The 2018-19 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s get into the Marquette Golden Eagles 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 MU’s lone true freshman, then the lone graduate transfer, followed by the three players who redshirted last season for one reason or another, and then wrapping up with the returning players, going in order of average minutes played per game last season from lowest to highest.
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 21 year old on the roster who’s actually only a freshman in the eyes of the NCAA.....
Freshman - #1 - Forward - 6’8” - 190 pounds - American Fork, Utah
Finally... FINALLY... nearly three years after he committed to Marquette and then signed a national letter of intent a few weeks later, we finally get to write a season preview for Brendan Bailey. I’d say “what a long strange trip it has been,” but it’s actually been pretty straight forward for Bailey. The plan from the get-go was always for the Utah native to go on a two-year Mormon mission following the completion of high school, and that’s where he’s been for the past two years instead of at Marquette alongside recruiting classmates Markus Howard and Sam Hauser.
At the time of his commitment to Marquette, Bailey was listed as a 6’7”, 170 pound small forward. He was ranked #92 in the Class of 2016 by 247 Sports’ Composite system, one spot below Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter. Bailey was the 15th best small forward prospect in the country at the time, and the second best player in the class from the state of Utah. For the sake of comparisons, Bailey’s 0.9518 rating in 247’s system for 2016 would match the rating exactly for Georgia’s Amanze Ngumezi in the class of 2018, where he’s the #112 player in the class.
Bailey, the son of 12 year NBA veteran Thurl Bailey, averaged 20 points and seven rebounds a game as a senior while guiding American Fork High School to an 18-5 record. He was a four year starter for the team, but ended up having his senior year cut short in the final regular season game when he blocked a shot so hard — his coach said “it was one of the most unbelievable blocks I’ve seen in a long time” — that he broke his hand after smashing it on the backboard on his follow through.
That was the last time that Brendan Bailey played a competitive game of basketball. Since then, following his recovery from his broken hand, Bailey was only able to do basketball related thing one day a week while on his Mormon mission. Because of when his mission ended, Bailey was on campus for both summer school sessions, so he’s had nearly five months worth of training to work himself back into basketball shape.
That brings us to.......
I claimed this Player Preview because I’ve been preaching the same thing about Brendan Bailey since he committed. It’s only fair that I see this all the way through to the finish. This will be the last time I say the following: Because of his Mormon mission, I have no expectations for Brendan Bailey.
I’m not saying I’m expecting nothing from him. This isn’t “well, he’s not going to do anything for Marquette this season, so just forget he’s even there.” This isn’t that. I’m saying that I have no expectations for him.
Back in January 2017, BYU football coach Kalani Sitake participated in ESPN’s coaches’ room commentary for the college football national championship game. Syracuse’s Dino Babers mentioned as a bit of coach-on-coach joking that it’s easier for Sitake to coach his linemen because some of them are 23 or 24 years old because of Mormon missions, and that’s the equivalent of coaching grown men against 20 or 21 year olds. Sitake’s good natured response was quite simple: If sending kids on Mormon missions was a good athletic plan for them, Alabama would be sending every one of their guys on missions.
Between his inactivity while on his mission and the depth on the roster, even with Greg Elliott’s injury, whatever Bailey can give this team this season is a bonus as far as I’m concerned. Five minutes a game here and there? Cool. 20 minutes a game and averaging five points and two rebounds? Cool. Starting and playing 35 minutes a night? Cool.
I’m totally on board with whatever Brendan Bailey can give to this squad. I just have no idea of what that might be, at least not until I see what head coach Steve Wojciechowski does with him on November 6th against UMBC.
Why You Should Get Excited
As much as I have spent all of Bailey’s time on his mission preaching patience and low expectations, the fact of the matter is that Bailey doesn’t look out of place on the floor with his teammates.
From the video clips from summer workouts and since practice started up a couple of weeks ago, and from all reports from the two open practices, Bailey has looked like a completely competent Division 1 basketball player. I don’t have any stats to back this up, but he doesn’t look slow, he doesn’t look tentative, he doesn’t look out of shape. At least in terms of physicality, it seems that Bailey will get every opportunity to earn playing time for Wojo. You can’t really ask for much more for a freshman, even if he is 21 years old already.
There’s also the issue of how well his playing style fits in with Marquette’s established offense style. In that link up there a bit, it mentions that on top of Bailey averaging 20 points and seven rebounds, it also says that he led the team with 49 made three-pointers. 20 points per game in 23 games comes out to 460 points. 49 treys is 147 points. 147 points is just barely under 32% of Bailey’s 460 points as a senior. Now, that’s not exactly Sam Hauser territory, where 58% of his points came on threes last season, but it’s clear that Bailey is mostly comfortable letting fly from long range. If he can make the distance transition from high school to college — and maybe this is where his layoff weirdly helps him — then he’s just one more shooter on this roster that teams are going to have to account for.
One more thing, and it’s a super tiny thing. At the second open practice last Saturday, Wojo started out one of the sides with this five man group: Markus Howard, Sacar Anim, Sam Hauser, Matt Heldt...... and Brendan Bailey. Now, hey, look, Wojo ended up mixing up the teams constantly during that scrimmage, flipping guys from one team to the other at almost every stoppage. Maybe that five man team to start with was just Wojo balancing out the two sides. The fact of the matter is that those five dudes are last year’s starting lineup with Bailey replacing Andrew Rowsey, though. That has to be encouraging.
Well, this one is pretty obvious at this point. There is the possibility that because of his layoff from competitive basketball that Bailey just can’t contribute to the team this year. That’s nothing against him or the reason for it, it’s just a possibility. That really does seem to be the only thing standing in his way from being a contributor, particularly after the thumb injury to Greg Elliott.
The other issue out there is that Wojo just feels he has better options in Sacar Anim, Jamal Cain, and Sam Hauser for the wing role that Bailey would most likely fit into on the court. With Marquette having big man depth unlike anything that they’ve seen in a long while, that’s possible. It would seem that going with a deep rotation would be best for everyone involved, but it’s up to Wojo to make that call. College coaches tend to not actually use a deep rotation for whatever reason, so a shorter bench could lead to little action for Bailey.