It may not be time to panic in Milwaukee, but the Marquette Golden Eagles are struggling and their flaws are quite evident on the floor. Marquette was penciled in as the preseason favorites to win the Big East this season, but their struggles offensively must be fixed sooner rather than later for that prediction to come to fruition.
Yes, Marquette has only played four game -- although I'm not quite sure Marquette was aware they had to play Ohio State last weekend -- but what we've so far from the Golden Eagles is a good defensive team with an extremely inefficient offense.
Just how inefficient have the Golden Eagles been this season on the offensive end? Marquette has an ORtg of 95.4 (291st), along with shooting 38 percent from the floor, 18 percent from three-point land (349th) and 63 percent (289th) from the charity stripe. They're struggling in every area on offense, but who is to blame for their struggles?
Todd Mayo seems to be the common answer here, but Mayo currently holds the team's highest PER at 23.6. If Mayo has been such an inhibitor on offense, why is he leading the team in PER? Well, Mayo has TS% of 55 percent and has the highest ORtg on the team with 112.5, while also having a very good DRtg of 77.6. Mayo is also gets to the line roughly six times a night and converting at a rate of 84 percent.
Mayo has the tools to become the go-to guy the Golden Eagles need, but if Mayo is going to make that jump he has to change his shot selection. According to Hoop-Math, Mayo is taking just 23.7 percent of his shots at the rim where he's posting a FG% of 66.7 percent. The rest of Mayo's shots have been two-point jumpers where he's shooting just 35.7 percent and 26.7 from three-point land. Mayo can clearly make that jump if he just changes his shot selection to one that better suits his game. Mayo excels at the free throw line, but yet the majority of his shots aren't at the rim. Buzz Williams has to get Mayo to make that adjustment to his game to stop settling for contested jumpers and to attack more and draw more fouls.
Another potential adjustment Buzz Williams should consider making is scaling back Jake Thomas' minutes. It's a small four game sample size, sure, but Thomas has been awful so far this year. Thomas is currently averaging 21.5 minutes a night and giving the Golden Eagles only 5.3 ppg. Thomas' shots are all coming from beyond the arc, which is fine, if they were going in. Thomas leads the team in three-point attempts, but has made just 5-of-18 from three-point land. He's taking 4.5 three-pointers per game, but making only 27.8 percent of them. It could just be a slump for Thomas, except for that fact he shot that exact same percentage last year for the Golden Eagles. If the offensive struggles continue, scaling back Thomas' minutes should be on the table.
Marquette is thin at the guard and center positions, but Buzz Williams knows how to develop forwards, and the Golden Eagles have a couple really good one's who just need more work. Davante Gardner is their best all-around forward because he does a lot of things pretty well. He's getting to line 9 times per game, doesn't attempt any three-pointers, but most importantly he's taking 50 percent of his shots at the rim and converting on 71.4 percent of those shots. With Gardner's ability to get to the line and score at the rim he's arguably the Golden Eagles most efficient scorer even though he can't shoot anywhere other than close to the rim -- but it works.
The other contributing wings for the Golden Eagles -- Jamil Wilson and Deonte Burton -- have both struggled scoring the basketball too. The majority of Wilson's shots so far this season have been two and three-point jumpers, but as you might expect he's making just 16.7 percent of his two-point jumpers and 25 percent of his three-pointers. Based on his previous season's numbers these percentages will obviously rise, however, probably not enough to justify Wilson to keep attacking offensively the way he has. Wilson is shooting 62.5 percent at the rim and is solid from the charity stripe. Burton's ceiling on the offensive end is obviously far lower than Jamil's, which is probably why he's only playing 12.5 mpg. Burton is taking 45.5 percent of his shots at the rim and making 60 percent of them. He's not a guy Marquette should look to give more opportunities to down low, but Burton doesn't inhibit the offense the way you could argue others who are playing more than him are. There is something to be said for players who understand their role and don't stray away from it.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Marquette has struggled so much offensively through four games has been the play of guard Derrick Wilson. Derrick is leading the team in mpg, but yes has a PER of 3.6. Perhaps that has to do with Derrick's one total field goal this season -- you're not alone Anthony Bennett -- but is also struggling on the defensive end. After two seasons of limited playing time Derrick is getting significant minutes and it's not working. He's not shooting the Golden Eagles out of games, but he's also not doing enough to create better looks for others with his floor vision and passing either. Nobody expects Derrick to make a significant jump in his offensive game, but if he's going to be playing 28 minutes a night on a team with expectations as high as Marquette's he has to start making significant strides offensively.
Center Chris Otule's minutes and role in Marquette's offense has remained mostly the same his entire tenure at the university. He's playing close to 20 minutes a night, gets a few looks down low, and grabs a couple of boards. Otule does not have a Joshua Smith skillset down low, but through four games he's shooting 100 percent on shots at the rim. He's also getting fouled at an alarming rate shooting 7.3 free throws per game thus far. It's alarming, in theory, because Otule is a poor free throw shooter. He's shooting just 44 percent so far this season. Otule can score down low, but team's are aware of Otule's issues at the free throw line so going down low to him often is risky because teams, again in theory, can just execute a "Hack-An-Otule" every time he gets fed the ball inside. It's definitely something to monitor for Marquette offensively as the season goes on.
Marquette's not in danger of missing the NCAA tournament, or finishing in the bottom half of the Big East but if the goal is to make another serious run in the NCAA tournament like they did a season ago they have to address their issues offensively. Their defense has and will continue to keep them in games, but if they way to establish themselves as a serious title contender they have to make the adjustments necessary to have as an efficient offense as they do defense.