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 first of the five returning players that we’ll be discussing.......
Sophomore - #10 - Guard - 6’3” - 205 lbs. - Syracuse, New York
Sy Torrence came into Marquette with rather subdued expectations last season, particularly for a top 80 prospect. This was no surprise, given that Marquette already had superstar Markus Howard returning at PG, plus newly eligible transfer Koby McEwen, and returning redshirt sophomore guard Greg Elliott. While Torrence did not end up being one of the largest contributors on the team, he managed to leaving his mark in his roughly 11 minutes per game. In his brief time on the court, Torrence averaged 1.8 points, 1.3 boards, and 1.6 assists per game. While these numbers appear rather pedestrian, they are by no means disappointing from a freshman coming in behind a solid group of upperclassmen.
This year, Torrence should get a lot more opportunities to showcase his talent, as Markus Howard has used up his eligibility. I expect Torrence to split primary ball handling duties with D.J. Carton and Koby McEwen for most of the season. While no one thinks that Torrence will lead the team in scoring this year, he can play an important role for the Golden Eagles.
I think it is reasonable that Torrence will receive a healthy share of the ball-handling duties and compete to lead the team in assists. Torrence has a natural feel for the game of basketball that no one else on this roster shares. He is adept at finding the open man and making the extra pass when necessary. These are some of the most sought-after qualities in a point guard. Additionally, Torrence stands a full 6’3” and has the tools to be a solid on-ball defender.
As I alluded to earlier, Torrence is not much of a scorer. I do not think Coach Wojo will ask him to carry much of a scoring burden beyond what he can pick up during the natural flow of the game. I expect him to score somewhere around five to seven points per game. While his scoring output may be on the small side of thing, I expect Torrence to average somewhere around four, maybe five assists per game. I also expect him to lead the team in “hockey assists” where he passes the ball to a player who then gets an assist.
As for his defense, I expect a significant leap. He was known as a tough defender coming into Marquette, and while he played tough on-ball defense at Marquette, he often struggled in rotations. This is very much a stereotypical freshman problem, and one that should hopefully be tempered by age, experience, and acclimation.
While I expect a marked defensive improvement, I do not expect Torrence to become a ballhawk in the passing lanes. Given that he struggled in rotations last season, and the fact that this has been an abbreviated offseason, I expect he will be focusing more on executing basic rotations, rather than jumping passes. Last season he had a steal rate of 1.3%, right between Koby McEwen and Markus Howard. I expect his steal rate to remain around there, especially as Wojo’s teams are not known for being aggressive in trying to turn their opponents over.
Reasons to Get Excited
Marquette looked good when Torrence was on the court last season. While he was never the focal point of the offense, Torrence’s presence was always noticeable because of how well the ball moved when he was playing. He was excellent at finding the open man with skip passes and did a good job of driving and kicking when he got the ball on the wing. His assist rate was second on the team, only to Markus Howard. Given that the new freshmen on the roster are all mobile big men who can shoot it from outside, I could easily see this number jumping to around 30% next year on a steady diet of drop-offs, kick-outs, and skip passes.
While Torrence’s passing and ball handling are his most prominent features, he also showed his ability to shoot the rock. He shot 37.5% from three last year, which is great. It was on less than one attempt per game, though, and he’s probably going to need to get a little more comfortable letting it fly to open things up for himself. If Torrence can keep that shooting percentage up, it should allow him to pump-fake and penetrate defenses, causing them to collapse and open up passing lanes.
What is perhaps the most encouraging part of Torrence’s freshman season was the fact that he was an effective and efficient player (104.2 offensive rating) while still struggling in areas he should be able to vastly improve upon heading into his second season. For example, Torrence had a 30.9% turnover rate, which was more than double that of Markus Howard (who gets a bad rap for turning the ball over, but we’re not here to relitigate that). Freshmen and turnovers go together like peanut butter and jelly. I expect that TO Rate number to drop precipitously in Torrence’s sophomore season. If Torrence can keep up his other offensive numbers, while dropping his turnover rate to a more respectable 18-22%, he should one of the more efficient players on Marquette next season. Fewer turnovers means more passes which means more shots which means more buckets. It’s all connected, and it starts with Torrence staying connected to the ball.
While I mentioned that having areas where Torrence played like a freshman could be an indicator that good things are to come, these also fall under the heading of Major Red Flags if he does not improve. Even for a freshman, 30.9% is s shockingly high turnover rate, especially for someone who is expected to handle the ball a lot going forward in his career. In fact, Torrence’s 30.9% turnover rate was the second highest for a player in a Marquette uniform over the last 10 years. Only Joseph Chartouny’s ill-fated tenure at Marquette resulted in a higher turnover rate. Oh, man, remember our optimism for Joseph Chartouny? Anyway. If Torrence can’t play more within himself and maintain possession of the ball, Marquette’s backcourt could very well lead the Big East in turnovers—as Koby McEwen and DJ Carton each had about a 26% turnover rate each last season.
Even if Torrence does manage to get his turnovers under control, there are still major questions about the rest of his offensive game. He shot 37.5% on 3’s last season, but he only took 24 attempts. Such a small sample size is not nearly enough to gauge whether Torrence will end up being a competent long-distance shooter. It’s definitely “Hey, I like this so far” stuff, but we need to see more. Furthermore, his unorthodox technique only increases the skepticism of his ability to shoot from deep. Torrence shoots with his legs slightly bowed out, and does not have the quick release of someone like Markus Howard, the high release of someone like Brendan Bailey, or the “wait, is he shooting or is this a pumpfake oh dammit” ability of Andrew Rowsey. Torrence shoots more of a set-shot than a true jump-shot. These technical anomalies with his shot lead me to question whether he will ever be able to shoot more than just an occasional spot-up three. Without the ability to consistently threaten defense from deep, Torrence may struggle to beat his defender and get into the lane, where his passing skills can shine.
Finally, Marquette will be playing with a lot of new guys this year. With the departure of Markus Howard, Sacar Anim, Brendan Bailey, and Jayce Johnson, Marquette will have a lot of minutes to fill. Guys like D.J. Carton, Dawson Garcia, Oso Ighodaro, and Justin Lewis should fill up a lot of those minutes, and will probably be pretty good. However, none of these guys have played together in a game that counts and — given the nature of this off-season, specifically the recent 14 day shutdown — they will have limited practice time before they suit up for the first time. A guy like Torrence who relies on feel and intuition and familiarity to make plays may struggle playing with predominantly new teammates to start the year. If Torrence struggles at first, he could soon see himself buried on the bench behind the likes of Carton, McEwen, and Elliott.
Overall, I am rather bullish on Torrence this season. He has a great feel for the game and a lot of his turnovers from last season were in transition when he was trying just a little too hard. Plus, given his relative lack of minutes, his turnover problem might not have been as bad as that turnover rate really makes it look. I think we will see a calmer and more in control version of Torrence this season who will effectively run the offense when called upon. I don’t see him as a major scoring threat, but I think he will facilitate well and hold up his end of the backcourt pairing, no matter who his partner is.