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2021-22 Marquette Men’s Basketball Player Preview: #32 Darryl Morsell

The reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year is now a Golden Eagle.

Maryland v UConn Photo by Andy Hancock/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The 2021-22 college basketball season is right around the corner, 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 two underclassmen transfers, then the two super-seniors on their extra year of eligibility, and then finally the three 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, as we always do:

  • Reasonable Expectations
  • Why You Should Get Excited
  • Potential Pitfalls

With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the transfer from Maryland who elected to spend his bonus year of eligibility with the Golden Eagles………

Darryl Morsell

Graduate Student - #32 - Guard - 6’5” - 205 pounds - Baltimore, Maryland

You know what’s weird about Darryl Morsell, or I guess at least weird about my experience getting an idea of who he is as a basketball player? I keep forgetting he’s 6’5”. On Sunday, I went to the Haunted Hoops event at the McGuire Center, and my reaction to seeing him on the court was “oh dang, Darryl Morsell’s way bigger than I realized.” Of course, I’ve already written about the fact that he’s 6’5” before because Morsell announced that he would be spending his COVID-bonus season at Marquette in late June after three-ish months of time where it seemed like MU was a likely destination for the former Maryland guard. I should know this. It should be in my head. But it’s not, or at least it wasn’t, and it was a pleasant surprise to see that Marquette’s new best backcourt defender is bigger than I was thinking he was.

Morsell spent the last four years at Maryland after joining the Terps as a top 75 prospect out of Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore. Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon took a liking to his newest guard right out of the gate, and by Christmas, Morsell was an expected starter every night for the Terps. You could count on him for somewhere north of 25 minutes a night at the very least with a career average of 28.1 minutes per game in 126 appearances along with quality all-around backcourt play.

This is the key here: Morsell was never the star for Maryland. Perfectly competent Big Ten starting guard, great defense, culminating in being named Defensive Player of the Year in the league at the end of last season, but that’s the extent of it. Morsell wrapped up his tenure at Maryland with a well earned career scoring average of 8.7 points per game without ever averaging more than 9.0 per game and never less than 8.5 in any of his four seasons. Rebounds? 4.0 per game. Assists? 2.2 per game with a career best of 2.8 in 2020-21. Steals? Surprisingly few, as he never averaged even one per game, not even as the B1G DPOY last year.

Why is Morsell at Marquette instead of playing out his final year of eligibility more or less in front of his family in Baltimore? Why did he leave a Maryland team that’s coming off of three straight (just count 2020 like it happened, they were projected to be in) NCAA tournaments and shape up to be a top 25 caliber program this year in favor of a Golden Eagles squad that has “make the tourney” as a stretch goal for the season by any reasonable outsider’s perspective?

Reasonable Expectations

I think that question can be answered by the fact that Morsell was Just A Guy at Maryland. You could probably move him up to Dude on the Guy/Dude/MFer rating system given that he was a starter in the Big Ten, but there’s nothing about Darryl Morsell’s statistical profile that screams “mega-watt standout star.” I’m not 100% tied in to what’s going on with the Terrapins, but if they’re sitting at #18 in the preseason KenPom ratings and #21 in the preseason AP poll…. then I’m guessing that Mark Turgeon was probably expecting to use Morsell exactly the way he has in the past.

At Marquette, Morsell gets the opportunity to be The Guy or at the very least, The Guy Until The New Guy Fully Blossoms. In terms of Division 1 college basketball experience, Darryl Morsell is the most experienced player on the MU roster this season. Everyone on the team, even Greg Elliott, the longest tenured Golden Eagle, could learn at least a thing or two (or in the case of the freshmen, three or four) from Morsell along the way this season. Not only is he going to be the guiding light and voice for this team from a morale perspective, but with no one else established as The Guy right now, this is a perfect opportunity for Morsell to shine a bit brighter than he has in the past.

There’s a reason why (or maybe several reasons why) Morsell is projected by T-Rank as carrying the heaviest minutes load this season as well as leading the team in scoring (13.7) and in assists (2.9). He’s the guy on the team who knows best how to get a bucket when the team needs a bucket, and he’s the guy who knows best how to set his teammates up for success. His role is to be the rock that everyone else can lean on.... right up until Justin Lewis is ready to take the Autobot Matrix Of Leadership from him.

Why You Should Get Excited

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Shaka Smart is known for his ability and preference for coaching up the defensive end of the court. Whether it’s discussion of his Havoc defense at VCU, or how he abandoned that at Texas but still developed highly efficient ways of getting stops, or his mentions of how he wants his MU teams to play with a little bit of violence to them on that end of the court, the importance of defense is unmistakeable.

And to kick off his first season at Marquette, Shaka Smart gets to make use of the guy voted as the best defensive player in the entire Big Ten last season. And, on top of that, Morsell won that trophy by shutting dudes down, not by layering the stat sheet with gaudy steal numbers.

Marquette fans might actually be aware, at least not necessarily consciously, of exactly what Morsell can do. December 1, 2019. Marquette had reached the championship game of the Orlando Invitation behind back-to-back 40 point games from Markus Howard, including a 51-spot against USC. 11-for-23 inside the arc, 14-for-27 outside of it, 27-for-32 at the charity stripe in two games. In the championship game? #5 Maryland and Darryl Morsell’s defensive abilities. Howard? 1-for-12, six points, four turnovers, Marquette loses by 21.

And now that guy plays for Marquette.

Over the past few seasons, we’ve said, while assessing potential matchups, “oh, well, [so-and-so] is Marquette’s best backcourt/wing defender, so they’ll get the assignment of stopping [insert guard/wing threat here]. That has been, under the previous administration, a discussion of “best possible option” more than anything else.

Not now. Not with Morsell. Not with this coach.

Darryl Morsell is going to make lives miserable across the Big East this season. It’s going to be GREAT.

Potential Pitfalls

Darryl Morsell can’t shoot.

Year-by-year three-point shooting percentages: 12%, 29%, 33%, 26%.

Year-by-year effective field goal percentages: 43%, 50%, 47%, 51%.

He had to shoot 58% on two-pointers last year in league play (9th best in the Big Ten) to balance out his 9-for-37 three-point shooting (24%) to get his effective field goal percentage up to 20th best in the league at 52.4%.

Here’s the thing: Darryl Morsell was never asked to shoot at Maryland. Career average of 7.3 attempts per game, always between 7.0 and 7.5. As a result, the fact that he couldn’t never really mattered all that much.

But now he’s going to be asked to score. Because someone on this team has to score, and he’s not here just because he really likes current MU assistant and former Maryland assistant DeAndre Haynes a whole lot. Marquette is in a lot of trouble if those shooting percentages stay where they have been but the attempts start going up towards 10 or 12 or more per game. If Morsell figures it out, if he manages recapture his touch from Big Ten play in 2019-20 when he shot 36% from long range..... well, then it’s fine.

If he doesn’t? If he can’t? Well, MU still needs that 30 minutes a night of defensive play, so he’s gonna have to keep playing anyway. Can a desire to go out on a high note as a team outweigh a desire to go out on a high note on a personal level? That might be the big question for Morsell this season.