The Golden Eagles have been a college basketball power for most of what my generation can remember. Marquette rode Dwayne Wade to a Final Four in 2003 and then had a string of eight straight NCAA appearances not long after that. One of those eliminated Xavier and left Tu Holloway crying on the bench. The two years after that saw three seeds for the team from Milwaukee, the three years after that have seen nary a bid at all. Last year, Steve Wojciechowski oversaw a team that went 13-19 overall and 4-11 in the Big East. Marquette has been, for all intents and purposes, a wreck recently.
This season they come back with a loaded recruiting class and their chance for their first NCAA bid since the (and this is weird to type) halcyon days of Buzz Williams. Wojo is trying to build on a team based on defense and grinding the game down to a crawl. That was undone last year by Marquette's complete inability to grab a defensive rebound. Gambling for steals paid off some against the early season's lesser competition, but once the Big East came, the Golden Eagles got obliterated on the glass. Only 12 teams in the nation were worse at preventing opponents from grabbing their misses.
The recruits have been brought in to address that, but the Golden Eagles have a long way to go to be relevant again. If their second year coach can get things turned around and form Duke West like he intends, the Big East will be add a fifth team to the top tier. It's not looking likely that happens this year, though. Below is our take on Marquette's players. For a more in depth look at each guy, check Anonymous Eagle.
Duane Wilson. The sophomore guard can't be called anything but a disappointment in his first season. He put up an offensive efficiency of 98.7, but he took away shots from Matt Carlino to do it. The 35% he shot from deep was greatly undermined by the fact he was an awful 42% inside the arc. Wilson is going to play a lot, shoot a lot, and get to the line a lot. He can be a weapon if he converts inside. If he doesn't, he's going to drive his teammates crazy. JuJuan Johnson fits the same bill, just in a slightly different way. The stringy forward is effective inside, but insisted on heaving up 73 threes last year. He made 21% of them. Neither player is much of a rebounder, but both are very effective man up defenders and will come up with more than their fair share of steals.
Luke Fischer returns in the paint. Fischer is 6-11 and shot 61.3% from inside the paint last year. Unfortunately for Marquette, he rebounds like he's 5-11. Part of that could be because he was busy rejecting 8.5% of opponents shots when on the floor. Steve Wojciechowski's team is going to gamble for steals and blocks. That's what they do, and Fischer is a big part of it.
6-6 forward Sandy Cohen is the lone remaining returnee. Cohen also views rebounding as the chore of the proletariat (the departed Steve Taylor), blocks 1.7% of opponent's shots and posted a 2.1% steals rate. Cohen wasn't much of an offensive threat last year, but that mostly came from not shooting much. If anyone looks to lose time in Marquette's rotation this season, it's him.
Steve Taylor was the lone Marquette player who had much of inclination to rebound, and he has transferred out to Toledo. Taylor posted an 10.7 OR% and a 16.5 DR% and around six boards per contest. Those numbers don't leap off the page, but they led the Golden Eagles last year. Also gone is Matt Carlino, who averaged 15 points per game. Carlino shot 41.9% from deep and went for 27/2/0 in his only game against Xavier last year.
Juan Anderson was the kind of piece player that every program needs. He played 68.4% of minutes and averaged 8.3/5.7/1.7 in that time. He joined Taylor as the only other player on the team to rank in the top 500 nationally in any rebounding category. Derrick Wilson is arguable the biggest loss to the team. He played 33 minutes per game and ran the offense for all of them his assist rate of 27.9% was 135th in the nation and he turned the ball over less than twice per game. Amazingly, his usage rate was only 14.6%.
There are a lot, and none of them are bad. Henry Ellenson as considered by ESPN to be the #2 power forward recruit in the nation and landed fifth in their Top 100. Somehow, Marquette beat Michigan St. and UK to him. Wally Ellenson, his older and far less talented brother, transferring in from Minnesota may very well be the reason that Marquette landed such a coveted player. Ellenson the Younger can shoot the three, run the floor, and play the post. Oh, and he's 6-10. Listed as a weakness? The fact he can't always take a perimeter defender off the dribble. That's not a bad weakness for a power forward.
Next on Marquette's list of ESPN Top 100 players is Haanif Cheatham. Cheatham is 6-5 slashing guard who can shoot when he has time. He can also play the point and likes to penetrate and pitch. His game sounds somewhat reminiscent of Dee Davis, just with an extra six inches of height. On a side note, Florida International very optimistically offered on him. Love the enthusiasm down there, guys. If Cheatham isn't the freshman running the point, it's because Traci "The Engine" Carter will be. Carter has a motor befitting his nickname and has shoulder that look like baby heads. He, like the other guys listed before him, can shoot. He's going to turn the ball over and he's not great at recognizing defense yet, but he plays at this level already.
Sacar Anim is the lowest ranked incoming freshman. He was the #37 shooting guard in the nation. Marquette is essentially having a haul this year like Xavier will have next year. (Of course, the Musketeers already have a Sweet 16 team in place). Anim is a slasher like Cheatham and also stands 6-5. He'll struggle with his outside shot to begin with. Finally, Matt Heldt is the 6-10, 210 answer to all of the rebounding issues. Actually, Heldt will need to add a lot of weight and strength to play inside, but he has the finesse game and back to the basket play already down. And, of course, he can shoot the three.
Marquette has massively retooled this year. They aren't going to be the 4-14 walkover that they were last year. What they won't be, I don't think, is quite an NCAA tournament team. They're going to beat very good teams on occasion this year, but this is a lot of new moving parts to turn into one homogeneous whole. If Steve Wojciechowski can do that, well, look out. The coaching may make the difference in this team. A well coached one is going to be a threat.