21-14 (9-9 Big East), Seventh in Big East, #2 seed in NIT
Coming off a tournament appearance, many expected Marquette to make the dance once again. While finishing a solid 9-3 in nonconference, their biggest loss was that of starting guard Haanif Cheatham. Cheatham’s transfer opened the door for Jamal Cain and Greg Elliott, who stepped up in his absence. Stellar seasons by Andrew Rowsey, Markus Howard and Sam Hauser led Marquette to a 9-9 finish in the Big East. Their tournament resume was composed of a 19-13 record, falling short of another tournament appearance. Marquette impressed in the NIT with wins over Harvard and Oregon before falling to Penn State (the eventual NIT champions) in the quarterfinals.
Growing up a huge Duke Basketball fan, I have supported the Coach Wojo hire from the start. So whenever #FireWojo is trending, I attempt to defend him. But I understand the frustration. This program used to and expects success. Buzz Williams made five tournaments in six years, including three sweet 16s, an elite 8 and two 1st place Big East finishes. Wojo has made the tournament once in four years. His best finish in the Big East is sixth. He has recruited well, but has had six players transfer away, four midseason. While Wojo has produced great offensive teams, his teams have struggled mightily on the defensive end.
While Marquette has not been the top program many fans have wanted under Wojo, his teams have not been failures. In the past three seasons, Marquette was projected to be a bubble team and that is how they finished. There have not been great expectations under Wojo, until now. The 2018 season features his most talented rosted. They are a near lock to make the tournament and finish top five in the Big East. While I don’t think Wojo is on a hot seat now, a disappointing 2018 season would put him there.
Wojo needs to deliver with more than just results this season: he needs to maintain his players. From Deonte Burton to Haanif Cheatham, Wojo has struggled in losing players via transfer. This team has a lot of young talent. While there may not be a key role for all the young players on this year’s team, the coaching staff must show these players they still have value to this team and the future of the program. If Wojo can escape the year without any transfers, he’ll start to build a program that will have sustained success.
Key Departures (2017-18 stats)
Andrew Rowsey 32.7 MPG, 20.5 Pts, 4.8 Ast, 41.5 3P%
Harry Froling 20 G, 12.4 MPG, 2.8 Pts, 3.0 Reb, 1.0 Ast
Key Returnees (2017-18 stats)
Matt Heldt, (21.9 MPG, 3.9 Pts, 4.7 Reb, 64.7 FG%)
Markus Howard (31.5 MPG, 20.4 Pts, 2.8 Ast, 40.4 3P%)
Sam Hauser (32.6 MPG, 14.1 Pts, 5.7 Reb, 48.7 3P%)
Sacar Anim, (27 MPG, 7.6 Pts, 2.9 Reb, 48.1 FG%)
Greg Elliott, (18.3 MPG, 4,5 Pts, 1.4 Ast, 2.3 Reb)
Jamal Cain, (17.2 MPG, 4.6 Pts, 3.4 Reb, 47.3 3P%)
Theo John, (11.8 MPG, 3.9 Pts, 2.3 Reb, 2.5 PF)
Key Additions (2017-18 stats)
Joseph Chartouny (36.0 MPG, 12.2 Pts, 4.6 Ast, 5.6 Reb at Fordham)
Ed Morrow (23.4 MPG, 9.4 Pts, 7.5 Reb, 1.1 Blk at Nebraska in 2016-17)
Joey Hauser (#52 in Class of 2018, Came to Marquette early due to foot injury )
Brendan Bailey (#92 in Class of 2016, Spent 2 years on Mormon Mission)
One of the biggest questions entering this season is what the depth chart will look like. With seven key returning players and four key additions, Wojo has eleven men ready to play significant minutes (I see Ike Eke as the twelfth man, not making much of a push for minutes). Greg Elliott’s injury limits this number to ten until he comes back (could come back for conference play, also a redshirt candidate).
Throughout the season, only eight or nine players will see significant action each game. Markus Howard and Sam Hauser are locks to see 30 plus minutes per game. Joseph Chartouny and Ed Morrow can be expected to be around the 30 min per game mark as well.
The fight for minutes is between spots five and ten on the depth chart. Matt Heldt and Sacar Anim are key returning role players. With the talent of the new players, I can only see their roles decreasing from last year. Jamal Cain and Theo John both flashed plenty of potential last year, but at the same time could not show enough consistency to be counted on for significant production game to game. Both can make that next step to significant minutes if they can prove they have improved their game from last year. I expect to see their minutes played to be a direct result of the improvements they made in the offseason. Joey Hauser and Brendan Bailey are highly regarded freshman. Both have been impressive in the offseason, making it known to the coaches that they are ready to play now.
As hard as predicting the depth chart will be, I will attempt to do so. In order of MPG I see the depth chart evolving to be Howard, Sam Hauser, Chartouny, Morrow, Joey Hauser, John, Anim, Elliott (if he returns and is fully healthy), Bailey, Heldt, Cain by season’s end.
Key Nonconference Games
Nov 6 vs UMBC (first game in Fiserv Forum)
Nov 14 at Indiana
Nov 21 vs Kansas in Brooklyn (Preseason NIT)
Nov 23 vs Louisville/Tennessee in Brooklyn
Dec 1 vs Kansas St
Dec 8 vs Wisconsin
Imagining everything that can go right for Marquette this season is not just fun, it’s easy. The offense has been one of the best in the country the last two years, but this year it gets even better. Chartouny excels as a true point guard and is the perfect fit alongside Howard. Howard takes the next step in his progression and becomes an All-American. Sam Hauser (no longer injured) embraces the role as the number two scoring option and averages 20+ PPG. Morrow proves as good as advertised and John shows great offseason improvement, giving Marquette a strong one-two punch on the inside. Joey Hauser and Bailey are mature freshmen and give Marquette dynamic scoring options off the bench. The plethora of scoring options gives Marquette a balanced, efficient and elite offense.
The defense is not elite, but much better. Chartouny and Morrow bring a new energy and attitude to the defense. The overall length and depth of the roster give Marquette lineup options to match any offensive threat. The team finishes with an above average and confident defense.
Taking advantage of the tough nonconference schedule, Marquette heads into conference play 12-1 and ranked. The season’s success continues as Marquette separates from the middle tier of the Big East and is a top three team in the conference throughout the season. With a conference record of 14-4, Marquette finishes as the #2 team in the conference and makes it to the championship game in the conference tournament.
Boasting a record of 28-6 Marquette clearly avoids the bubble to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. In the range of a 3-4 seed, Marquette’s offensive firepower and depth proves dangerous come March making them very capable of a Sweet Sixteen run.
Chartouny and Morrow are not as good as hoped. Their inability to add much offensively creates a huge burden for Howard and Sam Hauser. The burden prevents either star from taking the next step. John and Cain show no improvements from last season and are too inconsistent. Joey Hauser and Bailey are not ready. They show flashes of potential, but cannot be counted on for significant production. The offense falls off from the last two seasons. The defense improves, but lacking any energy or attitude, the improvement is marginal.
The gauntlet of a nonconference schedule is too much. Not ready for top competition, the team falters to a 7-5 record. Unable to emerge from the middle tier of the Big East, Marquette settles for another 9-9 and a seventh-place finish.
Finishing the year 17-15 does not even put Marquette in the bubble conversation. After a massively disappointing season, Wojciechowski is fired. To make the season even worse, two of the younger players decide to transfer. 2020 top prospect Jalen Johnson quotes this season as his sole reason for not going to Marquette. The Fiserv Forum burns down. Dwyane Wade wants nothing to do with Marquette.
I see Wojo’s most talented team resulting in his best season. Securing multiple quality wins, the team will go 11-2 in non-conference. With a 12-6 Big East record, Marquette finishes top three in the conference. A 24-9 finish will be plenty to secure a spot in the dance with plenty of optimism to make some noise.