markus-howard

(Photo Credit: @MarquetteMBB)

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A once-Indiana-recruiting-target for Tom Crean, 5’11” point guard Markus Howard has absolutely surpassed all expectations in his two years at Marquette. As a freshman, he averaged 13.4 points per game and shot over 50% behind the arc. Last year, he produced 20.4 points per game, just a hair shy of teammate backcourt teammate Andrew Rowsey.

With Rowsey graduated, Markus Howard now becomes the unquestioned “go-to” player on the team. He is already averaging 26.0 points per game this season with an average of 6.0 assists in each contest. What makes Markus Howard such a deadly point guard? We change up our normal film room routine to scout one of our opponents.

What is his game?

A Deep Threat

Take any highlight video of Markus and you will quickly find that he is a deep threat. He has no problem firing off a number of shots from the distance and he carries confidence in his shot throughout the entire game – at home or on the road.

As mentioned, he shot 54.7% (82-150) behind the arc during his freshman season. During his sophomore, he finished the season with 40.4% (111-275). This season he has already made 15-32, good for 40.9%.

In the film, you will quickly notice that there is no spot behind that arc that he does not prefer. He can shoot it from the baseline, deep at the top of the key, and any variety in between.

These numbers are particularly painful for fans who followed the Hoosiers closely last year. Indiana allowed 36.7% for opposing three-point shots, which was good for 281st in the league. Additionally, they only shot 32.2% behind the arc themselves, which ranked 315th at the conclusion of the season.

Howard brings up the ball past the timeline. Without a single pass, he makes a jab step at the defender, which gives him the slightest separation, but enough for him to pull up and drain the bucket.

Howard leads the fast break with just one defender between him and the rim. He receives the pass, makes one dribble and immediately pulls up for the shot in the corner. Although he does not have quite the same body control, this play certainly brings back memories of Yogi.

A teammate tries for the three but misses. Markus, deep at the top of the key, is the recipient of a quick ball tap out after the shot. From 35 feet out, he fires and hits. Markus has range.

Howard brings the ball up, makes a slight hesitation jab step, steps back behind the arc, and splashes. His full arsenal is on display here.

Speed and Finish

Another factor that makes Markus Howard so dangerous is his ability to dash to the basketball after one or two fast twitch moves on his defender. He has an uncanny ability to cut into tight seams, and he finishes difficult shots at the rim.

The combination of his willingness and ability to shoot makes it monstrously difficult for those guarding him to appropriately space against him. Get too close, he will blow by you. Get too far, well you know he is going to launch it from deep.

Indiana will need a combination of alert on-ball defense as well as they canopy-of-hands from Juwan, De’Ron, and the rest of Indiana’s paint prescnce. Guarding and locking down Markus Howard cannot be a one-man job.

Howard brings up the ball leverages his teammate as a screen. With an ever so slight hesitation move (if you blink you will miss it) Howard is able to stall his defender just enough to flash by his left.

From deep at the top of the key, he asks for the pass and receives it. Another high screen action gives Howard the slighest, yet sufficient, window to dash to the bucket. Without proper help in the paint from Bethune-Cookman, two points easily get award to the Golden Eagles.

Markus dances with two of the taller DePaul players. The cutting teammate is open but the DePaul “wall” cuts off the pass. Markus laterally works the defender and once he finds an opening he makes the cut himself. His teammate seals off the paint allowing for an easy layup.

Free Throws

At the stripe, Markus Howard shot 105-112 last season, good for 93.8%. Indiana fans would have killed last year to have a player with that level of consistency. He goes to the stripe on average just a little bit over 3 times per game. No film needed here.

How can Indiana take advantage?

Ball Distribution

While Indiana’s Rob Phinisee is a pass-first point guard, the same cannot be said for Marquette’s floor general. Simply put, Markus Howard is looking to score whenever he touches the ball.

Checking in at over 30 minutes per game last season, Howard only averaged 2.8 assists during that time. In fact, he also turned the ball an average of 2.5 times per game, giving him an assist-to-turnover ratio that barely surpasses the 1.1 mark.

With Indiana’s length, Markus is going to have a very difficult time distributing the rock. In the man-to-man scheme that Archie mentioned in his radio show this week, the player assigned to Markus must be aware that Markus is more likely to pull the trigger than to seek out the open teammate.

Markus brings up the ball and finds a mismatched teammate fading towards the basket. He leads a pass into a congested area and the ball is tipped away. Luckily Marquette recovers and Markus salvages the play by doing what he does best.

Another pass that looked like his teammate was open, but the play did not quite develop as Markus planned. The lengthier DePaul player is easily able to poke the ball away for a steal.

Defense

While the best Indiana can hope for while Markus Howard controls the rock is to keep in semi-contained and on Earth, Indiana can also take advantage on the offensive end.

To begin, Markus is undersized at 5’11” and this provides an opportunity for Indiana’s guards Rob Phinisee (6’1″), Devonte Green (6’3″), Al Durham (6’4″), and Romeo Langford (6’6″) to score over him. Howard can be pesky at times when the ball is on the floor but teams can generally pass and shoot around or over him.

The DePaul guard drives into the lane and passes literally right over Howard’s head. After DePaul misses the shot, Howard does his best to get in position for the rebound but he is outsized as the shooter easily grabs his own rebound from the right.

Against Villanova, Markus loses sight of his assignment once his opponent runs to the corner baseline. Howard then just watches the ball handler and needs a teammate to help him get re-oriented back to his original assignment The shot goes up but Markus is not well positioned to rebound either.

A quick burst of speed starting from under the basket is all that Villanova’s freshman Collin Gillespie needs to beat Howard to the rim. He literally ran circles around Howard on this set.

Villanova sets up a fake screen on the right. Markus, guarding a taller wing player, is unable to keep up and the opponent easily scores over him using his height advantage.

Markus Howard’s Impact

When the Golden Eagles visit Bloomington, it would be unfair to say that Indiana is going to have all eyes on Markus Howard. Marquette is a deep team and has the supporting cast around Howard, which makes them such a great team.

That being said, Howard represents a significant portion of the production for Marquette. If the Hoosiers and Assembly Hall crowd can keep him mortal between the whistles, they will greatly improve their chances at winning.

There is also an opportunity for the Hoosiers to take advantage of the matchups on Archie’s offensive sets. Watch for Archie to use heavy screen actions to help create mismatches and crisp ball movement to take advantage of the tendency to over-help.

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