The 2023-24 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s dive into the Marquette 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 — we’re skipping Caedin Hamilton because he will be redshirting this season — and then moving on to 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, we reach our penultimate preview today as we talk about the biggest unicorn on the Marquette roster......
Senior - #13 - Forward - 6’11” - 235 lbs. - Chandler, Arizona
There were a lot of things that went into Marquette winning a Big East regular season championship a year ago. It’s hard to understate how much of the pot of things was filled up by Oso Ighodaro’s development from sophomore to junior year. It wasn’t just the raw stats of 11.4 points, a team high 5.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, or 1.5 blocks per game. It was, to a certain extent, the 31.1 minutes played per game. It was the top 130 block rate in the country, per KenPom.com. It was the top 500 assist rate in the country per KenPom. It was the 66% shooting on two point buckets. It was the full compilation of Oso as a player on both ends of the floor that made Marquette a championship contender.
So what does that mean for 2023-24? More of the same, thank you very much. To be honest, BartTorvik.com expects a little bit more from him. That algorithm plots out Ighodaro for averages of 13.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game while playing about the same number of minutes left to go. I do like the projection that Ighodaro’s assists are going to drop from last year. It’s like the computer can see he’s playing center (or Big Tall Guy, at the very least) for MU and says “hey, that player at that position isn’t supposed to be doing that much assisting, no one else does that, there’s no way that he’s doing that again.” Reasonable conclusion, computer program! The only caveat on “will he hit three assists a game again” that I would throw on Ighodaro is wondering whether or not he’ll have more of a scoring mindset this season and thus that will take away from the mere number of times he’ll pass the ball much less pass to a teammate who scores.
I also think it’s a reasonable expectation for Ighodaro to end up in the conversation for Big East Player of the Year by the time the calendar gets to February. Not to win it, that’s crazy pants bonkers to reasonably expect that from him. But if he’s a 14/7/3 player (I just took the T-Rank algorithm numbers and rounded each one up, aka “better than expected”) and Marquette’s on track to win the regular season title and a top three seed in the NCAA tournament when we get to February? You have to at least consider him as an option for the best player in the league. To make my point, I ran a search through Sports Reference looking for anyone in the Big East who averaged just short of 14/7/3 last season, just to make sure that I caught anyone.
Zach Freemantle averaged 15.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.
That’s it, that’s the list.
If Freemantle didn’t miss from February onwards, he would have been considered for Big East Player of the Year as Xavier finished two games behind Marquette in the standings while taking three losses without him. If Ighodaro does that this year, a statistical output that’s not crazy based on what he did last year, plus mix in a healthy dose of his impact on defense, and that’s a Big East POY candidate.
Why You Should Get Excited
Did y’all catch that Ighodaro was shooting threes at the open practice before the team left for Italy in August? He was firing up a couple of them at the open practice at Fiserv during the preseason, too.
His shooting numbers from long distance so far at Marquette: 0-for-0.
I’ve heard a lot of smart people — UConn head coach Dan Hurley is the one that comes to mind the quickest — say that Ighodaro can play in the NBA. Guys like Dan Hurley are much smarter about basketball than me, so I trust them, but I can also watch how NBA front offices approach the draft. I just can’t see them getting that excited about a 6’9” guy who won’t shoot threes. Not can’t, won’t.
But if he’s going to do that going forward, that’s not just an extra dimension for his game that makes him a more viable prospect for the next level, that’s an extra dimension for his game that has the potential to radically alter how defenses are forced to approach Marquette.
Think about this: You saw an awful lot of dribble handoffs from Ighodaro to Kam Jones this past season that turned into three-point attempts as Jones let Ighodaro screen both defenders from him to shoot a wide open shot, right?
Now imagine that defenses overplay Jones to stop him from shooting because you can’t let him get hot. Then Ighodaro fakes the handoff pulls it back, the defense chases Jones, he keeps going, Ighodaro’s left alone, and squares up and drains a three.
It doesn’t have to be a lot, one or two attempted per game. It doesn’t have to be a great success rate, above 30% is enough to keep defenses honest when he starts showing that he’ll shoot it.
If Marquette can start playing with five legitimate shooters on the floor at all times.... hooooooboy, and you thought having the #7 offense in the country last year was fun.
Not much! Presuming an otherwise not newsworthy season, the worst case scenario for Ighodaro’s season is that he just does what he did last season. He’s not likely to get pushed for minutes by anyone on the roster, and he already know what it’s like to play a season where he has to stay on the floor for the Golden Eagles. We can already presume that he’s motivated to have a great 2023-24 season because he didn’t even attempt to get feedback from draft scouts after last season when it would have been perfectly reasonable to do so. Oso is going to do Oso Things, and it’s going to be fun to watch.