The 2020-21 college basketball season is right around the corner, no matter what the coronavirus pandemic says, 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 freshmen in alphabetical order, then the immediately eligible sophomore transfer, then the redshirt freshman, and then the five returning players, going in order of average minutes 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 move on to the second of three freshman previews.......
Freshman - #13 - Forward - 6’9” - 205 lb. - Chandler, Arizona
Marquette’s newest player from the The Grand Canyon State comes to Milwaukee with a slightly confusing package of recruiting rankings. The 247 Sports Composite, which attempts to smash all of this into one neat number, ranks Ighodaro as the #126 player in the country. That makes him the #23 power forward in the Class of 2020 and the #7 prospect out of the state of Arizona. However, 247 is leading the charge in declaring the Composite to be inaccurate, as they rank Ighodaro #74 in the country internally. That moves him up to #13 amongst his position group and #5 against the other guys in his state.
If we spread our wings to other ranking services, we find that Rivals has locked Ighodaro in as the #102 player in the country, which makes him the #18 power forward. ESPN is bringing up the rear here. Both 247 and Rivals say that Ighodaro is a four-star prospect while The World Wide Leader says he’s only a three-star guy. They still got detailed enough to make it worth noting that he’s their #40 ranked power forward and #8 guy in Arizona.
According to Max Preps, Ighodaro averaged 15.9 points, 10.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.0 steals, and 4.4 blocks per game as a senior at Desert Vista High School in Arizona. His squad won an Arizona state title a year ago, with Ighodaro giving them 32 points, 11 rebounds, and six blocks in the title game. As you can tell, Ighodaro makes excellent use of his 6’9” frame to clean the glass and protect the rim, at least at the high school level. The ability to average more than four blocks a game is really something that you can’t teach, as Ighodaro has to be able to instinctively leap to swat those shots. It also indicates a level of athleticism that also can not be taught. If you’re blocking a shot or two per game, that’s just playing good defense and being taller than most other people you’re playing against. When you’re over four blocks a game, that’s gone right past “playing good defense” and into “holy hell, how did he close that gap and get to that shot” territory.
I go back and forth on this a lot. On one hand, I wonder if Ighodaro’s body is ready to handle the physicality of Division 1 college basketball. On the other hand, Marquette has just 10 scholarship players available this season, and the Golden Eagles can’t really afford to have someone on the roster who isn’t really contributing at all.
Where I end up landing is that Ighodaro is the freshman that I’m expecting the least from this season. We’ll get into it more when we talk about Justin Lewis tomorrow, but for now, we’ll just say Ighodaro’s #3 of three and move on. If that’s the case, I can’t help but see him at the far end of the rotation for Marquette this season. He’s probably going to have to play a decent amount just because of the pure lack of available bodies this season. I just don’t know if expecting a major role or maybe even a notable role from Ighodaro this season is the right move.
That’s where T-Rank ends up, too. The algorithm projects Ighodaro for three points and 1.5 rebounds per game while playing in just 19% of MU’s minutes. I don’t know if the minutes will be that low, but I think the general tenor of the points and rebounds there should be the reasonable thing to expect from him this year.
Why You Should Get Excited
This comes back to the fact that Marquette has a 10 man roster this season. In addition to that, only five of those 10 guys are coming back from last year’s active roster, and if we’re being honest, none of the five had what you would call a completely successful 2019-20 season.
As such, there’s reason to believe that there’s a pathway to a notable, perhaps even major role for Ighodaro this season. It appears that three roles on the team are likely set for the year: Theo John as the primary rim protector, Dawson Garcia as the mobile/secondary big man, and D.J. Carton as the point guard. Everything else in the rotation is up for grabs. That means if Ighodaro is the best option at the 3 for Marquette, then he absolutely needs to be playing as much as he and the Golden Eagles can handle. Is that a job that is maybe Jamal Cain’s to lose right now? Maybe, but through three years, we haven’t seen Jamal Cain get consistent playing time from this coaching staff, and just believing it into existence isn’t a thing. Thus, the door is cracked open for Ighodaro there. Maybe Marquette works best with Garcia as a highly mobile 5, which opens the door for Ighodaro to slide into the 4 spot and attempt to surpass what Brendan Bailey gave the squad last year from that position.
If he can do something like I described there, if he can defend his position well enough and if he can find ways to make an impact on both ends of the court..... Well, there’s no reason to believe that Ighodaro can’t start stealing minutes away from the returning guys since those guys don’t exactly have things on lockdown.
Ighodaro is a freshman, and he’s a relatively skinny freshman at that. Sometimes that combination creates situations where guys don’t play all that much while they’re really focusing on improving their own physicality to become a better player. If Ighodaro can’t hold up his end on defense for Marquette, perhaps literally physically holding it up, then he probably shouldn’t be getting a quality amount of minutes. Defense has been a constant issue under Steve Wojciechowski’s direction, and part of the collapse at the end of last season was the fact that the defense went completely in the trash. Go look at T-Rank’s graphs for Adjusted Defense if you don’t believe me and/or have blocked it out of your mind.
The other major potential problem for Ighodaro’s rookie campaign comes in terms of the rest of the roster as well. With just 10 guys available to MU this season, that seems to indicate that Ighodaro is going to have to make some kind of contribution if the Golden Eagles are going to succeed. Even if you think that a basketball rotation should really only go eight or nine deep, that only leaves one or two guys on MU’s roster to not be an every night contributor. What if Ighodaro’s not really ready for a notable role...... but Marquette doesn’t have the option to not play him because he’s one of two or three guys who aren’t getting it done? There’s a particular version of the 2020-21 season where Wojciechowski and his staff have to leave Ighodaro out there to take his lumps because it’s the only way he’s going to get his mistakes out of his system and it will pay off in the long run. Unfortunately for both Ighodaro and those of us watching, that wouldn’t be a fun experience this year.