The 2016-17 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let's get into the Marquette basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We'll be going through the players one by one: First the freshmen, moving on to the two transfer players, and then wrapping up with the returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season.
We’re going to organize our thoughts about the upcoming season as it relates to each player into categories:
- Reasonable Expectations
- Why You Should Get Excited
- Potential Pitfalls
With that out of the way, we turn our attention to the man in the middle for Marquette this season.....
Senior - #40 - Center - 6’11” - 250 lb.
In the glow of Henry Ellenson compiling the best freshman season in program history, in the wake of Haanif Cheatham having one of the better freshman seasons in program history, hiding behind the sense that Marquette was an underwhelming team last season.... I think we kind of all missed the fact that Luke Fischer was really good.
I mean, who’s saying no to 12 points, six rebounds, an assist, and a bit more than a block from the starting center on any college basketball team in the country? Fischer finished the season with one of the 50 best effective field goal percentages in the country, and he did that without the benefit of attempting even one three pointer. He had the 60th best offensive rebounding rate in the country, finished top 200 in block rate, and he got to the free throw line a ton relative to how many shots he took.
On top of it all, he authored perhaps the most memorable play of the season. We’re all going to remember Fischer catching that pass from Traci Carter in stride, taking it hard to the rim, drawing the foul, and then, against expectations (he was only a 68% free throw shooter), draining both freebies to give Marquette an 88-87 win over Georgetown.
So why doesn’t Fischer get more credit for what he accomplished last season? Ultimately, I think it comes down to where he fell in the order of these previews. These are organized by the average minutes played by the returning players. If you’re scoring at home, you’re already aware that there’s still two more of these coming after Fischer. A guy who was posting the kind of stats that Fischer was getting shouldn’t have finished with the fourth (don’t forget about Henry Ellenson) highest average minutes on the team.
Unfortunately, Fischer fouled out six times last season, and there were another six games where he finished with four fouls. That hampered his court time significantly, and it put Marquette into a position where Ellenson was manning the middle for long stretches, a job we said right here on this website from the beginning of the season that he was not cut out for. Relying on Ellenson’s defense inside may have been the ultimate tipping point for Marquette’s season last year, and it was because Fischer wasn’t able to hit the 70% marker on minutes played.
That brings us around to what can we expect from him this season. Fischer’s not going to get better shooting the ball. He had the best eFG% in the Big East in the 18 game league schedule last year. You can’t really do better than that. He’s going to be Marquette’s primary rim protector, so I would expect his blocks to go back up to where they were during his sophomore season when he finished 60th in the country in block rate and averaged more than two per game.
There’s two things that Fischer has to do this season for the team to be successful. Required expectations, if you will. He has to be a better defensive rebounder. In terms of rates, Fischer essentially got to as many defensive rebounds as Jajuan Johnson did last year. That’s a good number for Johnson, but it would be a bad number for Fischer this season. Last year, Ellenson was vacuuming up tons of defensive boards, so it wasn’t the worst thing that Fischer’s numbers were a little on the low end for a starting center. Between Ellenson’s departure and the fact that Marquette was a crummy rebounding team last year anyway, Fischer has to absorb a majority of what his former post partner was doing just to keep the Golden Eagles afloat.
The other thing is he has to stay on the floor. There’s no two ways about it, he has to stay out of foul trouble. I believe Matt Heldt can be a contributor on this team, and I’m not worried about him as Fischer’s backup. I am, however, worried about needing Heldt to contribute 12 minutes a game on average because that’s all Fischer’s going to be able to achieve.
Why You Should Get Excited
I talked about what I think is probably an insane but possible idea on the Rumble In The Garden podcast last week and promised to elaborate on it here, so here we go.
I think there’s a version of this Marquette team where Luke Fischer leads the team in assists and it’s actually a good thing, maybe even a very good thing.
One of the things that I noticed from Fischer last year is his passing ability. Now, it didn’t manifest itself in terms of statistics. He wasn’t quite at one assist per game (32 helpers in 33 games), and no one is going to confuse his 7.0% assist rate with Kris Dunn or Maurice Watson Jr.
What I really noticed from him was his ability to catch an entry pass, sometimes in the air, and then immediately flick it in one motion either back to the passer or in another direction, depending on who was open. Given Marquette’s specific roster construction this season, Fischer’s ability to do this quickly and without hesitation might weaponize the offense.
Think about it: regardless of the identities of the four men on the floor with him, Fischer’s going to be playing with four guys that you’d be comfortable shooting a triple, right? If teams double team Fischer - and as a talented low post scorer, they’ll probably do it a decent amount - that leaves someone on the perimeter open. If Fischer can read the double teams and pass out of them quickly enough for guys to get shots off, more often than not, Fischer’s going to record an assist on that shot.
Even if that doesn’t happen to the degree where Fischer leads the team in assists, the long range benefit is hard to overestimate. Marquette making a bunch of open three-pointers as a result of Fischer’s passing is going to lead to teams having to pick their spots when it comes to double teaming him. Fischer is a talented enough scorer in the low post that if you let him work one-on-one with a guy, he’s going to obliterate his defender more often than not. Pick your poison, opponents. Fischer scoring at will or a torrential downpour of made threes.
We’ve kind of brushed up on it already. What happens when Matt Heldt has to play 15 minutes a game not because Wojo’s giving Fischer a blow because of MU’s tempo, but because Fischer can’t keep his fouls under control as the main central defender? What happens when he can’t find a way to rack up defensive rebounds at an improved rate? How will Marquette function without their most offensively effective big man? Can a barrage of three pointers be enough to propel this team?