Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season. We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
WARNING: As a Marquette alum and obsessive Golden Eagle basketball fan, this is going to take my lengthy, in-depth, nerdy previews to a whole new level. If I were you, I would clear out ten minutes of your schedule before beginning to read this.
Coming off their third straight trip to the Sweet 16 and first Elite 8 appearance since 2003, the Marquette Golden Eagles have emerged as a consistent national threat. MU was co-Big East Champs a year ago and Buzz Williams will rely on his loaded frontcourt to help the Golden Eagles bring home another title in their new look conference.
MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES
Last Season: 2nd, 14-4 in Big East, 27-8 overall
Predicted Big East Finish: 5th
Projected Depth Chart
C: Chris Otule (Sr)/Davante Gardner (Sr)
F: Jamil Wilson (Sr)/Steve Taylor (So)
SF: Juan Anderson (Jr)/Deonte Burton (Fr)
SG:Todd Mayo (Jr) or Jajuan Johnson (Fr)/Jake Thomas (Sr)
PG: Derrick Wilson (Jr)/Duane Wilson (Fr)/John Dawson (Fr)
Gone: SG-Vander Blue, G/F-Trent Lockett, PG-Junior Cadougan, SG-Jamal Ferguson (transfer-NC Central)
Even with the surprising decision of JUCO transfer and Milwaukee native Jameel McKay to leave the program before even playing a single game at Marquette, the Golden Eagles still have their most talented frontcourt in recent program history. A lack of expected playing time was the reported reason for McKay’s transfer since Williams returns five guys who played significant roles up-front last season.
The dynamic center duo of seniors Chris Otule and Davante Gardner will anchor the middle. Gardner earned Big East Sixth Man of the Year honors and is one of the most efficient low post scorers in the country. He has an arsenal of killer post moves, terrific touch around the basket, great footwork for a guy his size, and finishes through or draws contact which gets him to the free throw line where he shot almost 84% last year. Gardner also has a nice mid-range game that became more prevalent in his offensive repertoire last season and makes him a multidimensional scoring threat.
Where Gardner has made tremendous strides during his collegiate career is on the defensive end. He has continued to work on his body and heads into the season looking as slim as he has since arrived on campus. That has allowed the big fella to show improved lateral quickness which helps him as a pick and roll defender.
Otule will start at center as he was granted a sixth year waiver by the NCAA since he has suffered numerous injuries throughout his college career. He is another big body down low but brings more of a defensive presence to the paint as a rim protector. His offensive game is fairly limited to around the hoop as he has a reliable right handed hook shot in the paint and also gets rewarded for his aggressiveness on the offensive glass. He and Gardner might be the best 1-2 center punch in all of college basketball.
Expected to make a leap during his senior season is versatile forward Jamil Wilson. Primarily used in a reserve role last year, Wilson will start at power forward. He was the team’s most efficient three-point shooter a year ago, has a nice mid-range jumper, and is also explosive at the rim. Consistency has been an issue for the former Oregon transfer but he played well down the stretch last season and Marquette needs him to pick up where he left off.
McKay’s exit ensures that Steve Taylor will be a major contributor off the bench. Taylor saw spot minutes as a freshman and is another versatile forward who can be effective around the basket and also knock down shots from the perimeter. He had off-season knee surgery and hasn’t shown any lingering effects during practices but that will still be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
After spending most of last season as the starting power forward, Juan Anderson shifts to his more natural small forward position. Anderson originally announced his intentions to transfer this off-season but changed his mind and stayed at Marquette. He brings great energy to the floor and is another versatile forward who can drain the occasional three-pointer and is athletic around the rim.
Those five frontcourt players give Williams plenty of options with his rotation this season. It will be interesting to see if the Golden Eagles play Otule and Gardner together on the floor a little more this year, a look they used late last year, and then have the option of playing Wilson, Taylor, or Anderson at the three.
In losing their their starting backcourt of Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue, and Trent Lockett, Marquette has major question marks in their backcourt. Derrick Wilson has been the primary backup to Cadougan the past two seasons and takes over the starting spot. His biggest impact since arriving in Milwaukee has been on the defensive end but has he shown very little offensively. Wilson does take care of the ball and rarely turns it over but had just 40 points in 457 minutes during his sophomore campaign. Being more aggressive on the offensive end but also playing within his abilities will be a key for Wilson as he transitions to his new role.
A pair of freshmen give Williams depth behind Wilson. Duane Wilson was a top 100 recruit who is more offensive-minded but he suffered a stress fracture in his leg last month and could reportedly miss anywhere from 8-12 weeks. That opens the door for John Dawson to see immediate minutes at the one. Dawson is considered more of a project at the point so Derrick Wilson should see thirty-plus minutes per game until Duane Wilson is fully healthy. Even then, there will likely be a learning curve before Williams fully trusts the freshman in taking the reins of the offense.
There is going to be competition for minutes at shooting guard between Todd Mayo and freshman JaJuan Johnson who is the most heralded of MU’s loaded 2013 freshmen class. After a solid first season, Mayo went through his shares of ups and downs during his sophomore year which began with him being academically ineligible. He is a talented scorer whether creating off the bounce or shooting it from the outside but tends to play out of control too often. His maturity as a now upperclassmen will be vital to Marquette’s long-term success in 2013-14. The Duane Wilson injury might lead to Mayo seeing some minutes at point guard as well if Dawson is not up to the challenge of playing right away.
As for the 6-5 Johnson, he brings better size to the two guard position and can also get buckets. He is very bouncy and can stroke it from the perimeter. He should be an immediate contributor whether he wins the starting spot at two guard or sees quality minutes off the bench. Like Anderson, senior Jake Thomas planned on transferring this summer but changed his mind and decided to stick at Marquette. He is a three-point specialist who could see spot minutes especially when opposing team’s play a zone since the Golden Eagles aren’t a very dangerous three-point shooting sqaud.
Another highly-touted newcomer is Deonte Burton who like Johnson was a consensus top 50 recruit. At 6-4, 230, the Milwaukee native is built like a linebacker and is at his best attacking the basket. Burton has incredible ups and it is impressive to see his explosiveness at the rim. He needs to improve his jumper but because of his size, strength, athleticism, and versatility as a defender, he should see decent minutes off the bench at the two or the three.
Regardless of the turnover on their roster, Buzz Williams has built a culture of hard work and more importantly, winning for the Marquette Golden Eagles program which is why they were picked as the preseason favorites in the Big East. Sometimes the “hard working” aspect steals the headlines but Williams has also done a terrific job of recruiting quality talent that fits their style of play. This season, the frontcourt will be the driving force with Gardner and Wilson carrying the scoring load. If the backcourt can figure itself out and help compliment the guys inside, Marquette certainly has the depth and talent to make another deep run in March.
Players to Watch: JaJuan Johnson and Todd Mayo
The shooting guard position is the x-factor for Marquette this season. Mayo has the experience edge but Johnson’s raw ability could end up winning out in terms of who gets the starting nod. Burton and Thomas will factor into the equation at some point but Williams needs either Johnson or Mayo to emerge as a backcourt scorer since Wilson is more of a game manager than offensive weapon.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/16 vs. Ohio State
11/25 at Arizona State
11/28 vs. CS-Fullerton (Wooden Legacy)
11/29 vs. Miami FL/George Washington (Wooden Legacy)
12/1 vs. Creighton/Arizona State/San Diego State/Charleston (Wooden Legacy)
12/7 at Wisconsin
12/21 vs. New Mexico (in Las Vegas)
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#15 Notre Dame
#21 Wichita State
#23 New Mexico
#29 St. John’s
#33 Boise State
#36 St. Louis
#37 La Salle
#38 San Diego State
#40 Arizona State
#44 Iowa State
#52 Boston College
#53 Ole Miss
#56 Saint Mary’s
#60 Florida Gulf Coast
#64 Florida State
#66 N.C. State
#67 Kansas State
#70 Miami FL
#72 Texas A&M
#73 Long Beach State
#76 Indiana State
#77 Georgia Tech
#84 Washington State
#86 Oregon State
#87 Louisiana Tech
#89 Wake Forest
#90 Central Florida
#95 Seton Hall
#97 George Mason
#99 Penn State
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#108 Virginia Tech
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Follow paulmbanks