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Fizz Scouting File: Syracuse Orange vs. Marquette Golden Eagles

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After sitting courtside for Marquette’s domination of Xavier (which Seth Davis apparently never saw coming) and undertaking the painful task of re-watching the Golden Eagles ripping out the Orange’s hearts in January, here’s the official Fizz Scout of Marquette. While Davis didn’t prepare for MU to be moving on, The Fizz told you the computers predicted this second-round matchup.

Marquette Offense vs. Syracuse Defense

The first thing you notice when watching the Golden Eagles is their pace. Obviously Syracuse has no problem playing an up-and-down game. The Orange is in shape and has the athletes that few can match in an up-tempo affair. The key always, whether fast of slow, is to control the pace. Marquette gets the ball across half-court very quickly, specifically on misses, and gets into their “offense.”

The word offense is vague with Marquette because it doesn’t run lots of sets. There is definitely design, but no distinct plays run regularly. The Eagles do have what every offense covets – ball and man movement, even against the Syracuse zone. They typically run one player (often Jae Crowder) along the baseline from corner to corner hoping for a backdoor easy bucket.

What makes their offense so dangerous is also what makes their team so intriguing. The roster breakdown is anything but normal. The roster features plenty of skill but not a lot of length. This means all their parts are interchangeable. You might find Crowder, Darius Johnson-Odom, or Jimmy Butler running the baseline (corners, short corners, and low posts), at the top of the key, or the foul line which encompasses all the spots Marquette has guys on the floor.

The key for SU? Stay home. Marquette’s offense works inside out. The goal every time the Eagles catch the ball is to drive. Typically they start a possession by working the ball one full reversal around the outside to get the zone moving. At that point the goal is to penetrate and dish – either down for a layup or out for a three or another drive. The longer the zone is moving, the bigger the holes get, and the more easy baskets become available. This means Syracuse needs to closeout quickly, but under control (so the Eagles cannot drive past). It’s also vital for SU to locate shooters. We all remember Butler getting loose in the corner. Yeah, so now that I’ve ruined your day – let’s flip the court.

Syracuse Offense vs. Marquette Defense

Scoop must hold onto the damn ball. As easy as that sounds, Scoop (who is 100% fine after spraining his wrist Friday) had five turnovers against the Golden Eagles in January. Re-watching the game, he wasn’t as terrible as it felt at the time. Statistically he was terrific outside the turnovers, with a relatively efficient 13 points on 12 shots and a career-high 13 assists. But the turnovers killed all of that. The reason? Marquette’s perimeter defense is really, really good.

The Golden Eagle defense completely shut down Tu Holloway, holding him to one FG for the entire game as they smothered him in the half-court. His only bucket came in transition when he pulled up for a 22-footer. A big reason was the length MU could put on the undersized Holloway. Butler (6’7”) spent significant time on him. For the tall SU guards, that’s not a problem. As a team, the Eagles are just solid. Their rotations are quick and sharp, and they seemingly contest everything.

Also notable is how Marquette defends the post. MU tries to always have a guy behind the offensive player posting (especially when said player is Rick Jackson). The Eagles also have a variation of a half or three-quarters front by Rick’s defender (meaning the Eagle is playing on the side or mostly in front of the offensive player denying the pass) all in effort to prevent the dish into the post.

If the pass does come, look for an immediate double team (on the catch). Indiana State took their sweet time doubling and got abused by Jackson, so don’t expect Marquette to try anything different from what they did in January. Rick is a very willing passer, which is good because he makes the right play nearly all the time, but the idea in dumping him the ball is for him to score. MU removes that threat by taking the ball out of his hands.

Analysis and Prediction

Marquette is a scrappy team that believes in their coach (after his press conference yesterday, Buzz Williams is my favorite coach in the country). That being said, Syracuse has proven it’s really hard to beat a Big East team twice. The Orange knocked off every conference team it lost to, and had a loss against every squad it had beaten (outside of the sweep against St. Johns).

Syracuse was upset about the January loss in Milwaukee because it was due to simple mistakes and lack of focus. This is why I think Syracuse will survive and advance to Newark. But it’ll be a battle and will test the Orange in every way possible.

Posted: Craig Hoffman

Chat with Craig courtside during the game at Z89online.com

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