The 2018-19 college basketball season is quickly approaching, and thus, we turn our attention to previewing the upcoming Marquette Golden Eagles men’s basketball season.
As was the case last year, we’ve got a stacked up list of questions about the 2017-18 campaign, and each of the 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:
Which sophomore will have the biggest jump forward this season?
We’re picking from Jamal Cain, Greg Elliott, and Theo John for this one, and “biggest jump forward” can be in whatever sense you want to categorize it.
I’ll say Theo John just because he’ll be more or less splitting time with Matt Heldt on the floor, whereas Cain has to fight with half the population of Istanbul [Editor’s note: not Constantinople] for playing time. If Theo can find a way to be a defensive force without fouling (AKA setting 48 illegal screens a game), then Wojo might try and sneak him into a starting role until Marquette fans try to set his house on fire for daring to take minutes away from Our Beloved Milkman.
This is a frustrating question, because I so badly want the answer to be Greg Elliott. However, given the condition of his hand, he may not even play this year if Wojo decides to look ahead and bag him an extra year of eligibility. So that said, I’ll go with talent, which Jamal Cain has in spades. With a thin backcourt, Cain may be relied on somewhat heavily on the perimeter, and his size and ability and also that beautiful corner three stroke he has could combine for a breakout.
Gotta be Jamal Cain. He has all the tools to be an elite wing player in college basketball (the athleticism, length, shot) and he’s had another year to work on his fitness/strength/handle to provide more than just corner threes and defense. I think he has the highest ceiling of the three, and I think we see another big step towards it this season.
I’m going with who I want it to be more than anything else, and that’s Theo John. Heralded as the most physically ready freshman last year, John’s inaugural campaign was largely tamped down by foul trouble. 8.5 fouls per 40 minutes!
I have to believe that he’s got this kind of thing figured out by now. Plus, I have a sneaking suspicion that Steve Wojciechowski and the coaching staff want to really throw caution to the wind when it comes to the traditional nature of their lineups. There’s a reason why Matt Heldt has been comfortable shooting threes in the open practices, and it’s not just because we know he used to knock them down when he was in high school. If Marquette is going to play a style that involves John, Heldt, and Ed Morrow all rotating through playing the four and five, the curveball of the 6’10” Heldt zipping around the perimeter could be an interesting wrinkle.
Of course, the whole theory depends on Wojo being able to depend on Theo John: Rim Protector. I’m all here for Marquette running out whatever five man lineup is most useful on a particular night, and I think that is going to require John to be a major player on this year’s roster.
Side note: I really want Jamal Cain to lead the country in fast break dunks thanks to Joseph Chartouny’s quick hands on defense. That’d be fun.
It would have been Greg Elliott had he not re-injured his left hand. Now I’m going to have to go with his Michigan pal Jamal Cain. This is simply because Marquette doesn’t have anyone on their roster with his unique skillset. He’s got length, size, and speed and can both spot up and knock down the three with ease and drive to the basket. He’s also the only speedy wing Marquette will have for the majority of this season. I see him improving multiple facets of his offense. With his known success from behind the arc, Cain will be able to fake the three (not quite like Rowsey but just enough to get the defender to bite) and drive to the basket where he’ll either score and dish out an assist. Sadly, no one will ever be able to do #TheThing like the great Andrew Rowsey. I expect Cain to have a better year offensively and get more minutes with the absence of Elliott. I also see him much improved defensively and could rack up the second most steals behind Joseph Chartouny.
I’m obligated to say Jamal Cain for #TheBrand (check my post history), but he’s also my answer because of the process of elimination. Elliott will miss time because of his busted up hand and will be coming back to a crowded backcourt, at least in terms of established roles, so unless he did some serious work on his offense this summer, he could get buried. John might get somewhat phased out if Marquette starts putting small-ball lineups out on the floor (WHICH THEY SHOULD). Cain will be getting minutes and lots of touches in the corner from the get-go, and with a real passing point guard in Chartouny plus a willing distributor big man in J. Hauser, The Cain Train will have looks for days.
I believe that Theo John will be the most improved sophomore this season. At the beginning of last season, John looked like a puppy who was still learning about his surroundings, by the end of the year his feel got much better, he stopped fouling so much and he showed some skills on the offensive end. With an entire offseason to continue his evolution I expect John to be even more of a menace on the defensive end and to have improved his touch around the rim especially since I expect Marquette to find him on more dump downs and lobs with Chartouny running the point. With Greg Elliott out until some time in December with a hand injury, I did not really consider him for this and although I think he will make strides on his perimeter defense, I do not believe that Jamal Cain will shoot 47% from three again this season.
I believe that Jamal Cain will be the most improved sophomore this year. He showed he can play at this level this past season and I think he will get even more minutes this year, especially with the injury to his best friend Greg Elliot.