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:
What season-long potential storyline is the most intriguing to you?
NHammertime: I’m not going to dig deeper for this one than I have to. The storyline this year is the defense. The coaching staff knows it, the team knows it, you know it, I know it…we all know it.
Head coach Steve Wojciechowski has stressed defense since his team was on campus this year. So much so that he didn’t even incorporate any offense into his first week of practice. He is breaking it down to straight fundamentals and seemingly re-teaching how to play defense. Having a poor defense has got to be a thorn in the side of Wojo, who was named national Defensive Player of the Year when he was at Duke. When he took over the reins at Marquette, everybody kind of assumed the tenacious defense mentality that he displayed as a player at Duke would automatically translate into the way his teams played here. That has clearly not been the case. Marquette doesn’t need to be a great defensive team to have success this year, but if they can improve into an “average” defense, that should lead to a very successful season.
Besay: Can Markus Howard shoot 55% or more from 3-point range again? If he can, I think this offense will win Marquette a lot of games, especially since it remains to be seen if MU can improve defensively. But if Howard can be as proficient from deep — or even remotely close — this offense will be near unstoppable this season. This, combined with MU's other talented scorers like Andrew Rowsey and Sam Hauser, make me excited about just how electrifying this offense can be. It should be noted that Howard really struggled finding his shot in the scrimmage against Lindenwood going 0-7 from behind the arc. He will need to be consistent throughout the year if the Golden Eagles want to be competitive in the Big East.
CLagore: You know damn well I'll be counting the number of Matt Heldt double-doubles.
Sam Newberry: It’s gotta be how well Marquette matches up with the rest of the Big East. The parity and talent in this league is unbelievable. I mean, for the first time in a few years, you can’t just write in Villanova winning the Big East, and the conference has anywhere from six to eight teams (depending on how well you think teams like St. John’s, Creighton, Marquette, and Butler will play) that are going to just tear each other up for two-plus months. The four-way tie for 3rd in the conference last year was already crazy, and now the league is even more crazy. Who knows which team is better: Seton Hall or Xavier? Is Providence for real? Will one of Hall, Xavier, and Providence beat out Nova for the regular season title? What happens in the chaos of the battle between St. John’s, Marquette, Butler, and Creighton? Does one of those four have a breakout season and shoot past Providence, Xavier, or Hall? How do the additions made by Marquette match up with the conference? Who gets hot at the right time to take valuable games on the road (like at St. John’s, at Butler, at Creighton, et al.)? The conference is one of the most competitive (if not the most competitive conference) in the nation this year. How good is Marquette compared to everyone else?
Broadway Brown: Can the Big East get (dare I say it?) eight teams into the tournament? I think everyone in the conference besides DePaul and Georgetown have the talent to get in, it just depends on who beats who and strength of schedule.
Pistol Brad: The season long story line that I am most forward looking to is the process by which Wojo will figure out who will be the team’s starting small forward. I believe it will be Haanif Cheatham to start the season due to his experience playing in meaningful basketball games compared to Sacar Anim who has not played any consistent meaningful minutes in his career. These two should be fighting it out during the first part of the season to see who gets to start during the conference portion of the schedule. As we saw last season, Wojo is not afraid to mix up the lineup if the team is not playing well, no matter how experienced the player being benched is. With this in mind, I could see Wojo switching things up at the small forward position during the season more than once if the team is not living up to it’s potential.
Ben Snider: The one that will be the most prominent is how the defense changes. Clearly we’ve been harping on it enough for you all to know that it doesn’t need to be Virginia’s, but it at least needs to be average. But for me it’s the national perception of the program as it currently exists/progresses. I’m always curious about what the average fan 1,000 miles away thinks about my team. Now that Buzz Williams’ players have all departed and Marquette has been out of the national conversation for the better part of the last few years, a new narrative about the program will start to emerge if they start to make some more noise. I’m curious as to how the media will view Wojo and the makeup of the team, especially if a player or two finds their way onto some NBA Draft boards.