Five Things Marquette Must Do To Defeat Florida State
After two upset victories over Xavier and Michigan, the Marquette Golden Eagles find themselves in position to take the Old Spice Classic tomorrow in Orlando. It would be quite the turn of events for a team that lost just about everything that won them 25 games last season and an eight-man rotation that features one player that scored more than six points last season as well as three newcomers.
Standing between them and the Old Spice Classic champion title are the Florida State Seminoles, who defeated Iona and Alabama on their path to the title game. The Seminoles are as close to a different team from Marquette as one will find, featuring a whopping ten players over 6’4″ and getting their best looks from down on the block from big men Solomon Alabi and Chris Singelton. For a full preview of Florida State, check out MUHoops.com’s take.
If Marquette wants to hoist the trophy tomorrow, here are five things they must do to take down the Seminoles.
1. Continue to pressure outside shots well
One of Marquette’s best stats in the Old Spice Classic has been holding their two opponents to 32 percent shooting from three point range and pressuring guards as soon as they receive the ball. Against Florida State, this will be even more important because the Seminoles lack a true point guard and are prone to turning the ball over, committing 40 turnovers in their first two games of the tournament.
Florida State will look inside to their two big men to start the offense, but pressuring the ball from the outside as soon as the possession starts will mess things up as well. Their backcourt tandem of Derwin Kitchen and Deividas Dulkys are much bigger than anything Marquette will throw on the court, so if they do not receive pressure they will shoot all day. Dulkys loves the trey ball as 15 of his 18 field goals this season have come from behind the arc, so look for major pressure on him. Jimmy Butler has been as lockdown of a defender as possible and will need to use his height to guard the much bigger Seminoles.
2. Rotate big men early and often
As freshman Jeronne Maymon continues to get his feet under him and pick up the pace of the game, the quality of opponents that he faces every night will continue to increase as well. Tomorrow night, Maymon will play a key role off the bench in battling with Florida State’s bigs. If Marquette chooses to stay with a 4-guard lineup including Acker/Cubillan, Johnson-Odom, Buycks, and Butler, then Maymon will have to rotate in when they start getting beat up inside.
Joe Fulce has seen his minutes decrease lately as he tries to battle back from a bruised knee and might get his name called against a taller, more physical Seminole team. Fulce played 10 minutes against Xavier but just three minutes against the smaller Michigan team, so look for those numbers to go back up tomorrow. Keeping big men fresh will be key to Marquette’s success in keeping out, or limiting, Florida State in the paint.
3. Allow Darius Johnson-Odom to drive at will
This might seem like a narrow goal to set but Florida State lives and dies with their defense. With such a tall, athletic team that is still trying to figure out its identity on offense, they must be solid on defense. The Seminoles are giving up just under 53 points per game and are very long on defense, meaning those open shots Marquette saw against Xavier and especially Michigan are likely not going to be there. The answer? Darius Johnson-Odom.
In the Old Spice Classic, Johnson-Odom showed his ability to get to the hole against Xavier despite not finishing on a few of the drives. Against Michigan, he went wild in the paint and showed glimpses of the agility Dominic James had and the toughness of Jerel McNeal. While those comparisons might be pre-mature, getting Johnson-Odom the ball in the paint will be key. If Marquette goes small, FSU might switch to a zone that will create lanes for Johnson-Odom and he is a fantastic passer off the dribble.
4. Start small and stay small
The story of the Golden Eagles last season was that they were going to be small on defense but they were almost impossible to match up with when on offense. Against Florida State, Marquette is clearly out-sized but is also in a position to out-hustle and run past them. They will need to rotate their big men as seen in point number two, but going with four guards will force Florida State’s hand on defense and they will need to decide if sacrificing size is worth slowing the Golden Eagles down. Players like Maurice Acker and Dwight Buycks will be key in transition, so look for Marquette to push the ball off missed shots to free up open jumpers on the run.
5. Keep doing what you’re doing
With the exception of Youssoupha Mbao potentially seeing extra minutes when Alabi is in the game, keeping the gameplan the same is key for Marquette. He never has so don’t expect him to, but Buzz Williams shouldn’t switch the plan up and go with something different just because the Seminoles are much taller. Last season, teams like Georgetown and Notre Dame had size advantages, but Marquette played within their game and came out on top. Hustling to the boards on defense will make up for the lack of size and quickness on offense will cancel out Marquette’s inability to get open jumpers against a tall back court.
Lazar Hayward needs to stay out of foul trouble and continue to dominate when he is in. Jimmy Butler needs to be the second man to Hayward and clean up messes inside as well as box out. Johnson-Odom and Buycks need to continue to be cogs in the offensive gameplan, using their athleticism and smarts to take care of the ball and find open buckets. Maurice Acker and David Cubillan need to keep doing what they are doing in taking care of the ball and hitting clutch shots. Like Michigan coach John Beilein said, “Marquette is short. They’re not small.”