"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

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Marquette Season Preview

Welcome to the biggest time, the BIG EAST Conference. Tom Crean goes to battle this year with a young, talented roster that will take time to sort out. Crean welcomes seven newcomers, many of whom will contribute immediately on a team with much to replace --- realize that MU must replace its best scorer/passer (Diener), its most athletic wing player (Mason), its leading rebounder (Jackson), and the consummate team player, Todd Townsend.

It's clear that incoming freshmen James, Matthews, and McNeal will play significant minutes in the backcourt. Transfers Fitzgerald and Lott will man the forward positions, with Fitzgerald likely to see action at any of the guard and forward slots. Crean also welcomes PF Burke and swingman Mortensen to campus.

Tom Crean will enjoy remarkable flexibility with his roster, and will rely on senior sharpshooter Steve Novak to deliver consistently from the perimeter. Youth in the backcourt aside, MU might just sink or swim based on the performance of the frontline: Chris Grimm, Ryan Amoroso, Mike Kinsella, Ousmane Barro, and Jamil Lott.

With that, here's a game by game breakdown of how we see the season unfolding in 2005-2006.

RICE ^: Mike Kinsella’s former team comes to the Bradley Center sans one of their all-time greats, Michael Harris, who was lost to graduation. The Owls also lost starters McKreith and Gillespie and do not return a starter who averaged double figures last year. Marquette will win this one against one of Conference USA's newest additions. 1-0

WINTHROP/IUPUI ^: Winthrop is perhaps the scariest team on Marquette’s non-conference schedule this year. Seriously. Winthrop returns 12 of their top 13 players from a team that gave Gonzaga a serious first-round scare in last year’s Tournament. Unfortunately, Winthrop is primed to pounce on an upset here, as the Eagles will be licking their chops to face an inexperienced Marquette squad. 1-1

Eastern Washington #: Marquette opens the Great Alaska Shootout against yet another set of Eagles. Despite the high-flying dunks of the amazing Henry Bekkering, Marquette will coast into the second round of this tournament unscathed. 2-1

Oral Roberts/USC #: This will be an interesting second round matchup, no matter the opponent. Oral Roberts is another small conference tournament team, similar to Winthrop, and they could give both USC and Marquette fits with their experience. They return the Mid-Continent POY in Caleb Green and deadly weapon, Ken Tutt, (a combined 37 ppg), as well as dynamic guard, Jonathan Bluitt. This high flying attack might just well get past a USC team that is young and has a new coach in Tim Floyd. Athletic guard, Gabe Pruitt, is the go-to guy for USC, but the Trojans should be no match for Oral Roberts. Marquette will learn its lessons from the Winthrop loss and will match athlete for athlete with a tough Oral Roberts squad. 3-1

Southern Illinois/Monmouth/South Carolina/UAA #: Obviously, it is hard to project who MU would play in the final round, but if Marquette gets to the championship, it’s likely that it will either be Southern Illinois or South Carolina. South Carolina is coming off an NIT championship season and despite losing its leading scorer, Carlos Powell, returns seven key players. Southern Illinois is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance and also loses its best player in Darren Brooks. Both teams are pretty solid and have a lot of experienced players returning. There will be no joy in MU-ville for Marquette in this one. 3-2

@ Nebraska: Marquette plays its first true road game in Lincoln, Nebraska this year, and will take on a team they trounced in the Bradley Center last year. The Huskers return some solid young pieces in scoring guard Joe McCray and Aussie center Aleks Maric and are probably a team on the rise in the Big 12. Having five games under the belt already, Marquette wins this one in a nail-biter. 4-2

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE: For the second year in a row, the Jackrabbits will have to deal with a former player’s night at the Bradley Center. Last year, it was Dwyane Wade night (with Shaq sitting courtside). This year, it is Travis Diener night, and the Jackrabbits will leave with their heads bobbling, just like the Diener bobbleheads that fans in attendance will receive. 5-2

VALPARAISO: Dan Oppland, Kenny Harris and the rest of the Crusaders will be gunning for a road win against Marquette and very well could get it here. Valpo will challenge Oral Roberts for conference supremacy this year. We still see Marquette pulling this one out, however, in another close contest against a very formidable foe. Homer Drew might scream about this outcome. 6-2

@ Wisconsin: This will be an interesting one. The Badgers lost a lot of firepower from last year, but also brings back the very talented Alando Tucker, as well as some other key components like Brian Butch and Kammron Taylor. Wisconsin, like Marquette, also had a terrific recruiting class and will count on Marcus Landry and Joe Krabbenhoft for instant contributions. As much as it pains us to say it, Wisconsin will pull out a close one this year at the Kohl Hole. 6-3

SAN FRANCISCO: A fellow Jesuit school comes to the Bradley Center for a mid-December chill. The Dons have the best recruiting class in the WCC, but will go back to San Francisco with no flowers in their hair. Marquette wins. 7-3

OAKLAND: No, not the Oakland across the bay from San Francisco… the one in Michigan. The Grizzlies shocked everyone by winning their conference tournament last year and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Rawle Marshall and Courtney Scott and their combined 38 ppg are gone now, though, and Marquette will maul the Grizzlies into submission. 8-3

DELAWARE STATE: The Hornets almost pestered Marquette into a loss last year with their stingy D and ball control offense. They very well might do the same this year. Jahsha Bluntt and Co. will put a scare into MU, but will fall in the end at the Bradley Center. 9-3

LEWIS: DII opponent Lewis comes to Milwaukee behind former MU assistant, Kyle Green. This one won’t count towards Marquette’s record and it’s a shame, as the Golden Eagles will down the Flyers. Still 9-3

CONNECTICUT: Marquette opens BIG EAST play against perhaps the best team in the conference. Point guard Marcus Williams will rejoin the team for this game, and Rudy Gay, Josh Boone, Rashad Anderson, Denham Brown and a host of talented others will visit the Bradley Center on this cold January night. It will certainly be exciting to play such a terrific team, but Marquette will be humbled by the extreme athleticism of UConn in this one. 9-4, 0-1 (conference)

CINCINNATI: If any year can be considered a down year for the Bearcats, it probably is this one. Bobby Huggins is out the door, along with a couple of his recruits. Cincy does return terrific big men, Eric Hicks and Armein Kirkland, as well as key contributors like Jihad Muhammed and James White. This will be a year of ups and downs for Marquette, but on this night, Marquette will upset the Bearcats in a tough defensive battle, and will provide their fans with their biggest victory of the year. 10-4, 1-1

@ Seton Hall: There are no easy road games in the Big East, but this is as close as it gets. Seton Hall is in disarray right now and will have a very tough time making the Big East Tournament. Despite a valiant effort by their talented center, Kelly Whitney, the Pirates will walk the plank in this one. 11-4, 2-1

@ West Virginia: West Virginia is coming off one of their program's most exciting postseason runs. The Mountaineers came within a hair's breath of making it to the Final Four after losing a big lead to Louisville in the Elite Eight last year. Many key returners are present for West Virginia, including Kevin Pittsnogle and Mike Gansey. Marquette gets Pittsnogled in this one and the 'Neers will win by double digits. 11-5, 2-2

@ DePaul: Marquette plays its third consecutive road game and does so on the Tuesday after a tough Saturday loss at West Virginia. DePaul should struggle this year, but do have the very talented Sammy Mejia and a couple great newcomers in Karron Clarke and Wilson Chandler. Despite the near home court advantage, Marquette falls here to the Demons. 11-6, 2-3

NOTRE DAME: Chris Quinn and Torin Francis come into the Bradley Center hoping for a win here. Are you kidding me? The place will be packed with anti-Domers and the crowd will "cheer cheer" the Marquette squad "onward to victory." 12-6, 3-3

DEPAUL: Marquette will use its actual home court advantage to get its revenge against Jerry Wainwright and DePaul after falling in Chicago to the Demons. 13-6, 4-3

@ Pittsburgh: Although Pittsburgh should be a little down this year (middle of the pack in the Big East), they’re still a very tough team, particularly defensively. Terrific point Carl Krauser, and a talented group of freshmen will lead the Panthers to a low scoring but decisive win over Marquette. Look for Marquette to get killed on the boards. 13-7, 4-4

ST. JOHN'S: An underrated St. John’s team visits Milwaukee and should test Marquette to the limit. Terrific scorer Daryll 'Showtime' Hill and strong forward Lamont Hamilton will give Marquette all it can handle. However, Marquette will again use the home crowd to quell this Red Storm. 14-7, 5-4

@ Villanova: Three years ago, Marquette played and defeated a group of talented freshmen from Villanova in Madison Square Garden. It’s payback time. Those freshmen are now talented seniors, and despite the loss of Curtis Sumpter, Villanova will use its depth and athleticism to blow by Marquette in this matchup. 14-8, 5-5

@ Rutgers: Rutgers is one of those teams that gives visiting opponents fits on the road, eventhough they don’t end up with a great record overall or in conference. Led by scorer Quincy Douby and Chicago product Ollie Bailey, Rutgers will take Marquette down to the wire, but MU will end up victorious (barely) against the Scarlet Knights. 15-8, 6-5

GEORGETOWN: After turning the corner last season, the Hoyas are probably the biggest sleeper team in the Big East this year, and could end up near the top of the conference standings. Led by athletic forwards Brandon Bowman and Jeff Green, this talented, athletic and deep team will do very well in the Big East this season. Marquette will fall at home to the Hoyas on National Marquette Day. 15-9, 6-6

PITTSBURGH: The rematch against Pittsburgh will be a tough one, especially two days after a difficult defeat to Georgetown. Unfortunately, the Panthers will be able to strong-arm Marquette, once again dominating on the boards and on defense. Pitt will ruin Maurice Lucas night for the Golden Eagles. 15-10, 6-7

@ Notre Dame: Notre Dame seeks its revenge against Marquette in this one, and the long range shooting of Colin Falls and Chris Quinn will be too much for Marquette to handle. Irish eyes will be smiling at the conclusion of this matchup. 15-11, 6-8

@ Louisville: Marquette has had some definite success in Freedom Hall, but this Cardinals team is a buzz saw this time around. A healthy Juan Diego Palacios and David Padgett along with hot shooting Taquan Dean will take it to Marquette and ensure that Marquette finishes with a losing record in conference. This game will also mark four straight losses for Marquette… very bad timing for this sort of streak. 15-12, 6-9

PROVIDENCE: Still reeling from the loss of do everything forward, Ryan Gomes, the Friars come to Milwaukee on Senior Day and get all they can handle from a squad determined to win one for Steve Novak, Joe Chapman and Chris Grimm. The efforts of guard Dwight Brewington and talented freshman, Geoff McDermott, will be for naught as Marquette will end its regular season on a high note, and with plenty to look forward to in the future. 16-12, 7-9

We predict Marquette will fall short of the NCAA Tournament, but will finish 10th in the BIG EAST and will be a solid NIT selection this year.

^ denotes Pepsi Blue and Gold Shootout
# denotes Great Alaska Shootout


Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis. 12 losses? It's gonna be a loooong season.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy your blog. Did not enjoy the linked photo of Huggs, but I do have a sense of humor, so . . .

Keep up the good work.