The 2022-23 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive into the Marquette Golden Eagles men’s 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 Marquette’s presumptive starting center......
Junior - #13 - Forward - 6’9” - 215 pounds - Chandler, Arizona
After not playing all that much as a freshman before suffering a season ending injury, Oso Ighodaro had a big sophomore campaign. He was a lot more than Kur Kuath’s backup, even though Ighodaro came off the bench in every single game. He averaged more than 18 minutes a night and actually played more than half the game on nine occasions in MU’s 32 game season. 5.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, and just short of a block per game are great numbers for that much playing time. Think of it this way: If you extrapolate that out to 30 minutes a game, it’s 9.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists (yes, that’s right), and 1.5 blocks a night.
While Marquette didn’t ask him to do all that much on the offensive end, he still did everything he could do with strong performances. Ighodaro finished up Big East play as the most efficient offensive player in the entire conference, with a KenPom.com offensive rating of 129.3. He was a top 500 offensive rebounder in terms of rate, and his 5.0% block rate ranked in the top 200 in the country.
You could not have asked more from him, particularly since he was one of just three returning players to the roster a year ago. Now, heading into 2022-23, he’s the projected starter at center, one of four guys who appear to be clear cut options to start, and one of six guys with a rotation job coming back. This figures to be a big season for Ighodaro, both in terms of the opportunities that are going to be provided to him as well as the responsibilities that he is going to have to carry for this team.
Let’s start with the T-Rank projection, shall we? I think this provides us with a lot of ground to stand on, much less cover. 66% of minutes played, which is 26.4 minutes per game. 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, offensive rating of 117.
I honestly think this is Ighodaro’s worst case scenario, or at least his worst case scenario if Marquette has a successful season. If MU is contending for an NCAA tournament spot and Ighodaro is putting up numbers worse than this, something incredibly weird is going on, most likely in the category of “someone on the team has suddenly turned into an NBA lottery pick” type of thing. That would be fine by me, but I don’t think that’s likely, either.
Ighodaro’s the starting center, or the 5, or the big, or whatever name you want to attach to it. I think he’s going to be great this year, and we’ll get to exactly what that means in a second, but here we’re talking about what’s reasonable to expect from him. Part of this is “I presume Marquette is going to be a good basketball team and thus this is what they will need from him if they are going to actually reach that level.”
So, that raises the question: Who’s playing the other 14 minutes a game in the middle if it’s not Ighodaro? Redshirt freshman Keeyan Itejere? True freshman Ben Gold, who does stand 6’11”? Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who is an inch shorter than Ighodaro but somehow 15 pounds heavier at 230? NAIA grad transfer Zach Wrightsil who played a small ball 5 at Loyola-New Orleans, but is only 6’7” and 215 pounds?
None of these seem like fantastic options for all of Ighodaro’s bench minutes, and there are going to have to be bench minutes. Fouls are going to catch him at some point, probably many points, and he’s going to have to take a breather here and there, especially in Shaka Smart’s high tempo style. But for now, those are the options behind Ighodaro heading into the season. The reasonable expectation for him are, somewhat unfortunately, for Ighodaro to carry an awful lot of the playing time load. I presume he’ll get stat bumps that go along with whatever extra minutes he’s playing north of 26 minutes a night.
And hey, y’know what? This is a preview, I get to hedge my bets. If one of those options turns into a really solid option, one along the lines of the better than very solid option behind Kuath that Ighodaro was a year ago? Then yeah, maybe that takes some (a lot?) of the pressure to perform off Ighodaro. That would be a good thing overall for the team, I think, but for the time being, I think we need expect to see a lot of Ighodaro. Not necessarily “carrying the team” a lot, just literal minutes played.
Why You Should Get Excited
I’m just going to put this here.
Thanks to @EricWiechman12 for pointing it out, but this no-look pass from Oso is LOL worthy. I had to slow it down and watch it a few times.— Paint Touches (@PaintTouches) October 28, 2022
Shaka's been screaming for months now, but the country has no idea what's coming from the #mubb big man. pic.twitter.com/RVgf69CR1U
LOOK WHERE HE STARTS. HE’S BEHIND THE ARC. MARQUETTE’S CENTER JUST TOOK HIS MAN TO THE LANE OFF THE DRIBBLE AND THEN THREW A NO LOOK BOUNCE PASS TO A BASELINE CUTTER FOR A DUNK. WHAT EVEN IS THAT? WHAT IS THE ACTUAL CEILING HERE?
You know what the wild part about that is? If you slow it down, it certainly looks like Ighodaro’s drive to the middle drew Kam Jones off the wing to collapse on him.... which was letting David Joplin wander around behind the arc. It seems like Chase Ross was available for the dunk because Stevie Mitchell lost him on the baseline, but if that wasn’t available, it’s definitely possible that Joplin was sitting wide open for a triple as well. He had PASSING OPTIONS available to him on a drive. AS THE CENTER.
Think about this, too: Ighodaro felt confident making that pass to a guy that he’s only been playing with for a couple of months. Also: Ighodaro felt confident to make the drive into the middle in the first place.
He’s listed at 215 pounds, the exact same weight he was at a year ago. I’m not saying Ighodaro isn’t stronger than he was last year at this time, I’m saying that there is not an increase in bulk for MU’s expected starting center. Here’s why that’s a possible problem:
Adama Sanogo: 6’9”, 245 pounds
Ryan Kalkbrenner: 7’1”, 260 pounds
Jack Nunge: 7’1”, 245 pounds
See it now? That’s six games of Marquette’s Big East schedule right there, and I haven’t gotten into Eric Dixon (255 lbs.) or even Tyrese Samuel (235 lbs.) yet, or Zach Edey (290 lbs.) and Flo Thamba (250 lbs.) in the non-conference portion of the schedule. That is a lot of gigantic dudes that Ighodaro is going to have to defend constantly all year long. Now, the good news is that Shaka Smart is a defensive minded coach, so I’m sure the plan is not “well, have fun out there, Oso, we’re all depending on you.” He’s going to get help to defend these guys, no matter what.
But banging around with guys outweighing you by at least 20 pounds on the very low end on a nightly basis is an awful way to go through life. It is going to take a toll on Ighodaro, no matter what else happens. How much of a toll is it going to take? How much of his offensive efficiency is it going to sap? How effective is Ighodaro going to be when he has to be the primary guy tangling on the interior all season long?