Marquette was picked to finish 1st in the Conference by the Big East coaches at Media Day a few weeks ago, and with good reason. Buzz Williams gets the most of his players, Marquette always plays tough and it was the best offensive team in the Big East last year. That being said, the Golden Eagles have some serious question marks in the backcourt that have resulted in me dropping them down a spot. Marquette has mostly been known for it's guard play as a member of the Big East, but this year it's the frontcourt that will lead the way.
Last Year: 26-9 (14-4) NCAA Elite 8
KenPom: 24th Offense: 25th Defense: 46th Tempo: 239th
Key Returnees: Davante Gardner 6'8 Sr F/C, Chris Otule 6'11 Sr C, Jamil Wilson 6'7 Sr F, Steve Taylor Jr. 6'7 So PF, Juan Anderson 6'6 Jr SF, Todd Mayo 6'3 Jr SG, Derrick Wilson 6'1 Jr PG, Jake Thomas 6'3 Sr SG
Projected Starting Lineup: PG: Derrick Wilson, SG: Todd Mayo, SF:Juan Anderson PF: Jamil Wilson C: Chris Otule
Marquette lost its starting PG, SG, and SF from last season's team. To make matters worse, PF Jameel McKay, a JuCo transfer, left the team before even suiting up, and freshman PG Duane Wilson is injured and will be out 8-10 weeks with a stress fracture to his leg. Guard play, usually the strength of Marquette, now provides for the most questions. Cadougan was the general of the team and the Golden Eagles will certainly miss his 28.3 assist rate. Meanwhile, Vander Blue, who left school to pursue his NBA dream but went undrafted, was its go-to guy when the going got tough.
The Eagles make up for it with the best frontcourt in the Big East. Wilson can play either forward position and is extremely versatile, shooting a team-best 36% from 3, while blocking shots and grabbing rebounds as well. Then we have Chris Otule who will be playing his 6th year at Marquette. He is one of the best shot blockers in the BE and while he doesn't look to score that much, he is quite efficient when he does. Fun fact he also has a glass eye! Finally we have Davante Gardner. A load in the post, he has great footwork and uses his body well to score efficiently and get offensive rebounds. He also is a very good FT shooter so fouling him isn't going to stop him.
Derrick Wilson will be given the reigns at PG. He didn't play much behind Junior Cadougan, nor did he do much of note in the 13 minutes a game he got, but he's all Marquette has especially with Duane Wilson out for the foreseeable future. Marquette fans were hoping Wilson would take over at PG by Big East play, but that seems unlikely with his injury. Shooting guard is another question mark for the Golden Eagles. Todd Mayo is the presumed starter and had a promising freshman campaign, but his sophomore season was derailed by being ineligible for the first semester. He never truly got into a rhythm last year as the Eagles tried to integrate him into the offense at the midpoint of the season.
Depth at guard will be supplied by freshmen JaJuan Johnson, Deonte Burton, and former walk-on Jake Thomas. Johnson and the injured Wilson were expected to see the most time, but Burton and Thomas will have to be ready to contribute in Wilson's absence. Burton, Johnson, and Wilson are all top 100 recruits, so the talent is there.
Juan Anderson will likely get the start at SF. He's the typical scrappy Marquette player who is a jack of all trades and master of none. He's one of the better rebounders and defenders on the team so that will generally be his role. Don't be surprised if Marquette goes big at times, sliding Jamil Wilson to SF, Gardner to PF, and Otule at C. Adding to the frontcourt depth will be sophomore Steve Taylor Jr, who was efficient last season and posted good offensive rebounding numbers.
The Golden Eagles were a bit of a mystery last year. It was a great Offensive rebounding team at 25th in the nation, but a terrible defensive rebounding team at 231st in the nation. It had an experienced backcourt, but was a terrible 3pt shooting team (323rd) and turned the ball over a lot (234th). Marquette's offense is predicated on getting paint touches either via the dribble or the pass. Marquette wants to get the ball in the paint to either feed its big men for layups or to draw fouls. But despite the backcourt questions, don't expect too far of a fall off from last year. After all, the backcourt last season wasn't great at a lot of the stuff the backcourt is responsible for: 3pt shooting and taking care of the ball, so the backcourt of the future cannot be too much worse in those areas and Marquette was very good last year despite those deficiencies.
Marquette has had the ability to replace losses in previous years and I think they will be able to put together a very good team that will challenge for the the Big East crown and be a top 15 team. But for now, the question marks in the backcourt, especially with the injury to Duane Wilson, keep them out of the top spot.