With the 2017-2018 season in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest), which means today’s installment brings us to the only player to ever drop 52 points on Providence in a Marquette uniform…
Sophomore - #0 - Guard - 5’11” - 175 lb. - Chandler, Arizona
Markus Howard Traditional Stats
Markus Howard Fancy Stats
** - denotes KenPom top 500 ranking
It is going to be hard for Markus to replicate his unreal three point percentage from last season, so expect that number to go down a bit, not a lot though. It’s important to remember that even though he connected on nearly 55% of all of his threes last year and 57% of them in the Big East schedule, a year where he shoots 40% is still really really good when compared to the rest of the country. Howard averaged 22 minutes a game last season and I, along with probably the entire Marquette fanbase, believe his minutes will be upped to about 30ish minutes a game barring any foul trouble. Howard proved he belonged in the tough Big East conference last season with his freshman stats. Expect Howard to up his assist numbers some more as he comes in this season as the primary point guard. With more time on the court more points, assists and rebounds will appear in Howard’s box score. Howard also made the Big East All Freshman team last year so expect opposing defenses to be more aware of Howard’s presence on the court.
Why You Should Get Excited
There are a couple reasons to be excited for Markus Howard’s sophomore season. One reason, as the great Al McGuire would be happy to tell you, is that his freshman season is over. He had a great freshman campaign and made everyone realize he belongs here. Like wine, a player will get better with age and experience. Another reason to be excited to watch Markus Howard is that he spent the entire offseason not only working on his unreal three point shooting, but his defense and ball handling. He also seems to have taken more of a leadership role on this team, which is good especially for a young player. Along with Andrew Rowsey expect to see a couple four point plays between the two. A final reason to get excited for Markus Howard is his ability run a pick and roll with some of Marquette’s new big men. I am already thinking about the alley oops from Howard to Theo John and the Bradley Center going nuts.
Also: Markus told Sports Illustrated that his goal for the season is to connect on 60% of his three-pointers. So that will be fun to watch.
Again I’m not a big fan on picking on people’s flaws especially a D1 basketball players, but I have to by law of the blog. So, one pitfall for Howard could be his impressive three point shooting numbers from last year may get to his head and he may start taking a couple too many threes. Wojo said Howard has the green light when he thinks he has the best shot, let’s hope Howard does not take many contested threes. Another pitfall could be his defense. The fact of the matter is that Howard is still sub-six feet in height, and at the end of the day, that creates a liability for him on defense. There’s nothing he can do about how much space he can occupy on defense, and larger guards - hi, Sindarius Thornwell - can be a problem for him to defend. Howard worked a lot on his defense during the offseason, so I do not think it could be a huge problem, but with more time on the court comes more responsibility for Howard on both offense and defense.
OK, so hitting 60 percent of his 3-point attempts was a liiiiiittle too much to expect, but other than that, most of what we said back in early November seems pretty spot-on.
Let’s start with Howard’s shooting, since it’s the most important thing he does on the floor. It was a weird year for Howard. What’s funny is that I say that, but he shot 40 percent from behind the arc, which is incredible, but after shooting nearly 55 percent of his shots from deep his freshman year, I feel like we may have been a little spoiled. 40 percent in a vacuum is great. But the world doesn’t exist in a vacuum, so We Need To Talk About Markus. I’m going to play devil’s advocate and say that I was somewhat disappointed by Howard’s sophomore year. I didn’t expect him to hit more than half of his 3s this year. That’s outrageous. But I did hope for a little bit more than 40 percent, and I hoped for some consistency. He dug himself in a small hole early, only shooting 30 percent for the first six games of the season, before exploding for 11-15 against Chicago State. He finished the non-con slate strong, with big games against Vermont and Wisconsin, but in conference play, things began to get weird. Howard made only one of his eight 3-point attempts against Xavier to start Big East play, following that up with strong games against Georgetown, Providence (yes, that was The Game) and Villanova. Then he came out and dropped duds for four games in a row before one of his better games of the season at Seton Hall. For the remainder of the year, he never strung together more than two good or bad games in a row. Weird.
I understand that many great shooters are streaky, and yeah, he was shooting with much more volume than his first year in Milwaukee, so of course he would be prone to more inconsistency. And again, that’s why I’m playing devil’s advocate, because all in all, it was a great season. BUT I do think that his reliance on the 3-ball needs to be counterbalanced if it’s going to be hit-or-miss on a given night. Howard played largely off-ball next to Andrew Rowsey this season and will continue to next year with the recent addition of Joseph Chartouny, which I think is better for his shot selection, and in turn, his consistency. It’s just growing pains. Like Broadway Brown said in the preview, college players are like wine. Howard will get better and smarter as he gets older, and Marquette will be his team next year. He’ll know when to let it rip.
But you ask, “Connor, if Howard shouldn’t shoot as much, how is he going to keep scoring?” OK, whoa, I didn’t say he shouldn’t shoot as much. I said he should find a consistency. BUT, Dear reader, I am so glad you asked.
One thing I was thrilled with that Howard didn’t necessarily add, but rapidly developed, was his ability to score inside the arc. And if not score, draw fouls, because he’s $traight ca$h from the line. Being able to score from 5 to 18 feet from the basket is so key for him to be dangerous, and that’s something he got a lot better at as the season progressed. His floater (OH that floater!) in the lane is almost automatic with his quick release and soft touch, and he became really good at getting a defender to bite on a pump fake or a fake to one side and then a short drive before the floater. He’s also quick enough in short bursts to get past his man and pull up just inside the 3-point line. His short stature is really useful for taking awkward, off-balance shots, simply because there’s much less of his body that isn’t balanced. Refining these types of shots and becoming a threat from, really, anywhere, instead of just behind the arc, will make defenders play just a little bit off of him, enough for him to pull up from deep when he wants to.
There were games where he did this effectively, despite his 3-point shot not falling, which is why I say that developing his midrange game will be the key to being a consistent ad unstoppable offensive force. Against Northern Illinois, he was only 3-12 from behind the arc, but 4-7 from inside of it, plus 9-9 at the line, and had 26 points in a game that was closer than it should have been. In that game against Xavier where he struggled from 3 (1-8), he was 5-11 on other shots from the floor and still managed to score 13 points to help keep it close. The second Xavier game is a good example, too. Only 3-10 from deep, but 11-17 otherwise, scoring 33 points while having almost no help in a blowout loss. He’ll be just fine.
As for other offensive categories, he needs some work. Howard averaged 2.8 assists per game, which is fine considering he usually wasn’t playing point guard. But it’s not fine when you see his 2.5 turnovers per game. That just can’t happen. Howard still didn’t always make great decisions when running the offense, and will likely still have the secondary ball-handler role alongside Chartouny. In his defense, he was usually the second unit point guard, so he was playing with much less-experienced guys. Still, though, the turnovers are a problem, probably his most glaring.
To sum up Howard’s offense, he’s one of the best scorers in the country and certainly in Marquette history, so we really don’t have anything to complain about. His streakiness this season felt like an outlier, and even if it wasn’t, he’s shown that he can score from almost anywhere on the floor. KenPom’s comparisons for his second year are the sophomore campaigns of Damian Lillard and Isaiah Thomas. Those guys turned out alright, I think.
As for his free throws, he his 105 of 112, which is better than you and me, so let’s move on.
You know what, I don’t want to talk much about his defense either. He’s a small basketball player, that’s never a good thing to be on defense. Guys get by him easily because of his lack of length, and that results in an open shot or a foul. It’s tough to fault him for basketball’s version of natural selection, so I won’t. Could he be smarter with the fouls? Yeah, absolutely. But when you and your backcourt partner are both less than 6 feet tall, there’s only so much you can do. Howard, FWIW, was a bit more attentive on defense than Rowsey was. Next year should be better, as Howard will largely be playing in lineups where he’s the shortest guy by 4-5 inches. Wojo can hide him on guys and that should take some of the pressure off. You know what? Don’t take my word for it. Go vote on Ben Snider’s defensive player polls and help us figure it out.
Is this seriously a contest? Howard’s game against Providence was one of the most tantalizing performances I’ve ever seen, truly. 52 points on 17-29 shooting (11-19 from 3) in a 95-90 OT win. Basketball is, I think, the easiest sport for one guy to completely take over, and when a player does that, it’s truly remarkable to watch. Howard did this and then some, literally winning the game for the Golden Eagles. Howard scored the last 15 points for Marquette in regulation, and then 10 of their 16 in OT. He sat for a minute. It’s a shame that the season didn’t result much for Marquette, because that game would’ve had some extra oomph to it, but regardless, it’s one of the best performances from a Marquette player in history.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: 8
Besides the shooting consistency, there wasn’t much more Howard could’ve done for Marquette. From singing pop songs on the BMOHBC Jumbotron to literally playing the best game of his career, Howard was a superstar to Marquette fans, and he’s starting to get that recognition across the country. If anything, this is a grade to say that he did enough to prove that there’s a lot more to come.