the Friars are 3-5 against ranked teams at home – including beating #15 ranked Marquette in 2007 (McNeal and Sharaud Curry did not play). The number of games played is sure to grow, because any time you play a BIG EAST game at home this year, chances are its going to be against a ranked team. As we all know, the Friars are going to have pull some of these off if the want a season to remember.
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