With the 2012-13 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles turned in 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 the roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). The series continues today with the reigning king of nicknames, Davante Gardner.
|2012 - Davante Gardner
Minimum Expectation: The bar is being set pretty high for Gardner this season. His 9.5 points and 5.3 boards per game are both tops amongst returning players, so everyone expects him to be a major contributor. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect Davante to improve upon last year's numbers, even if not by a lot. I think 10 and 6 is a very attainable goal. But remember, this is the floor. We have far loftier aspirations for the big man this season.
Wildest Dream: Big Smooth takes another leap forward. He becomes a presence in the middle that you can run the offense through every time down the floor. His scoring knack forces teams to double team him when he gets the ball inside, and his excellent passing ability allows him to create easy opportunities for his mates diving to the rack or spotting up from distance. We all know what kind of offensive numbers Davante has the ability to put up. Add in continued energy on the glass and a bit of serviceable defense, and you could be looking at the type of season that all-conference nods are made of.
Worst Nightmare: When a player is coming back off of an injury, there is always the concern that the injury could once again rear its ugly head. In Davante's case, he technically came back from his injury last season. But anyone watching could clearly see that, though he was on the floor, he wasn't really back yet. My worst fear is an early season re-aggravation of that injury that nags Davante all season long and prevents him from taking that next step.
Aside from the injury bug my only other fear would be that somehow Davante regresses. If he doesn't rebound or defend (but especially rebound) at the level that we need him to, he could make it tough for the coaching staff to keep him on the floor enough for his other gifts to have an impact - especially with Otule's return.
If you've ever wanted to see an example of how Buzz Williams effectively motivates his players, look no further than Davante Gardner and Ox's outing against Villanova this season. Gardner played just 11 minutes, went one for four from the field, grabbed just one rebound, and according to Buzz, "played really bad."
So what did Big Smooth do next time out? Well, just two days later, he obliterated Syracuse's zone defense for a career high 26 points, as well as eight rebounds and two assists. Not too shabby, huh?
Ok, enough beating around the bush. Let's focus on the most controversial aspect of Gardner's season: The "Automatic" chant. It started in 2011-12 and it flew in the face of every basketball fan's common thought process, namely STFU during your team's free throws. On top of that, it was statistically inaccurate: Gardner was a 75% free throw shooter coming in to this season. As far as I could tell, no one other than the dudes in the student section chanting cared for it.
Except Ox liked it. As part of the video packages that MU runs well before gametime, they asked the returning players what their favorite part of playing in the Bradley Center was, and Gardner said he loved the "Automatic" chant. Well, no point in arguing now. The big man likes it to the point where he points towards the roof of the BC after making free throws in what I presume is a nod to the chants, so there's nothing left to do but explain what's going on to opposing team's fans when they wonder what the hell is going on.
Here's the thing: it might actually help him. Whether he prefers to shoot with a bit of noise, or the confidence of the students helps boost his confidence, Gardner shot 88% on 96 FT attempts at home this season while shooting 79% on 80 road/neutral attempts. If he can keep that rate up next year, it's gonna get awfully loud in the BC when he's at the stripe...
Best Game: Pretty much have to go with the Syracuse game, although Gardner's double-doubles against Cincinnati and Mississippi State are hard to ignore.
Season Grade (1-Worst Nightmare to 10-Wildest Dreams): He hit the scoring mark we laid out, but not the rebounding one, but he did get honorable mention all conference. A quick check of his KenPom.com page shows that he had the best offensive rating, effective shooting percentage, assist rate, block rate, fouls called per 40 minutes, fouls drawn per 40 minutes, and free throw rate of his career. Not bad at all, kids. I'll give Gardner a 9, with a bit of room for improvement next year.