"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Illinois Preview, 2021-22

Illinois Fighting Illini

November 15, Fiserv Forum, 6:00 pm


Head Coach: Brad Underwood (193-107 overall, 71-56 at Illinois)

3-Year NET Average: 50.7

3-Year kenpom Average: 39.3

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 5

Illinois star Kofi Cockburn is a legitimate National Player of the Year contender

Photo from CBS Sports

Projected Starters: PG Andre Curbelo (6'1" So), SG Alfonso Plummer (6'1" Sr), SF Trent Frazier (6'2" Sr), PF Da'Monte Williams (6'3" Sr), C Kofi Cockburn (7'0" Jr)

It took a few years, but Brad Underwood seems to have it figured out at Illinois. They were a projected NCAA team in 2020 before watching it all come together in 2021 as they finished the season with a Big 10 Tournament title and 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They were a complete team, ranking in the top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency on kenpom. Consensus First Team All-American Ayo Dosunmu was arguably the best closer in college basketball while Second Team All-American Kofi Cockburn was one of the most physically imposing big men in the country. They had national title aspirations before bowing out prematurely (but predictably, for Cracked Sidewalks readers) in the second round to Loyola-Chicago.

Dosunmu is gone, but three of the top four scorers are back, including Cockburn, who is getting preseason First Team All-American and National Player of the Year buzz. Stepping into the spotlight for Dosunmu will be Andre Curbelo, who averaged an impressive 14.7 ppg/8.3 rpg/3.7 apg during a three-game stretch when Dosunmu was out last year and is getting some All-American buzz. Illinois rounds out their rotation with experience, as Trent Frazier, Da'Monte Williams, Alfonso Plummer, and Jacob Grandison are all seniors. Plummer will likely be expected to help fill in the loss of Dosunmu's scoring punch after transferring from Utah. Another transfer, junior Omar Payne, gives the Illini efficient depth and shot-blocking behind Cockburn. Size will be a big question, though, as the most proven players other than Cockburn are 6'3" or shorter. Don't be surprised to see Grandison or Coleman Hawkins get some run alongside Cockburn just to get some size on the floor. How much trouble they have with bigger teams on both ends of the court will be interesting.

Illinois runs a Spread offense. Expect Cockburn to position down low with the other four players interchangeably spread out at the three point line. They will make multiple cuts to the rim, looking to get easy lay-ups or alley-oops. The majority of their points will come inside the arc as close to the rim as possible. That said, they do have shooters. Da'Monte Williams was a low-usage killer last year who shot 54.7% beyond the arc. Curbelo, Frazier, and Grandison can also all knock down threes. Defensively, Underwood made a big philosophical shift and it's paid off. Previously, Underwood's teams were high-pressure on defense, forcing turnovers while putting teams on the line routinely. He radically changed that, going from a perennial top-10 team in defensive turnovers (4/5 years from Stephen F Austin to Illinois) to a team that doesn't force many turnovers but dominates the interior, both from a shot-contesting and rebounding perspective while sending teams to the line far less frequently. As a result, his defense went from an average 118.5 ranking in kenpom his first two years at Illinois to 21.0 the past two years, peaking at #7 last year. Illinois has a staff that understands analytics and has used it to maximize their efficiency on both ends of the court.

Illinois may lose some dynamism without Dosunmu, but this is still a team that will be a top contender in one of the best leagues in the country. Cockburn is a monster inside and he's surrounded by a wealth of talented guards and wings. While they will likely take a slight step back from last year, there is enough talent to mitigate Dosunmu's loss. Per Torvik, they are favored in 27 of their 30 games this year. This is the best early measuring stick for Marquette, but my advice is to expect a loss. Illinois is experienced, cohesive, and really, really good. For Smart's team to stick with them, they will need to swarm the ball on defense and force their passers into mistakes while getting (and staying) hot on the offensive end. Considering how early in the season this one is, I think this is the toughest test Marquette will face at home this year. If Marquette somehow manages to squeak it out, quite a few fans will be breaking out polish for their dancing shoes.

Marquette Connection: Aside from the recruiting trail, the teams haven't met much in recent memory. That said, while Marquette has just a 5-9 record against Illinois all time, they have won four of the past five matchups between the teams, including two home wins for Marquette over ranked Illinois teams. The most recent came in 1993, when Marquette knocked off #16 Illinois as both Robb Logterman and Damon Key put up 18 points. Though back to recruiting...Shaka Smart will hope to do better than Steve Wojciechowski did against Illinois. If Ayo Dosunmu had stuck around, he could've formed a starting five of Illinois players targeted by Marquette along with Andre Curbelo, Luke Goode, Brandin Podziemski, and Coleman Hawkins.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

New Hampshire Preview, 2021-22

New Hampshire Wildcats

November 12, 7:30 pm, Fiserv Forum


Head Coach: Bill Herrion (434-444 overall, 197-275 at New Hampshire)

3-Year NET Rank Average: 276.0

3-Year kenpom Average: 287.0

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 244

Jayden Martinez is a do-everything mismatch for the Wildcats

Photo courtesy of New Hampshire Athletics

Projected Starters: PG Blondeau Tchoukuiengo (6'2" So), SG Nick Johnson (6'4" So), SF Josh Hopkins (6'5" Sr), PF Nick Guadarrama (6'5" Sr), C Jayden Martinez (6'7" Sr)

COVID made scheduling difficult in the America East last year, but Bill Herrion's squad managed a winning record for the first time since 2017. That came in large part because of their potent front court duo of Nick Guadarrama (14.0 ppg/6.4 rpg) and Jayden Martinez (13.6/8.5). Not only are they a load up front, but both have the ability to step out and hit from deep. The Wildcats were expected to be a dark horse competitor in the America East and delivered in the regular season, finishing third after going 9-6 in league play, but bowed out to UMass-Lowell in their opening conference tourney game.

Joining Guadarrama and Martinez in returning are a pair of freshmen starters becoming sophomores in Blondeau Tchoukuiengo and Nick Johnson as well as Qon Murphy, meaning the entire starting lineup at the end of the season is back. They also get a boost in the return of Josh Hopkins, who started every game he played as a sophomore and junior before missing time last year. He's joined by transfer Sloan Seymour, a 6'9" shooter that struggled to get minutes at George Washington in the A-10 but should be able to slide right into this lineup. This team has star power up front, experience at every position, and depth on the bench.

Offensively, the Wildcats want to play slow. Take the air out of the ball and work for the best shot. Herrion's teams typically shoot a ton of threes, but last year they were more balanced, likely because of the two guys on the inside. That said, everyone on this team can step out and hit a three, including the two bigs. On the defensive end, they cut down passing lanes and absolutely own the glass. It wouldn't be a stretch to argue New Hampshire is one of the best pound-for-pound defensive rebounding teams in the country as they have been top-10 in limiting offensive rebounds 6 of the past 7 seasons and were still #31 in the lone season they didn't finish that high. They want to force one-on-one matchups and limit second chance attempts.

With the entire starting lineup and five of the top-six scorers back, this looks like a team that should compete for their league title. But due to COVID, Hopkins is far from the only America East player to return for a fifth playing season. Vermont and Stony Brook will likely battle for the top of the league again, but the Wildcats should still be finishing in the top-half of the league and putting up a respectable season. I expect they'll put up a feisty effort at Fiserv due to their depth and experience, but the gap in size and athleticism will likely be too much to overcome.

Marquette Connection: There were warning signs early on in the 2013-14 season that it might not be as successful as Buzz Williams' previous teams. When Bill Herrion's New Hampshire team came to town, that was on full display. After an encouraging 20-5 run to open things, the Wildcats clawed their way back, cutting the deficit to 7 at the half and getting within 4 with just under a minute to play on a Jordan Bronner three. Ultimately, Jamil Wilson iced the game at the line and Marquette held on for a too-close-for-comfort 58-53 victory. Bronner will be back on the court this year, though as an assistant for Herrion's current team. Hopefully Marquette fans won't be sweating quite as profusely in the final minute.

Friday, October 22, 2021

SIU-Edwardsville Preview, 2021-22

SIU-Edwardsville Cougars

Fiserv Forum, November 9th at 7:30 pm

Head Coach: Brian Barone (17-40)

Three-Year NET Average: 328.3

Three-Year Kenpom Average: 330.0 

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 320

 

SIUE will be counting on an offensive impact from transfer Shaun Doss

Photo courtesy of UAPB Athletics

Projected Starters: PG Courtney Carter (6'1" RS Jr), SG Carlos Curtis (6'2" RS Jr), SF Shaun Doss (6'5" RS Sr), PF Shamar Wright (6'7' RS So), C Lamar Wright (6'7" RS So) 

When Brian Barone took over the Cougars from Jon Harris in 2019, it was the rare case of one Marquette alum replacing another. Barone grew up in the home of a D1 head coach (his father led Creighton and Texas A&M), played for Marquette, and was on staff with Porter Moser, Tom Crean, and Brian Wardle. Despite those roots, it's been a slow start at SIUE. The Cougars went just 9-17 last year. Not only that, but the team's two leading scorers have both moved on. This team was weak on both ends, finishing sub-275 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Barone has also slowed the tempo, from a top-80 team under Harris to #172 last year.

The big name acquisition this off-season was Shaun Doss, who averaged 15.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg for Arkansas-Pine Bluff. In addition to Doss, Carlos Curtis returns to the lineup. The Cougars went 7-8 with Curtis last year and just 2-9 without him. Curtis is the type of player that can impact a game in multiple ways and allows Barone to put two point guards in the backcourt. Up front, the Wright twins, sons of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright and subjects of an ESPN documentary, may look identical but play differently. Shamar has the ability to step out and plays like a stretch four while Lamar is a back-to-the-basket big that is a shot-swatting terror on the defensive end. SIUE will also be deeper this year, as Cam Williams, Michael Matas, and Milwaukee native (and former Marquette target) Desmond Polk bring experience off the bench. JUCO transfer In addition, keep an eye on Ray'Sean Taylor, a freshman guard who is the highest ranked high school recruit in program history.

Offensively, Barone has focused on slowing down possessions, sharing the basketball, and working it inside. It is a sensible strategy as his team had seven rotation players that shot over 50% inside the arc and they got 54.4% of their points on two-point field goals. This is a team with depth inside so expect them to keep feeding the post and the guards to attack downhill. Defensively, they want to speed teams up. Interior defense is their best asset. Both Wright twins and bench big Matas are excellent shot blockers. In addition, this is a team that excels in non-steal turnovers, which means they will likely be looking to draw charges.

The season outlook for the Cougars is always bleak. They haven't had a top-300 team in kenpom since 2015 and have never finished better than #248. That said, there are things to like about Barone's team. He has depth across the backcourt and the additions of Doss and Taylor definitely are a talent upgrade. Up front, the Wrights are solid at this level and Matas gives them some legitimate depth. To open the season they likely won't put up much of a fight against a high-major roster, but don't be surprised if they punch above their weight in the OVC and finish with their best season since 2015. Top-275 seems realistic for this bunch, which would put them right in the middle of the OVC and be pretty respectable considering SIUE's history.

Marquette Connection: Whether it was Marquette playing Jon Harris' Cougars in 2016, the presence of another Marquette alum in Barone there now, or the recruitment of Milwaukee native Desmond Polk, who at one point was offered by Steve Wojciechowski, there are a ton of connections to Marquette on this team. But savvy readers will recognize the first picture in this article of Shaun Doss as the exact same picture we opened last season's first non-conference preview with. That's because Doss transferred from UAPB, who was the 2020 season opening opponent, to SIUE, the 2021 season opener. While Marquette won that game by a commanding 99-57 score, it certainly wasn't because of Doss, who went off for 27 points and 5 rebounds in his only career appearance at the Fiserv Forum. Keep an eye on him again this year as he is the most proven scorer on the Cougars roster. We'll see if playing in front of fans at the Fiserv is a bit more intimidating for Doss than the empty arena was a year ago.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

New coach, new team, new season for #mubb

Hey #mubb fans, the season is nearly upon so Scrambled Eggs is back to talk about it. We spend some time talking about the roster, Big East media days, and basketball "style". We then dive into our complete schedule prediction and decide just how optimistic or not we are. We then close out with some things we're looking forward to on the season. Buckle up, it's going to be very interesting in Year 1 of Shaka. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/x2qtrw/ScrambledEggs_Editted_102121.mp3

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Case for Starting Stevie Mitchell

DJ Carton's unexpected pro departure and Symir Torrence's decision to stick with transferring has left Marquette with a big void at point guard.

Granted, Marquette only returns three scholarship players to wear a Golden Eagles uniform so this is just one of many voids. 

Marquette Head Coach Shaka Smart has done a lot of work to fill the roster with as much talent as he can. In the pick-and-roll offense that Smart likes to run, the point guard is one of the most important positions on the court. 

Shaka can go the veteran route for a starter with super-senior transfer Daryl Morsell or the returning Greg Elliott, who did some point guard duty his freshman season. Smart compared sophomore transfer Tyler Kolek to the legendary Travis Diener.

The issue with those options are Morsell has been more of a combo guard and less of a facilitator with a career 2.2 assists per game and 15.7% assist percentage. Kolek only averaged 2.3 assists a game at George Mason last season and a 14.2% assist percentage. Elliott really was asked to run the point in limited minutes as a freshman back in the 2017-2018 season. The other option is giving freshman Stevie Mitchell the ball right out of the gate. 

It is sort of like the old football question with a young quarterback, do you give the rookie the ball right away or do you have him sit or limit the minute and be groomed into the position?

                    Photo Courtesy of Marquette Athletics

First, Mitchell is no ordinary freshman. He does come in with accolades as he was Pennsylvania's Gatorade Player of the Year and 2,600 career points at the high school level. He does project to being capable of handling the point. The 247sports.com scouting report states..

Stevie Mitchell is a skilled point guard prospect. He has a polished handle with advanced footwork, doing a good job of utilizing jabs and change of direction to get where he wants on the floor. He has a score-first mindset and doing so from all three levels but is also a willing and talented passer with vision who can facilitate with both hands. Areas to improve are his athleticism and speeding up his release on his jumper.

Three-Man-Weave.com described Mitchell’s game as…

Mitchell is more of a pass-first pure point, showing an impressive mid-range game and decent vision while lacking crazy athleticism; he likely will have the typical turnover and consistency issues that come with freshman point guards.

He also does not lack for confidence. He is already talking of scoring a thousand points or more at Marquette.

One thing is clear, Shaka, like every college basketball coach, loves to use his guards as the example you can see below show his guards where in Shaka’s Texas top-5 players usage rate of those who on were on the court for ten or more games last season.

Is it wise to hand out starter’s minutes to a freshman point guard in pick-and-roll, heavy guard usage offense? Just in general, is it a good idea to use a freshman over the veteran options? 

Shaka’s VCU Final Four run benefited from starting point guard Joey Rodriguez getting good minutes his freshman year. Shaka though was not involved in that decision as Rodriguez’ VCU freshman year came while Shaka was an assistant at Clemson. 

Using a program historical perspective, one thing I always remember former Marquette Head Coach Buzz Williams saying about Dominic James was what made him a great point guard was not just his athletic ability but that he got the ball from day one. He was allowed to make his mistakes (He had a great freshman year) and really learned the role (He went from a scoring point guard to an all-around point guard by his senior year). 

Then again, Cordell Henry was given a heavy load from day one and had 74 turnovers his freshman campaign. There were times he made decisions that left your head scratching up until his early junior season.

Junior Cadougan was given the point guard duties on day one sort of (An injury practically wiped out his freshman year so he started his sophomore year) and only had 58 turnovers and 115 assists. He was also not the greatest athlete. 

Tony Miller was never known as a superior athletic point guard but he dished out 221 assists to just 93 turnovers his first year. 

The program historical perspective shows some of the better point guards Marquette has had over the past 30 years was given the starting nod early on in their career, they had their hiccups but ended up having really good careers in the long run. More importantly, leading their teams to March success (Well, in Henry’s case, getting to the Tournament after a couple years of missing out is still success in my book).

In the long run, it might beneficial to have Stevie Mitchell in the starting role right from the get go knowing you can back him up with Elliot, Kolek and Morsell. Also Shaka can call on switchables in Kam Jones and Emarion Ellis. 

This season projects as a rebuilding year. It will be great if Marquette can somehow get into the NCAA Tournament and exceed the ninth to tenth place Big East prediction finishes. If that does happens, the main goal of the season is to build towards a brighter future under Smart. It can start with giving the starting point guard role to Mitchell in the first game.


 



Tuesday, October 05, 2021

How This Season Will Go...Generally Speaking

The Marquette Men's Basketball Team 2021-22 regular season tips off is nearly a month. It represents not only a new season but the beginning of a new era as Shaka Smart takes over as head coach.

                                        Photo Courtesy of Marquette Athletics

There are going to be plenty of new faces on the court to go along with the new coaching staff. Justin Lewis, Greg Elliott and Oso Ighodaro are the only returning scholarship players from last season’s squad.

Smart wasted no time filling up his first roster with a mix of super seniors (It sounds better than graduate transfer with an extra year of eligibility due to a COVID-19 exception), traditional transfers and freshman.

Marquette’s super seniors are 2020-21 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Darryl Morsell who spent four years at Maryland and former Oklahoma rim protector Kur Kuath. 

The 2020-21 Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year, Tyler Kolek transferred in after a year at George Mason and Oliver-Maxence Prosper brings his game and sweet nickname, O-Max, to MU after a year at Clemson.

Then there is Shaka’s first recruiting class rounding out the rest of the roster. He convinced originally committed to Wojo recruits Stevie Mitchell and Kam Jones to stick with their promise to join the team. Both won Mr. Basketball in their respective states (Jones was the Division II winner in Tennessee and Mitchell in Pennsylvania along with winning the Keystone State’s Gatorade Player of the Year). 

Smart then convinced Emarion Ellis, David Joplin and Keeyan Itejere to follow him to Marquette after all of them originally agreed to play for Smart at Texas. It equaled a recruiting class good enough for a 19th national ranking according 247sports.com and Sports Illustrated and Rivals.com ranked the class 20th.

This roster has talent, length and athleticism. It has players who can defend at a high level. All the traits you would see in a Shaka Smart team.

                                      Photo Courtesy of Marquette Athletics

It is also a roster that has a super majority of its players who have not played a single game together, has only two players who played significant minutes at Marquette (Oso played in just five games) and only one player who averaged double-digit points in a Division I college season (Kolek’s 10.8 last season).

Oh, then there is the always brutal Big East schedule to navigate and non-conference match ups with UCLA, Illinois and a possible West Virginia game if MU beats Ole Miss in the Charleston Classic opening round. There is also road games against Wisconsin and Kansas State. It is not the easiest schedule to incorporate all these new pieces.

With all that inexperience and the schedule, a rebuilding year is to be expected. A great season preview from the three-man-weave.com projects a ninth place Big East finish. The Big East Blog thinks the Golden Eagles will finish 10th. Marquette is currently getting long shot odds to win the Big East. Just for fun, Oddshark.com has Marquette currently at +7000 to win the National Title with both Draft Kings and BetMGM giving +15000

Although, it is not all doom and gloom as Painttouches.com's Andrei Greska gives a slightly better outlook on the Doug Russell Podcast

It is definitely shaping up to be a probable long rebuilding season on paper. Luckily, games are not played on paper. 

How might this season play out? Well, if I can forecast that my 401k would be doing much better and I would be hitting jackpot on every scratch off I buy. There is a couple general scenarios I could see panning out in Shaka’s first year.

Exceed Expectations and Makes the NCAA Tournament

How this happens? Well, some main things have to happen...

  • The roster chemistry develops quickly.
  • The Golden Eagles pull off a couple surprise upsets in non-conference. 
  • Lewis fulfills his NBA talent potential and provides a special player performance every game. As I like to call it, he has a winning impact improvement on the team (Think Lazar Hayward elevating his game even more his senior year or Vander Blue's final season)
  • Elliott stays healthy and follows in the steps of JaJuan Johnson and Sacar Anim by having a great senior season.
  • Morsell and Kuath lead a suffocating defensive effort every game. 
  • Kolek plays like his Travis Diener comp. 
  • Oso and O-Max provide good bench minutes.
  • Finally a couple of the freshman make a Dominic James and Jerel McNeal like winning impact in their contributions. 

The talent is there is to make a surprise NCAA Tournament appearance. Defense should not be a problem for this team. The offensive scheme is also there. Shaka loves pick and roll, but unlike Wojo who loved high pick and roll (and one guy dominating the offense), Smart prefers to run it from various spots on the court. As Painttouches.com points out, that can lead to less likely chances of the opposing defense shutting down the offense (Like what we saw in the Wojo era). Executing the pick and roll, along with good chemistry and the talent optimizes itself to get easy buckets or clean looks at the three could provide a dependable offense to compliment the defense.

Although if they do make the NCAA's, you are probably looking at First Four or nine to 11 seed Dance invite. There will be games where the inexperience shows. There will be some growing pains as Shaka installs his brand of play. There is playing Villanova, UConn, Xavier and Seton Hall twice on the schedule. If everything shakes positively as described above, MU can still get some wins over the middle tier of the conference for say a 5th or 6th place finish. That might just be enough to get a March invite.

Make the Not In Tournament

How this happens? Well, this kind of stuff happens...

  • The roster takes a lot longer to gel and inexperience shows in resume building games. 
  • Lewis improves but not to the special player status. 
  • Elliott has some injuries again he has to battle limiting his effectiveness.
  • Morsell has the "transfer delay impact" aka, defers too much as he tries to feel out his new program and takes a lot longer to be the player Marquette needs him to be.
  • Kolek maintains his A-10 stats.
  • Most of the freshman play like freshman.

Another way to think of it is this season goes like the Henry Ellenson season without crippling losses to DePaul thus getting a NIT invite.

The Projections Fulfilled

How this happens? Well, probably these things happen...

  • The roster never really gels as Shaka struggles to find consistent rotations.
  • A couple of the freshman transfer out during the season over lack of playing time.
  • Lewis improves but to a nine to 10 points per game player and also misses some time like he did last season.
  • A major injury or two.
  • Kolek is unable to step up in class and struggles in the Big East.
  • Kolek and Mitchell turn the ball over a ton running the point.
  • All the freshman play like freshman.

Well, you get the picture. It turns out to be what we think-too much inexperience that is not ready to compete at a winning pace both in non-conference and the Big East.

The team plays good defense but has assignment and communication issues since none of them have played together which leads to some heartbreaking losses. The offense goes into lulls and has turnover issues as it struggles to run pick and roll. The youth leads to some blowouts from the Villanovas of the world and bad losses to (gulp) the DePauls of the world. We possibly get a repeat of last season or Wojo's first season (Hopefully we do not have to relive eight-strong). Best case in this section is somehow still squeaking out a 16-15 overall record (Because the most minimal expectation at Marquette is never have a below .500 record) heading into the Big East Tournament and then pulling off a Georgetown like run to win the Big East Tournament and go dancing. 

Okay, okay, too much. It just would be nice to see Marquette exceed expectations and not met them this season.




Sunday, September 05, 2021

Walk-On Greats

Marquette is looking for a walk-on to join the 2021-2022 men's roster.

Being a walk-on is more than just waving a towel at the end of the bench and celebrating every made basket.

 

As the first walk-on to ever earn four varsity letters Rob Frozena pointed out, you may not be a Division I talent but you are expected to play and practice like a Division I player

While you get a jersey, a great seat to every game, be the hero of the student section and the victory cigar symbol when you enter the game (or the white flag), a lot goes into a being a walk-on. Oh, you are still paying tuition (unless you are at BYU), so in essence you are paying to be on the team and all the work and time commitment that comes with it.

Why would anyone in their right 18-22 year old mind willingly volunteer for such a role? 

That is why I always respect the walk-on. The Rudy's of the world as I like to call them. 

Their career stats will always have a zero point in front of them. The games played is usually in the single digits and averaged minutes is usually one. The walk-on who enters a game gets to say something not everyone can say and that is playing in a Division I game.

Some of my greatest walk-ons hits at Marquette would have to start with Frozena and it is not just because he was the first to make it all four years. It was also because he understood the role of the walk-on so well: Work hard, ignore the screams to shoot a 30-footer and have fun. He never took himself seriously and focused on how he could help the team that day get better. Also, he willingly took years of Buzz Williams hollering at him and came back for more.

 

Another favorite I have to go with is Cam Mariota. He is the second player to make it all four years as a walk-on in program history. His dad Marc had a pretty good career back in the 1980's as a scholarship player. Sadly, his father never got to see Cam in a Marquette uniform due to Marc’s untimely passing away. Cam could have played football at the FCS level but Cam wanted to wear a Marquette hoops jersey. He did just that with class.

Another good one was Craig Kuphall only because Head Coach at the time Tom Crean gave one of the best quotes when he rationalized benching Jerel McNeal in favor of Kuphall to start the second half against Savannah State on December 30, 2006. Marquette was playing sluggish in the first half but Crean was not trying to send a message to his team. He just liked the look in Kuphall's eyes coming out of the locker room. No message to send I guess except Kuphall had great eyes. Although Marquette then went onto to destroy Savannah State and Kuphall did not play much again.

My final personal favorite is Tony Gries (Full disclosure I did indirectly sublet his Renee Row room from him the summer after I graduated in 2004). He joined the 2003 Final Four team early that season but what stood out was he could actually ball. I remember there was talk about how much he challenged Dwyane Wade in practice. Gries even earned a chance to get some regular playing in the 2003-04 season when no one could really pin down being Travis Diener's backup. Crean gave him a shot against Canisius and Gries handled his own in a narrow victory. It was enough to earn another some playing time but the next game was against Wisconsin. Gries checked in and immediately had quick turnover which in turn led to Gries returning to the end of the bench for the rest of the season.

Hey, it is the end of the bench where a lot of the hardest working players on the team sit. They do not get any glory but glory is not what a walk-on is after.