"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 31, 2021

Jackson State Preview, 2021-22

Jackson State Tigers

November 30, 8:00 pm, Fiserv Forum

Head Coach: Wayne Brent (107-136)

Three-Year NET Average: 289.7

Three-Year Kenpom Average: 288.3

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 181

Jayveous McKinnis averaged a double-double for the Tigers last season

Photo courtesy of JSU Athletics

Projected Starters: PG Jonas James (6'0" Sr), SG Gabe Watson (6'2" Sr), SF Cainan McClelland (6'4" Sr),  PF Terence Lewis II (6'7" Sr), C Jayveous McKinnis (6'7" Sr)

If you're ever looking for the definition of the perfect "Successful SWAC team" schedule, 2020-21 Jackson State epitomized it. The Tigers went 0-5 in non-conference play, losing by an average 24.6 ppg, before running the table in league play, going a perfect 11-0 before falling to eventual tournament champions Texas Southern. Leading the way was SWAC player of the year Tristan Jarrett and two-time SWAC defensive player of the year Jayveous McKinnis, who posted 12.5 ppg/13.2 rpg. Jarrett is gone, but McKinnis is one of three starters back for Wayne Brent as his team eyes a second straight SWAC title.

McKinnis is joined by an experienced team around him. James and McClelland played in every game for the Tigers last year and combined for 33 starts. Watson is a transfer from Tulane who should show out better against SWAC competition (he scored 13.0 ppg for Southern Miss in C-USA) and Lewis is a high-efficiency big that couldn't get minutes behind North Texas' three-headed front court monster. Both should be even more productive at this level. Brent also has an experienced bench as Ken Evans and Hezekiah Quinlan were both spot starters last year and Chris Freeman transfers in after earning starts for Texas-Rio Grand Valley each of the past two years.

Everything at Jackson State under Wayne Brent starts on the defensive end. Statistically, in 8 years as a head coach he has had a top-4 defense in the SWAC every single year while never having an offense ranked better than 5th in league play. Nationally, he has never had an offense ranked better than #318 while his defenses have been top-200 6/8 years, peaking at #92 last season. The Tigers used to do that with pressure, but have moved to more man defense, denying the wings and instead of gambling on steals, taking advantage when the opponent makes mistakes. Inside, McKinnis is a monster, blocking shots and absolutely dominating the glass (32.1% defensive rebounding rate). Offensively, they thrive at turning defense into offense. This is where they stand to make the most improvement, as both James and McClelland shot over 35% from deep last year so it will be interesting to see if this team can be better in the half court as well with the additional experience.

Jarrett was a big loss, but Brent has started to bring in the talent to allow his team to continue thriving. McKinnis is going to dominate his league again while Lewis and Watson are both the kind of players who can immediately upgrade the talent level. What's interesting is the disparity in computer rankings. T-Rank places the Tigers as the only top-200 SWAC team and league favorites while Pomeroy has them #295 and closer to the middle of the league. Considering their experience and the success of Brent's system, expect this team to be competing for the league title again and don't be surprised to see them dancing in March. That said, Brent has never beat a high-major opponent and has only 3 combined Division I non-con victories the past 4 years. The talent level may be high for the SWAC, but it simply won't be enough to keep up when they come to Milwaukee.

Marquette Connection: Jackson State has only traveled to Milwaukee once before when they took on Marquette at the Bradley Center in 2015. That game left fans singing the praises of Haanif Cheatham, who posted 24 points on 7/12 shooting, including 4/4 from deep, in an 80-61 victory. While it was just his sixth game in a Marquette uniform, it was the highest scoring total he ever reached in his time here. Cheatham would transfer early in his junior year, spending time at Florida-Gulf Coast and Nebraska before graduating. He only once bested that 2015 scoring total, when he tallied 26 for the Cornhuskers in a non-conference game against South Florida in 2019.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Northern Illinois Preview, 2021-22

Northern Illinois Huskies

November 27, 7:00 pm, Fiserv Forum

Head Coach: Rashon Burno (0-0)

3-Year NET Average: 217.3

3-Year Kenpom Average: 218.3

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 315

Trendon Hankerson is the Huskies' leading returning scorer

Photo from NIU Athletics

Projected Starters: PG Kaleb Thornton (6'0" Jr), SG Trendon Hankerson (6'2" Sr), SF Zool Kueth (6'7" Sr), PF Chris Osten (6'9" Sr), C Martice Mitchell (6'10" So)

After seven straight top-250 finishes at Kenpom and his first winning MAC record in 2020, Mark Montgomery saw his team crater in 2021, finishing a career-worst #337 at kenpom and just 2-12 in the MAC. The Huskies were not just the worst team in the MAC but one of the worst in all of Division I. Montgomery is gone, replaced by former DePaul player Rashon Burno, who polished his coaching credentials at Florida with Billy Donovan and Arizona State with Bobby Hurley.

Burno kept much of last year's roster, including six players that started multiple games for the Huskies. Thornton and Hankerson give him an experienced but turnover-prone backcourt. Hankerson can score and will likely play a lot with the ball in his hands while Thornton is more of a defensive specialist that needs to improve his handle and productivity level. Expect transfers Keshawn Williams (Tulsa) and Darweshi Hunter (Weber State) to provide some back court depth. Up front, Zool Kueth is a high-efficiency shooter that will be one of the most dangerous offensive weapons. He's joined by a pair of high-major transfers in Chris Osten (Arizona State) and Martice Mitchell (Minnesota), who provide a length and talent upgrade. The Huskies have some depth, with Anthony Crump, Chinedu Kingsley Okanu, and Adong Makuoi all providing depth with starting experience.

It will be interesting to see what Burno does schematically. Donovan's rosters played at a slower pace with defense being the primary focus while Hurley pushed the pace with offense the centerpiece of their success. Montgomery tended to play slow and that seems the pragmatic way for Burno to start things off. Hankerson, Kueth, and JUCO transfer Edward Manuel are reliable threats from deep, so a slow pace that aims for high percentage deep looks seems like the best way to score some upsets this year. Burno has really stressed defensive toughness in his interviews, and considering that depth is one of their strengths, I could see this being a team that mixes it up and tries to win with physicality on the defensive end of the floor.

I like this roster more than most. Hankerson and Kueth were two of the best players on a bad team last year and adding transfers from clearly superior leagues gives the Huskies a much higher talent floor than they had a year ago. Their collapse last year coincided with the losses of all-time leading scorer Eugene German and three-year starter Lacey James. They're going to give some teams troubles and while they'll probably be in the bottom half of their league, I don't think they are the clear-cut cellar dweller they were a year ago. In terms of playing Marquette, however, this should be a comfortable win, though don't be surprised if it is a low-scoring, mostly defensive affair on both ends.

Marquette Connection: Rashon Burno may not have the most fond memories of Marquette from college, as he was just 2-5 against the Golden Eagles in his days at DePaul. The first time he coached against Marquette was a different story, however. Burno was an assistant at Florida when they played Marquette on November 29, 2012 in Gainesville in a rematch of the game that ended Marquette's season the year before. The Gators dominated Marquette from the jump, opening up an 18-point first-half lead and ultimately coming away with a dominating 82-49 victory. At the time, Buzz Williams said "I've never been beat this bad in my career -- 179 games as a head coach, that's the worst loss. Not close." Marquette fans will hope for an outcome more like the last time they saw Burno, a 78-73 overtime victory against Arizona State in 2015 when Henry Ellenson led Marquette to the come from behind win.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Clemson/Temple Capsules, 2021-22

Clemson Tigers

November 21, Charleston, SC

Head Coach: Brad Brownell (368-233 overall, 201-149 at Clemson)

Three-Year NET Average: 53.7

Three-Year Kenpom Average: 51.0

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 50

Al-Amir Dawes will lead Clemson's attack
 Photo from Wikipedia.com

Projected Starters: PG Nick Honor (5''10" Jr), SG Al-Amir Dawes (6'2" Jr), SF David Collins (6'4" Sr), PF Hunter Tyson (6'8" Sr), C PJ Hall (6'10" So)

The Tigers under Brad Brownell have become pretty reliable. They'll be within a game or two of .500 in the ACC, generally in the 45-75 range on the advanced metrics, and at the end of the year be good but not great. Brownell's teams play at a slow pace and are better on the defensive end than the offensive one, but they have a big piece to replace in Aamir Simms. They will hope for Hunter Tyson, PJ Hall, or transfer Naz Bohannon to step into that role, but those are massive shoes to fill, as the chart below from Three-Man-Weave indicates.

Chart courtesy of Three-Man-Weave.com

Clemson is likely going to take a dip this year. Losing Simms and having no proven players to fill that gap is going to be tough to overcome. That said, Brownell has managed top-75 finishes per kenpom each of the past seven seasons, so they will likely figure it out and be competitive by the season's end. On offense, Brownell does a good job letting good talent dictate the style, and with this group it will likely be heavy on threes. On defense, they grind every possession and seek to take away everything at the rim. Early in the season, expect them to get into a number of rock fight games and if they meet Marquette, it likely won't be pretty at all. It will likely come down to which team can get their offense rolling.




Temple Owls

November 21, Charleston, SC

Head Coach: Aaron McKie (19-28)

Three-Year NET Average: 110.7

Three-Year Kenpom Average: 109.0

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 122

Khalif Battle & Damian Dunn lead a long Owl back court
Photo by Colleen Claggett | The Temple News

Projected Starters: PG Jeremiah Williams (6'5" So), SG Khalif Battle (6'5" Jr), SF Damian Dunn (6'5" So), PF Nick Jourdain (6'8" So), C Jake Forrester (6'9" Sr)

It's hard to hold Temple's dismal 2020-21 against them as they didn't get a game in until December 19 and had two long lay-offs during the COVID year. The 5-11 record certainly wasn't flattering for Aaron McKie, who's still trying to find his footing, but it's starting to become clear how they want to play. Expect a lot of four-out sets and a roster of 6'5" and taller athletes that can switch defensively. McKie was an NBA point guard, so the offensive plan of relying on sharing the ball, taking threes, and going downhill to get to the line makes sense.

I expect Temple to be improved over last year, but there are still some question marks. None of their seniors from last year elected to stick around, so another question will be where their depth comes from as they lost two starters and a key reserve that provided experience and a solid 80 minutes per game. With no true ballhandler, they can be turnover-prone. With both Battle and Dunn being high-usage, low-efficiency scoring options, they likely won't see significant offensive improvement unless those two can develop into more reliable shot makers. It will take time for McKie to build this team back up to what they were under Fran Dunphy and this year will likely be a bridge between the COVID train-wreck of last year and any future success once McKie is able to get his system working.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

St. Bonaventure/Boise State Capsules, 2021-22

St. Bonaventure Bonnies

November 21, Charleston, SC

Head Coach: Mark Schmidt (324-275 overall, 242-185 at St. Bonaventure)

Three-Year NET Average: 90.3

Three-Year Kenpom Average: 92.0

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 16

Kyle Lofton led the nation in minutes per game in 2020-21
Photo by Rich Barnes | USA Today

Projected Starters: PG Kyle Lofton (6'3" Sr), SG Jaren Holmes (6'4" Sr), SF Dominick Welch (6'5" Sr), PF Jalen Adaway (6'5" Sr), C Osun Osunniyi (6'10" Sr)

On paper, this is the best team Mark Schmidt has ever had. He brings back all five senior starters from a team that went 16-5, won the Atlantic-10, and earned a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Bonnies are ranked in the AP Poll for the first time in over 50 years. All five players averaged double-digit points last year. The leader is Lofton, who scored 14.4 ppg in an insane 38.4 mpg. He played 39 or 40 minutes in 16 of the Bonnies 21 games last year, so expect him to pretty much never come out. If they have a weakness, it's depth. Only two bench players tallied more than 100 minutes last season and both transferred. They'll hope for a boost from Pitt transfer Abdoul Karim Coulibaly, who averaged 5.2 ppg/3.9 rpg last year. Beyond that, Schmidt has no proven options.

With so little depth, it's no surprise the Bonnies slow it down on both ends. They don't turn the ball over on offense and the combination of Adaway and Osunniyi are excellent at creating second chances on the offensive glass. Defensively, they excel chasing teams off the line and forcing them to go inside, where they like to bring double-teams and Osunniyi is a human eraser. The Bonnies should be a tournament team again this year, but the danger is injuries. With so little depth, they can't afford to lose any of their starters. Teams playing the Bonnies would be advised to try to speed the pace and be aggressive seeking fouls to wear them out and get into the bench. When a starter fouled out, the Bonnies were 0-3. The Bonnies look solid, but they only played two non-conference games last year and most of their results came against an A-10 with just one other top-50 team (#48 VCU) and were drubbed in the NCAA Tournament by LSU when they played their first high-major opponent. They should still be good and in the mix in the A-10, but might not be the runaway favorite they are made out to be, particularly in a longer season that will test their depth more often.


Boise State Broncos

November 21, Charleston, SC

Head Coach: Leon Rice (237-137)

Three-Year NET Average: 97.3

Three-Year Kenpom Average: 94.3

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 71

Projected Starters: PG Marcus Shaver, Jr (6'2" Sr), SG Devonaire Doutrive (6'5" Sr), SF Emmanuel Akot (6'8" Sr), PF Abu Kigab (6'7" Sr), C Mladen Armus (6'10" Sr)

Former five-star recruit Emmanuel Akot is hoping for a senior star turn
Photo courtesy of Boise State Athletics

At 14-4 and having just swept Utah State, the Broncos looked NCAA-bound. They proceeded to lose their last four games, including their Mountain West Tournament opener, and dropped to the NIT where they lost in the second round to eventual champs Memphis. They return three starters in Shaver, Kigab, and Armus, while both Akot and Doutrive were spot starters and played significant minutes last year. They did, however, lose their leading scorer in Derrick Alston and leading assister in RayJ Dennis. Max Rice, the coach's son, is the only experienced bench player. Like the Bonnies, depth will be a problem.

On offense, Rice's teams run motion in a style that emulates his mentor, Mark Few. They want to space opponents out then create open looks off of screens and dribble hand-offs. More often than not, the three-ball is a heavy part of the arsenal. On defense, they slow teams down, chase them off the line, and control the glass. Everyone on the floor from 1-5 is expected to rebound. From a results perspective, Rice's first few years were a dream for Bronco faithful, with two NCAA bids in his first five seasons. Unfortunately, both were First Four losses and since then it's been three NIT appearances in six years. The Broncos are typically good enough to challenge for a postseason berth but late-season swoons before Selection Sunday (0-4 to finish 2021, 4-4 to finish 2020, 2-7 to finish 2019, 3-4 to finish 2018, 3-4 to finish 2017, 5-6 to finish 2016) have doomed their NCAA aspirations since that last 2015 appearance. This team looks like it will be more of the same. Competitive, but somewhere around the bottom of the top-half of the Mountain West and more likely sniffing an NIT bid than one in the NCAAs.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Elon Preview, 2021-22

Elon Phoenix

November 19, Charleston, SC, 6:00 or 8:00 pm

Head Coach: Mike Schrage (23-30)

3-Year NET Average: 241.3

3-Year Kenpom Average: 263.7

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 205

Hunter McIntosh rises and fires

Photo courtesy of Elon Athletics

Projected Starters: PG Darius Burford (6'0" So), SG Hunter McIntosh (6'2" Jr), SF Jerald Gillens-Butler (6'4" Sr), PF Hunter Woods (6'5" Jr), C Chuck Hannah (6'7" Sr)

The Phoenix were streaky in 2020-21, starting the season on a 3-game winning streak before dropping 8 in a row, punctuated by another 7-game winning streak that took them all the way to the first Colonial Title game appearance in program history, where they fell to Drexel. While their 10-9 record and 205 kenpom rank from a year ago won't dazzle, it represents their first winning record since 2017 and a more than 100-spot improvement in Schrage's first two years at Elon (#309 in 2019).

Elon will hope to be the Hunters and not the prey this year, specifically leading returning scorer Hunter McIntosh (15.7 ppg) and leading returning rebounder Hunter Woods (6.8 rpg). Floor general Darius Burford was an All-Freshman team member in the CAA while Chuck Hannah and sophomore Michael Graham provide a solid center rotation. The guy to keep an eye on is Jerald Gillens-Butler. The Butler transfer averaged 15.7 ppg in that 3-0 start for the Phoenix last year before an injury ended his seasons. If healthy, he will take the pressure off McIntosh and could help fuel continued improvement for Schrage's team.

Offensively, the focus is protecting the ball and taking threes. Six different players averaged over 2.0 three point attempts/game last year. They are a team that won't beat themselves. On defense, they want to slow the pace and make teams work for the shot attempt. They challenge well, cut down passing lanes, and really excel at limiting second chances for the opposing offense. This is definitely a team you would rather play early in the season, as well. Schrage's teams are 9-22 from November to January but 14-7 in February and March.

If Marquette plays Elon, that likely means they lost their Charleston Classic opener to Ole Miss. While Schrage seems to have this team on the right track, they will be doing their damage in conference play, not against high majors in November. Players like the Hunters and Gillens-Butler will allow them to hang for a bit with the big boys, but there simply isn't enough talent or length to handle 40 minutes against a West Virginia or Marquette. Once conference play starts, however, they have a legitimate shot at being a top-half CAA team and if Schrage's conference tourney record (5-2) is any indicator, they will eventually break through to the NCAAs.

Marquette Connection: Mike Schrage has had quite a bit of success against Marquette. He most recently saw Marquette as part of Chris Holtmann's staff at Butler in 2016-17, when the Bulldogs swept Marquette. Before that, he was part of Johnny Dawkins' staff at Stanford that knocked off Marquette 82-81 in overtime in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The only time Schrage was ever part of a loss to Marquette was in 2006, when he was the Director of Basketball Operations for Mike Krzyzewski and Marquette knocked off Duke in the CBE Classic Championship Game, 73-62.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

West Virginia Preview, 2021-22

West Virginia Mountaineers

November 19, Charleston, SC 6:00 or 8:00 pm

Head Coach: Bob Huggins (900-381 overall, 310-170 at West Virginia)

3-Year NET Average: 48.3

3-Year Kenpom Average: 42.7

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 35

Familiar foe Bob Huggins celebrated his 900th win in the 2021 NCAA Tournament
Photo by Mark Humphrey -- Huntington Herald-Dispatch

Projected Starters: PG Malik Curry (6'1" Sr), SG Sean McNeil (6'3" Sr), SF Taz Sherman (6'4" Sr), PF Jalen Bridges (6'7" So), C Gabe Osabuohien (6'7" Sr)

Last year's West Virginia felt like the antithesis of Bob Huggins basketball, but also exemplified why he's such a great coach. He had a team that couldn't stay with their own shadows on the defensive end, especially once big man Oscar Tshiebwe left midseason. Rather than trying to gut it out, he shifted to a perimeter oriented attack, giving his shooters the freedom to let it fly while continuing to relentlessly attack inside seeking fouls and second chance opportunities. The result was a massive flip from the year before as per kenpom the offensive rank improved from #67 to #12 but the defense plummeted from #3 to #70. Despite the change, Huggy Bear still earned a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

The two most prolific scorers from a year ago, Miles McBride and Derek Culver, are gone, but they return plenty to be excited about. Both McNeil and Sherman averaged double-digit points last year while Bridges was a low-usage efficiency monster that shot over 40% from deep and excelled attacking the offensive glass. Osabuohien moves from a platoon role as a defensive stopper to the forefront. Curry transferred in from Old Dominion and will seek to fill McBride's NBA-sized shoes. The Mountaineers have depth in the front court with Isaiah Cottrell and DePaul transfer Pauly Paulicap (who really should change his name to Westy Westvirginiason) but their backcourt reserves are all freshmen.

Offensively, Huggins is planning to use a 4-out, 1-in system. Osabuohien will be the man in the middle and everyone else will be focusing on either getting open for a three or attacking the rim. While the NBA-bound McBride seems like the bigger loss, the real question will be if they can get offensive contributions from the middle without Culver. The big man put a ton of pressure on opposing defenses by demanding the ball, dominating the glass, and drawing fouls. Osabuohien is a different type of offensive player, better as a passer than as a shooter, where he had an abysmal 34% 2PFGs/33% 3PFGs/39% FTs shooting split. On the defensive end is where he shines. While undersized, he can man the paint on his own, allowing the wings to fly around and apply pressure. This team won't be back to full on Press Virginia, where they pick teams up 94 feet from the rim, but they will throw multiple pressing looks at opponents, seeking to create havoc for inbounders and primary ball-handlers alike.

This feels like the kind of team that will get better as the season goes on. How they incorporate their transfers and where they find guard depth are questions that will need to be answered but probably won't definitively be figured out before the end of November. While playing in the Big 12 will make for a tough road, West Virginia has shown time and time again they are part of the reason that road is so tough. They look like a NCAA team, though likely not as highly seeded as they were a year ago. If Marquette meets the Mountaineers, they will be underdogs, but this may be a matchup they are uniquely well-suited for. Marquette will be playing against pressure every day in practice and the quick inbounds with no dedicated primary ball-handler may give them an edge against a team specifically targeting those aspects of the opponent offense. If nothing else, it would be a renewal of acquaintances for both Marquette and Shaka Smart against Bob Huggins. Marquette is 16-22 against Huggins (but 5-2 against his WVU teams) while Smart is 7-6 against Huggins, all in his time at Texas.

Marquette Connection: Raise your hand if you remember the last time Marquette faced West Virginia! If images of Buzz Williams are (literally) dancing in your head, you are correct. It was 2012 and Marquette was facing West Virginia for the last time before they turned in their Big East coats for Big 12 apparel. In addition to facing perceived 2012 Big East Player of the Year front-runner Kevin Jones, Buzz benched starters Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue, and Junior Cadougan in the first half and West Virginia Todd Mayo in the second half for violations of team rules. WVU took advantage, building a 37-22 lead early in the second half before Jae Crowder took over. The actual 2012 Big East Player of the Year keyed a 24-8 run as he tallied 26 points and 8 rebounds enroute to the 61-60 Marquette win. After the game ended, Buzz Williams danced to John Denver's Country Roads as Mountaineer fans became apoplectic and Buzz created a moment that rivaled Al McGuire jumping on the scorer's table after beating UW-Madison.

Monday, October 25, 2021

Mississippi Preview, 2021-22


Mississippi Rebels

November 18, Charleston, SC, 6:00 pm

Head Coach: Kermit Davis (454-280 overall, 51-42 at Ole Miss)

3-Year NET Average: 62.3

3-Year kenpom Average: 67.7

Projected 2021-22 T-Rank: 76

Luis Rodriguez looks to lead Ole Miss back to the NCAA Tournament

Photo by AP Sports

Projected Starters: PG Jarkel Joiner (6'1" Sr), SG Matthew Murrell (6'4" So), SF Tye Fagan (6'3" Sr), PF Luis Rodriguez (6'6" Jr), C Nysier Brooks (7'0" Sr)

Kermit Davis' third season at Ole Miss started poorly as the team was 8-8 and just 3-6 in SEC play at the end of January. From that point on, they got hot, going 8-3 with wins over Tennessee, then #10 Missouri (twice), and Kentucky before falling to LSU in the SEC Tournament. The Rebels had squarely played their way onto the bubble but came up just short as they earned a 1-seed in the NIT. They dropped their NIT opener to Louisiana Tech and saw their season come to an end.

Two of their top three scorers, Devontae Shuler and Romello White, are gone. Look for Jarkel Joiner to take up the leadership mantle. The Oxford, MS native transferred home last year and averaged 12.0 ppg, though he did so with some rather poor shooting numbers (44.4% 2PFGs, 26.1% 3PFGs, 42.9 eFG%). There was push and pull between him and Shuler last year, so expect this team to rise or fall with Joiner's play. Luis Rodriguez is the only player on the roster that was here when Ole Miss last went to the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and will need to pair with Joiner as he's the most efficient returning player and best rebounder. Matthew Murrell is the only other returning player to average more than 4 ppg and despite dreadful efficiency numbers had clearly carved out a role by last season's end. They are joined by Tye Fagan and Nysier Brooks, who transferred in from Georgia and Miami, respectively. Fagan is an undersized wing that excels at attacking the basket and scoring. Brooks is a fifth year player and massive space-eater that saw his efficiency, rebounding, and shot-blocking all dip down in his year at Miami after constant progress at Cincinnati. Another name to keep an eye on is Jaemyn Brakefield, a former top-50 recruit that committed to Duke but never settled in. He has unique size and talent on this roster and could be a difference maker if he can crack the lineup.

Davis does well adjusting to his personnel, but it seems like what he wants offensively has taken a step back. Early on at Ole Miss, his teams spread the floor and he had shooters like Breein Tyree, Terence Davis, and Devontae Shuler. They are all gone, as is last year's leading sniper KJ Buffen. Davis has said he wants to get back to the spread style of play but it remains to be seen if a team of mostly mediocre shooters in the past can become offensively efficient from the perimeter. Davis does well getting his teams to kick into another gear in transition, so on turnovers, expect them to attack quickly either at the rim or with a transition three. On defense is where they really shine, largely because of Davis' zone. He runs a 1-3-1 morphing zone that can shift into man defense. Generally the guards defend the perimeter, the forwards are long and athletic (Rodriguez and Brakefield fit the mold) to act as disrupters, and the big stays at home in the middle. They are aggressive, trying to trap and force bad passes. The preference is for opponents to try lob passes, which allows more time for their own defenders to recover. Players are expected to be constantly active with their hands up and taking up as much space as possible.

If it all comes together, this team could be fighting for a bid come March. If Joiner is the leader they need, if Brakefield breaks out as the star Duke hoped he would be, if Fagan and Brooks seamlessly slide into the rotation...those are a lot of ifs, especially in a deep and talented SEC. What might help them is they only see league favorites Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee one time each, so the schedule balance is in their favor. But it seems like Joiner is going to be the ball-dominant scoring leader, and his inefficiency makes that a concern as no one else on this roster has been a proven scorer at this level. Where will the points come from? Illinois will be a stout litmus test, but Ole Miss might be the more fair one, and one that Marquette has a better shot in. Both teams have a lot of newcomers so expect this one to come down to the team that adjusts to what their coach wants sooner.

Marquette Connection: The Rebels have only ever played Marquette once but it's a meeting they would probably sooner forget. It was also a neutral site tournament in the 2011 Paradise Jam. The Golden Eagles, led by Jae Crowder's 25 points and 7 rebounds, blitzed Mississippi early, opening a 40-12 lead 15 minutes in on their way to a 96-66 demolition of the Rebels. Darius Johnson-Odom added 20 points. Marquette finished off their successful trip with a closer than expected 59-57 win over Norfolk State in the title game as they claimed the Paradise Jam crown.

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.