Utah State: Know Your Boise Travel Companion

Yesterday we looked at Marquette, today we look at their first round opponent, the Utah State Fightin' Stu Morrills.

Utah State: 30-4

USU Opp
Points Per Minute
1.81 1.54
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.18 1.01
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.41 1.17
2-PT FG% 54.3% 44.2%
3-PT FG% 39.8% 36.7%
FT% 73.9% 73.8%
True Shooting % 60.1% 51.6%
USU Opp
Assists/Gm 16.8 12.8
Steals/Gm 5.0 5.8
Turnovers/Gm 11.6 10.9
Ball Control Index
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.88 1.70
USU Opp
Expected Offensive Rebounds/Gm 10.4 12.0
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 10.8 9.3
Difference +0.4 -2.7
  • Where USU's good: All Shooting, Passing, Rebounding.  A true shooting % of over 60% is insane.  Granted, they haven't played wonderful competition (#162 SOS), but even taking that into account, KenPom ranks USU the #13 most efficient offense in the country (#4 in Effective FG%).
  • Where USU's not as good: Forcing Turnovers.  Their FG% defense is average (they're #96 in Effective FG% defense, #297 in 3pt% allowed), and they just don't prevent opponents from taking clean shots (by forcing TO's or blocking shots) very much.  They are inexperienced and thin, which means they can't take advantage of Marquette's thin bench.
Player AdjGS* GmSc/Min Line
Gary Wilkinson (6'9, 240, Sr.) 16.90 0.53 17.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.3 APG
Jared Quayle (6'1, 180, Jr.) 14.52 0.48 12.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.4 BPG
Tai Wesley (6'7, 240, So.) 13.43 0.46 11.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.2 BPG
Tyler Newbold (6'4, 200, So.) 10.39 0.32 9.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.2 APG
Pooh Williams (6'3, 200, So.) 5.70 0.21 6.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.1 APG
Stavon Williams (6'3, 180, Jr.) 5.06 0.28 6.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.4 APG
Matt Formisano (6'8, 235, So.) 2.10 0.16 3.3 PPG, 2.2 RPG
Jaxon Myaer (5'9, 165, Fr.) 1.99 0.17 3.6 PPG, 1.1 APG
Deremy Geiger (5'10, 165, Fr.) 1.94 0.26 2.1 PPG, 1.0 APG
Brady Jardine (6'7, 220, Fr.) 1.83 0.23 1.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG
Modou Niang (6'10, 220, So.) 1.80 0.19 2.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG
Clint Lee (6'5, 195, Jr.) 0.22 0.09 22 minutes

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It does the same thing my previous measure of choice did (it takes points, assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls into account to determine an individual's "score" for a given game), only the formula is more used and accepted.  The "adjustment" in Adjusted Game Score is simply matching the total game scores to the total points scored in the game, thereby redistributing the game's points scored to those who had the biggest impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • If USU has a good chance of beating Marquette, it's because they have two big guys who can dominate a smaller Golden Eagle lineup.  Wilkinson is a polished scorer, and Wesley is a banger, and they make for a very effective combination.
  • The solid inside game opens up outside shots--USU has five guys who average at least 38% from 3-point range.  If Marquette can't stop Wilkinson and Wesley, they'll start finding themselves with open 3's.
  • By my count, USU has EIGHT guys who average at least one assist per game.  That's insanely good.  Stu Morrill is a VERY good coach, and this is as offensively polished a team he's ever had.  Unfortunately for them, I don't see their defense stopping Marquette.

Keys to the Marquette-USU Game

  1. Turnovers.  Both teams are weak in the FG% defense category, meaning both teams are probably going to get lots of open shots.  That said, the winner could be the team who prevents its opponent from taking shots, which is probably Marquette.  USU's guards aren't going to be able to steal the ball from Marquette's very much, so USU probably needs to stay below the 15 turnovers per game Marquette usually forces.  If they do that, and they move the ball effectively, they're going to have a shot.

  2. Offensive Rebounds.  The other thing that makes USU so solid offensively is that they are very good at crashing the offensive glass.  Marquette's not so bad themselves.

    Again, both teams are going to make a good % of the shots they take, and if you're not going to force a turnover and prevent a shot from being taken, you really need to prevent them from getting a second shot off.

  3. Pace.  Utah State plays at just about the slowest pace in the country.  They pass so well and move inside-out so well that they don't need to break out and attempt to get easy transition baskets, and they make their opponents slog away too.  Meanwhile, Marquette doesn't play extremely fast, but faster than the average D1 team.  Anytime you have a contrast like that, you can tell who's in good shape by how quickly the ball is moving up and down the court.  If the game is up-tempo, major advantage Marquette.

Prediction

Ken Pomeroy gives Marquette a 72% chance of winning this game, and that's probably about right, though USU's bigs could push them closer to straight up 1-in-3.  Or not.  I just don't think USU can stop Marquette's offense.  Plus, it's not like Marquette doesn't know how to play against teams with good big men.  Granted, they only had to play Pitt and UConn once each (and lost both games), but these aren't unchartered waters.  USU does enough well that they will have a chance to win this game, as long as they can play at their pace and not fall well behind early, but Marquette just does more things well in the end.  Marquette 74, Utah State 64.

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