No one's excited that Marquette lost to Nebraska-Omaha earlier this season. No one's thrilled that Marquette has three 11 point losses to what are probably the three best teams in the Big Ten. No one's fired up that Deonte Burton and John Dawson are leaving the team.
But, given all of that, I think it's safe to say that given how things have gone over the last four games, Marquette fans are pleased with the direction of the 2014-15 season. Steve Wojciechowski is figuring out what he has as the season progresses, and he's making the necessary changes to give his squad the best chance to succeed every time they take the floor.
This coming Tuesday night against Arizona State, Luke Fischer will make his debut for Marquette. The sophomore from Germantown, Wisconsin, left Indiana after a semester and thus had to sit out all of the spring semester a year ago as well as all of the fall semester this season in order to satisfy the NCAA's transfer restrictions. Listed at 6'11 and 245 pounds, Fischer immediately becomes Marquette's biggest player, both in height and weight. While he will provide the Golden Eagles with a dimension that they hadn't featured so far this season, Fischer's presence will likely not radically alter Marquette's prospects for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. One guy, regardless of size, is just not likely to suddenly turn this team into a world beater.
Fischer appeared in just 13 games for the Hoosiers a year ago before electing to leave. He was hampered by a pre-season injury and then was stuck behind fellow freshman Noah Vonleh in the rotation, and thus only saw 130 minutes of action. Ultimately, that's not a lot of Division 1 experience, but that's a familiar refrain around the Al McGuire Center. Combine very little experience with a year's layoff from actual game experience, and it could be a while before we get to see Fischer up to speed to where he is even showing flashes of his potential.
Of course, we're talking about a guy with that much size who was named the 2013 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball over a multitude of possible candidates, including Duane Wilson, who is now Fischer's teammate. Should Fischer get a chance to contribute immediately on this team? Absolutely, he should play as much as he can over the next four games to get him ready for Big East play. In a way, Burton's departure makes life easier for Steve Wojciechowski. He needs someone to fill the 16 minutes per game that Burton was playing and he needs to find a way to fit Fischer into the rotation. It seems to me that these two conflicts largely cancel each other out. At this point, it's just a matter of figuring out what kind of rotation works best against each individual opponent.
Can Fischer contribute immediately? Again, absolutely. If Fischer had gotten enough minutes at Indiana to qualify, he would have been nationally ranked in a number of advanced metric categories, as tracked by KenPom.com. He swatted nearly 9% of all shots against Indiana while he was on the floor, which would have ranked him #60 in the country. His Offensive Rebounding Rate of 11.1% would have been in the top 200, and his Effective Field Goal Percentage and Offensive Rating would both have been top 400 in the country. Small sample size numbers to be certain, but the chance to show something is too great to not give him the playing time.
The downside of all of those advanced numbers is a very simple one. In 130 minutes in an Indiana uniform, Fischer got whistled for 4.9 fouls per 40 minutes. Even under the umbrella of small sample size, that's a lot of fouls. For Luke Fischer to have any kind of an impact on the 2014-15 Marquette season, he can not repeat that kind of frequency.
But, even if Fischer can replicate those positive numbers on the Bradley Center floor, he's not likely to suddenly turn Marquette into a Big East contender. His teammates are still going to have to get used to having him out there, and he's going to have to carve a niche in the rotation out for himself. Will Marquette look better than they have through eight games? Maybe. The goal is to have this team comfortable with each other and with Wojciechowski by the start of the 2015-16 season, and as long as Fischer can stay on the floor, that goal will be achieved.