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2017-18 Marquette Golden Eagles Season Preview

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Fresh off a tournament appearance, where can Coach Wojo take this Marquette team?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-South Carolina vs Marquette Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Coach

Steve Wojciechowski (52-45, 4th year)

Duke alum and noted floor-slapper Coach Wojo takes the helm again this year for the Marquette Golden Eagles. His fourth season doing so, and he comes off what was undeniably his best season as a head coach. He led Marquette to a 19-13 record, a 10-8 Big East record, and their first tournament appearance since 2012-2013.

Expectations are always high in Milwaukee, and now that Wojo has tasted success, he’ll be pressed to repeat it. He’s recruited well and addressed a lot of needs from last year’s team, even if the solutions to the problems are freshmen. The Big East will do him no favors this year (or any year, but especially this year), but he’s finally proven he can win with his players and he will hopefully build on last year’s success.


2016-2017 Season at a Glance

19-13 overall, 10-8 Big East, 4th place, NCAA Tournament First Round Appearance (Lost to South Carolina), 32nd on KenPom


Departures

Player Departure Reason 2016 Stats/Notes
Luke Fischer Graduation 10.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, Started 25 Games in 2016-17
JaJuan Johnson Graduation 12.0 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 24 Games in 2016-17
Katin Reinhardt Graduation 10.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, .375 3PT FG%
Duane Wilson Transfer to Texas A&M Played in 30 Games with Marquette Prior to Transfer
Sandy Cohen III Transfer to UW-Green Bay Played in 3 Games with Marquette Prior to Transfer
Traci Carter Transfer to La Salle Played in 8 Games with Marquette Prior to Transfer

Key Returnees

Player Year 2016 Stats/Notes
Markus Howard So. 13.2 PPG, Led Nation in 3PT FG% at .547%
Andrew Rowsey Sr. 11.6 PPG, Finished 5th in Big East in 3PT FG% at .447
Sam Hauser So. 8.8 PPG, Finished 4th in Big East in 3PT FG% at .453
Haanif Cheatham Jr. 8.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, Started 25 Games in 2016-17
Matt Heldt Jr. 2.3 PPG, 2.9 RPG, Started 7 Games in 2016-17

Additions

Player 247Sports Composite Rankings
Harry Froling Transfer from SMU
Ed Morrow Transfer from Nebraska/Sitting Out 2016-17
Theo John 3-Star, 205th Ovr, 51st Pos, 5th St (Minnesota)
Ike Eke 3-Star, 361st Ovr, 86th Pos, 8th St (Michigan)
Greg Elliott 3-Star, 221st Ovr, 49th Pos, 4th St (Michigan)
Jamal Cain 3-Star, 143rd Ovr, 33rd Pos, 3rd St (Michigan)
Sacar Anim Redshirted in 2016-17

What Happened Last Year

The best year of the Steve Wojciechowski era happened last year. Marquette returned to the NCAA Tournament, most notably, even if they did hit the Cinderella story that was South Carolina and Sindarius Thornwell in the Round of 64.

There was a freshman revelation in Milwaukee. Markus Howard became one of the most electrifying players in the nation and led the country in 3-point field goal percentage with an almost inhuman mark of 54.7 percent. Sam Hauser became a regular starter, playing across both forward positions, even playing small-ball center, and averaged almost nine points a game and 45.3 percent from 3 himself while also chipping in five rebounds a game.

All of this happened amidst a rollercoaster season. Even though the Golden Eagles went 10-8 in conference, they managed to both never win and never lose more than two games in a row (no seriously, look at this).

They finished tied for 3rd in the Big East with Providence, Seton Hall, and Creighton.

They also ended up with ranked No. 32 overall in KenPom and the 8th best adjusted offensive efficiency and (coughs) the 165th best defensive efficiency. They did have the 4th best efficient field goal percentage. Here’s a bunch of other fun stats to pour over.

There were some things Marquette did very well. There were also some things Marquette would rather not talk about ever again. To put it simply, there were things to be incredibly pleased/excited about, and there were definite areas to improve in.

Key Nonconference Matchups

Marquette gets Purdue, a (personal opinion) Top 4 Big 10 team, as their second game, at home at the Bradley Center.

Marquette also plays VCU and (more than likely if they win) Wichita State in Maui this year. Both of which will be tests the Golden Eagles haven’t really faced in a nonconference schedule under Steve Wojciechowski.

The Golden Eagles play Georgia, a likely bubble team, in the second of a home-and-home that started last year in Athens. Georgia returns Yante Maten, a preseason contender for SEC Player of the Year and an absolute monster of a big man.

And, of course, Marquette plays the Wisconsin Badgers this year in Madison. The Badgers have lost a lot of talent (Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown), but they also kept a lot (Ethan Happ, Khalil Iverson), and added Kobe King.

Why Marquette Will Be Good

  • Well, the offense lost JaJuan Johnson, Luke Fischer, and Katin Reinhardt, but it also retained Markus Howard, a preseason All-Big East team member (2nd team), and Andrew Rowsey and Sam Hauser to boot. Those three plus Matt Heldt were all starters down the stretch last season, and returning a solid core of starters along with Haanif Cheatham (an early season starter) is consistency Wojo hasn’t really had in a lineup yet. Both Howard and Rowsey are projected to stuff the stat sheets with points while Hauser should take the next step in having an all-around offensive game.

The new guys fill a lot of needs for the Golden Eagles. Three big guys, lanky perimeter defenders, tough wings and the Marquette newcomers are an amazing combination of athletic and gritty. Sacar Anim, during his redshirt year, got rave reviews for his work ethic both in practice and in the weight room, and was rewarded with a start in Marquette’s exhibition against UW-Milwaukee.

Greg Elliott is a lanky, tough guard who will be asked to defend elite scorers and playmakers. Jamal Cain is another lanky kid, but he will play more on the wing. Theo John looks college ready physically on both ends of the floor and Ike Eke projects as a defensive playmaker for the minutes he gets on the court.

Marquette also adds Harry Froling after the Wisconsin game. Froling is a big man and probable starter who not only can bang inside but also has a pretty jump shot from both midrange and three.

Expect Marquette to be even more versatile and a lot more athletic this year.


Why Marquette Will Be Bad

Welp, there’s really no hard evidence yet that Marquette’s defense has taken major strides yet. And a lot of pressure will be put on young guys (sophomores and freshmen alike) to be not only elite scorers but also top-level defenders.

The Big East is nothing short of a buzzsaw this year and it is very possible that the players Marquette has right now simply won’t be able to hang defensively with all of the talent they’ll see night in and night out. If they have even a similar defense to last year, they might end up on the losing side of tough games.

Speaking of young guys, Marquette has 1 senior (Rowsey, who transferred into the program), 2 juniors (Cheatham and Heldt), 1 redshirt sophomore (Anim), and the rest are sophomores and freshmen. The best players on this squad besides Rowsey are sophomores (Hauser and Howard), and that means that they’re still young and relatively inexperienced.

Who takes leadership roles in this team will be crucial not only to their development going forward but also to their success as a team right away, and that might be asking a lot of the young guys on this team. It doesn’t help that, even though Marquette returns Rowsey, Howard, and Hauser, they still lost almost 35 points per game in offense. That’s not easy to replace.


Best Case Scenario

I’ll allow 2 losses in non-conference play (more than likely two of Purdue/Wisconsin/potentially Wichita State).

The Big East being as tough as it is this year, 12-6 or 11-7 would be more than respectable as an upper boundary for the ceiling of this team, so let’s be optimistic and let 12-6 be the number we use.

That makes Marquette 10-2 in nonconference and 12-6 in conference for a total of 22-8. That should more than guarantee them a berth in the NCAA Tournament and hopefully place them in a matchup that they can win. If this team plays to their full potential and improves on defense, a Sweet 16 may not be out of the question if the matchups work out well.


Worst Case Scenario

As high as the ceiling might be for this team, the floor is just as low. Marquette could lose every tough matchup they have in the nonconference schedule and enter Big East play 8-4 or even 7-5. They could conceivably lose both games to Villanova, Xavier, Providence, and Seton Hall, and they could split with Butler, Creighton, and St. Johns. That leaves the Golden Eagles at 7-11 in the Big East for a total record of 14-19, which would be a significant step back from a year ago.


Prediction

I’m biased in Marquette’s favor, but I think that 9-3 in nonconference and 10-8 in conference for the Golden Eagles is more than fair considering the talent they return and the talent they face. That leaves Marquette at 19-11 with some good wins in a Top 3 conference in the nation, more than good enough for another NCAA Tournament berth.