After an underwhelming six year stint at Texas, Shaka Smart decided it was time for a change of scenery. Marquette hired Smart away from Texas following the 2020-21 season. As of now, it seems like a home run hire for the Golden Eagles. In Smart’s first year, he led Marquette back to the NCAA tournament after missing out the previous two seasons. This year, however, the former VCU coach has the Golden Eagles soaring. Following a win St. John’s bringing their conference record to 4-1, Marquette is up to 20th in KenPom’s latest rankings after starting the season 76th. Let’s break down how Smart has been able to expedite this turnaround in his second season.
The 2022-23 Golden Eagles team has had somewhat of an offensive revolution this year compared to last. Even though last year’s team had a respectable ranking of 71st in offensive efficiency according to Haslemetrics.com, this year’s squad has improved in a big way. The team is ranked 8th in that statistic so far this season. A major part for this growth has been the shot selection. The team has shot a considerably higher amount of near proximity shot (lay-ups, dunks, tip-ins) this year compared to last season. Smart’s team ranks 5th this year in percentage of attempts that are near the basket in contrast to 176th the past year. On the other hand, Marquette has reduced their mid-range game immensely. Just under 16% of their total attempts come from mid-range jumps which ranks 362nd (out of 363). Considering the mid-range is widely regarded as the least efficient shot in basketball, it is no surprise that their offensive efficiency has seen much improvement.
Another big change for this year Marquette’s team has been the emergence of a new philosophy. Smart has implemented a second playmaker alongside point guard Tyler Kolek. Those reinforcements have come by the way of Oso Ighodaro, a big man with guard-like passing ability. Both Kolek and Ighodaro have seen their assist numbers increase in the revamped offense. The point guard has gone from 5.9 APG to 7.6 while Ighodaro has dramatically increased his assist numbers going from less than one assist a game to 3.3 this year. The formation of this duo has led to both one of the best offenses in college basketball this season. This article by The Athletic’s CJ Moore breaks down the X’s and O’s of how these two have transformed the Golden Eagle’s offense. If Shaka Smart’s squad can keep this up, they will not only be a force in the Big East, but also on national level.
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