Marquette Golden Eagles
Overall Rank: #16
Conference Rank: #5 Big East
2007-08: 25-10, 11-7, 5th
2007-08 postseason: NCAA
Few teams in the nation can match Marquette’s backcourt, but the frontcourt remains a problem, a big problem. It was that lack of depth that led to an early departure in the NCAA Tournament and the same fate could wait for the Golden Eagles this year. New coach Buzz Williams took over the program after Coach Tom Crean went to Indiana. But even without Coach Crean, the Golden Eagles have enough talent to compete for a Big East title.
However, the already undersized frontcourt has lost quite a few weapons…most notably Ousmane Barro. The 6-10 forward started 15 games during his senior campaign and averaged 5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds. He was not the scoring threat in the paint that the team needed, but he at least grabbed some rebounds and blocked some shots. Dan Fitzgerald is also gone. Listed as a 6-9 forward, Fitzgerald played more like a tall wing. He was a decent long range shooter, but never really helped out in the paint. Lawrence Blackledge and Trevor Mbakwe never earned much playing time during their time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but they could have emerged as impact players.
The experienced players who are coming in do not address the size issue too much. Jimmy Butler and Joseph Fulce are tall for wings at 6-6 and 6-7, but this is not a team in need of immediate help on the wings. The two were junior college teammates in Tyler, Texas and can certainly spend some time at the four spot. Both are decent rebounders and scorers who bring another dynamic to the wing. Liam McMorrow does have size and experience. The 7-0, 260 pound transfer from Durham College is a project, but he has the size to at least grab some rebounds and alter shots on the defensive end. Chris Otule, the lone incoming freshman, is an athletic big man, but he lacks the strength to battle in the Big East as a rookie.
Who to Watch:
Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews were a talented trio three years ago. Now they are seniors who have one last chance to take Marquette to the top of the Big East. James is the point guard and dished out 4.4 assists per game last season. His turnover numbers went down to 2.1 per game last year and that is a good sign. If the scoring point guard can keep finding his teammates and do some scoring when needed, it would be a good thing for the Golden Eagles. James’ outside shooting is still not very good and probably never will be, but he will hit the occasional three-pointer. McNeal’s shooting is no better, but he does do a great job scoring around the basket. For a 6-3 guard, he also does a well on the glass and that is a big help to the frontcourt. Matthews is a solid rebounder too and will do the dirty work. Even with those three, there is room for Maurice Acker and David Cubillan to play a significant role. On most other teams, Acker and Cubillan would be starting, but on Marquette they are dangerous weapons off the bench instead. Acker will not get many shots, but he is a much better shooter than the starting trio.
Lazar Hayward is only 6-6, but he is a quality forward who averaged 12.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. The problem is most of that scoring is done on the perimeter. That is fine if the Golden Eagles have a big man to compliment him, but they do not at this point. Dwight Burke is the likely answer to start at the five if he can hold off the newcomers. He did start 17 games a year ago, but Burke only averaged 11.8 minutes per game. If he cannot effectively play a bigger role this year, the Marquette frontcourt will once again prevent the Golden Eagles from reaching their full potential.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Dominic James, Senior, Guard, 12.9 points per game
Jerel McNeal, Senior, Guard, 14.9 points per game
Wesley Matthews, Senior, Guard, 11.3 points per game
Lazar Hayward, Junior, Forward, 12.8 points per game
Dwight Burke, Senior, Forward, 2.5 points per game