The 2022-23 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive 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 roster one by one: First MU’s three freshmen in last name alphabetical order, then the lone transfer on the squad, moving on to the guy coming of a redshirt freshman year, and then finally the returning active players from last season, 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 everybody’s favorite Pennsylvanian on the roster.....
Sophomore - #4 - Guard - 6’2” - 195 pounds - Reading, Pennsylvania
We gave Stevie Mitchell a 7 for a season grade after his freshman season last year. That’s a nice middle of the road but still positive review for his first year of collegiate basketball. He did maybe a little bit better than expected for a freshman but wasn’t “OH MY GOD” shock the world amazing. Nothing wrong with that, of course, you’re not going to get a lot of those types of guys.
Mitchell appeared in all 32 games a year ago, playing a bench role in every single contest after electing to stick with the Golden Eagles even though he signed to play for Steve Wojciechowski and Shaka Smart was actually in charge. 10.8 minutes per game is a nice relief role, and he averaged 2.8 points along with 1.4 rebounds and just under an assist per game and 0.7 steals an outing as well. In Big East play, those minutes fell a little bit to 8.6 per game. His scoring dropped off a little bit to 1.9 points in MU’s 19 league contests, but the rebounding stayed the same and the steals actually ticked up ever so slightly.
The steals wandering up just a little bit is probably the biggest indicator of what Mitchell figured out as the season went along: He did not need to worry about scoring on last year’s squad, but he could get himself minutes every single game by hustling for every single minute that he was on the floor. Use that hustle to become a massive defensive pest, and that’s how you work your way into Shaka Smart and his staff trusting you to give Darryl Morsell or Tyler Kolek a break.
One of those guys is gone now, as Morsell was always only going to be at Marquette for a year. There’s space in the rotation for more minutes to go somewhere, so the question is whether Mitchell can do more for the Golden Eagles this season.
I think it’s a safe bet that Mitchell is going to be able to replicate last year’s numbers without even trying all that much. His worst case scenario is “defensive pest off the bench.” What we don’t know for certain is exactly what kind of rotation Shaka Smart is going to use for the Golden Eagles this season. If it’s a two-guard option, then that probably has Mitchell coming off the bench in relief of Tyler Kolek and most likely behind Kam Jones as the starting shooting guard. That’s fine, there’s a lot of playing time to vacuum up there.
What if MU goes to a three-guard rotation to make use of the players they have? Is Mitchell actually a starter in that situation, with freshmen Sean Jones and Chase Ross providing the backup pop off the bench to the trio of Kolek, Jones, and Mitchell?
T-Rank certainly seems to think that this kind of a minutes distribution is possible. The standard projection gives Mitchell just over 21 minutes a game while averaging 6.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists a game. I will happily sign up for those kinds of numbers right now. However, that’s a projection that expects Emarion Ellis to play, and his recovery from stress fracture surgery means he’s not likely to be ready to go until after the first of the year at the earliest. Double However, filtering Ellis out of the roster doesn’t actually seem to affect Mitchell’s projection, which seems really wild. I suspect this is a “this is how computers think” as opposed to a “I watched Mitchell play as a freshman but not Ellis, so who are we kidding here?” situation.
Why You Should Get Excited
I think it’s safe to say that Mitchell has the basics of what Shaka Smart wants from him on every single possession down. We can nitpick about the game-to-game scheme of things and whether or not Mitchell is a good matchup against particular players if you want, but the ideas of what is going to get Mitchell playing time this year are pretty much set. Mitchell is going to get told to go lock up the best guard on the opposing team over and over again this season, and he’s probably going to do a hell of a job.
Here’s the thing: Mitchell’s not a goof on the offensive end. He shot 52.0% on two-point buckets last season and 35% from long distance. These are perfectly acceptable numbers bordering on being kind of damn good. If he can turn himself into an offensive threat on every single possession that he plays, that’s going to pay dividends for the rest of MU’s offense. I’m not going to expect Mitchell to lead the team in scoring in any single game, but can he be the guy who has a 6-0 or 7-0 burst on his own that makes the other head coach call timeout to break up the run because his team keeps losing Mitchell? Yeah! Mitchell only attempted 20 three-pointers in 32 games last year, and only 10 in MU’s 19 Big East contests. Crank that up to at least one per game, and double his two-point attempts from last year’s 1.6 a night? That’s starting to look like a very scary dude who’s making a big impact on both ends of the court for a Marquette team that’s rocketing towards a second straight NCAA tournament.
Oh, and by the way? Mitchell shot 40% from long range in Big East play last year. In MU’s last three regular season games? 4-for-6. That’s not replicable, sure, but it’s definitely a sign that he’s comfortable knocking down the open corner three in big games when his teammates kick it out to him.
Stevie Mitchell’s ballhandling was an absolute disaster at the start of last season. Two turnovers in 15 minutes against Illinois, four in 12 minutes against St. Bonaventure, three in 20 minutes against Jackson State, two against UConn on December 21st in just one minute of play. That’s 11 of the 21 he committed all season long, all in the first 13 games!
As you can tell, things ironed out from there, and in league games, Mitchell’s turnover rate was a perfectly acceptable 16.2% according to KenPom.com. So here’s the thing that we have to wonder about: Did he get it under control because the coaching staff started putting Mitchell into positions where he wasn’t at as much risk of turning it over or did Mitchell just catch on to the speed and physicality of high major Division 1 hoops?
If it’s the second one, then hooray, no one has to worry about anything. If it’s the first one, then that makes us pause and ask what happens when his role expands this season? Mitchell’s almost always going to be a primary or primary-ish ballhandler when he’s on the court, that’s what happens when you’re a 6’2” guard. There are going to be turnovers just because he’s going to be handling the ball more than a lot of his teammates. Can he be the highly efficient guy that we saw in Big East play? Or are we going to see the problems that popped up against MU’s toughest opponents? It’s heavily weighted by those Illinois/Bonnies/UConn turnovers, but Mitchell’s turnover rate against what KenPom calls top 100 opponents was 30.6%. That’s really bad! That’s “actually maybe you can’t be out there” type of bad.
One other thing to worry about, and maybe because of MU’s offensive style, it won’t matter too much. Mitchell was not a good free throw shooter last year, connecting on just 56% of his 25 attempts. One of Marquette’s biggest flaws as a team last year was just getting to the line, ranking #292 in the country per KenPom. That has to increase this season, and if Mitchell ends up struggling from the line, it makes you curious as to whether or not that will discourage him from taking it to the rack at all. He was pretty good at getting there last year, falling just behind Oso Ighodaro and Greg Elliott in the team lead in Free Throw to Field Goal ratio. If he’s worried about making the freebies when he gets there, is that going to stop him from making use of his ability to get there?