With the 2013-2014 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we're at it, we'll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We'll run through roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). Next up is the man that will be missed more than any other in this year's senior class, Big Smoove, Big Nimble, The Artist, The Ox, The Big Nickname...
#54 - Senior - 6'8" - 290 lb.
Minimum Expectation: Gardner averaged 11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in just 21 and a half minutes per game. According to KenPom.com, this made him one of the 40 most offensively efficient players in the country. Now here's where it gets interesting: Gardner broke 25 minutes in 11 games last year, 10 in Big East play and against Wisconsin as well. In those games, he averaged 14.9 points and 6.8 rebounds. So, if he thinks he can play more than ever, I'm going to side with him. Let's set that bar at 14 points and 6 rebounds, just to cut him a little bit of a break.
Wildest Dream: Well, he's already on the preseason all-Big East first team, so there's really only one place to go on this. How about 17 points, 7 rebounds, and Doug McDermott hears his footsteps in the Player of the Year race? Buzz did let Gardner participate in that three point shooting contest at Madness, by the way...
Worst Nightmare: Buzz can't bring himself to play Gardner more than 20-22 minutes a game for team purposes, and he's limited in what he can accomplish on the floor. 12 points and five rebounds is all he has in him, but he's still the most exciting offensive player that Marquette has.
Like many other players in this season gone wrong, it's hard to know exactly what to feel about the season that Davante had. In a lot of ways it was his finest season in a Marquette uniform. His career high 14.9 points per game, led the team. His 5.7 rebounds per game was also a career high. He earned 2nd Team All Big East honors. He wasn't great defensively, but no one really expected he would be. He notched 5 double-doubles, one more than in his previous 3 seasons combined. By all of those measurements, the big fella had himself a damn fine season.
However there also seemed to be a fair bit of frustration in this season. With the backcourt situation being what it was, Davante often found himself fighting for position inside, only to find he had an extra defender already sitting in his lap - either preventing him from getting the ball or being available to double team him immediately after the catch. Frequently, the frustration with the lack of touches and/or space on the interior, manifested itself in the form of jump shots. Gardner hoisted more jumpers this year than I ever remember him taking. He launched 16 3-pointers this season. Prior to that he had only taken seven in his entire career.
Another area where Davante's frustration showed, was at the free throw line. The charity strip was not quite as charitable for the big fella this year. He shot 78% - which anyone would gladly take out of their 6'8" 5-man, but was actually a 5% dip for Mr. Automatic. But it wasn't the free throw percentage that was the biggest drop-off for Davante, it was the rate at which he got to shoot those throws. In 2013 Gardner finished with a Free Throw Rate (FT/FGA) of 81.1 - good enough for 9th best in the nation. In 2014 that rate dipped to 66.7. This resulted not from a decrease in FTs - his FT attempts per 40 min. were virtually identical to last season. But while his FT attempts remained the same, his total FG attempts increased by about 3 per game. So Davante was taking more shots, but wasn't getting to the line any more than he did last year - another byproduct of the inability to get deep touches, and the increased reliance on perimeter shots (and maybe officials getting wise to his tricks for drawing whistles).
So while it was a very productive season for Gardner, I think the big man and fans alike were all hoping for a little something more.
Best Game: Everyone will remember Todd Mayo's late game heroics to force overtime in the first Villanova game, but it was Davante that carried the load for MU in that game. In one of the few games this season where he wasn't constantly double teamed, Ox reminded coaches everywhere why they shouldn't play him that way. He dominated 'Nova in the paint with 29 points and 13 rebounds (7 on the offensive end).
Season Grade: Man we set the bar pretty high for Davante this season. The 14 and 6 minimum expectation was pretty much spot on. The big man was able to reach those numbers, but not much more. However, I realize that there's a certain amount of help that a post player needs in order reach his full potential. And I'm not sure that Davante got that this year. So I'll give him an 8 for the season, and it would have been a 9 if he had gotten this off in time: