Game 3: Michigan vs. Marquette Preview

Dylan Burkhardt
Who: Marquette (2-0) vs. Michigan (2-0)  marquette_golden_eagles-svg
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
When: 9:30 p.m., November 17th, 2016
Notebook, Video

The first legitimate test of the college basketball season sets the tone for the next four months.

Last year’s loss to Xavier, Michigan’s win over Memphis in Maui, the 2012 Preseason NIT — they all were pivotal moments in those seasons. Whether it was the Xavier loss foreshadowing future struggles or the Preseason NIT proving that something special might be brewing.

The first big game is an indicator of what’s to come — whether that is a blueprint of where to improve (Iowa State and Charlotte in 2013-14) or an exposed flaw that is going to hamstring a team all year. Tonight is the first measuring stick for the 2016-17 Wolverines and, win or loss, we’ll know a lot more about this team when the final buzzer sounds in New York around midnight.

Marquette heads to Madison Square Garden with a 2-0 record (95-71 over Vanderbilt, 81-49 over Howard). The Golden Eagles underachieved last season, missing the tournament with Henry Ellenson (18th pick in the NBA Draft) in the lineup, but they’ve started the season putting up massive scoring numbers with an intriguing combinations of three senior starters and talented underclassmen.

The Golden Eagles

Marquette ran Vanderbilt (95 points in 78 possessions) and Howard (81 points in 71 possessions) right out of the gym. Averaging 75 possessions per game, and 14.1 seconds per average offensive possession, the Golden Eagles are playing fast and shooting the ball well. Marquette is shooting 58.2% on twos and 42.3% on threes for a 60.3 eFG% (21st) through two games. Inside or outside and really across the board, Marquette has shot the ball well in its first two contests.

Despite its fast tempo, Marquette has done a good job of valuing the basketball. The Golden Eagles only turn the ball over on 16% of their offensive possessions, but haven’t made much of an impact on the offensive glass (209th in offensive rebounding rate) or at the free throw line (318th in free throw rate)

Defensively, the Golden Eagles have done a great job of forcing turnovers and creating easy points on the other end of the floor — a critical element of their offensive efficiency. Marquette has forced turnovers on 25% of its opponents’ possessions (34th nationally) and its steal rate of 14.1% is almost double the national average. A fifth of Marquette’s offensive possessions have been fast break possessions and they average 27.5 points per game off of turnovers — both clear indicators of just how many turnovers they’ve been able to force.

Through two games, Marquette has also done a great job of defending inside the arc. Vanderbilt and Howard combined to shoot just 37.3% inside the arc, but did do a good job of getting to the free throw line. Howard also managed to rebound over a third of its misses against the Golden Eagles.


JaJuan Johnson leads Marquette in scoring at 17.5 points per game. He’s a versatile scorer who can get involved in the game in different areas. He’s effective in transition and off the bounce and can knock down the three for good measure. He’s been the most active Marquette defender in the passing lanes with 7 steals in two games.

6-foot-5 sophomore Haanif Cheatham struggled with turnovers as a freshman, but has been lethally efficient early on this year. Cheatham is a versatile wing who is Marquette’s best defensive rebounder, an active defender and creator for others (9 assists in two games). The majority of his offense seems to come in transition, but he’s been very efficient — 58% on twos and 43% on threes.

6-foot-8 senior Katin Reinhardt is another talented wing in Steve Wojciechowski’s lineup. Reinhardt is a graduate transfer from USC who started his career at UNLV. He’s a career 37% three-point shooter who has no problem getting his fair share of shots up. He’s attempted 512 threes in his career, but didn’t shoot over 40% on two-point attempts until last season at USC.

6-foot-11 big man Luke Fischer left Indiana after a semester as a freshman and is now ready to finish his senior season at Marquette. Fischer is a presence on the offensive glass and a shot blocking threat who finishes over 60% of his twos. He’s active in the pick-and-roll game and is more than capable of playing with his back to the basket. He’s only used 15% of Marquette’s offensive possessions this season, but is a threat that the Wolverines have to be prepared for .

6-foot sophomore Traci Carter started the last game at the point guard position, but promising freshman guard Markus Howard started the opener. Carter has been Marquette’s best setup man while still valuing the basketball while Howard has turned the ball over on 40% of his offensive possessions.

6-foot-7 freshman forward Sam Hauser provides a defensive rebounding and three-point threat (7-of-11) off the bench, but he’s also struggled with turnovers early on (4 giveaways vs. Howard). He’s attempted 11 threes to just one shot inside the arc.


  • Manage tempo & control turnovers: Marquette is going to try to speed Michigan up and create easy offense with forced turnovers. Traditionally, Beilein teams have been terrific at avoiding these problems and controlling the game. If the Wolverines can keep this game in the mid-60 possession range rather than the 70s where Marquette wants it, then they should have an advantage.
  • Handle dribble penetration: Handling dribble penetration has been Michigan’s Achilles’ heel for a while now and it has been magnified by rule changes. Marquette has the type of athletic wings capable of giving Michigan fits by attacking off the bounce and this will be the first real test of just how much the Wolverine defense has improved after a summer of a increased defensive focus.
  • Shooting: It sounds simple, but Michigan has been pretty average shooting the ball through two games. The Wolverines have made just 49% of their twos and 36% of their threes for a 50.9 eFG% — all ranked in the mid-100s nationally. U-M has gotten by with some timely offensive rebounding and by getting to the free throw line, but this is a program built on the three-point shot and they are going to have to hit some to win.

Bottom Line

Michigan started the season as a slight favorite in this game according to KenPom’s preseason predictions, but the latest numbers give Marquette a 52% chance of victory and project a 74-73 Marquette victory.

  • andygoblue

    First game I’ll actually be able to watch! I’m excited, as KenPom pretty much calls this one a toss-up. Should be a good one and can’t wait to see how are young kids have developed, and how our older guys – Walton and Irvin, in particular – lead the team.

  • gobluemd16

    The first key seems like the most important one to me. Have to keep this game primarily in the half court and eliminate fast break opportunities for Marquette.

  • MGoTweeter

    I think most of us have pretty tempered expectations for this team and although these games certainly wouldnt thrust Michigan into B1G contender status, they would be a good boon to the excitement level for the season. Hard to know what to expect out of the team in these games after the up and down play in the first two games. Biggest thing for me beyond getting two wins, is just to see them start to build some confidence and an identity. It would be especially great to see the offseason defensive focus start to pay off.

    Tonight they have to make this a half court game and win the glass. I didnt watch all of the Marquette Howard game but from what I saw, Marquette is very dangerous in transition and just ok in the half court. If the game is up and down, Michigan is going to have problems doing both stopping dribble penetration and finding shooters off that penetration. However in the half court, given the success Howard had on the glass (although they couldnt finish anything), Michigan should be able to score and limit Marquette to one shot. They do that and this game is very winnable.

    • gobluemd16

      Just curious, because I respect your opinion, what are your expectations for this season? I think making the tournament is a minimum, for me, and the ceiling is probably Sweet 16.

      • Chillax

        That’s funny. Michigan fan and I were at the bar had the same thoughts. A sweet 16 I think would be a win for this team. I think that’s a good goal to set. I’m hoping Michigan’s football success somehow translates to Michigan basketball recruiting success because I feel like that’s largely where this team has been struggling.

      • MGoTweeter

        Those sound about right to me. At this moment I think this is a bubble team. I could see them getting into the tournament at the 7-10 seed range but I could also see them just missing the tournament. In terms of the B1G, I think 10 wins is a good number for expectations. I have a lot of questions about their depth and front court. The freshmen have not exactly hit the ground running and Wagner/Wilson are both still unknowns. I do believe they have enough talent to make the tournament but I have a hard time saying they can make any noise until I start to see those questions get answered.

        • gobluemd16

          I guess tonight will be a good start to gauging how good this team could possibly be!

  • bebopson

    Looking at the KenPom matchup. Statistically the keys look like Michigan protecting the ball, getting to the line and protecting the rim. 3 facets where they’ve been good so far and have a big gap vs Marquette.

  • Brick93

    Reinhardt is actually a generous 6-6. He’s closer to 6-5. He’s a wannabe point guard (left UNLV because they saw him a SG instead of a PG) and cannot defend the 4 at all. I would have Wilson attack him all night long if they have him at the 4.

  • Paul Weeldreyer

    Good writeup. I’m a Marquette grad so it’s obvious who I would like to win, but good luck. Marquette has looked better this year than last so far, but this should be a good test for both teams, especially since they appear to be pretty equal.

  • Timothy David

    Big Game. Lets go Blue!!

  • bobohle

    Look for Ibi and X man to play more minutes tonight.