Roy Devyn Marble's career was a pleasure to watch unfold. He entered the program in Fran McCaffery's inaugural season an under-the-radar three star recruit with offers only from the likes Dayton (who actually made the Sweet 16 this past weekend...), Buffalo, Detroit, Providence, and Fairfield. At the time, I think we were all a little more excited about a recruit with minimal offers just because he happened to possess exquisite basketball bloodlines, ones that involved the University of Iowa in the past. Besides being the son of Roy Marble, Sr., I don't think we really knew what we were getting with his son Devyn. Was he a slasher like his father? Was he more of a shooter? All we really knew was that he was going to have quite the shadow looming over him once he stepped onto campus. But after four seasons of watching him play, I think it's safe to say that Devyn was able to build his own legacy at Iowa. He was able to step out from under that gigantic shadow left by his father and make a name for himself.
What I think was so special about Marble's career at Iowa was the fact that he made huge strides in his game every single season. As we've seen so many times with other players, development is not necessarily linear. College basketball players have careers that often times go up and down. Not Marble, though.
Marble's points per game and points per minute went up pretty significantly each and every year. Points per minute is usually my benchmark for determining how good a player is offensively. Like I've said before, 0.30-0.39 is someone I usually consider a role player who does other things on the court than score the basketball. 0.40-0.49 is a very good offensive player, but not quite a star. 0.50 and up, though, is where I usually put my cutoff for determining whether or not a player is a star. Make no mistake, Marble was a legit star this season.
The Year in Review
The Hawkeyes had a great, albeit frustrating and confusing season in 2013-2014. Marble, though, was the one consistent bright spot for the Hawkeyes this year. In past seasons, he would hit a snag at some point in the schedule, but that didn't really happen this year. Last year, that road bump came in January where he only averaged 0.35 points per minute. That snag kept him from getting over the 0.50 points per minute mark for the season and in Big Ten play. This season, Marble's worst (If you can call them that) offensive months came in December and March, when he averaged exactly 0.50 points per minute. His peak was January, when he hit the 0.60 mark. And, unlike years past, Marble's scoring didn't fall off really at all once the Big Ten portion of the schedule rolled around, as he averaged 0.59 points per minute against non-conference foes and 0.57 against conference ones. Making that feat even more impressive was the fact that Fran was relying more and more on Marble as the season went on.
Iowa's "depth" deteriorated as the season went on and Marble was called upon to shoulder an increasing portion of that load as Iowa went into tailspin mode. And, unsurprisingly, Marble seemed to wear down as the as season went on and the minutes piled up. Making things worse was the fact that Aaron White's offensive production started to decline, Melsahn Basabe had a mysterious and sudden illness and never fully returned to form, Jarrod Uthoff struggled to find his game against Big Ten opponents, Mike Gesell had a terrible March, etc. I could go on and on, but you get the point. Increasingly, Marble basically became Iowa's one and only option on offense.
As you can see, there was quite a pattern between the amount of minutes Marble played and the percentage of the team's shots that he took on offense (including free throw possessions). As minutes went up, so too did the amount of shots he took. To Marble's credit, though, he still played great offensive basketball during all of this. He still had a 51% eFG% in February and averaged 0.54 points per minute. It was when March came around where the numbers start to show that Marble may have been fatigued. It was in the final five games of the season that Marble only averaged 0.50 points per minute on a 43.67% eFG%. I believe fatigue could be the culprit because his shooting tendencies changed in the final month of the season:
Marble's game was at its best when he was driving the basket and shooting threes. In March we see a spike in the number of two point jumpers he attempted. The epitome of this came in the final game against Tennessee where he was 3-15 from the field and took 7 (47%) of his attempts from the least efficient place on the court. 6 of those 15 were from long range, which isn't bad, but the fact that only 2 of his tries came near the rim, I think lends evidence to tired legs. As a result of Marble settling for more mid-range jumpers, his eFG% dropped like I said above, but his free throw rate pretty much halved, as he only attempted 0.24 free throw attempts per field goal attempt compared to his season average of 0.46. Despite all of this, Marble still found a way to average 0.50 points per minute and 17 points per game in March. It wasn't easy, but he did it. And it was quite amazing.
I'm guessing that if this fatigue had an impact on his offense, it also had an effect on his defense. Marble has shown to be a good to great defender in the past and Kenpom has Marble's steal rate on defense coming in at #90 in the nation among qualified players. That being said, that combination of aggressiveness and fatigue probably had something to do with Iowa's defense blowing up toward the end of the year. Playing at a breakneck tempo and frequently trying to jump into the passing lane and create a fastbreak situation for an entire season, while also adding increased minutes to this equation, probably had something to do with Iowa's defensive issues down the stretch. And while Marble's frequent gambles paid off with a nice steal rate, the numbers think the rest of his defensive game fell off a bit. College Basketball Reference has his defensive rating going from 96.8 last season to 100.8 this season. That stat is an estimate of the number of points a player allows per 100 possessions on defense. Unfortunately, that stat is difficult to calculate, so I don't have a monthly breakdown of it. I would be very interested to see if it got worse as the season closed out. Anyway, the point being, that Marble's defense didn't seem to be as effective this year. Of course, neither did anybody else's on the team, and Marble's situation seems to stem from being coached on playing aggressively to create transition opportunities and the fact that he was probably exhausted by the end of the season.
I always like to write these end-of-season posts because it gives me the opportunity to look at how each player has developed during their career and post some cool charts. So here are some charts:
Marble's scoring development was very linear (in the positive way) and it's not really surprising that his highest scoring and most efficient season came in the season in which he limited the number of mid-range jumpers he took. He seemed to find a nice balance in his offensive game this year, and even when he may have been running on empty at the end of the year, he still put up points.
Looking at his scoring, it again appears that limiting those mid-range jumpers was essential to Marble's breakout offensive season.
As for his shooting from year-to-year, I think his career took a turn for the better when Marble really added the three point shot to his arsenal his Junior year.* The increase in three balls (and making them at a decent rate) seemed to cut the mid-range jumpers out of his game. And he was better off for it.
*He gave us a little preview of things to come when he went 7-8 from long range against Oregon to close out 2011-2012.
Now, Marble was definitely a scorer first and foremost, but he was also quite the facilitator, too.
Marble was primarily a shooting guard, but throughout his career he was called on to run the point fairly often as well. Needless to say, he was pretty good at doing that, too. I don't think it's any coincidence that it was his sophomore year --when Bryce Cartwright dealt with injuries and Iowa had no other point guard options -- that Marble had his highest percentage of shot attempts and points scored near the rim. Outside of Matt Gatens, Marble having the ball in his hands more often and driving to the basket was Iowa's main form of offense that year. That was also the year where his assist rate spiked, and he was able to make a decent dent in his turnover rate. Even as Iowa got some point guards into the program, Marble still played point guard at times, and his assist rate stayed at a nice level and he was able to cut down his on his turnovers even more in his final year. This year, Kenpom puts Marble's assist rate at 270th in the country among qualified players and he also has his turnover rate at 202nd in the nation. In other words, Marble's offensive game was more than just scoring.
Whatever Marble does next season, he won't be doing it in an Iowa uniform. After four years donning the black and gold, he will venture out into the real world and try to establish a career in basketball. His final year at Iowa was probably good enough to get a shot at the NBA, but it will be interesting to see if he ends up on a D-League team or if he can make the roster of an NBA team. DraftExpress.com currently has Marble going in the second round at #45 overall to the Philadelphia 76ers. As a pro, he's probably going to have to be able to show that he can consistently shoot the ball from distance, as he doesn't have elite speed or strength to either slash or power his way into the paint. If he can show a consistent jumper at the NBA level and demonstrate that this year's defensive performance was in fact due to McCaffery's aggressive defensive strategy and Marble's fatigue from shouldering the load for the Hawkeyes down the stretch, then he may find himself sticking on an NBA bench. If not, he will probably find himself traveling the D-League circuit and eventually making a nice career overseas.
While he may not set the NBA on fire next season, Marble did set the Big Ten ablaze this year. I don't think I can stress just how good his season was this year. He actually shot his best when conference play began, increasing his 46.79% non-conference eFG% to 50.19% against Big Ten competition. He also upped his points per game from 14.21 to 18.63 against conference opponents, and while that was largely due to the increased minutes he played, it was still impressive to see him average 0.57 points per minute in Big Ten play. And, finally, before I end this, one last random stat: In conference games at home Marble averaged 0.52 points per minute, while averaging 0.59 in Big Ten road games. His true shooting percentage (includes free throws) was 52.62% (still good) at home and was 57.54% on the road. In other words, Marble did some of his best work away from Carver-Hawkeye during the toughest part of the schedule.
I hope that gets my point across. We just witnessed an amazing 33 game performance by Roy Devyn Marble, and it's one of the best ones we've seen by an Iowa player in a long while. When the season started to snowball for the Hawkeyes, Marble continued to be the most reliable and consistently good player on the team. Despite having to put this team on his back, Marble still showed up to play in just about every game this year. And while he may have been out of gas at the end, who the hell wouldn't be after all he was asked to do this season? Collectively, this team may have underperformed their true talent level this year, but make no mistake, Roy Devyn Marble didn't. He leaves a gigantic void for this team to fill next year.
So, congratulations, Devyn. Thanks for helping to return this program to respectability and The NCAA Tournament. You will definitely be missed.
Up Next: Melsahn Basabe