24-10 (12-6 Big East), Second in Big East, #5 seed in NCAA Tournament
Last season was a roller coaster for the Marquette Golden Eagles. Coming in unranked, Marquette rode an impressive nonconference performance with wins over #12 Kansas State, #12 Wisconsin, and #14 Buffalo all the way to a #10 ranking. With a weakened Villanova and a weakened Big East, Marquette looked poised to grab its first Big East regular season title since 2012-13. At starting 12-2, with St. John’s seeming to be the only team Marquette couldn’t beat, the team fizzled. While losing their last four games, Marquette blew their golden opportunity for the Big East crown. After crushing St. John’s and a tough, but close loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament, they seemed to be back on track. At 24-9, Marquette earned a #5 seed and the draw of Ja Morant and #12 Murray St. Marquette lost.
Departures (2018-2019 Stats)
Sam Hauser (33.4 MPG, 14.9 Pts, 7.2 Reb, 40.2 3P%)
Joey Hauser (29.2 MPG, 9.7 Pts, 5.3 Reb, 42.5 3P%)
Joseph Chartouny (15 MPG, 3.0 Pts, 1.9 Ast, 1.4 Tov)
Matt Heldt (6.4 MPG, 62.5 FG%)
Returnees (2018-2019 Stats)
Markus Howard (33.5 MPG, 25.0 Pts, 40.3 3P%, 3.9 Ast, 3.9 Tov)
Sacar Anim (30.2 MPG, 8.3 Pts, 39.1 3P%, 3.1 Reb)
Theo John (19.7 MPG, 5.5 Pts, 4.9 Reb, 2.1 Blk, 3.6 PF)
Ed Morrow (15 MPG, 5.6 Pts, 58.8 FG%, 4.5 Reb)
Brendan Bailey (14.1 MPG, 3.2 Pts, 25.4 3P%, 1.8 Reb)
Jamal Cain (8.7 MPG, 1.7 Pts, 27.3 3P%, 2.1 Reb)
Greg Elliott (2017-18 18.3 MPG, 4.5 Pts, 36.7 3P%, 2.3 Reb)
Koby McEwen (2017-18 Utah St 32.3 MPG, 15.6 Pt, 33 3P%, 5.4 Reb, 3.2 Ast)
Jayce Johnson (2018-19 Utah 21.9 MPG, 7.1 Pts, 59.7 FG%, 7.7 Reb, 2.6 OReb)
Symir Torrence (6-3 CG, Ranked #75 on 247Sports.com)
Dexter Akanno (6-4 SG, Ranked #399 on 247Sports.com)
After last season ended, most “Way Too Early” rankings had Marquette in the top 10. The ESPN rankings even had the Golden Eagles at #2. Then came the sudden and shocking departure of the Hauser brothers. After losing two of their top three contributors, the expectations for next season became far less clear. Many projections moved Marquette outside their top 25. No longer a clear top 25 team and no longer a favorite to win the Big East, what should we expect from this team?
This year’s team is still very talented. Markus Howard and Koby McEwen are one of the best backcourts in the nation. The team is also very deep. With nine proven players and two incoming freshman, Steve Wojciechowski will have a lot of options off the bench. We can expect the defense to improve again this season. After losing two elite shooters, expecting the offense to be better wouldn’t be fair, but that doesn’t mean we should expect the offense to be significantly worse. With a different style and pace, we can expect the offense to be different, but still close to as productive as last season. With a much tougher Big East, Marquette will have a more difficult time being a top two team in the conference again, but expect no less than a top four finish. As a top four team in the Big East, Marquette should be a fringe top 25 team and enter the NCAA Tournament as a 6 or 7 seed.
The roster enters the season with three clear leaders for minutes and many questions after that. Howard, McEwen, and Anim all look like locks for 28+ MPG. The other two starters appear to be Bailey and John. As much of an impact John makes on the game, he can’t be trusted to average more than 22 MPG until he can prove he won’t foul 100 times per game (or at least that the refs won’t call terrible fouls against him). Even after a semi-breakout last year, Bailey looks to be the guy to make a leap forward this season. Already showing great defensive instincts, improvement on offense and being more comfortable at the D1 level will give Bailey the opportunity to see significant minutes.
Minutes off the bench are up for grabs with six guys fighting for them. Morrow was a guy I thought could eclipse 30 MPG last season. I was way off. To start the season Morrow appeared uncomfortable on the floor, like someone who hadn’t played in a while and didn’t know his role (he had sat out the year prior after transferring from Nebraska). He appeared to become a little more comfortable near the end of the year, but only showed flashes of the player he was at Nebraska. This offseason, he appears to have become the physical, aggressive player he was at Nebraska (he also looks jacked). Wojo had advocated playing two bigs at a time this season, meaning Morrow could see a big increase in minutes. If Wojo does play two bigs together often, Johnson will see many minutes as well. While the seven footer adds no outside game, he does add great rebounding ability, efficient post scoring and a useful defensive presence.
Elliott, Cain, Torrence and Akanno are all wing players who could see time off the bench. Elliott returns after missing last year due to injury (thumb). His impressive freshman season featured great defense, a solid 3 point shot (36.7%), and significant poise. Cain also impressed in his freshman year, yet regressed last season. Cain shot worse and lacked confidence with the ball, becoming unable to find a consistent role. All reports are that both freshman have looked great this offseason and appear ready to play now. Torrence looks to be a confident guard who can run point and understands his role alongside scoring guards like Howard and McEwen. Akanno is an energy guy whose playing style is similar to Anim.
In order of MPG I see the depth chart evolving to be Howard, McEwen, Anim, Bailey, Morrow, John, Elliott, Torrence, Johnson, Cain, Akanno.
Key Nonconference Games
Nov 13 vs Purdue
Nov 17 at Wisconsin
Nov 28 vs Davidson (Orlando Invitational featuring Farfield, Harvard, Temple, USC, Maryland, Texas A&M)
Dec 7 at Kansas St
Marquette reaches the Final Four. Wojo is able to recognize the new strengths of this roster: speed and length. This leads to a new playing style for Marquette as they play at one of the fastest paces in the nation. This fast pace and McEwen’s usage ease Howard’s load in the half court. With the weight of the entire offense of his shoulders, Howard excels to become the national player of the year. McEwen, Elliot and Torrence all prove to be great partners to Howard. Morrow steps up as a dominant rebounder and force in the paint. Bailey improves to a reliable every-game scorer and flashes the ability to dominate in the future. Bailey also, along with Anim, Elliott and John, anchor a scary defense that uses length and athleticism to shut down opponents.
After finishing their non-conference schedule with one loss, Marquette proves to be in the top tier of the Big East despite the conferences overall improvement. They battle Nova for the top spot all season, but finish one game short. Catching fire as a team at the right time, they win the Big East Tournament and enter the NCAA Tournament as a 2 seed. The NCAA humors the fan base by giving them 15 seed Murray St in the first round. Marquette demolishes them on their way to a deep tournament run.
Wojo can’t figure this team out. The team looks similar to the bad version of last year’s team. Howard is relied upon to make everything in the offense work. As great as he is, he can only do so much by himself. The predictable offense becomes easy to stop. McEwen and Johnson are worse than we thought. Morrow just can’t figure out how to be productive on the floor consistently. John continues to have foul trouble. Bailey, Elliott and Cain haven’t improved. Torrence and Akanno aren’t ready for this level yet.
This team struggles all season. After a seventh or eighth place finish in conference, Marquette’s fan base desperately wants Wojo fired. Instead of firing him, Marquette extends him again. The mishandling of the season causes Howard to not get drafted. Elliot, Cain and John transfer. Zaire Wade says Marquette isn’t even in the list of schools he is considering.
The more time I spent analyzing this year’s team, the more I liked their chances to do well this season. I believe McEwen will be a great fit alongside Howard. I think Morrow will be a double-double guy on a nightly basis. Bailey will show improvement, becoming a consistent threat on offensive and defense. Elliott’s return and Torrence’s development and readiness will give the team the depth it needs to play at a fast pace and give Wojo lineup flexibility.
Securing a couple quality wins, Marquette will finish non-conference play at 10-2 and find themselves in the top 25. The Big East will be tougher than last season, but an 11-7 finish will be enough for a top three finish. At 23-10 (2-1 in conference tournament), Marquette will earn another 5 seed. Markus Howard and Wojo will finally get a tournament win as this team plays its way to the Sweet 16.