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Why Marquette struggles when Markus Howard shoots poorly

Let’s do some digging.

He is the Game Plan

When you watch Marquette play, the offensive game plan is no secret: get the ball to Markus Howard and let him shoot a lot. He is currently averaging 17.0 FGA per game. This is more per game than Marquette greats Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder, Lazar Hayward, and is the most for a Marquette player since 1975-76 when Earl Tatum averaged 17.0 FGA per game. This game plan is not a problem when he shoots well. Even ifHoward starts slowly, you never tell a shooter to stop shooting.

This is okay when he can eventually catch fire like he did versus Buffalo, where he only had 5 points on 1-7 shooting in first half, but 40 points on 11-18 shooting in the second half. Obviously when you rely on a player for so much offense, when he shoots poorly the team suffers. In Marquette’s three losses, Howard has shot 26.9% from the field and 29.1% from 3 while shooting an average of 17.3 times per game.

In the six games Howard scored less than 20 points, the team averages 71.1 PPG, which would rank 210th in the nation. That is 12.3 PPG lower than the 83.4 PPG Marquette scored in the nine games he’s scored 20 or more, which would rank as the 16th best offense.

He Doesn’t Create Enough Offense for His Teammates

Howard is an incredible player. His offensive game is great. He can shoot, drive past defenders, finish at the rim, or stop on a dime and hit a floater. For all his offensive greatness, Howard has yet to become a great creator for his teammates. He can clearly create for himself. Whether the step back jumper or the drive by layup, Howard often wins his one on one battle.

But when he is struggling to score on his own, Howard could still be productive by finding others. He draws so much attention from opposing defenses that he doesn’t have to do much to make his teammates open. When Howard drives, John and Morrow are often available for the dump off and the wings, especially Joey and Sam, are frequently open for three. This doesn’t mean he should shoot less, but that he could create more productive possessions. Teammates are more likely to make a three when Howard drives and kicks the ball to them when they are wide open versus when they dribble around and shoot a contested jumper.

Look at the numbers for recent scoring first guards who are considered elite players. This year Shamorie Ponds averages 6.0 assists per game. In their Naismith-winning senior seasons, Frank Mason averaged 5.2 and Buddy Hield averaged 5.7 assists per game. Howard could make that next step as an elite guard if he increased his assists per game from around 4 to around 6.

When Howard sees his open teammates, he also needs to be better at passing to them. He averages an alarming 3.3 turnoversper game, many of which are frustratingly bad/missed passes. This number could go down if instead of forcing tougher passes, he makes easy passes to teammates he made wide open. Howard shouldn’t shoot less, but if so much of the offense is going to be run through him, the team would greatly benefit if he generated more open looks for his teammates.

Teammates Must be more Consistent

Sam Hauser is a having a good season. 13.5 PPG on 45% shooting and a 39% 3P%, 6.8 RPG and 2.1 APG are good numbers, but I think Marquette fans expected more from Sam this year. With Rowsey and his 20.5 PPG gone, Sam was ready to be the number two scoring option. While I don’t think many expected Sam to jump from 14.1 PPG to over 20, I think 17-18 PPG was certainly attainable.

He’s shown up in some big games, averaging 18.2 points vs Kansas, Louisville, Indiana, Wisconsin and Buffalo. Yet in other games, Sam disappears, only averaging 5.3 PPG vs Kansas State, St. John’s and Xavier. If Sam can become the every night scoring threat he’s capable of being, the offense wouldn’t look so lost when Howard struggles.

Sacar Anim shows flashes of being a better contributor on offense. Before Sunday’s matchup against Xavier, Anim was averaging 6 PPG. Then vs Xavier he exploded for 20 points. He didn’t have an offensive explosion by catching fire from 3, he scored 20 while staying true to his game, with many of his points coming from aggressive slashes/drives to the rim.

This proves Anim doesn’t have to all of a sudden become a good 3 point shooter (although that would be nice) to become a more consistent offensive threat. He can stay within himself and still be productive on a nightly basis. A more consistent scoring Anim could help pick up the slack on Howard’s off nights.

Ed Morrow’s Marquette career is not off to a hot start. Many had high expectations for the transfer junior, but so far, he hasn’t lived up to them. After averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG as a sophomore at Nebraska, Morrow is down to 6.1 PPG and 4.5 RPG in just 14.8 MPG. While on the floor, it’s clear Morrow is a great rebounder and a tough defender, but he has yet to look comfortable on offense.

He constantly travels in the post and misses layups that should be made. While watching him play, his mistakes don’t appear to be from a lack of ability, but just a lack of comfort. Hopefully with more games and more minutes Morrow can find his fit with the offense and his comfort on the floor. If he can, he could easily average the numbers he did at Nebraska and become a steady force and key contributor to Marquette’s offense.