The 2019-20 college basketball season is quickly approaching, and thus, we turn our attention to previewing the upcoming Marquette Golden Eagles men’s basketball season.
To that end, we’ve got a stacked up list of questions about the 2019-20 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:
Who will be the most improved player on the Marquette roster?
No qualifications or clarifications for this one, it’s just whichever guy you think will show more improvement than anyone else, and you can measure that however you want.
If you don’t listen to the podcast, you’re a nerd and you also missed out on my prediction of Brendan Bailey being First Team All Big East this year. His on-ball defense was some of the best I’ve ever seen from a freshman and he was one of the very few offensive bright spots on the team towards the end of the regular season on offense. I’m stupid high on him especially after his first full year following his Mormon mission.
I am all in on Ben’s Brendan Bailey hype, but I’m actually going to go with Greg Elliott, since his baseline is a lot lower and I think he will factor in as the team’s sixth man if he stays healthy. I also think he and Markus Howard potentially form a more balanced backcourt than Howard and Koby McEwen.
Ah hell, I have to agree with Ben. BRENDAN BAILEY SZN.
I wish I was allowed to pick ties. However, since I am not, I predict that Theo John will edge out Brendan Bailey as the most improved player. John has shown flashes of real offensive ability in the low post and I think those will shine through this year. Along with an expanded offensive game, I predict this will be the year Theo learns how to stay out of foul trouble and his minutes percentage will rise from 49% to somewhere north of 60%. This will allow him to have an even bigger impact on the game as both a shot blocker and rebounder. I think Brendan Bailey will also be a vastly improved player as his jump shot returns to his pre-mission form and he develops into a true defensive stopper. His ability to play the four could make the difference this season. However, I don’t see his facilitating taking a huge jump in year two, nor his rebounding so I have to give the edge to Theo for most improved player.
Brendan Bailey will be the most improved player from last season. He’s the obvious choice. He played 14 minutes per game last year and averaged 3.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 14 total assists. I fully expect those numbers to go way up as he embraces a starting role in his sophomore year. Look for a 12/5/2 stat line this season from the Salt Lake City native.
Everyone’s gonna say Brendan Bailey and I’d have to agree too. Basic logic says that if you spend two years mostly away from the game of basketball, then come back to it after getting a full year of practice under you, you’re going to get a lot better. Outside of him though, I think Jamal Cain probably has the biggest chance to make some improvements. His minutes per game dropped 8.5 minutes from freshman to sophomore year, his 3P% dropped 20 percentage points and his points per game dropped from 4.6 to 1.7. If Brendan Bailey doesn’t take the step forward that many are projecting him to, it opens an opportunity for Jamal Cain.
What I am about to say is going to cause a very seriously sized section of our esteemed readership to lose their flippin’ minds, because it doesn’t make 100% sense under the guise of “Most Improved Player.” But, if you’re a regular listener of The Basketball Jones/The Starters/No Dunks, then you’re aware of J.E. Skeets’ distaste for the MIP award. Too often, this title goes to a guy who merely gets a bigger role on a team and thus puts up a lot more stats than he did the year before. That’s not necessarily improvement, that’s just more playing time.
My pick for Most IMPROVED Player.........
........ is Markus Howard.
Things I predict for Howard in 2019-20: A higher steal rate as the coaching staff turns the team loose on defense (#278 in the country as a team in steal rate), a lower turnover rate, a higher assist rate, a better free throw shooting percentage (“only” 89% last year), a better three-point shooting percentage (a career low 40.3% last year), a better two-point shooting percentage (a career low 43.7% last year), and a season long challenge for the national player of the year awards, something that he never quite got involved in last year.
That’s improvement. That’s why he’s my pick to be the most improved player.
Who will be Marquette’s most improved player in 2019-20?
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