Outside of his rebounding numbers, almost all of Marcus' numbers were down last season from his time at Illinois State. But that was to be expected with the increase in competition faced while playing at Illinois, and the decrease in playing time and responsibilities. At Illinois State Marcus started 47 of the 58 games he played, while at Illinois he did not crack the starting lineup once (that spot was held by then-sophomore Shaun Pruitt).
While last season Marcus Arnold was the only interior (a wide bodied post player whose skills are better suited when he remains with his back to the basket, and on the inside) big man on the bench behind Shaun Pruitt, he will not have that luxury this season. Now, he will be fighting for playing time against both CJ Jackson and Brian Carlwell. So what will keep Arnold in the lineup over the two younger players?
Despite playing just over eleven minutes per game last season, Arnold showed a propensity to rebound the basketball on both sides of the court. Marcus seems to have a nose for the basketball, and where it is coming off the rim on missed shots. While just looking at his per game numbers would not tell that, looking at his per minute rebounding numbers do.
The one surprising down turn in Marcus Arnold's game between his time at Illinois State and last season at Illinois was the decrease in his offensive efficiency. During his freshman (6.72 shots per game) and sophomore (9.24 shots per game) seasons Marcus was much more of the focal point of the offense, while last season he rarely shot the ball. Not only did Marcus get less opportunities to score, his effectiveness when he did have those opportunities decreased as well. Marcus has shown in the past that when given the opportunity he can score on the inside when given the opportunity (just ask the Illinois fans that remember his first trip to Assembly Hall while he was wearing an Illinois State jersey).
Why Did Marcus' Offensive Numbers Decrease Across the Board Last Season?
The decrease in Marcus' offensive numbers can probably be traced back to two key elements: the increase in competition from the mid-major level to the high-major level, and an overall decreased role in the Illinois offense.
The hint that the increased competition level gave Marcus problems last season is the decrease in the amount of shots he took per minute of action and the decrease in his field goal percentage on the season. Not only was Marcus taking fewer shots, but he was also not making as many shots, and not getting to the free throw line as often. The change in the game at the mid-major level to the high-major has an effect on interior players, especially, due to the increased height and bulk that is often seen on the interior.
During the 2005-2006 season, Marcus was no longer taking shots that he was able to create easily. He now was taking shots with a hand in his face the majority of the time, and more often than not, that hand in the face was from a player who is bigger than he is. For Marcus' offensive output to increase, he will need to improve on his ability to create his own shot against defenders that are physically bigger than he is. To further highlight that Marcus was overmatched (or at least felt somewhat overmatched) last season, the amount of free throws that he attempted per field goal attempt also dropped. This is more often than not due to a post player fading away on his shots instead of taking the ball to the basket and forcing the defender to foul or give up a dunk (or a layup).
Where Does Marcus Fit in the Illinois Rotation?
Hopefully a full year of playing in the Illinois system and against Big Ten competition will have made Marcus more comfortable offensively, and he will be able to create his own shots more successfully. If he is not able to do this, and the two young players (Jackson and Carlwell) prove they are able to, Arnold may find his minutes falling and his spot in the rotation as the first big man off the bench in jeopardy.
|Rebounding||Ability to create own shot against Big Ten defenses|
|Defensive Positioning||Free Throw Shooting|
PER MINUTE STATISTICS