I was thinking about doing a mailbag because we were running along towards the end of the Marquette sports calendar for the 2020-21 school year. After the Big East outdoor track and field championships this past weekend and Hunter Eichhorn competing at the NCAA men’s golf regionals, all we’re still waiting on is whatever MU track athletes qualify for the NCAA regionals.
And then, as I was thinking about throwing out a call for mailbag questions, this dropped into the AE Twitter mentions, ready and waiting for a blog length answer as opposed to a Twitter length answer, even in a slightly longer threaded format:
I can't stop looking for #mubb news...but then, where do I go for a robust discussion of what it means that so much of the roster has been overturned?— Jeffrey W. Barbeau (@jeffbarbeau) May 14, 2021
It's one thing when Theo goes to Duke but another when a scholarship player is shown the door (not saying that of Jose). Right?
So let’s dive in to what Jeffrey is asking here.
First of all, for clarification purposes, Jeffrey is replying to the AM retweet of the news that Jose Perez has entered himself into the transfer portal and will be departing Marquette after one year. Second of all, Perez’s departure gives new head coach Shaka Smart one available scholarship for the 2021-22 season for sure, and two open sports if Dawson Garcia elects to stay in the NBA Draft.
So far this offseason since Marquette hired Smart to replace Steve Wojciechowski, we have seen the following departures:
- Jamal Cain, Theo John, and Koby McEwen elected to spend their COVID bonus seasons at Oakland, Duke, and Weber State respectively
- Symir Torrence continued his already started process of transferring, ending up at Syracuse
- Dexter Akanno entered the transfer portal and ended up at Oregon State
- D.J. Carton declared for the NBA Draft and hired an agent thus ending his college eligibility
- and finally, Jose Perez entered the transfer portal and ended up at Manhattan.
Yeah, it’s a lot!
In addition to those guys headed out the door, Smart has added the following players to the roster for next year:
- freshmen Emarion Ellis, Keeyan Itejere, and David Joplin, all of whom were signed to play for Smart at Texas to go along with retaining Marquette signees Kameron Jones and Stevie Mitchell
- sophomore transfers Tyler Kolek from George Mason and Olivier-Maxence Prosper from Clemson
- COVID bonus year senior Kur Kuath from Oklahoma
Cain, John, and McEwen leaving the program isn’t that big of a deal one way or another. Were it not for the pandemic, their collegiate careers would be over already. Instead, they were presented with the option to play for an extra year.... but because Marquette changed who was running the show for their team, that means that they were going to have to play for a new head coach no matter if they stuck around or found a new landing spot.
The other guys leaving fall on a spectrum of surprise one way or another. Torrence had already announced that he was planning on transferring by the time that Marquette severed ties with Wojciechowski. Smart doesn’t get dinged for not convincing him to stay. Akanno and Perez barely ever got on the court for Wojciechowski, so it can’t be a terrible shock that they’re headed on their way. It felt like Carton suddenly declared for the draft out of nowhere, especially after he seemed to be enjoying the first few workouts with Smart, but a guy has to make a decision for himself and his future.
Of course, there is the possibility that Smart had some serious conversations with some of those guys about their future on the court now that there’s a new head coach. That’s the head coach’s prerogative, no matter if he’s newly in charge or not. It’s the best thing for everyone involved for the head coach to be honest about what he sees in the future for everybody on the roster. Whether that’s their hard work is paying off, or if they need to work a little bit harder, or if the coaching staff just doesn’t see how they’re going to be able to get regular playing time going forward.
Is it a cold hearted way to look at things? Sure. But I’d much rather have a head coach willing to be blunt and honest with his recruits and players than a head coach who does the other thing. Basketball players want to play basketball. If they’re not going to play in games for you, tell them and give them the chance to go somewhere that will give them that opportunity.
In short, to answer Jeffrey’s question?
It means that Marquette had a coaching change, the new coach is doing his job, and the players are doing what they feel is in their best interest as a result.
After the first couple months of Shaka, how would you decide between these options?https://t.co/gNsI9554Fy— Ben (@bensnider94) May 14, 2021
I would first like to make a quibble about the “the team is way worse as a result” part of of what Ben is suggesting here. I don’t think it’s an absolute guarantee that Marquette would have been way worse if Markus Howard wasn’t around to bail Steve Wojciechowski out in terms of offensive play calling and so forth. I think there’s a distinct chance that not being able to rely on Howard doing something neat to score forces Wojciechowski to do something else that results in relatively the same results. After all, Wojciechowski refused to lean on Howard as a freshman when he was shooting 55% from behind the three-point line. On the other hand, everything about the 2020-21 season says that Wojciechowski might not have any other ideas in his pocket.
ANYWAY, I think I would take Option 2.
Here’s the deal: Whenever we talk about Marquette’s all-time leading scorer for the foreseeable future, we’re going to have to automatically add a “although the team never won anything when he was on the roster” to the conversation. I’ve made the point in the past that I don’t think that you can put Markus Howard on Marquette’s historical Mount Rushmore of great players, and I could probably make an argument that he’s not even in the top 10. He’s the program’s all-time scorer, but because Wojciechowski couldn’t do anything with him doing that, Howard’s career is going to be judged slightly worse as a result. I would rather not have to do that to a guy, so I would rather see Marquette be worse overall.
Worst case scenario, Wojciechowski never gets the 2019 extension if the team was, in Ben’s words, way worse up to that point. That would have brought us to this offseason with Wojciechowski about to enter the final year of his contract..... if he even made it this far.
I’m going to presume that Ray here has gotten his OSUs confused momentarily, as Dexter Akanno has landed at Oregon State. The Beavers are a major conference program, so the point that he’s making still applies, even if the Cowboys have been the better hoops program over the course of history while Oregon State is currently your reigning PAC-12 tournament champion.
First things first: Marquette hasn’t officially lost a player to the NBA yet. Yes, D.J. Carton has entered the draft and signed with an agent to end his collegiate eligibility, but, uh, he’s probably not getting drafted. Yes, Dawson Garcia has entered the draft while retaining his eligibility, but he’s also probably not getting drafted. NBADraft.net has a 60 player Mock Draft, and neither man is listed. NBADraftRoom.com has a two round mock draft put together and they do list Carton..... at #100 in a 60 player draft.
As for the other questions? Well, it’s a valid point. Sure, Symir Torrence didn’t have a good sophomore season at Marquette after having an unremarkable freshman year..... but maybe Jim Boeheim and his staff see something in him that fits well into the Syracuse system anyway. After all, you have to be able to play in the 2-3 zone to play there at all, so the Orange have a little bit different recruiting demand than anyone else.
Theo John landing at Duke Blue Devils certainly sounds like an upgrade for the big man from Minnesota. However, we also have to acknowledge that John played nearly the entire 2020-21 season on a knee that was injured to some degree. It’s hard to say exactly how much that impacted Marquette’s win-loss record, but it definitely didn’t help. If John is healthy all year, who’s to say that doesn’t help MU steal a win or three? On top of that, my understanding of the Blue Devils’ roster for next season is that John isn’t going to be asked to play 30 minutes a night at center for them.
You can easily make the argument that Akanno going to Oregon State is a downgrade from Marquette. Sure, the Beavers made it to the Elite Eight this season, and were damn close to a Final Four. It was also just their second tournament appearance under head coach Wayne Tinkle and the first since 2016 and they needed a miracle run to the PAC-12 tournament title to get it. Their upset of Tennessee in the first round was the first time that Oregon State had won an NCAA tournament game since 1982. Weirdly, that was also their last Elite Eight appearance. The point is that Tinkle has only had a .500 or better record in Pac-12 play three times in his seven seasons and Oregon State hasn’t had back-to-back .500 or better conference records since 1990. If we’re being bluntly honest, Dexter Akanno didn’t look like he belonged on the floor for Marquette at any point this past season. Even though he ended up at a major conference program, his own play helps explain why Marquette finished under .500.
What would your fondue fountain of choice be from either: Cheese, Chocolate, Ranch, or wildcard?— Nick Beyer (@lessthannick11) May 14, 2021
A very good question from Nick! While I am very tempted to go Wild Card and pick something else just to be whacky, I’m going to confine myself to picking from the three listed options. I’m picking Ranch, and here’s why:
I think it’s more diverse. Chocolate limits you to a certain extent. I’ll dip a French fry into Ranch, but I won’t stick one in chocolate sauce, for example. Cheese almost gets you there, as I’m happy to put cheese on most foods. The problem with the cheese fountain, though, is that you’re stuck with melty fluid cheese on whatever food you’re talking about. I don’t really want drippy cheese on a sandwich, for example. Plus, the cheese fountain is only really good for the cheese that’s actually falling off the fountain. The cheese sitting in the pool parts? That starts to get that skin on the top of it, and I’m absolutely not here for that stuff.
Roster Redshirt Odds— Charlie Weber (@CharlieWeber45) May 14, 2021
THAT’S NOT TECHNICALLY A QUESTION, CHARLIE.
We’re really only talking about the freshmen here. None of the returning guys are going to be redshirting for any reason, other than maaaaaaaybe Oso Ighodaro depending on how his recovery from his leg injury is going. That injury was over three months ago already, though, so I’m not worried about him. The transferring guys are not going to be redshirting because they did not transfer to sit out somewhere.
So that leaves us with the group of Emarion Ellis, Keeyan Itejere, Kameron Jones, David Joplin, and Stevie Mitchell. Going by 247’s Composite rankings, Mitchell is a top 100 prospect. The difference between Ellis (#106) and being officially in the top 100 is 0.0139 in 247’s ratings system. Joplin, ranked at #114? 0.0201. Microscopically outside the top 100. May as well just count them as top 100 guys, which means that they should be able to contribute right away and shouldn’t be redshirting.
That leaves us with Kam Jones at #160 in the 247 Composite ranking and Keeyan Itejere, who is ranked at #201. Marquette’s biggest flaw as a roster right now is in the backcourt. There’s not an experienced reliable point guard on the team at the moment. Jones obviously can’t be an experienced guard, and 247 lists him as a shooting guard, too. But, if Shaka Smart’s plan is to run a bunch of guards out there and just spread the ballhandling around as much as possible to potentially limit problems, then if Jones can take minutes, then he shouldn’t be redshirting.
Itejere might be a redshirt option. 247 lists him at 6’9” and 190 pounds. That’s 15 pounds lighter than the listed weight for Oso Ighodaro this past season at the same height, and we saw that Steve Wojciechowski wasn’t inclined to hand minutes out to Ighodaro potentially as a result of his physical stature. Two things lean me away from a redshirt for Itejere, though. The first is that Smart seems to want to play a more athletic style of basketball than Wojciechowski did, and if Itejere’s mobility and agility is too impressive to ignore, that will get him minutes. The other thing comes down to what Smart had already told Itejere about the plans for his first year in Austin. You really don’t want to tell a guy that you can see how he can contribute right away, then change jobs, then convince that guy to go to your new school sight unseen, and then tell him you need him to sit out the year for developmental reasons. It’s a bad look for a coach in his first year in charge.
How do our additions/departures stack up to the rest of the Big East? I know that’s probably an article itself but with all of our roster movement I haven’t really paid attention to our peers.— Jakob Thomas (@Jaykub_Spehckt) May 14, 2021
Oh, it’s not just one article by itself, it’s 10.
We’ll dive into each of the other teams in the Big East eventually this offseason, just like we have for each of the past few years to dig into who’s still there, who’s gone, and who’s new to the league. With the NBA Draft not coming until late July and the deadline to withdraw from the draft not coming til early July, there’s no rush to make any definitive statements about anyone in the Big East, especially Marquette with Dawson Garcia and St. John’s with Julian Champagnie.
We can, however, talk about recruiting classes. Marquette’s recruiting class underwent some major realignment after Shaka Smart was hired, as MU’s new top man brought three of his Texas signees with him while Jonas Aidoo elected to re-open his recruiting. If we use 247 Sports’ Class Calculator, we can see that Stevie Mitchell and Kam Jones along with Aidoo would have left Marquette right around the #21 recruiting class in the country. Swapping Aidoo for Emarion Ellis, Keeyan Itejere, and David Joplin has bumped the Golden Eagles up to #18 in the country. It’s a small difference in ranking, but switching one top 40 player for three guys might end up having a bigger long term impact on Marquette hoops.
The wild part about all of this is how Marquette’s recruiting class ranks against the rest of the Big East. The Golden Eagles have the 18th best recruiting class in the country.... AND ARE FOURTH IN THE LEAGUE. Creighton is at #7, Connecticut is at #14, and Georgetown is at #16. If you think that’s wild, imagine being Villanova with the 20th best recruiting class in the country and barely being in the top half of the conference at #5. Or Seton Hall at #29 in the country and actually being in the bottom half of the conference.
IMPROMPTU BIG EAST MASCOT POWER RANKINGS!
- UConn’s Jonathan, the live Husky dog
- Marquette’s The Eagle
- Butler’s Blue, the live bulldog
- Georgetown’s Jack, the live bulldog
- Blob, Xavier’s blue whatever
- Creighton’s Billy Bluejay
- St. John’s Johnny Thunderbird
- Villanova’s Will D. Cat
- Xavier’s D’Artagnan
- Providence’s Dalmatian costumed mascot
- DePaul’s Demon In A Blue Suit
- UConn’s Jonathan, the costumed mascot
- Butler’s Hink, the costumed mascot
- Georgetown’s Jack, the costumed mascot
- Seton Hall’s The Pirate
- Providence’s Friar Dom, and this is still too high
Can we talk about DePaul for a second? The official name of the mascot is Demon In A Blue Suit, which is usually just shortened to DIBS. So, officially, according to DePaul University, as long as DIBS is just a blue furry outfit in a basketball uniform, there is a demon wearing that costume. Demon IN A Blue Suit. Not sayin’, just sayin’.