The 2017-18 college basketball season is quickly approaching, and thus, we turn our attention to previewing the upcoming Marquette Golden Eagles men’s basketball season.
As you may have noticed, we’ve got a few new voices here on the site since the school year started. We’re going to take advantage of that and do something new for the season preview. We’ve got a stacked up list of questions about the 2017-18 campaign, and each of the new contributors to AE are going to take a crack at answering them. There will be a new question every weekday afternoon between now and the start of the season, so be sure to stop back every day to find the new one.
Onwards, then, to the question of the day:
Who or what will be the biggest surprise on this Marquette team?
CLagore: I love Ike Eke’s tools. He's long, rangy, he can play good defense and his whole name is six letters. Arguably the least-heralded recruit this offseason, he's made some big strides over the last couple of years, and I would bet that continues this year. I'm not saying he'll be Markus Howard-levels of impressive as a freshman, but I think he'll take some big steps into becoming a really solid 4-year guy. I think he'll be able to create some matchup problems and be a big man that can space the floor a little bit, something Marquette hasn't had the luxury of maybe ever. Because of MU's lack of post depth (at least until Harry Froling is eligible), Eke will get some quality minutes and be able to learn on the fly against some decent opponents. The hype train is officially pulling out of the station. All aboard the #IkeExpress.
Broadway Brown: I think this season could be full of surprises both on the positive and negative sides. A positive surprise could be how well Theo John adjusts to college game and turns out to be a stud big man. Another one could be well Harry Froling shoots the ball from behind the arc. Another possible surprise could be how much better Sacar Anim has gotten after his redshirt year. A final surprise could be how Jamal Cain's athleticism helps the team on both sides of the ball. A negative surprise could be Marquette's Big East record. The Big East is loaded with talent this year and Marquette's youth could be affected by it. With that being said I would not be surprised with an upset or two this year especially if Marquette is feeling it behind the arc.
Ben Snider: I think Haanif Cheatham takes a major step forward this year. I feel like a lot of us, myself included, almost wrote him off after a pretty bad sophomore slump last year, but he really owned it. After the year, he was very blunt about his disappointment in his performance and his willingness to move on from it. His sentiments just felt different from the canned answers we normally get from athletes. We also can’t forget how good he was as a freshman. His finishing ability was something special and I can’t see that just fading away like that. I think he’ll work his way into at least a prominent 6th man role.
I’ll give a negative surprise as well. I think fouls lose the team a couple of games this year. I worry that all but two players who registered minutes last year averaged less than 4.0 fouls per 40 minutes. I think the defense will improve overall from last year, but I think foul trouble will be a big issue for this team to the point where seeing a key player or two on the bench late in a close game might be something we get used to.
Pistol Brad: The biggest surprise this year is going to be a coaching decision. Last season Markus Howard was the starting point guard for most of the season. However, from what we have seen so far this year Howard will be playing off the ball more and letting Andrew Rowsey take the reigns of the offense. Howard led the nation last season in effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot situations, and letting him play off the ball should give him more of these chances. Howard is still sure to get some time at point guard, especially if Marquette is trying to put up a more defensive lineup with Greg Elliott or Haanif Cheatham playing as the second guard instead of Rowsey.
NHammertime: I have already been surprised by one thing, and the season hasn't even started: Sacar Anim. Early reports from those observing practice have been that Sacar may be carving himself out a pretty significant role on this team. It sounds like his defense alone could earn him some playing time. A Trent Lockett comparison is something I have read... anything close to that would be outstanding. I will admit I had him as a possible transfer candidate coming into the season. Let's hope all the watchful eyes are right, and I was wrong.
Bonus: Marquette's three-point shooting won't drop off from last season.... but guys, MU can't possibly shoot at the same clip that they did last year...WRONG. Howard, Rowsey and Hauser are so pure from deep and are always working on their craft. The threes will be raining down again this year.
Besay: I'm assuming everyone else is going to take a positive spin on this. [Editor’s note: Mostly correct.] So, I'm going to go the other way and talk about a player that may underperform this season, especially in the early going. Sacar Anim is a player that the coaching staff has worked hard to develop after redshirting last year. In the early scrimmages, he's played significant minutes with the first team so it seems like Coach Wojo is thinking about starting Anim at the three or the four (depending on how you define Sam Hauser) in the first game against Mount St. Mary's. Logic would tell you he's ready to take on this role since he's been with the team for a whole year. But I'm not so sure. I know it's just one game, but Anim struggled making simple baskets in the charity game against UWM. I'm talking about layups here...if my memory serves me correctly he missed three bunny layups in transition. You would expect a player with his size and strength to be able to finish strong at the rim. He wasn't able to do so against UWM and it really concerned me. I know it's an exhibition game but it's a big moment for players that haven't played much to show what they've got. Anim did not impress me on the offensive side of the ball. I'm guessing it was just early jitters and expect him to improve his finishing at the rim because he certainly has that potential. However, I think Anim will struggle with scoring early in the season. Hopefully it won't linger for too long and he can grow into a better scoring threat as the year progresses.