The Marquette Golden Eagles have been a team in transition since their Elite Eight appearance in 2013. After falling to then-fellow Big East member Syracuse, missing the opportunity at making the Final Four 10 years after their glorious run led by future All-NBA and surefire Hall of Fame guard Dwyane Wade, MU has gone 30-34 without even a sniff of a postseason tournament. Not to mention the fact that they've since switched coaches, with Buzz Williams departing The Cream City for Blacksburg and the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Williams' departure opened the door for MU to bust down the door with the hire of former Duke Blue Devils assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski. Off the heels of the hire, the man they call 'Wojo' has been on fire on the recruiting trail. He's brought in a tonnage of talent and pounced in a hurry in the Big East after being hired on April 1 of last year. Wojciechowski put the Class of 2015 in his sights and it's safe to say he won the race.
Touting the No. 1 recruiting class in the conference, MU brings forth an abundance of talent and skill to their lineup this coming fall. While they aren't as seasoned as Villanova or Georgetown, both of whom have an assembly of weapons at their disposal, the Golden Eagles pose a threat in the conference and to the nation much like Butler, Providence and Xavier who I firmly believe are in if everything clicks with the youngsters they will have in their arsenal in the 414.
Here now is my projection (and my projection alone) at what the starting five might be.
Point Guard: Duane Wilson
2014-15 Stats: 11.9 PPG, 2.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 24.5 %Poss, 47.4 eFG%, 51.9 TS%, 2.6 Stl%
The freshman sensation for Marquette had the highest usage rate of any Golden Eagle during their 2014-15 campaign. While efficiency was somewhat of an issue for the Milwaukee native, Wilson showed off his pickpocketing abilities with a Steal% of 2.6 percent, boosting MU's total Steal% to 10.7 percent. That mark was only superseded by the Georgetown Hoyas who led the Big East with a Steal% of 11 percent. Expect Wilson to only further his progression under Wojo this coming season with the new bevy of talent surrounding him.
Shooting Guard: Haanif Cheatham
Of the three big fish in MU's stellar recruiting class, my harbored guess is that Wojo uses two of the three new toys he has. Marquette lost a few guards with Derrick Wilson, Matt Carlino and Juan Anderson departing and Deonte Burton transferring to Iowa State. They have 6-foot-6 Sandy Cohen but he played at the three towards the end of the season 11 percent of the time (with Duane Wilson and JaJuan Johnson occupying that slot more often) and with JaJuan occupying the three in this projection (spoilers!) Cheatham slides in nicely here. The talented guard from Fort Lauderdale, Florida brings a rim-attacking style and versatility to the Golden Eagles along with him. I suspect he'll be a very nice contributor for MU in year one.
Small Forward: JaJuan Johnson
2014-15 Stats: 7.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 23.4 %Poss, 40.9 eFG%, 44.8 TS%, 3.1 Stl%
One of JaJuan Johnson's highlights of the 2014-15 season was this. Johnson also did that. Deductive reasoning tells us that JaJuan Johnson will either embarrass himself or will dunk on your FACE!
Anyways, Johnson was a solid enough contributor as a sophomore despite having team-lows in both Effective Field Goal percentage and True Shooting percentage. Like Wilson, Johnson had a high steal percentage - the highest of any Golden Eagle at that. He also showed tremendous discipline, coming away with an FC/40 (Fouls Committed per 40 Minutes) of just 2.0, which was 167th best in the nation out of 2,184 qualified players. He might not get MU a barrage of buckets, but Johnson should find himself in the lineup again when the season starts and should also find himself contributing in a myriad of ways.
Power Forward: Henry Ellenson
The biggest prize of all in Steve Wojciechowski's should easily find a way to weave himself at the four to start off the 2015-16 campaign. Henry Ellenson of Rice Lake is the No. 2 recruit in the 2015 class in the great state of Wisconsin and at 6-foot-10, 230 pounds, Ellenson brings size to a team that was in desperate need of it a year ago. Only one player on MU was taller than 6-foot-7 a season ago and he will find himself being in this projection as well (spoilers!). Ellenson is a terrific shooter for a man of his size and has excellent finishing ability and can dominate when asked to in the low post. If he performs up to task along with the other highly touted recruits, Marquette could find themselves back in the NCAA Tournament.
Center: Luke Fischer
2014-15 Stats: 11.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 19.4 %Poss, 60.9 eFG%, 61.0 TS%, 8.5 Blk%
Wrapping up our projected starting lineup is the lone 'big man' returning from the 2014-15 squad for MU. At 6-foot-11, Luke Fischer was the tallest Golden Eagle of all a season ago on a team that lacked size down low. With 6-foot-10 Henry Ellenson now beside him, Fischer could find himself having a lot more fun down low. He's already proven to be a great shot blocker, coming away with a team-high Block% of 8.5 percent. That was 60th best in the nation last season, and fourth best in the Big East trailing Mikael Hopkins, Carson Desrosiers and Chris Obekpa. Intriguingly enough, two of those three players will be playing for their respective teams this season as Hopkins graduated while Obekpa intends to transfer. If all pans out, Fischer could be the top shot blocker in the conference by season's end.