When head coach Buzz Williams left Marquette in March the shockwaves were felt in every corner of the Big East Conference. Williams made the choice to leave an established program where he built a track record of success for the uncertainties of the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies have made just one NCAA tournament since 1996 and are perennially fighting an uphill battle against the elite of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The move spoke volumes about the perceived viability of the new Big East Conference.
Was Buzz Williams right? Is it easier to compete from the bottom half of a power conference like the ACC than it is from the top half of the Big East?
New head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s first recruiting class at Marquette stands at two commits. Nick Noskowiak is 6-foot-2 from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. He is ranked as the 13th best point guard in the 2015 class by Scout. Matt Heldt is 6-foot-10 from Neenah, Wisconsin. Both commits play on the AAU circuit, with Noskowiak playing for Playground Elite and Heldt for the Milwaukee Spartans. It is hard to argue with the Marquette Golden Eagle’s apparent strategy of making Wisconsin a priority. Bo Ryan has made a living in Madison by mining the local talent from the underrated and overlooked state.
Wojo has also added transfers, a trademark of the Buzz Williams era in Milwaukee. Matt Carlino is a 6-foot-2 guard from the BYU Cougars. He is a proven college basketball player earning 72 starts over three years with the always competitive Cougars. Carlino is eligible to play right away for Marquette in the 2014-2015 season. Gabe Levin is a 6-foot-7 forward from the Loyola Marymount Lions. He will be redshirted in the upcoming season and have three years of eligibility remaining. And finally, Wally Ellenson is a 6-foot-6 guard formerly of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He will have two years of eligibility after sitting out the upcoming year as well.
Buzz Williams was a runaway success at Marquette. In six years, he made the NCAA tournament five times and his teams always proved to be a tough out in March. If Steve Wojciechowski wants to replicate that success he will need to recruit well. Locking down the kids in his own backyard is a great start. Another wise move is to bring transfers into the fold. Players with experience and maturity help smooth the transition for any new coach. Wojo will look to his three new additions to set the tone for his program while blending with the returning talent of the Golden Eagles.
The long-term success of Marquette and the Big East Conference remains to be seen. Time will tell if Williams made the right choice to bolt for Blacksburg, and his success set high expectations in Milwaukee and it seems he felt better suited to continue that winning standard in the ACC. Wojciechowski, the former Dukie, knows a thing or two about the ACC and high expectations. His willingness to take over at Marquette and his efforts on the recruiting trail is a vote of confidence in the Golden Eagles and the Big East.