Marquette Guard Markus Howard Presents a Major Challenge for Indiana

With an Indiana offer in hand and IU connections, Markus Howard was at one time a Hoosier hopeful.  Now he is just a Hoosier nightmare.

While the Hoosiers landed their own high scoring number zero in the recruiting wars in Romeo Langford, IU came up short with Marquette’s number zero Howard.

Markus’ father Chuck was a two year letter winner as an IU running back in 1983 and 1984, playing for the program from 1981 to 1986.  That career spanned multiple notable football coaching names — Lee Corso, Sam Wyche and Bill Mallory.

Indiana offered Markus a scholarship in May of 2015, and with the family connections initially appeared to be a top contender.  While Tom Crean was able to get Howard to Bloomington for a visit, the Hoosiers were not a finalist and Markus ultimately chose Marquette in 2016.

The dynamic 5-foot-11 guard was originally a member of the 2017 recruiting class.  He reclassified into the 2016 class and has been a scoring machine ever since.

After averaging 13.2 points as a freshman starter, Howard exploded last year, averaging 20.4 points to go with 3.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest.  The Arizona native gets his points efficiently, shooting 46.4% overall from the field and 40.4% from three point range last season.

You can watch his highlights from last year below.  What makes Howard special is his quick release, deep range, ball handling skills and ability to get to and finish at the rim.  That inside-out talent makes him a tough cover, to say the least.

Howard is also exceptional from the foul line, shooting north of 90% for his career.

Needless to say, IU head coach Archie Miller has taken notice of the talented guard.  The second year Hoosier head coach discussed Howard extensively on his radio show last night.

“He’s one of college basketball’s premier scoring guards.  He also does a lot of other things for them too with facilitating,”  Miller said.

Howard is off to a fast start in the 2018-19 season, averaging 26 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists through two games.  Miller spoke about how you try to defend such a talented scorer.

“Well I think you want to try to make him a passer as best you can.  That’s something that all great scorers don’t want to do at times.  They want to get going early.”

According to Miller, the keys for Indiana will be to force Howard to give up the ball, pick him up on the floor early, and throw a lot of bodies at him.

“For us you never want to stop him in transition and you never want to pick him up on your heels up against the three point line.  To me, he’s in range.  Your going to have to pick him up higher on the floor and you are going to have to get walls around him — people and bodies and gaps and not allow him to get downhill,” Miller added.

A major challenge for Indiana at times under Miller, especially early last year, has been managing ball screens.  Howard will present significant challenges in that regard.  Miller spoke about that as well.

“The other thing he does a great job of is when he’s in a ball screen, whether you switch or hedge a ball screen, he’s that guy that kinda keeps his dribble going as long as he probably can exhaust it until somebody leaves and then he comes back at you.”

Ultimately, Howard is talented enough that he is going to score no matter what you throw at him.  And if you are thinking that a raucous Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall might be just the antidote — you might want to rethink that.  Howard seems to be one of those players that feeds off the energy of the opposing crowd.  Some of his best games last year were on the road in tough environments:

  • at Providence, 52 points (program record)
  • at Villanova, 37 points
  • at Xavier, 33 points
  • at Seton Hall, 32 points

Miller conceded that on Wednesday night, it won’t be so much about shutting him down as it is about being persistent for 40 minutes while recognizing that Howard will have his moments.

“But I will say that I’ve seen enough film where guys are there and it doesn’t matter.  I think the big thing is don’t get caught up in him making a tough one or getting on a roll…you just gotta stay with it.”

It won’t just be IU defenders that will have to be persistent.  Miller sees the home crowd being tested as well.

“I’ll tell you in two or three or four minutes he can take the air out of the building by just bombing two or three in a row and it’s like timeout we have to get reorganized.  So we’re going to have to be for 40 minutes as best we can just really detailed on when he has the ball across half court and then the ball screen coverages.  But he’s going to get his shots off…we just have to try like crazy to make them as tough as they are.”

The bottom line here is that Howard is an NBA talented scorer that is going to impact the game in multiple ways.

If Rob Phinisee, Devonte Green and Al Durham can share the defensive load, each giving high energy segments with good team defense behind them — then that might be enough to mitigate Howard’s overall efficiency and give IU a chance to come out on top.

It still might not be enough.  As a recruit, Howard showed IU fans that what looks good on paper doesn’t always pan out.  Even the best laid plans might not cut it on Wednesday night either.

Additional game coverage:  Take a look back at the last Indiana vs. Marquette matchup in 2001 with full game video and a coach you likely remember.

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