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, it’s time to talk about the returning player with the highest minutes average from last season who also happens to double as the biggest question mark on the team...........
Redshirt Senior - #25 - Guard - 6’4” - 195 pounds - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I don’t know how to feel about Koby McEwen’s first active season at Marquette, and neither do you. We can look at his 9.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game and say “hey, that’s not too bad for a guy in his first year after transferring.” We can also compare that to his two years at Utah State — 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists — and kind of say “what the hell happened?”
We can look at his first 11 games — 10.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 31.9% from behind the arc — and say “I’ll take that, although the shooting could be better.” If nothing else, we all got to see the 23/5/4 that McEwen put up against Purdue in the second game of the year and say “hey, this is going to work out.” That 11 game set came before McEwen suffered a hand injury that kept him out of the 12th game of the season, and then after that, in the 18 games of Big East action: 9.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 27.4% behind the arc. In the final seven games of the season — aka Marquette’s second straight 1-6 finish to a season — McEwen averaged 6.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.3 turnovers while shooting just 31% from the floor and 15% from long range and never posting an offensive rating per KenPom.com over the average marker of 100. That ain’t it, chief.
Here’s a fantastic example of the complete failure by McEwen down the stretch last season. Remember the Georgetown game? Marquette whupped the absolute hell out of a completely overmatched Hoyas squad, ripping off multiple 10 point runs in the game and just blew Patrick Ewing’s squad off the floor for 40 minutes. We can’t say it was a perfect game because of McEwen. No joke, here’s his stat line from a game where Marquette looked like a well oiled machine: Zero points on 0-for-3 shooting, all behind the arc, one rebound, three assists, three turnovers, four fouls in 24 minutes. Somehow, McEwen found a way to post an offensive rating of 40 in a game where Marquette as a team had their second most efficient offensive game of the season and most efficient game of the the Big East schedule. Believe it or not, it wasn’t his worst performance of the season in terms of ORtg, as he had a 26 (!) in his first game back after the hand injury and a 38 against Davidson at Disney World in November.
This does nothing but leave us with questions. Was it the injury to his hand that scuttled his season? Was it something else? Was it a failure by both McEwen and the coaching staff to figure out how to interact with Markus Howard on the floor, which is something that McEwen himself hinted at in an interview with The Athletic? If it was the former, then that bodes well for McEwen’s play this season, as health would lead to a natural return to quality performances. If it was the latter....... well, that doesn’t bode well at all. If it was the hand injury, why did McEwen suddenly get even worse six weeks later? Why was the coaching staff letting him spiral into a disaster as he averaged over 24 minutes per game in those final seven games?
[stubs out cigarette]
[takes shot of Jack Daniel’s]
[extremely Sam Elliott voice] Look, I don’t know, man. It makes me tired just trying to think about it.
I think we have to approach it from what can not happen with McEwen this season. Shooting 33% from the floor on 7.5 attempts per game can not happen again. Shooting 29% from long range on four attempts per game can not happen again. A turnover rate of 26% can not happen again. This would appear to be generally pretty basic stuff, because this is the kind of thing you’d like to expect from literally anyone who plays about 70% of the time for a college basketball team. Unfortunately, these are all things that came from McEwen last season, and in a year where we have absolutely no idea who is going to end up as the leading scorer on the team, this kind of production can’t happen again.
I don’t want to set McEwen up for failure here by attaching expectations to him that are too lofty. But I think that if we return the thought process back to when he announced that he would be transferring to Marquette, I think we’re starting to approach the right mindset here. If we think that McEwen can replicate what he did in 62 games at Utah State for one last go-round, I think things will be okay for Marquette. Better shooting, better passing, better ballhandling, better everything.
Just please be better than you were last year, Koby. Please don’t make me type very mean things about you on this website. I don’t want to do it.
Why You Should Get Excited
I want to make this 100% clear: I’m not saying that I am expecting this kind of thing to happen, and I am straight up telling you that you should not expect it to happen. We good here? Okay.
In MU’s full team scrimmage at the McGuire Center, McEwen scored 24 points while shooting 6-for-11 from behind the three-point line.
#mubb Scrimmage Highlights! @TheTrueOne1_ led the white team with 24 points in the win and @showout_zayy15 had 21 points for the blue team Tuesday afternoon at the Al McGuire Center. pic.twitter.com/v0IRmsjb7B— Marquette Basketball (@MarquetteMBB) November 18, 2020
Let’s be clear: Neither of those things are happening on a regular basis this season. Markus Howard is the only player in MU history to ever average over 24 points per game in a season, and Tony Smith is the only other one to clear 23. Koby McEwen ain’t those guys. He’s also not going to shoot 55% from behind the arc. There have only been three seasons in MU history where someone hit more than half of their threes.
If McEwen is healthy. If the coaching staff has figured out how to deploy him successfully and efficiently within the construct of the rest of this roster. If if if if. If this clearly great performance is more indicative of what we will see from McEwen this season than all of last season was, then things are probably going to go pretty well for McEwen, for Marquette as a team, and for you and me in terms of a lack of stress during basketball games.
I think we kind of covered this already. If the 2019-20 Koby McEwen starts poking its head up from underground, Steve Wojciechowski and his staff have to fill in that groundhog warren hole with cement. Maybe throw in some light dynamite before pouring the quick set concrete in there. I am generally filled with optimism for every Marquette player at the start of every season. I want to see each guy succeed in his own role and lane every year, and that goes for McEwen, too. But after last year, after how last year ended in particular, I am filled with dread for McEwen, and he’s the only guy on the team that makes me feel this way. Not only dread that we will not see anything better from McEwen this year, but that the coaching staff will just keep throwing him out there for 20-30 minutes a night while he’s playing in an awful manner, just like they did last year.