The Marquette Golden Eagles Basketball Team is one of the highest-powered offenses entering March Madness. Marquette is one of the best in the country, ranked in the top 10 in all of the NCAA in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom. That ranking has actually gone down recently, also.
Shaka Smart has Marquette playing phenomenally on that end of the court. But what makes them so tough to guard?
Let’s not overthink things. A couple of reasons Marquette’s offense is so good is they have one of the best passers in the country in point guard Tyler Kolek. He is the engine of the Golden Eagles’ high-powered offense.
But what makes Marquette so tough coming into March Madness is they also have a big, Oso Ighodaro, who might be the best passing big man in the country. To have a guard and big with their court vision makes Marquette tough to guard on that alone. Add to that the telepathic connection Kolek and Ighodaro have, and it’s easy to see how the Golden Eagles’ offense runs so smoothly.
Marquette is the best offensive team that Shaka Smart has ever coached.
The offense has been completely reconfigured post Justin Lewis/Darryl Morsell. https://t.co/MHo3RkRSVa
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 21, 2023
Skillsets & Cohesiveness Entering March Madness
The Golden Eagles have slashers in Olivier Maxwell-Prosper and Chase Ross. Guard Sean Jones is a solid attacker of the rim as well. All three have proven the ability to hit the 3 but are at their best attacking the hoop. Then there is 3-point sniper David Joplin, who is also 6-7. You have the unique craftiness of Kam Jones with great shotmaking. Ben Gold can space the floor as a stretch 4. And it’s all tied together by the phenomenal passing of Tyler Kolek and big man Oso Ighodaro.
You can see why the Golden Eagles are so tough to guard. The diverse skillsets and all players shooting well enough to create a spread-out defense and driving lanes everywhere. With Kolek and Ighodaro able to find the open player with their court vision, Marquette gets good shots on most of their possessions.
Also, the cohesiveness and roster makeup fit so well together heading into March Madness. You have a strong slasher in Maxence-Prosper, an all-around game, and the passing ability of big man Oso Ighoardo. The makeup of the backcourt might be the most noticeable. Kolek is the orchestrator, and dynamic passer and is shooting it well. Kam Jones is a crafty scorer, and then there is Stevie Mitchell, who plays hard and is a great defender whose offense is coming along. He plays hard no matter what, whether he gets 4 shots or 12 shots. The roster construction of Shaka Smart is apparent, and he has a plan and recruits to it.
Does any team in America want to try to defend this Marquette offense in a tournament off short rest?
This is why the Golden Eagles are a threat to win it all.
— Matt St. Jean (@mattstdream) March 12, 2023
The Marquette Design
Shaka Smart loves running plays to empty out the strong side, creating a two-on-two situation or screens creating mismatches and attacking those mismatches. When you have a great passing big man to get the ball at the elbow to find cutters is quite a luxury. If Ighodaro can’t find a cutter, he gets it back to Kolek for a pick-and-roll with an empty side. With Kolek’s passing ability, it puts the defender in a bind. Step in and stop the roll man Ighodaro and you leave a wide-open shooter like Joplin in the corner. It has created headaches for defenses.
Tyler Kolek and Oso Ighodaro Pick n Roll: The most important action of the Big East season
The foundation of the Marquette offense. The offense that led Marquette to Regular Season Champions
— Ryan Cassidy (@ryancassidycbb) March 1, 2023
Passing Ability of Marquette
It’s all tied together with the passing ability of Kolek and Ighodaro. Not only does Kolek find players, but he hits them in the shooting pocket. It isn’t just finding the open man; it’s pinpoint passing.
With Ighodaro’s ability to see over the defense and find cutters is a luxury. Having a big with that passing ability of a guard is a game-changer, and it’ll be on full display in March Madness.
Marquette's offense is a joy to watch. Tyler Kolek's passing. Oso Ighodaro playing point center. The spacing, cutting, two-man and three-man games. Love it all.
Latest film room takes a look at how Shaka Smart built his offense and what makes it so good: https://t.co/gVqm9xAn7v
— CJ Moore (@CJMooreHoops) January 3, 2023
While Kolek’s passing is dynamic, perhaps the biggest difference in Marquette’s offense this year compared to last year is Kolek’s scoring. He is shooting nearly 40% from 3 after shooting under 30% last year. Defenses were daring him to score. Kolek averaged under 7 points per game. However, this year, when teams go under screens and make Kolek score, he can. He makes the defense pay this year and he is averaging nearly 13 points per game, almost double his average a season ago.
Bottom line As March Madness Approaches
The Golden Eagles have given opponent defenders fits. Marquette can attack the rim, dice you on cuts or burn you from 3-point range. The offensive diversity of the team sticks out. The dynamic offense has Shaka Smart and Marquette not only looking to get a March Madness win-drought off their backs, but doing more damage than that in March.
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