Areas Marquette basketball needs to clean up to succeed in Big East play

Dec 11, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles guard Greg Elliott (5) drives for the basket during the first half against the UCLA Bruins at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Marquette Golden Eagles guard Greg Elliott (5) drives for the basket during the first half against the UCLA Bruins at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Marquette Basketball plays nothing but Big East games from here on out. If they play well, the next non-conference opponent the Marquette Golden Eagles play could be in the NCAA Tournament.

The Marquette Golden Eagles finished their non-conference play with an 8-3 record. They exceeded expectations and pulled off surprise wins over Illinois, Ole Miss, and West Virginia.

The Golden Eagles’ three losses came to veteran teams expected to make some March Madness runs in St. Bonaventure, Wisconsin, and UCLA.

Now the yearly Big East grind approaches as the Marquette Golden Eagles face No. 22 Xavier on the Musketeers’ home court. After that game, it does not get any easier as No. 20 UConn comes to the Fiserv Forum and then Marquette has to go play at St. John’s to closeout 2021.

There are no easy games in the Big East. Marquette can give itself a chance at defying preseason expectations of finishing ninth or tenth in conference play if it cleans up a few of its weakness.

If the Golden Eagles can do that and finish with say a 12-8 or 11-9 conference record, they might find themselves also grabbing an unexpected March Madness invite. Especially as it stands right now, the Big East could get anywhere from five to seven teams in.

Here are a few areas that Marquette basketball must improve upon heading into Big East play.

Must fix the three-point shooting woes

The Marquette Golden Eagles are shooting 31.5% from beyond the arc. Those numbers are like…

Marquette’s special assistant Nevada Smith’s analytics-based offense is contingent on making three-point shots. Right now, Marquette is having troubles burying those shots. This area needs to improve.

They have the players that can knock down long-range shots in Kam Jones, Darryl Morsell, David Joplin, Greg Elliott, and Justin Lewis. Tyler Kolek is also way below the three-point shooting he showed last season when he played for George  Mason.

Marquette legend Travis Diener was on the Golden Break Podcast recently and pointed out these shooting struggles are allowing defenses to pack defenders in the paint and cut off easy baskets.

One solution according to Diener, is that Elliott continues to build off his last two strong games and giving some more minutes to Joplin…

"That’s why we need Greg to make shots because Greg is one guy that can make shots so like how we can create more space well the easiest ways to start consistently making outside shots so I think you’ll probably see more of Greg play because he does stretch the Defense maybe with maybe more David joplin playing because he can stretch the Defense and obviously Kam is going to play a lot as we’ve already seen."

Diener did point out that maybe more of an emphasis on the right players shooting threes like Elliott, Joplin, and Jones could improve the three-point shooting.

The Golden Eagles are getting the quality looks. They are just not making them.

Get better on the boards

The Marquette Golden Eagles’ rebounding margin is -1.9. They are just getting beaten on the glass. They have been outrebounded in seven of their 11 games.

Marquette is a team founded on its defense creating scoring opportunities for the offense with getting stops and turnovers.

Right now they are allowing 126 offensive rebounds for an 11.5 offensive rebounding average per game. That is too many second-chance opportunities, and if that number does not go down, Marquette may not survive the Big East.

The Golden Eagles need to get better a team rebounding.

They might want to take an interest in offensive rebounding every once and a while to fix the issue. Plus, it might help the offense get some better second-chance shots.

Get off to better starts

Head Coach Shaka Smart needs to find a better starting combination. Right now Marquette has struggled mightily in the first ten minutes.

Shaka has made one adjustment to his starting lineup by putting Kam Jones in the starting rotation. He needs to figure something out to avoid these slow starts. It is important because Marquette likes to dictate the pace of play. The Golden Eagles like to set up a press off their made baskets and it is hard to get that going with an offense that struggles to start games.

Get Morsell and Kolek scoring again

Morsell has cooled off considerably after his hot start to the season. In his first four games, he scored 20 or more points. Over the last seven, he has scored just 62. Kolek has not scored a bucket in his last two games.

Both are impacting the game in other ways. Kolek is doing an excellent job creating shots for his teammates. Morsell is still an outstanding defender.

Marquette still needs more points from these two if it hopes to survive the Big East.

Mature in a hurry

The Marquette Golden Eagles are one of the youngest teams in the country. Their youth and inexperience showed in the three losses.

Playing veteran teams, Marquette’s press could not create many turnovers. In the halfcourt, the defense struggled to get stops.

This team needs to find a way to learn and correct their rookie mistakes if they hope to exceed the preseason forecast of finishing towards the bottom of the Big East.

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