With the 2019-20 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, which means today we start things off by skipping over Ed Morrow’s 191 minutes in an incomplete season and proceed with MU’s freshman point guard.......
Freshman - #10 - Guard - 6’3” - 195 pounds - Syracuse, NY
Symir Torrence Traditional Stats
Symir Torrence Fancy Stats
I saved one thing from the overview of Torrence to use for this section. One of the neat things about 247 Sports is that they’re archiving every school’s top signed prospects since the Class of 2000. Everyone from that year on has a ranking and a rating, and then they’re sorted by school. For Marquette, Henry Ellenson is #1, Vander Blue is #2, and so on and so forth. Symir Torrence is, by this measure, the 13th best prospect to enroll at Marquette in this century. I know that sounds good, but I’m going to caution you for a second as to what that means: That has him slotted between Juan Anderson at #12 and Lazar Hayward at #14.
As a freshman for Buzz Williams, Anderson averaged 0.7 points and 0.8 rebounds in 4.5 minutes per game in 24 appearances.
As a freshman for Tom Crean, Hayward averaged 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game in 34 appearances. That does include 16 starts, though.
Is Torrence highly regarded as a prospect? Yep. That doesn’t mean that he can contribute a lot right away though. Marquette’s history over the past two decades is littered with players ranked even better than Torrence who did not make a major impact as a freshman. That’s okay! If he can find a way into head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s rotation for the season, then he’s going to get his feet wet at the Division 1 level and that will end up paying dividends down the road for the Golden Eagles.
Why You Should Get Excited
Let’s be honest about it: There’s a chance that Torrence is actually underrated. He went from a top 50 prospect when he made the move to reclassify — he was #44 in the country in 2020 on the day it was announced by Marquette — to a top 80 prospect in the recruiting class merely by reclassifying to 2019. Part of the issue is that the recruiting analysts had spent their time comparing Torrence to Class of 2020 prospects for a good long stretch, ever since he had moved to Vermont Academy back in 2017. Torrence officially made the move back to Class of 2019 in late May, when the evaluations for that class were essentially completed. Sticking Torrence where he is — the back end of the top 100 — might be a combination of “well, he has to be top 100” and “I have no idea where to put him” from the various recruiting services.
When the move to 2019 was announced, I noted that porting Torrence’s 247 Composite rating directly from 2020 to 2019 would have made him the #47 prospect in the country in the class of 2019. I know that’s not how that works or is supposed to work or however you want to categorize it. However, we can’t ignore the possibility that Marquette is getting a top 50 prospect in the backcourt and no one’s really talking about it. If you think about Torrence as #47 in the country instead of #75...... Torrence becomes the third highest ranked freshman in the Big East this season, trailing only Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Bryan Antoine. Both of those young men are at Villanova, and Antoine is recovering from shoulder surgery from right about the same time that Torrence reclassified.
Am I saying that the Golden Eagles have a dark horse candidate for Big East Freshman of the Year? Yep.
Between the struggles that we watched Markus Howard have with turnovers as Marquette’s only reliable ballhandler, the question marks about Koby McEwen’s reliability in the same department as he makes the jump from the Mountain West to the Big East, and Greg Elliott’s overall general health at this point (sorry Greg, but you know we have to say this until we see you at 100%), there’s a spot in Marquette’s rotation as primary ballhandler to help balance out the flow of everything on the floor. Torrence is absolutely in a position to grab onto that spot and never let it go ever again. If he does, and it’s to Marquette’s overall team benefit, then that’s just going to jam Torrence up towards the top of the discussion for best freshman in the league this year.
Can I give you a blind comparison? It’s not one that will aim Torrence at Big East Freshman of the Year, but it’s one that I think is a valid point to make given the stack up of combo guards on the roster in front of him this season.
7.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 steals, 23.7 minutes per game, and shooting splits of 43%/44%/76%
Anyone want to take a guess on that? I’ll listen to the new Sturgill Simpson album while I wait.
Are we back? Okay.
That’s Travis Diener’s freshman year, where he was playing second fiddle at point guard to Cordell Henry in 2001-02. That team also happened to have a lightning rod of a guard in the backcourt, too, just like Marquette has Markus Howard this year.
There’s two variations on this topic. One is the most obvious one that we have to talk about first. It’s the white board.
At the end of the day, we can’t ignore the fact that in late April, Steve Wojciechowski and his staff were seriously considering Symir Torrence to come in this year and redshirt. Greg Elliott’s ankle injury a month after Torrence made his announcement may change the calculus on that, of course. However, if Elliott is fully recovered — we’re right at the four full months window on his 3-4 month projected recovery — and able to contribute in the manner in which the staff was expecting in late April, then that makes us ask what’s up with Torrence.
The other angle on it is arguably the worse of the two. What if Marquette doesn’t quite find the rotation of guards that they need and Torrence ends up playing just a wee bit all season long because he can’t push through the core of Howard, McEwen, and Elliott? We can’t forget about Sacar Anim and Dexter Akanno in there as well, as they’ll be taking up wing minutes, too. Given their various physical attributes, all five of those guys have a claim to at least rotation minutes this season, and if that’s the case, where does that leave Torrence?
Don’t forget that Wojciechowski’s early season expectations for his own roster have a tendency to get thrown down the drain by the time we hit December, especially when it comes to his freshmen. Remember “Brendan Bailey, Opening Night Starter” last year? Bailey started the first three games of his collegiate career and then didn’t play at least 10 minutes in three straight games again until late January and didn’t turn into a regular rotation player until March. You finish with an air of “hey, maybe there’s something there” but no one’s thinking about that freshman campaign with a mindset of success. Given the depth of experience and physical size in front of him, that’s a possible future for Torrence that we can’t quite ignore at this point.
We’re starting off our player reviews with Symir Torrence because he played just 309 total minutes in the 2019-20 season, the lowest number on the team. I don’t want to say that qualifies as a disappointment, because as the only freshman on the active roster with Dexter Akanno redshirting, it makes sense that he would be the guy least likely to accrue minutes. Torrence was the guy least familiar with Division 1 basketball and the guy least familiar with what head coach Steve Wojciechowski expects from his players every night. Someone has to end up last in minutes played, after all, so the fact that it ended up being Torrence isn’t disappointing on its own.
However, if we look at his game logs, we can’t help but think that something could have gone better for Torrence this season. 12 times in 2019-20, Symir Torrence played at least 10 minutes in a game. Eight of those times, a full three-quarters of them, Torrence racked up at least three assists. If you just want to average those 12 appearances out, he winds up with 2.8 assists per game. Generally speaking, he was playing between 10 and 20 minutes in those 12 contests, although he did end up with 24 minutes in one and 27 in another. It’s a part-time role, one that is quite suited to a freshman making his debut on the collegiate stage, and while playing less than half the game, he was starting to approach an assists average that would have had him in the top 15 in the Big East. Quentin Goodin averaged 3.1 assists per game for that #15 spot, and he was playing 26 minutes a night to get there.
The point is that good things happened when Symir Torrence got on the floor, and I can’t help but look at his 16 games with less than 10 minutes played and his two DNP’s and wonder if maybe the Golden Eagles didn’t get the most out of him as a freshman. So many times we saw him make a pass to a guy and it was a pass that you would want to put into an instructional video to explain to 10 year olds what a good pass from a point guard looks like.
Of course, I can’t ignore the fact that there are real legitimate reasons why the coaching staff couldn’t bring themselves to pull the trigger on a bigger role for Torrence. Item #1 on the list is that 30.9% turnover rate. That’s not helpful. If you wanted Torrence to maybe start vacuuming up minutes from Koby McEwen because the shooting and ballhandling was just not there for the Canadian transfer, the fact of the matter is that Torrence was coughing it up more (30.9% to 26.0%) than McEwen was. We can’t even say that Torrence got better as the season went on, because he turned it over on 35% of possessions while he was on the floor in Big East play. Against what KenPom calls top 100 adjusted opponents, that rate goes up to 35.5%.
That’s not bad, that’s disqualifying.
The flip side of that is if you look at his game logs, there aren’t really games where Torrence had an obvious problem with the ball and got yanked by the coaching staff for it. After committing four turnovers in 17 minutes in Marquette’s 35 point opening night win, Torrence wouldn’t commit another turnover until December 28th. Two in 27 minutes while MU beat Central Arkansas by 52 is a totally acceptable performance. Then he went another three games without a turnover before we have his first real problem game of the season: Two in eight minutes on the road against Seton Hall, but the Golden Eagles had a lot bigger problems in that game than Torrence turning it over.
In fact, Wojciechowski technically rewarded Torrence with 19 minutes of playing time the next time out. He committed four turnovers in that run as MU beat Xavier by 20 at home. I make this point because Torrence committed just one turnover in his next eight games, and the one came in a 20 minute outing as MU fought off Xavier in double overtime on the road with Markus Howard playing just 25 minutes after getting elbowed in the face and Greg Elliott was unavailable.
Yeah, the 30.9% turnover rate is bad! Really bad! But the coaching staff also never gave Torrence enough run to really get possessions on the board to actually bring it down. Three minutes here and four minutes there as Big East play rolls on isn’t actually helping much. So we have an ugly number to look at for the season, but going game by game, Torrence really wasn’t struggling and getting pulled.
Best Game: The 9/4/5 against Central Arkansas is up there, but y’know, it was Central Arkansas. I think I have to go with either Torrence’s Big East debut, where he had six rebounds and three assists without a turnover in 19 minutes against Creighton, or on the road against K-State, where he had two rebounds and four assists in 16 minutes in MU’s eight point win. I’m going to go with the Kansas State game, because Marquette won the game and it’s clear that Torrence made an impact on MU winning in a tough environment there.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: The per-game averages aren’t anything to write home about: 1.8 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. It’s a far cry from what I thought might be possible — that Travis Diener comp up in the preview — as a backup point guard on this team, but that was a “Why You Should Get Excited” possibility. We can’t hold not hitting that target against Torrence. There’s a lot to like in Torrence’s Fancy Stats numbers. He rebounds well for a guard, he dishes assists that are both aesthetically and statistically pleasing, and he shoots the ball well. We can’t say that we saw anything from Torrence that leaves us thinking that Marquette will be perfectly fine with him running the show in the future, but we have to say that there’s at least hope for that possibility.
Ultimately, it was a season with a few flashes of something interesting, but a whole bunch of not much happening on a game-to-game basis. That ultimately falls into the category of what we talked about in the Reasonable Expectations section of his preview, and so, I think I have to give him a grade of a 5 on the year. Torrence didn’t undershoot the reasonable expectation of “maybe he won’t contribute a lot,” and there’s enough good things that he did where we can’t say he had a bad season overall.