Mayo, others caught in numbers game

When a player has a history like Todd Mayo’s, it’s easy to jump to conclusions when he doesn’t appear in a game or finds himself getting sporadic minutes.

After playing a total of 17 minutes in Marquette’s last three games – including not at all against Providence – Mayo got in early, played 21 minutes and had his best game of the season in Wednesday’s win over South Florida. 

For Marquette coach Buzz Williams, the reason Mayo played more and performed better was simple: He practiced better and earned his time on the floor.

“When I was a kid growing up, maybe I was brought up the wrong way, but I always thought you get what you deserve,” Williams said Thursday on the Big East conference call. “And you get what you earn in life. 

“I think sometimes with all the social media and all the bloggers, everybody thinks you are just supposed to get everything and you don’t have to earn it anymore, you don’t have to deserve it anymore and it’s just handed to you. I don’t believe in that as a dad, I don’t believe in that as a husband, and I don’t believe in that as a coach.”

Mayo checked in at the 16:44 mark of the first half and provided the Golden Eagles with instant offense. The sophomore guard went on a 9-0 run by himself and stretched Marquette’s lead from 17-10 to 26-10 in little over a minute. From then on, the rout was on and Mayo finished with a season-high 13 points on 5 of 7 shooting. 

“Todd played really well because he practiced really well,” Williams said. “When you practice well consistently, you play well consistently. I think the last four day’s he’s had really good practices, and I think that was apparent last night in how he played.”

Mayo hasn’t been the only player caught up in the depth of Marquette’s roster. Williams has nine or 10 guys who have been a part of the rotation at some time. At the power forward position, Juan Anderson, Jamil Wilson and freshman Steve Taylor all have seen their minutes fluctuate — partially because of their own performance and because of the performance of the other two players. 

Williams felt Taylor was coming off his best three games of the season, but Wednesday he looked down the bench at his freshman and told him early he probably wasn’t going to play because Anderson and Wilson were both playing well. He didn’t have to say much because Taylor already knew that and responded, “I know, coach. They are playing great.”

In the middle, Davante Gardner played just 15 minutes against USF, and Chris Otule played 21 because Williams said Otule has been dominating Gardner in practice. 

“I think the problem with trying to play nine guys, sometimes trying to play 10 guys, is it’s hard to distinguish, ‘OK is this guy playing good, is this guy playing bad?’ because there’s only 200 minutes in a game,” Williams said. “In order for us to have success playing nine or 10 guys, you need all of those guys to be at their absolute best each day. That’s really hard to do. 

“Jamil Wilson was good last night, but he was awful at Louisville. Davante Gardner has been a staple within what we’ve done in the first 20 games, but he was awful at Louisville. There’s a lot of moving parts. You just want those moving parts moving in the right direction.”

Different coaches have different philosophies when it comes to how big of a rotation they like to play, especially come conference and NCAA tournament time. Williams doesn’t know his preference because he’s never been faced with the option of having 10 bodies capable of playing at a high level. 

A lot of Marquette’s success can be tied to its depth, and Williams’ ability to call on the player who is playing the best. The inconsistent rotations are likely to continue unless certain players grab hold of roles. 

“This is the first year we’ve had some choices, we’ve had some options,” Williams said. “I do think each of those guys have different things that they can do well. I think the symmetry among some of them works better with other guys than it does with other guys. 

“I’m not pulling any punches. I’m not trying to hide anything. That’s just the way it is.”

Follow Andrew Gruman on Twitter.