Welcome back to the AE Mailbag, everyone. We start previewing the fall sports tomorrow, believe it or not. Women’s soccer, probably good. Volleyball, probably good, although some question marks exist. Men’s soccer, mostly question marks. We’ll dig into it more over the next few weeks, so for now, on to your questions.......
Via @captainJAMErYca: Of all current members of the men's basketball team, who would win in a team wide skee ball tournament? I only ask the important questions.
While there’s a lot of notable difference between basketball and skee-ball — ball size, shooting motion -- the basic idea of “put ball in ring” stays the same. As such, I have to go with Markus Howard, given his ability to throw a basketball thru the rim from long distances. I’m probably grossly underestimating arm length or something in this, so watch the team actually do this as a bonding exercise this season and Matt Heldt ends up just destroying everyone.
Via @NickKopitzke: What's your favorite color?
No, wait, yell-[is cast into The Gorge Of Eternal Peril]
(Real answer: I say it’s orange, but my wife insists that based on my wardrobe, it’s actually blue.)
Via @falldwn7getup8: What kind of defensive improvements can we expect (if any) this year? Is 2019-2020 THE year?
I think Marquette is going to be a much better defensive rebounding team this coming season. They’ve been grabbing up a higher and higher percentage of available opponent missed shots each year under Steve Wojciechowski, going from #339 in the country according to KenPom to #173 this past season. With Theo John, Harry Froling, Ike Eke, and Jamal Cain all adding to the overall height of the team, they should in theory get better at limiting second chance opportunities almost without trying very hard at it.
They also need to stop sending opponents to the free throw line as much as they did in 2016-17. Wojo’s first two teams were really really great at avoiding fouls that led to free throws, but they took a huge step back last year. This is probably due to playing two very small guards, Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey, for heavy minutes and then not having a lot of depth when it came to rim protection. Howard and Rowsey needed to try to stay in front of their man more to help protect Luke Fischer and Matt Heldt and keep them on the floor, and then that resulted in both of the guards committing more than four fouls per 40 minutes. With all those big dudes I mentioned earlier plus Heldt able to swap in and out, Howard and Rowsey can take it a little easier and not have to fight to stay with their man, instead just funneling them towards the shot blocking opportunities.
To your second question, it depends on what you mean by “THE” year. I think the top seven, maybe eight of the Big East are more interchangeable this season than any of the past two years, and this includes last season when Marquette finished tied for third. I wouldn’t be shocked to see someone win the league with four or five losses on their record, and at that point, Marquette could find themselves as a contender for the title. Big dark horse contender, maybe, but yeah, contender. 2018-19 is probably the first year under Wojo where you could legitimately ask the question “Can Marquette win the Big East?”
Via @JasonAppelPi314: Here's a question I've been pondering: would you rather win the BE tourney and get bounced in the first weekend, or reach the Sweet 16?
This is a fantastic question, and I don’t think either end of it would be the wrong answer. I think my answer, generally speaking, would be winning the Big East tournament. Winning three games in three days is really hard, and obviously harder than winning two games in three days.
I think it comes down to what kind of regular season team you had. If you had a team that finished seventh or eighth in the Big East, winning the tourney would be an amazing accomplishment and you also wouldn’t feel let down about losing your first round NCAA game. If you were the BE regular season champion, not getting to the Sweet 16 would be a much bigger letdown than losing in the conference tournament.
Via @AndyGold24: What are good pizza places in the Milwaukee metro area besides Ian's?
Oh, easy question. It’s Ian’s.
Wait. YOU TRICKED ME. HOW DARE YOU MAKE EXCEPTIONS.
Ok, so obviously, for the purposes of this conversation, chain pizza places are trash. We all admit and understand this, right? If you are gainfully employed and can afford to spend $20 on anything without really worrying about it, you’re a moron if you order from Papa John’s or Dominos or whatever.
I’ve recently had some experience with Pizza Man thanks to the new spot in the Drexel Town Center in Oak Creek, and it’s pretty good. A little on the fancy side, though, which is why my answer is Transfer. It feels a little more straight forward as a pizza joint, which I like, and while they have a wide variety of options, it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to impress you with putting dandelion greens or whatever on the pizza.
Via @jkaymu: Now that MU is down two coaches, who would you add to Wojo's staff? Preferably names rather than the obvious someone who can teach defense.
Ok, first things first: Marquette is not down two coaches. By NCAA rule, you’re allowed one head coach and three assistant coaches. All four of those spots are currently occupied. What MU is missing, though, is two staff members. Justin Gainey left his job as Director of Basketball Operations to become a full time assistant at Santa Clara under Herb Sendek, his former head coach at NC State, and Travis Diener resigned as Director of Player Personnel to return to his professional playing career in Italy. Both positions had (have?) largely administrative functions within the team, as neither man was able to provide on court instruction when it comes to practice.
I’m sure they’ll be filled before the season starts, and they’ll likely be filled by someone fairly young, as both Gainey and Diener were in their early 30s when Wojo brought them on board. The new staffers will, like Gainey and Diener, likely be recently retired players looking to get their start in coaching, and for the most part, they won’t have that much of an impact on the direction of the team.
This is the second time that defense has come up, so I’ll say this much on that topic: Yes, Wojo’s teams have posted progressively worse defensive efficiency ratings each year. They were also in the top 100 in the first two seasons, which isn’t exactly terrible. They’ve also posted progressively better offensive efficiency ratings, including finishing top 10 according to KenPom this past season. On top of that, Wojo kept talking about how Theo John, Ike Eke, and Jamal Cain would all have been the best athlete on last year’s team. I’m going to trust that Wojo is getting his kind of players into the program and once he starts having a coherent roster from year to year (this is still an issue somehow), they’re going to be able to execute the defensive gameplans much better than they have in the past.
Via @SwaggyMo33: Do you think Sacar Anim can be a big difference maker for our team?
To answer your specifically asked question: No, I don’t.
I think he can be a solid contributor to the team this season, especially if he can get out and defend anyone that’s playing a guard or wing position. I think he can play 15 minutes a game, score when he has to, rebound on the regular, and provide some size on the perimeter. That would pretty much be exactly what Marquette needs this season, and he would seem to be the perfect guy to do it.
I really hope that he is a notable contributor this season after not playing as a freshman and redshirting last year.
Via @CharlieWeber45: What is the best offensive lineup we can put on the floor next year? Best defensive? Best overall? Most fun?
Offense: Markus Howard, Andrew Rowsey, Sam Hauser, Harry Froling, and Matt Heldt, presuming Froling’s 3-for-10 from long range in limited action for SMU is not a mirage. I suspect this would also be the most fun lineup.
Defense: uhhhhhhhhhh, so here’s the thing
Paint Touches did the heavy lifting on this last year, but Howard and Rowsey, while gifted at shooting the ball, are a defensive liability together. Haanif Cheatham saw his minutes evaporate to almost nothing on a bad defensive team when MU needed to save the season after the post-Villanova slide. That leaves us with Hauser and Heldt as far as returning guys that we can trust out the floor on defense, and a bunch of dudes who are total question marks when it comes to defense. I’m going to guess that it would be Howard/Cheatham/Cain/Hauser/Heldt, with the note that it could be Theo John at the five isntead, but I’m not super comfortable with that without seeing John or Jamal Cain in action first.
Best overall might be Howard/Rowsey/Cheatham/Hauser/Heldt, but that’s literally the list of guys on the roster with notable collegiate experience.
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