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 longest tenured Golden Eagle on the roster.......
Redshirt Senior - #5 - Guard - 6’3” - 180 pounds - Detroit, Michigan
A brief recap on Greg Elliott’s time in Milwaukee:
- Year 1, played in every game with a brace on his wrist that essentially limited to dribbling with one hand
- Year 2, re-injured the hand, needed surgery, redshirted
- Year 3, wrecked his ankle in June, had surgery, recovered, reinjured the ankle in January, missed six games, had the season ended by the pandemic
- Year 4, played in every game during a pandemic, forced to experience a Marquette coach going through his second losing season for the first time since Bob Dukiet did it back-to-back in 1988-89, stuck around after the coaching change
It’s been a ride and a half for the Michigan native, that’s for sure.
And now, he’s the elder statesman of the team. To be fair, this was always going to end up this way thanks to Elliott going into his fifth year thanks to the redshirt in 2018-19. He was always going to be sticking around a year longer than Jamal Cain and Theo John, the two guys who came into Marquette with him. But he wasn’t supposed to have 65 more games played for Marquette than the next most experienced guy on the roster. He wasn’t supposed to have nine more starts than the next guy. But here we are, with Greg Elliott helping Darryl Morsell and Kur Kuath settle in as seniors on this team. Here we are, with Greg Elliott being the guy that the freshmen and the transfers look to for insight about Marquette’s campus and Milwaukee in general.
Thanks to the coaching change, I’m not 100% sure exactly how Greg Elliott fits into this roster and scheme. That’s honestly good news after last season when we were treated to a 46% three-point shooter playing being lucky to play 20 minutes a night for much of the season. I talked about it Elliott’s review last season, but it certainly seemed like he was woefully misused or at the very least underused by last year’s staff.
This year can’t be worse than that. It would seem that Shaka Smart is going to rely on a system that requires a high level of physical conditioning from his players. With that said, they’re going to need breaks regularly, and that means pretty much anyone on the bench who can contribute is going to be asked to do something to help this team out. I don’t know if that means a starting role for Elliott (I would lean towards the answer on that being no) or if he’s going to be a super sub for any of the guard/wing spots in the lineup. We’ll have to wait and see how it works, but I’m not particularly worried about Elliott getting lost in the shuffle at the very least.
Last year, in what amounts to his only really healthy year of college hoops, Elliott went for 6.2 points and 1.6 rebounds per game in 18.1 minutes on average. He was an incredibly efficient player, ending up ranking #33 in the country and #2 in the Big East in three-point shooting percentage amongst qualifying players. His rebounding took a downturn from previous seasons, but I suspect that has more to do with the existence of Dawson Garcia and the ascension of Jamal Cain than it has to do with “Greg was suddenly bad at this.”
I’d wager to guess that his minutes are going to go up this season as Shaka Smart makes use of of a system that requires minutes from everyone. I don’t want to say he’s going to score more than he did, not until I see what kind of tempo that means for the Golden Eagles, but 6 points and change is a pretty solid average and I’d be okay with that again. T-Rank seems to be very excited about Elliott, projecting him at 10.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. I don’t know how much of that is potential system or lack of experienced players on the roster or what, but I’d be thrilled for that kind of production from him.
Why You Should Get Excited
Shaka Smart has said repeatedly that he doesn’t think he can play his old VCU Havoc defense at Marquette. Part of doing that at VCU was being in the CAA and the A-10, leagues where you can sometimes cause massive disruption merely by playing harder than the other guy. That wasn’t the case at Texas and it’s probably not going to be the case in the Big East.
But he has definitely shown interest in returning to a more high pressure style of defense. Smart has talked about it for sure and on Sunday, at Haunted Hoops, they ran drills to practice that defense and regularly made use of it in the scrimmage.
Why does that all matter here while talking about Greg Elliott’s season?
Last year, according to KenPom.com, Greg Elliott just barely missed out on the top 250 in the country in steal rate and he finished #381 in the country in the fewest fouls called per 40 minutes of action. These are two incredibly important things if Marquette is going to play a defensive style oriented towards pressure and deflections. Elliott still managed that steal rate while playing in a defensive structure that had absolutely no interest in creating turnovers (#296 as a team in steal rate), so that’s just natural ability and instinct from him. Even better, Elliott has shown this before, as he had an ever so slightly lower (but somehow better ranked) steal rate back in 2017-18, and yes, that’s the season when he was really only playing with one good hand. Combine that instinct with an ability to avoid fouls, and you’ve really got something as a defender in a system that’s trying to create dysfunction.
Oh, and there’s the three-point shooting. Elliott is a career 42% shooter from downtown, so yeah, I think the coaching staff might be interested in letting him launch a few every game.
It’s the “I” word. It’s always the “I” word with Greg Elliott at this point.
In fact, the “I” word reared its head again this past Sunday when it seemed that Greg Elliott was not a full participant in the drills before the Haunted Hoops scrimmage started. In fact, I’m going to turn this over to Ben Steele from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for further clarification.....
Smart and his staff have been closely monitoring the 6-3 guard during the preseason, having him sit out some drills during practices. Off the court, he wears a protective walking boot for his right ankle.
“It’s just something they want me to do to manage the load,” Elliott said. “But this is the best my body has felt since I been in college.”
Elliott said there wouldn’t be any minutes restrictions for games.
So, uh, yeah, that absolutely was Elliott being a part-time participant in drills. And, it appears that Elliott is just running around campus all the time in a walking boot to “manage” things. He feels great, there’s no restrictions on the court for him, but it’s clear that someone in either strength and conditioning or athletic training thinks this is the best thing for his surgically reconstructed ankle.
That’s... not... great.
Maybe this is nothing to be worried about. Maybe Elliott plays over 700 minutes this season — he’s never cleared 650, Sacar Anim led 2019-20’s team with over 1,000 — and we all sit back at the end of the year and marvel at all of his good works. Or maybe the injuries have finally sapped Elliott of the ability to be the athletic marvel (albeit with one hand) that we saw in his freshman year and this season is going to be a chore for him to finish. That would not be fun, but it is just going to keep looming in the background for him until March.