Haanif Cheatham left the Marquette program for personal reasons and this should make things difficult for them.
The inescapable big story for this Georgia at Marquette game will be Combo Guard Haanif Cheatham’s departure and Marquette’s depth issues in the wake of the exit. Before Cheatham’s exit, the questions were on the Georgia side as far as perimeter defense, but now Marquette’s offense and defense are challenged. Does this render Marquette into being a jump shooting team? Does Mark Fox adjust his approach? Should Fox make adjustments? There are so many questions as Cheatham was rather important to this Marquette team.
There are two members of the Marquette roster that Fox knew rather well going into the season, Haanif Cheatham and Jamal Cain. Why? Fox recruited them both and nearly landed Cain. It is likely that Cain will have an even larger role now that Cheatham is gone. Cheatham is likely going to transfer to a school close to home, which means that Miami may be a destination for this very talented Combo Guard considering that Coral Gables is 45 minutes away from his hometown of Pembroke Pines.
Haanif Cheatham’s Departure Hurts BAD
Cheatham may be the fourth highest scorer on the team and his defensive efficiency is rather in-line with his teammates, which is actually quite bad. However, Cheatham was the only threat to dribble drive to be able to knock down threes as well. Nobody else attacks the basket like Cheatham and shot as well from beyond the arc.
The loss of Cheatham renders the team without their most balanced scoring option. An opponent can play tight man-to-man and not have to sag off out of fear. Marquette’s inability to attack the rim and get into the restricted arc with or without a dribble is a major concern. A team that scouts Marquette properly can easily make this team become a volume jump shooting team. Nothing better than a jump shooting team taking contested shots and not being able to rebound.
Marquette’s boxscore and advanced box score in their Overtime win over Eastern Illinois (86-83).
Marquette’s boxscore in their blowout win over Chicago State.
The task at defensively becomes rather simplified without Cheatham and the objective could be to force Marquette inside the perimeter as an alternative to heavily contested three point jump shots.
Marquette’s ability to hit threes is known and Markus Howard despite starting off a bit cold came on against Chicago State. This is the same Markus Howard who shot a whopping 54.7% from three point range last season.
The objective is simple: Challenge Hauser, Rowsey and Howard on jump shots and disrupt their rhythm. Don’t allow second chance points and the rest takes care of itself. Force the supporting cast to produce enough points.
Georgia Shot Distribution
Georgia has been the better jump shooting team compared to opponents this season, but this is not exactly saying much. Georgia is taking longer shots than opponents, but the difference is not very significant.
Georgia attempted their highest percentage of shots in the mid-range area against Cal State-Fullerton and Saint Mary’s. As the Wooden Legacy progressed, the team took longer mid-range shots. The strong mid-range shooting performance against Saint Mary’s appears to be more of an outlier considering the greater difficulty and poorer expected value on the shots. The average three point attempt length was 25.94 feet against Saint Mary’s, which is somewhat skewed by a half court attempt by Turtle Jackson at the end of the First Half.
Taking longer and tougher shots is not part of the formula for success and certainly cannot be relied upon going forward despite the happy talk.
Defensively, Georgia played poorly at Saint Mary’s failing to deny Jock Landale in the post and not being able to contain dribble drivers. Emmett Naar smoked every Georgia Guard on the perimeter. However, another unusual metric came out of this game. Just as Georgia was attempting tougher and less optimal shots, Saint Mary’s scored 58 points in the paint and had an average non-money zone shot attempt of 9.8 feet. Saint Mary’s was only 28% shooting in this area, which is astounding.
A lot went right for Georgia to knock off Saint Mary’s and in many ways Saint Mary’s lack of defensive discipline that was exhibited against Washington State reared its head in the 3rd Place Game.
The Georgia Basketball Turnover Story
The Lost Ball turnovers have been quite high, but so have the offensive fouls. The charging calls are forgivable considering they are done out of aggression and in the effort to attack the basket. Some charging calls are certainly questionable as the block/charge is still the toughest foul for an official to call even with the new rules in place that make the delineation easier. The less forgivable foul is the moving screen and Georgia is not the best screening team in the country either on ball screens or away from the ball.
Upon examination of the turnovers, it is evident how relatively sloppy the play was in Athens compared to Fullerton, but the game against Saint Mary’s was rather clean and they did not set up transition opportunities.
It All Depends Upon Mark Fox’s Game Plan
There is good news for Georgia going into this rematch at Marquette. Houston Kessler is not guarding Sam Hauser, he graduated. Marquette is limited in depth and have a more predictable offense. Marquette’s defense has been lackluster and turnover dependent.
Marquette has strong offensive ball movement, but without Cheatham is there a real threat off the bounce or to cut to the basket?
Georgia is facing an opponent that should be dominated on the glass, but Georgia played weak on the glass against Saint Mary’s and San Diego State. Will this team step up and shut down the Golden Eagles?
This is either going to be a game like the one in Athens last season or a game where Georgia controls the interior and shuts off additional opportunities. With Cheatham’s absence, a weak interior presence, inefficient defense, an inexperienced bench and a few key players to stop everything is simplified.
In other words, this is a very winnable game for this Georgia Team. In fact, Georgia should win this game based on talent and depth, but it is up to Mark Fox to implement a game plan that recognizes Marquette’s glaring weaknesses. The Mark Fox element can be a complicating factor, but the defensive effort should be better than against Saint Mary’s because Fox prides himself on defense.
Prediction: Georgia 77 Marquette 76