One of the great things about college basketball is the variety, ingenuity, and maverick spirit it can promote. Sure, most teams do things roughly the same way, but you can win by playing like Princeton with Pete Carrill, or you can win by pushing the ball at every opportunity and pressing non-stop. You can win with bigs, or by spreading it with a small lineup. And every once in awhile, a maverick comes along that bucks the system.
I’m here to tell you–and don’t try to resist it–that Marshall is that team for you this year (with all apologies to Loyola-Chicago and Buffalo). This is a team that has a coach in Dan D'Antoni (brother of Houston Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni) who cares not for your conventions and your rules. He wears a t-shirt with a blazer on the sideline.
Here’s what D’Antoni said last year after a loss at Pitt, when asked about not getting the ball inside enough. You have to listen just for the “I haven’t finished my daggone analytics story.”
D’Antoni preaches pushing it, taking three-pointers, and getting uncontested layups. Marshall was 3rd in the nation in fastest time of possession on offense and takes a ton of three-pointers. Jon Elmore plays “daggone” nearly every minute for Marshall and was dropping deep threes today in the Wichita State upset. He has taken 262 3’s this year, while the other two starting guards, C.J. Burks and Jarrod West, have taken 224 and 148 respectively. That’s over 18 three-point shots a game out of that trio.
They don’t rebound a lick (bottom 30 in offensive rebound rate) and they shoot in the top 30 on two-point percentage because they take only good ones. This Marshall team is the spiritual descendant of the Dunk City team that played so freely and brashly, and if you want to go further back, the Loyola Marymount teams with Paul Westhead that would average roughly 5 seconds per possession.
We can only hope that we get a West Virginia showdown with the Mountaineers involving Bob Huggins and Dan D’Antoni, with Press Virginia versus a team that will push it and take threes. That will be appointment viewing and you will want to tune in.