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Why 3-point happy Marshall should be your new favorite March Madness Cinderella


Marshall wasn’t even supposed to be here. The Thundering Herd were a good, not great Conference USA team this season, placing fourth in the regular season standings. The conference was dominated by Middle Tennessee, a program that had won an NCAA tournament game the last two seasons and looked primed to do it again.
One problem: Middle Tennessee didn’t win the Conference USA tournament. Marshall did.
The Thundering Herd had not been to the NCAA tournament since 1987. The program had never won a game in March Madness. All they did on Friday was pull the biggest upset of the tournament so far, stunning Wichita State 81-75 in opening round play.
Underdogs are supposed to slow the pace and limit possessions. That’s not Marshall game. The Thundering Herd blitzed Wichita State all afternoon, cranking the tempo, forcing turnovers and launching threes at will.
It was beautiful, chaotic basketball and we never wanted it to end. If that sounds familiar, it might be because Marshall’s head coach Dan D’Antoni — brother of Houston Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni.

Marshall cranks the pace way up

Marshall went 9-of-23 (39.1 percent) from three point range. They forced Wichita State into 14 turnovers. It dictated the pace, forcing the Shockers to play the type of up-and-down game they weren’t accustomed to.
This was Marshall’s M.O. all season. They finished No. 6 out of 351 DI teams in pace, per KenPom. They jacked threes on 45 percent of their possessions, despite not being a particularly good three-point shooting team (they made just 35.6 percent of those attempts). Their defense was shaky (No. 135 in the country), but they had a fearsome shot blocker in Ajdin Penava who helped them turn defense into offense.
Marshall just lets it fly. This play late in the second half was a perfect embodiment of their style, passing up an open layup to drain a tough three:
1.00
Sound familiar?

Dan D’Antoni rules

Yes, D’Antoni coaches just like his brother in Houston. They play almost identical styles. This is offense-first basketball with a heavy emphasis on taking the most efficient shots possible. That means threes and layups.
D’Antoni had a viral moment last season when he went on a rant about the value of analytics. If you have any interest in numbers in basketball, this had to make your heart swell:
“I haven’t finished my damn analytics story yet.”
In addition to being a smart basketball guy, D’Antoni is also a style icon: