The non-conference season is over and with the BIG EAST opener at West Virginia coming up on Tuesday night what have we learned? Honestly, it's hard to tell. By most measures, this team seems to be who we all thought they were going to be. We stand at 9-3, a record that 4 of the 6 contributors to this blog pegged (the other two had us at 8-4).
So let's break down what we do know, what we think we know, what we don't know, and what we hope to know.
Here's what we do know.
This team is short on height and depth. The loss of Otule and the transfer of Maymon has shrunk this team down in both areas. MU on average is 75" tall, 334th in the nation...or darn near dead last in DI.
This is a good shooting team. MU shoots at nearly a 52% clip from the field and almost 73% from the line, ranking in the top 70 in both categories. This team shoots better from beyond the arc than anticipated. MU is shooting 41% from trey land....good for 23rd in the nation. Yet despite the stellar shooting, MU 3 point attempts as a percentage of Field Goal attempts ranks 234th in the country.
Here's what else we know...we have played one of the softest schedules in recent memory. The Marquette non conference schedule was ranked 309th in the country (total of 347 DI schools).
Jimmy Butler....continues to impress. Though he's a junior on paper, he's a "sophomore" in terms of playing experience for Marquette...it's his second year at MU. No sophomore slump for Butler. The young man continues to play hard, smooth as silk and a joy to watch.
Here's what we don't know but think we know.
How will these guys hold up in conference play against bigger, quicker players? The conventional wisdom is that our lack of size and depth is going to be exploited now that the conference season has arrived. Hard to argue against the CW on this. MU has been beaten by NC State, Wisconsin and FSU, all BCS schools with bigger and\or quicker players. On the other hand, MU should have beaten both FSU and NC State so there is hope.
Will Lazar Hayward be worthy of his preseason All Big East 1st team honors? Tough call He's played pretty well so far this year, but his long distance stroke is off from last year. He's shooting only 26% from beyond the arc this year compared to 36% last year. His scoring average is up to 18.7 this year, about 2 points higher than last season. Against the better teams this year, at least on paper, he's had solid games. He scored 19 or more points against Xavier, Michigan, Wisconsin-Madison, and Florida State. He struggled against NC State, scoring 15 points, and shot poorly in that contest. How Hayward does will dictate how MU does.
Can Mo Acker survive the Big East? Mo Acker may not be a stud or a world beater, but statistically he is doing just fine. He has a 2.2:1 Assist to turnover ratio, only bettered on the team by David Cubillan (3:1 ratio). But will he have the same success against the bigger and quicker teams in conference play? What kind of defensive liability will he be on the other end of the court?
What we didn't know but now know
DJO can play ball. This kid is very good. 12 points a game, a pure shooter from deep, and he's courageous enough to take it to the hole. Nice, nice player.
Mbao, despite being granted God's gift of height, is not ready to do much of anything this year. He needs to add weight and muscle along with much schooling in the arts and crafts of the big man position.
Joseph Fulce, it appears will be very much of a role player for Buzz Williams squad this year. After last year's injuries, it was hard to say exactly where Fulce would fit, but he's played well enough in spots to be counted on for 15 to 20 minutes a game and 6 to 8 points along with some precious boards.
What we still don't know and may not this year
Erik Williams. Had some injuries late in his high school career which kept him sidelined. Has a nice college basketball body, but at times looks lost....not atypical for a freshman. Unfortunately, with the loss of players due to injuries, he may be pressed into critical playing time more quickly than originally planned. Hard to say what the rest of the year looks like for Williams.
Dwight Buycks is going to earn the Jerel McNeal imitation award. That's the award where one game you will say this guy is unbelievable and the next game you'll say "I can't believe he is doing that." A ton of talent with this young man, a bit out of control (like McNeal). Seems to be a great lack of consistency (not in effort, but with output) in what to expect statistically each night.
David Cubillan...we hope he's back to his playing ways of his Freshman year. He has shown signs this year, including today, of having his stroke back. Unfortunately, for a senior, he sometimes disappears at critical times. Need his senior leadership to show through if this team is going to have a chance this year at a successful season.
We had MU slotted (in aggregate) for 17 wins, 8 of them in conference. Currently, KenPomeroy.com has MU slotted to finish at 20-10 and 11-7 in the Big East. If that holds true, MU would be going dancing for the 5th straight year to the NCAAs. It seems a bit far fetched, especially since the Big East has performed better than expected this year, but we'll see how things shake out.
The first four games in conference are tough, with many expecting a 1-3 or 0-4 start. If MU can go 2-2, and KenPom predicts, than this could be a better than expected season for the Warriors of Marquette under Buzz Williams.
WEST VIRGINIA INFORMATION
- Here are the official Marquette game notes
- Rosiak says MU is gearing up for the 'gantlet', whatever that is.
- MSN SportsNet previews the game from a WVU perspective.
- Ray Mernagh at the NBE Report catches us up on Huggins.
- The Charleston Gazette evaluates MU's hard-driving style.
- Here's the Sporting News preview.
Tipoff is scheduled for 6pm Marquette Standard Time tonight -- the game will be broadcast on the BIG EAST network.