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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

October 16th, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball

 

Marquette Golden Eagles

 

Overall Rank: #27

Conference Rank: #6 Big East

 

2005-06: 20-11, 10-6, 4th (t)

2005-06 postseason: NCAA

 

MarquetteIt was supposed to be a down year for Marquette and Coach Tom Crean, but a fabulous group of freshmen guards proved that they didn’t need any time to adjust to play in the Big East.  With the trio becoming sophomores, expectations are quickly rising for the Golden Eagles.  However, it’s not the youth of the backcourt that is causing concerns, it is the lack of talent up front.

 

Who’s Out: Sharpshooter Steve Novak led MU with 17.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and a 46.7 shooting percentage from long range.  That is a lot of production that cannot be replaced by just one or two players.  Fellow forwards Ryan Amoroso, who transferred to San Diego State, and Chris Grimm will also leave the frontcourt with fewer options.  Wing Joe Chapman started 16 games and quietly averaged 6.0 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists during his senior campaign.

 

Who’s In: Lazar Hayward will be asked to help replace Novak.  The 6-6 forward is ideally a wing, but if Novak can handle the four, so can Hayward.  Hayward has a nice outside stroke and can put the ball on the floor and get to the basket, a dimension to the game that Novak lacked.  If he’s not starting in November, he’ll at least be finishing by March.  Junior college transfer Lawrence Blackledge will add some much needed depth on the wing.  David Cubillan will have to wait a little while before he replaces Dominic James at the point, but he’ll see minutes right away off the bench.  The Venezuelan shot 51.0 percent from beyond the arc last year at St. Benedict’s in New Jersey and is a good ballhandler.  He will have at least one year to learn the ropes from James and that’s not a bad guy to learn from.

 

Who to Watch: No backcourt group will be more fun to watch than James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews.  James took over the point guard duties from the day he stepped foot on campus and didn’t disappoint as a freshman, averaging 15.3 points, 5.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds.  McNeal and Matthews will have the opportunity to take over some of the long range shooting from Novak, and a little more consistency in that department will help the Golden Eagles stretch out the opposing defenses this year just like Novak has done over the last few years.

 

Final Projection: The frontcourt has a few options with Dan Fitzgerald, Ousmane Barro, Jamil Lott and Mike Kinsella.  Fitzgerald has the ability to be a player a lot like Novak, with more ball handling skills.  The 6-9 St. Paul, Minnesota native spends most of his time on the perimeter and can knock down the three’s.  Fitzgerald may get the starting nod at the four just to bring some more size to the lineup, but he would be a nice match-up problem off the bench on the wings or the four spot.  It is hoped that Barro can be a battler on the boards and the defensive end at the five spot.  After averaging 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds as a part-time starter last year, the 6-10 Senegal product is still a work in progress.  He won’t need to score much, but has work to do in order to at least make Marquette’s frontcourt dangerous on the defensive end.  Lott earned seven starts as a junior after spending a couple years at the junior college level and, along with Kinsella, will provide depth in the paint.  The top of the Big East will be tough as always and a top five finish is an obtainable goal.  Whether the Golden Eagles finish second or seventh, they’ll end up in the NCAAs.

 

Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA

 

Projected Starting Five:

Dominic James, Sophomore, Guard, 15.3 points per game

Jerel McNeal, Sophomore, Guard, 11.1 points per game

Wesley Matthews, Sophomore, Guard, 9.0 points per game

Dan Fitzgerald, Junior, Guard, 5.3 points per game

Ousmane Barro, Junior, Forward, 4.4 points per game

28 Illinois » Complete List » 26 Creighton

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