The attitude of "everyone's coming back" and "a change was needed" coming out of the hiring of Steve Wojciechowski back in April made Wednesday's news that Todd Mayo had left the men's basketball program somewhat of a surprise. But you go to war with the army you have, as the old saying goes, so there's no point in lamenting and anguishing over the loss of the oft-suspended guard. Let's examine the army that Wojo will take into war this fall, as well as glance at how this affects Marquette's long term future as well.
First things first: For the season opener against Tennessee-Martin, Marquette will have just nine scholarship players in uniform. Luke Fischer does not become eligible to play until mid-December, and Gabe Levin and Wally Ellenson will sit the 2014-15 season out due to transfer restrictions. That's the bad news.
The good news is that if there was one department where Marquette could reasonably find a way to survive losing a player at a time where getting a replacement is essentially impossible, it's at guard. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Michael Hunt, Matt Carlino said that it's been just guards out on the floor without distinguished roles or positions. Presuming that continues, that could play to something of a strength on the roster. With Carlino and Derrick Wilson as seniors providing experience along with sophomores John Dawson and Jajuan Johnson, not to mention the debut of redshirt freshman Duane Wilson, Marquette could play two or three of those guys at the same time, providing multiple ball handlers at any given moment on the floor. Of course it would have been beneficial to have Mayo in that group for his unique skill set, but that's still a very talented group of players that provides Coach Wojo with a number of different options at any time.
We can't let this section go past without addressing the obvious: It was not likely, if not impossible, that Todd Mayo would get through the entire season while staying eligible for every game. From the moment he stepped on campus as the younger brother of the guy who caused USC to vacate one of their seasons, Mayo was a grenade waiting to go off, and he went off repeatedly. Mayo's four suspensions in three years (and really, just in the span of four semesters) mirrored poor decision after poor decision after poor decision on the basketball court as well. That grenade was going to go off again, and it looks like MU caught a break by the grenade going off in July instead of in January.
At first glance, the impact on the future seems negligible. Mayo was going to be a senior and he was going to be ending his eligibility after this season, giving Wojo and his staff a scholarship to fill. They've been hard at work at replacing all three senior guards, with a commitment from Nick Noskowiak already in hand, as well as heavy interest in Haanif Cheatham and a recent scholarship offers to Bryant Crawford, Levan Alston, and Kerwin Roach. With Noskowiak and Matt Heldt already committed, Marquette is currently sitting with two scholarships available in the fall of 2015. We can pretend that one of those open slots is Mayo's spot, so it's conceivable that MU could be a landing spot for a mid-year transfer for the second consecutive season. We'll get a better feel for how that's going after the fall signing period, so that discussion will have to be tabled for now.
The other end of the future impact of Mayo's departure is player development. If Mayo was going to be wearing blue and gold this fall, he was likely going to be playing 25-30 minutes of the 200 available player minutes in every game. Those minutes are going to have to go somewhere else now, and some of those are going to land in the laps of Duane Wilson, John Dawson, and Jajuan Johnson. While the combination of a new head coach and a lack of significant Division 1 experience on a shorthanded team portends a second straight rough season for the Golden Eagles, the extra 5-10 minutes per game for that trio of underclassmen is going to pay dividends for MU down the road.
It's not just the guards that are going to benefit from Mayo's absence. Someone is going to have to take the 228 shots that Mayo took last year, not to mention the extra shots he was going to take if he played more than he did last year. Whether that's Deonte Burton, MU's new leading returning scorer, or Fischer when he becomes eligible, or a potentially rejuvenated Steve Taylor, or Sandy Cohen, the lone freshman on the roster, the experience gained will pay off for Marquette in the long term.
This coming season might turn into one long "let them get their jitters out" session as everyone gets used to Coach Wojciechowski's system. But without Todd Mayo around, those jitters could be disposed of faster than anyone realized.