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 talking about the redshirt junior that just can’t seem to get a full quality season on the board at Marquette.........
Redshirt Junior - #5 - Guard - 6’3” - 180 lbs. - Detroit, Michigan
If it wasn’t for bad luck, Greg Elliott wouldn’t have any luck at all. Year #1 at Marquette was fine if you look at it statistically speaking, but when you factor in the wrist/thumb injury that left him looking like he was dribbling without an option to change hands, he was actually pretty great. Then, heading into Year #2, Elliott re-injured the exact same wrist/thumb, and this time surgery was required. That operation meant he was going to miss too much time and so he redshirted the season. All set for the comeback....... and then he wrecked his ankle over the summer. As in “had to have surgery the same day” wrecked it. That put a big ol’ damper on his offseason development for 2019-20, which is no fun at all. Still, he was pretty productive as a redshirt sophomore last year..... right up until he suffered an ankle injury in early January, causing him to miss six games and essentially a seventh where he only played seven minutes in what was obviously a “hey, are we sure Greg can go?” type of situation. Elliott required surgery again this offseason, which was not a picnic in a pandemic, but by early May, it had already been squared away.
Even with the missed time, Elliott still averaged 18.9 minutes per game a year ago while contributing 5.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. That’s perfectly good numbers for a backup guard. Elliott was clearly hampered all year by the first ankle surgery, though. As a freshman in 2017-18, he was a defensive wizard, ranking in the top 300 in the country in both block rate and steal rate. The steal rate took a little bit of a dip last year, falling from 2.7% to 2.0%, but the block rate completely disappeared, going from 4.0% to 0.7%. Still, Elliott was pretty efficient on the offensive end, lowering his turnovers a little bit and raising both his assist rate and his three-point shooting percentage. The only knock on him is that his two-point shooting percentage fell, but I suspect that the same hampering that left him unable to block shots with such frequency also limited his ability to successfully get to the rack on the regular.
Maybe it’s an unreasonable expectation based on history, but all I really want from Greg this year is a full and productive season. A clean bill of health as things get started and no games missed due to injury. We’ve never seen him at full power, and I suspect that after two ankle surgeries, we’ll never see him at full full power, if that makes sense. Still, he has the athletic talents thanks to his lanky build to be a notable contributor if not perhaps a force on the floor for Marquette. But he needs to be healthy to do that, and thus that’s all I want from him. Everything else will fall in line behind a healthy season for Elliott.
If you want to talk stats for Elliott, then I think T-Rank is pretty enthusiastic about him. Can I interest you in 7.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game? Those would all be career highs, as would the 64% of minutes played. As long as he can keep hitting threes at a prolific rate, I think this will definitely work out.
Why You Should Get Excited
There’s a chance that Greg Elliott is healthy. We’re over two years removed from his wrist surgery, so let’s not worry about that. Last year, he was able to return from injury and play in games (at a pretty high level, especially compared to what he was doing earlier in the year) before undergoing surgery after the season was halted. Here’s the thing about that surgery: It happened in April. The sudden injury surgery in the previous offseason? That happened in late June. If we presume that the surgeries were relatively similar or even if we presume that the latest one was more serious, then we know that Elliott has had two extra months to recover and rehab. That’s fantastic news.
If that’s the case, if he is better than he’s ever been while pulling on a Marquette uniform, then I really like what he brings to the table. Steve Wojciechowski’s Golden Eagles teams have struggled on the defensive end to be sure. One of the shining parts of the 2017-18 squad on defense — AKA Wojciechowski’s worst defensive team at MU — was Elliott causing dysfunction all over the court with blocks and steals. A 6’3” guard made out of pipe cleaners playing with one hand shouldn’t be able to be one of the best 300 players in the country in block rate..... but Elliott did that. What can he accomplish for the Golden Eagles if he’s totally healthy and ready to go? Elliott might be able to provide a defensive stopper option off the bench behind Koby McEwen or D.J. Carton, or maybe he creates a three-man backcourt with those two and takes the harder defensive assignment to ease the pressure on the other two guys. We’re not going to be looking to Elliott to carry the offensive weight on this team, but if he can be a threat to get to the rim and hit the open threes, then that opens up a lot of other options for whoever else is out on the court with him.
We’re all afraid that he’s just going to get hurt again, right? I mean, it’s the only truly obvious thing that is going to cause a problem for Elliott to get a chance to contribute to this team. The roster is thin enough where anyone with collegiate experience needs to be out on the floor chipping in at least 15 minutes a night just to get Marquette through the season. If you give a Swiss Army Knife of talents like Greg Elliott out on the floor for 15 minutes, good things will happen...... but he needs to be able to go out there for that to happen.
We should probably also consider the flipside of the Get Excited part, huh? What if he’s not healthy? What if the second ankle surgery has permanently robbed Elliott of the athleticism he needs to play at the high major Division 1 level, Joe Fulce-style? Marquette will probably be able to get through the season with the guard rotation of Carton, McEwen, Symir Torrence, and Dexter Akanno without him, but that means relying on a whole bunch of things to all go well for the Golden Eagles to have a successful season. That’s probably not what you want to happen, but if Elliott can’t keep up with the speed of the game because of the pair of ankle surgeries, then that’s just going to have to be what happens.