Marquette: Looking Ahead to the 2011-2012 Season

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Marquette basketball

Rather than dwell on the embarrassment that was Marquette’s Sweet 16 performance against North Carolina, I prefer to take the glass half-full approach and look ahead to next season.  Since it looks like Buzz Williams will not be fleeing the Brew City for Oklahoma, Missouri, or any of the other rumored coaching vacancies that his name has been linked to in the past couple weeks, the Golden Eagles only have to replace three seniors; Jimmy Butler, Dwight Buycks, and Joe Fulce.  (I guess four if you count Rob Frozena.)  Here is a look at how the 2011-2012 Marquette roster is shaping up and what I like and the role I would like to see each player have next season.

By: David Kay

Projected Depth Chart:
C: Chris Otule/Davante Gardner
F: Erik Williams/Jae Crowder
G/F: Vander Blue or Jamil Wilson/Juan Anderson/Jamail Jones
SG: Darius Johnson-Odom/Blue or Jones/Todd Mayo
PG: Junior Cadougan/Derrick Wilson/ Dave Singleton

Vander Blue, G/F, Soph.
What I like:
His ability and willingness to defend was the only reason Vander saw any playing time during Big East play as his offensive abilities became practically non-existent.  He brought great energy and athleticism to the floor and is the early candidate to replace Jimmy as Marquette’s lockdown defender next season.  I also think his court vision and ability to find the open man can be a major asset next season, and think the more MU gets out in transition, the more dangerous Vander can be.

What I want to see improve:
After the DePaul game in which he scored 12 points, Blue only scored 27 points in Marquette’s final eighteen games shooting just 8-49 from the field.  Everything about his offensive game needs to improve; shooting, ball-handling, finishing, hanging on to the rock while driving.  Re-gaining the confidence that he had during the non-conference schedule and adding strength to his thin frame would also help him in all of those areas.

Junior Cadougan, PG, Jr.
junior cadougan marquetteWhat I like:
I will admit, I was a big Junior hater at the beginning of the season.  But as the year wore on, Cadougan showed tremendous improvement and became a huge part of our offensive success.  A big part of that was his sudden desire to attack the basket and become more than just a facilitator on the perimeter.  He has also re-shaped his body to become more athletic which is crucial to his success as a defender especially in the Big East where he will match-up against extremely quick point guards.

What I want to see improve:
Cadougan was only 2-13 from three this season and needs to become a more reliable and consistent outside shooter.  His 63.8 free throw percentage also needs to improve particularly since the point guard has the ball in his hands so frequently in end of the game situations.  I would also like to see Cadougan improve his quickness on the defensive end.  He is going to be critical to Marquette’s success next season since he is the only point guard on the roster with major Division One college experience.  If he continues to develop as a player and leader, my faith in Junior will only increase.

Jae Crowder, PF, Sr.
What I like:
The parallels were drawn to Lazar Hayward before the season and it is easy to see why due to his inside/outside game, strength, terrific hands, toughness on the glass, and ability to play bigger than he actually is.  Crowder also became the emotional leader of Marquette this season and a guy who Buzz said early in the season, “could not be taken off the floor.”  He has a great feel for the game on both ends and can really be a tough match-up for opposing teams.

What I want to see improve:
Crowder really hit a rough patch in the second half of Big East play and more times than not, when he struggled; the entire team struggled specifically when he got into early foul trouble.  I would like to see Crowder develop an attack game where he can take defenders off the dribble especially since he is often matched up against bigger, slower power forwards who are not comfortable guarding out on the perimeter.  Improving on his 61-percent rate from the free throw line would also help since he gets so many looks on the inside.

Davante Gardner, C, Soph.
What I like:
Though inconsistent for too long of stretches, Gardner flashed some of his potential as a back to the basket scorer which is very encouraging for a team that has severely lacked a legit offensive post presence in quite some time.  He knows how to throw his body around and has a great touch around the hoop.

What I want to see improve:
It would be nice to see Gardner actually develop a vertical of more than three inches.  That will come with getting his body into better shape and becoming more athletic and quicker which will serve as a benefit especially on the defensive end.  His body language also drives me insane.  It looks like he is half asleep when he is playing.

djo 3-point goggle

Darius Johnson-Odom, SG, Sr.
What I like:
DJO proved to be Marquette’s most dangerous scoring weapon and is more than capable of being a 20 point per game type performer next season.  He can shoot the three ball (though his percentage dipped 11% from his sophomore season) and also use his quickness and strength to get to the rim.  He has the best shot fake in college basketball that certainly gives Bob Knight goose bumps.  DJO also showed some fire and at times, was MU’s vocal leader on the floor.

What I want to see improve:
Too often, DJO would only show up for a few minutes a half when he went into takeover mode and would then disappear the rest of the half.  That takeover mode would sometimes spiral out of control as he would put his head down and try to take a defense 1-on-5 off the bounce which rarely turned into a positive end result.  If he can become a more consistent scorer and better ball-handler, he has a legit chance to be an All-Big East First Team selection.

Jamail Jones, G/F, Soph.
What I like:
The little we saw of him, specifically in during Big East play, I liked Jones energy on the floor and his ability to play several positions.  He has great athleticism and seems to be a capable three-point shooter.  The potential definitely seems to be there, now hopefully he can continue to develop his all-around game and become a constant contributor next season.

What I want to see improve:
At 6-6, 210 pounds Jones certainly looks the part of a Division One wing player, but clearly struggled grasping the defensive philosophies in his freshman season which is why he was often the odd man out in the rotation. He just needs to have a better understanding of the game and I think he will be fine.

Chris Otule, C, Jr.
chris otule marquetteWhat I like:
For the first time in his three years at Marquette, Otule was finally healthy and provided a shot-blocking presence in the paint.  He also demonstrated the ability to be a difference maker on the glass and that he is developing a solid post-up game.  Otule works hard to establish position on the block (just ask Jay Bilas) and that is an encouraging sign moving forward.

What I want to see improve:
Too often if Otule did not get an early bucket or two, he became a complete non-factor on the offensive end.  Maybe that was the guards fault for not getting him enough touches during the course of a game but either way, he needs to a viable option from the opening tip to the final whistle for Marquette to be a complete team.  Foul trouble was also a concern this past season and I wish he had better hands or at the very least, his teammates learned not to whip quick passes his way.  But if Otule can continue to develop his all-around game, he and Gardner actually make an intriguing center combo.

Erik Williams, F, Jr.
What I like:
Williams has nice athleticism, was an okay rebounder, and displayed an ability to knock down the mid-range jump shot when he did see sparing minutes.  Plus, Marquette is 1-0 all-time when he scores the first two points of each half (he did so versus Xavier.)   Umm… that’s about it.

What I want to see improve:
I will tread lightly here… Is it me or did Williams seem like chicken with its head cut off when he was on the floor?  From what I have heard, the biggest thing holding Williams back is his understanding of the offense and the team concept on defense.  If Williams is going to be more than a “play the first three minutes of each half” type of player, I would also like to see him get a little stronger and more physical since those minutes will more than likely come at the four.  I am not sure what recruiting analysts saw when he was a top-100 recruit two years ago, but hopefully some of that begins to shine through now that he will be an upperclassman.

NEWCOMERS:
Jamil Wilson, SF, Soph.
The Racine native and Oregon transfer could be the x-factor for Marquette next season.  He was a consensus top-100 recruit coming out of high school due to his athleticism and versatility, and should be knowledgable about what the team is trying to do since he has the experience of practicing with the team while sitting out per NCAA transfer rules.  He has “switchability” as Buzz calls it meaning he could fit into a Jimmy Butler like role being able to play and guard multiple positions.  I would not at all be surprised if was in the starting line-up from game one.

Dave Singleton, G, Jr.
After transferring from High Point and sitting out this past season, I am interested to see what kind of impact the walk-on will have for Marquette.  At 6-4, he has nice size for a combo guard and especially for a point guard, a position he spent a lot of minutes playing at High Point.  I would imagine he will be more than just a Rob Frozena-type walk-on, but I am curious to see what type of role he will have next season.

Juan Anderson, SF, Fr.
Besides having the greatest the twitter handle ever (juanonjuan10), Anderson is another player who possesses tremendous “switchability.”  I have only seen clips on Youtube of Anderson playing, but he appears to have a fairly well-round offensive game to compliment his size (6’7”, 210 pounds) and a solid frame that should only become stronger as he gets into a college strength and conditioning program.  I am excited about his future at Marquette.

Todd Mayo, SG, Fr.
From what I’ve seen of Mayo, he reminds me a little bit of Syracuse freshman guard Dion Waiters.  He has good strength for a 6-3, 190 pound off guard and can stroke it from the outside which is outstanding since Marquette does not have a lot of consistent perimeter threats on their roster for next year.

Derrick Wilson, PG, Fr.
Wilson, who was also a great football player in high school, seems like a perfect Buzz Williams recruit due to his toughness.  He is built like a rock at 6-1, 190 pounds, uses his quickness and strength to get to the basket, but needs to improve his outside shot.  He and Singleton figure to compete for minutes backing up Junior at the point.

Marquette has one scholarship remaining for the 2011-2012 season.  Ideally I would like to see Buzz land a true power forward but with most prospects already signed for next season, MU might be better off sitting on an open scholarship.  Unless of course Buzz has another JUCO prospect up his sleeve, can land another transfer, or capitalize on a player who has de-committed due to an end of the season coaching change.

Whatever the case may be with that final scholarship, the Golden Eagles should once again be competing for a spot in the tournament and in my totally unbiased opinion, finish somewhere between fifth-seventh in the Big East.

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.  You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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