Record when favored: 9-0
Marquette has hovered right outside the Top 25 all season. While unable to get the signature win to vault them into the rankings (Maryland), they also haven’t lost any games they were supposed to win. Although Marquette won at Kansas State as an underdog, the Wildcats don’t appear close to being a tournament team. The win over the USC Trojans been helped by the Trojans going 11-2 in nonconference play.
But come tournament time, the committee will most likely view Marquette’s win over the Purdue Boilermakers as their best nonconference win. Purdue does not have a great record at 8-5, but their wins over VCU and Virginia show they are poised to be dangerous in Big Ten play.
The loss at Wisconsin is undoubtedly Marquette’s worst game this season. Wisconsin, seeming to play their best basketball, beating Marquette by 16 was hard to take in the moment and they’ve made it even harder with their mediocre play to an 8-5 record. Wisconsin appears to be a bubble team at best and if Marquette ends up in the same position, this loss could come back to haunt them.
I don’t think I have to spend too much time on Markus Howard. He’s incredible. We all know that. He currently leads Division 1 in PPG with 26.3 PPG. He has five games of 30+ points including 51 against USC. He is a joy to watch and I look forward to seeing how he finishes his collegiate career.
The rise of Jamal Cain (and other Wojo recruits). After a promising freshman season where he averaged 17.3 MPG and shot 47.8% from 3, Jamal Cain regressed in his sophomore season. He looked lost and uncomfortable, resulting in him being essentially left out of the lineup. This season, Jamal is back. He looks confident and aggressive. He’s become an elite rebounder (leads the team at 5.3 RPG), strong defender, dependable outside shooter (40.9 3P%), and a crucial member of this team. Greg Elliot’s impressive return, Sacar Anim’s continued great play, and Symir Torrence’s college readiness have all been great to see and have been key to Marquette’s good play this season.
In the season preview article I wrote, I mentioned that this team is built to push the ball effectively. With four of these seven, Markus Howard, Koby McEwen, Sacar Anim, Jamal Cain, Brenden Bailey, Greg Elliot, and Symir Torrence, on the floor with one big, they have the shooting, speed, ball handling, and depth to play at a fast pace. Luckily, Wojo has noticed this, too. Their pace is up from past seasons and their Adj Tempo ranks 21st in the country. You can see how well this team plays when the push the ball and hopefully their fast pace continues into Big East play.
The play of the transfers has not been what we expected. Koby McEwen definitely has not been bad, but he has struggled to find his role and place on this team. He has shown flashes of what he can mean to this team. He scored 23 against Purdue and while this has been his best game, scoring 20+ PPG doesn’t have to be what he offers team on a nightly basis. Being a dangerous scoring option is important, but his decision making, control of the game pace, and play making (especially in crunch time) are what he can offer this team. If he can play to his strengths and establish his role, he can help take Marquette to the next level.
Jayce Johnson has been dealing with an injury, so I can’t critique his limited play so far, but Ed Morrow continues to look lost on the court. He has continued to look uncomfortable, travelling often, and has been unable to establish a role for this team, playing himself out of significant minutes. As someone who has looked forward to what Ed Morrow could be, a dominant rebounder and pick-and-roll finisher, I will continue to hold out hope that he can learn his role and be comfortable on the court.
Last season, the team’s Achilles heel was turnovers. Would you be surprised to find out that turnovers ares still an issue? Marquette is last in the Big East in turnover % (17.9%). With the opportunity to win a very competitive Big East Conference, playing smart and cutting down on mistakes can take Marquette from the 5th team in the conference to the first. Look for Marquette to cut down on bad passes and travelling to take cut down on their turnovers and finally conquer their biggest weakness.
The Grade: B
Marquette has impressed in their nonconference play. Their fast pace and the improved/great play by Wojo’s recruits has flashed their top 25 potential. This led them to some quality wins. But the team still has room to improve. The transfers have yet to work out their roles and the team could work to limit their turnovers. Marquette did not show well in either loss, but they appear to be improving and playing better as a team as the season goes on. Heading into Big East play, Marquette isn’t perfect, but they are an exciting team with potential to make noise on the national stage.