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Big East 2015-16 Season Preview: Marquette Golden Eagles

The Golden Eagles walk into 2015 with some hype. Do they have what it takes to live up to it?

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

2014-15 Record

13-19 (4-14 BIG EAST), T-10th place. Lost to Villanova in Big East Tournament Quarterfinals; Did not participate in a postseason tournament.


Steve Wojciechowski is entering his 2nd season as the Marquette head coach after 15 years as an assistant coach at Duke, the last six of which he served as Mike Krzyzewski's associate head coach.

Notable Returnees

Duane Wilson (11.9 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, .394 FG%, .355 3PT%, .712 FT%)

Luke Fischer (11.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, .609 FG%, .582 FT%)

JaJuan Johnson (7.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, .373 FG%, .745 FT%)

Key Departures

Matt Carlino (Graduation)

Derrick Wilson (Graduation)

Juan Anderson (Graduation)

Steve Taylor Jr. (Transfer to Toledo)

Notable Additions

Henry Ellenson (5* Power Forward, Rice Lake, WI)

Haanif Cheatman (4* Shooting Guard, Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

Tracy Carter (4* Point Guard, Burlington, NJ)

Last Season at a Glance

The 2014-15 season was a bumpy ride for the Golden Eagles. After a long run of sustained success under Buzz Williams, Marquette turned to the top Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski to guide the program. If you're judging by records alone, the first year under Wojo may have seemed like a disappointment, however the team did show some promise at times. Marquette dealt with a myriad of depth issues, with the early season transfer of Deonte Burton, not having Indiana transfer Luke Fischer available for the first eight games, and the Matt Carlino injury.

Wojo never had more than an eight-man rotation available, and the lack of depth really hurt Marquette as the season progressed.

However, the 2014-15 campaign was not all bad for the Golden Eagles. They finished the nonconference portion of their schedule with an 8-4 record, including victories over respectable opponents likeGeorgia Tech, Tennessee, and Arizona State.

The highlight of their conference play was home defeat of Providence, while the took both Georgetown and Butler to overtime in Milwaukee. They capped off their season with a slight upset of Seton Hall in the Big East tournament, before falling to eventual champion Villanova in the quaterfinals.

From an individual standpoint, Matt Carlino was named to the Second Team All Big East, while Duane Wilson was named to the All-Rookie Team.

Three Reasons for Optimism

1. Duane Wilson and Luke Fischer: Wilson and Fischer really emerged last season as major contributors for the Golden Eagles. Wilson flashed the ability to score in bunches, as well as just being an all around spark-plug for the team. Fischer provides Marquette with a consistent interior score presence, as he should be able to match, or if not exceed, the 11 points per game he had last year. These two players will certainly be taking on a larger role this year, but based on their previous play they should be up for the challenge.

2. The Recruits: Marquette boasts arguably the top freshman class in the conference, many of whom will be counted on to perform right away. The best of their class is Wisconsin native Henry Ellenson, who was ranked as high as the fifth overall recruit in the nation. The 6-foot-10 power forward has the ability to score both inside and outside for Marquette, which should really open up space on their offensive side of the floor. If Ellenson can reach his much heralded potential, Marquette could seem themselves as an NCAA Tournament team.

3. Wojo Mojo: Coach Wojciechowski is finally starting to put his stamp on this Marquette program. He's assembled a strong group of assistants, brought in an elite recruiting class, and finally has what appears to be a full-strength basketball team. It will be interesting to see what adjustments Wojo makes this year, particularly on the defensive side where Marquette was forced to play a lot of zone with their depth issues. One thing we do know is this team will be prepared, and will play hard for their second year coach.

Three Reasons for Pessimism

1. Youth: While Marquette does boast a very talented roster, they are still a very young team. Wilson, Fischer, and JuJuan Johnson will need to step up of the leaders of this team. One thing Marquette cannot afford is too many early season growing pains from their freshman, as they will be counting on to win games early and often.

2. The Conference: While Marquette certainly should be an improved team this year, they aren't the only team in the Big East who looks primed to make a jump. Xavier, Butler and Georgetown return a ton of talent, Villanova may have gotten better with the addition of Jalen Brunson, Providence has some guy named Kris Dunn, and Creighton should also be markably improved from last year. Simply put, going .500 or better in the Big East this year will not be an easy task.

3. Who's the Leader?: Duane Wilson will certainly be the crunch time scorer early in the season, but the sophomore will need to prove he can carry this young team when they need him. Henry Ellenson will be counted on early and often, but can the freshman step into a leading role right away? It would not be shocking if Marquette experiences some early season growing pains from their talented but inexperienced players.

Best Case Scenario

In an ideal world, Marquette secures an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, behind the All-Big East level performances from Duane Wilson and Henry Ellenson. The Golden Eagles secure an early non-conference road win at in-state rival Wisconsin, and go on to win 10 games in conference play, highlighted by a home upset of Villanova. Marquette makes a run in the Big East tournament, making it to the semifinals.

Their strong finish earns Marquette a 11-seed in the NCAA tournament, and the knock off a 6-seed from another power conference, further solidifying the Big East improved reputation. Marquette eventually falls to the 3-seed in the next round, losing in on the final possession.

Spirits of the Marquette faithful are quickly restored when Ellenson announces he will return for his sophomore year, as yet another impressive recruiting class gives Marquette one of the best rosters in the conference heading into 2016.

Worst Case Scenario

The freshman don't live up to their hype right away, as Marquette drops their opener to Belmont. The Eagles squeak out of nonconference play just above .500, and drop early Big East tests against Providence, Georgetown, Villanova, and Xavier. The freshman simply cannot handle the physicality of the conference, as they look overmatched going up against the experienced teams in the league. While Duane Wilson does show some flashes at time, he cannot live up to last year's performance, as his scoring becomes even more inconsistent. The youth is exposed as Marquette finishes 9th in the conference, only ahead of St. John's, and loses to DePaul in the first round of the Big East tournament.

2015-16 Outlook

This is a big year for the program, as Marquette hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament in Steve Wojciechowski's second season. While there are some questions as to how all the new pieces will fit together for Marquette, there's no doubting that they are a talented team.

The nonconference slate will provide Marquette with plenty of opportunities to prove they can hang with quality teams, as they face the likes of Iowa, LSU, and Wisconsin. Winning one of those games would do wonders for a young team that needs to learn how to win the difficult games.

The conference schedule will not get any easier for Marquette, as they travel to Georgetown, Providence, and Villanova within their first five league games. These will provide the real test for Marquette. They're young and talented, but can they gel early in the season and win the tough league games? Almost every team in the conference has improved this year, and it will be very difficult for Marquette to finish .500 or better in the league.

This team should be fun to watch, as they have some of the most intriguing players in the conference in Wilson and Ellenson, and Marquette will need to ride these two players if they want get their program back to where it was a few years ago, as a perennial Sweet 16 contender.