The Marquette Golden Eagles will be led this season by All-Big East freshman Deonte Burton as this young team loses the likes of Davante Gardner amongst many others. With that in mind, taking a step forward will not be an easy task for this team. However, with Jajuan Johnson, as well as seniors Juan Anderson and Derrick Wilson coming back, this year’s team will plan on making noise in conference play.
With the addition of freshman wing Sandy Cohen III and his talents, the Golden Eagles will be talented. The question is whether or not they can get past the best teams in what could be a much more competitive conference this season.
The conference schedule for the Golden Eagles at first glance does not seem to have any difficult stretches where it will challenging until we reach February. Marquette plays Villanova and Seton Hall back-to-back on the road followed by a home against an improved Xavier Musketeers team that knocked the Golden Eagles out of the Big East Tournament last season.
Those two road games will be very difficult on this young team as they take on the defending regular season champions and then likely the most improved team in the conference. Both of these teams have better and more experienced guards than Marquette so, as usual, the Golden Eagles will have to use their size to win these games.
Against the Wildcats, Marquette will have to win the rebounding battle to hang around in this one. The other big key will be to not let Villanova get any second chance opportunities on offense because, as we saw last year, those can quickly turn into 3-point field goals. If Marquette can keep this a low scoring game they will have a chance, but if this becomes a game played in the 70s or 80s they will likely be on the wrong end of this one.
In the Seton Hall game, they are taking on a less experienced but likely more talented set of guards. However, the Pirates' weakness, at least going into the season, is the lack of frontcourt depth. The forwards for Marquette could really shine in this game as they did last year against an experienced but less talented group of frontcourt players for the Pirates. The Hall will be out for payback as they were swept at the hands, or claws, of the Golden Eagles.
The other set of games that are very enticing on the Marquette schedule fall at the end of the season. It starts on March 1 when the Golden Eagles travel to Providence to take on the defending conference champion Friars. The battle will be down low as freshman center Paschal Chukwu will take on Marquette's frontcourt, which is perhaps one of the thinnest areas on the team. This game will likely be played mostly on the defensive end and will come down to a guard taking over or one team having a better night shooting than the other.
Finally, a Golden Eagles’ tradition. Marquette on March 4, will have "Al’s Night" against St. John's at the Bradley Center. This is always a great game honoring the late, great Marquette Head Coach Al McGuire. The matchup should be a good one as both teams have improved and the atmosphere will be great for this game in downtown Milwaukee. Normally in these games the emotions play a big roll and whoever can control them more effectively will come out with the win. The Golden Eagles are 3-2 all-time on Al’s Night and will try to avenge the double overtime loss to the Johnnies that they suffered on Coach McGuire’s night a year ago.
Marquette will likely be picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big East this season. However, with quality wins in non-conference play coupled with winning important these big games in Big East could provide an avenue for the Golden Eagles to get back to the NCAA Tournament.