With the 2022-23 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, and today we wrap up our first week of player reviews with the third and final freshman on the roster............
Freshman - #5 - Guard - 6’4” - 195 pounds - Dallas, Texas
Chase Ross Traditional Stats
Chase Ross Fancy Stats
*** — notes a top 50 national ranking per KenPom.com
This is one of those things where you have to try to balance optimism about a guy that Marquette head coach Shaka Smart very clearly made a high priority almost immediately upon taking the Marquette job with what you normally expect from freshmen in general as well as freshmen that aren’t getting a lot of recruiting trail buzz. Think about it this way: T-Rank says, once we factor in Emarion Ellis’ recovery from stress fracture surgery, we should expect Ross to play a very bit part on this team, averaging less than seven minutes a game. That’s after the original projection had him south of four minutes a night and averaging 1.9 points and 1.1 rebounds.
But that’s an algorithm spitting out a projection partly based on what’s on MU’s roster as a known returning quantity and partly based on Ross’ recruiting rankings... and that second part miiiiight be a little bit undercooked. It’s probably a mistake to think that Ross is going to explode onto the scene and take up a big chunk of playing time. If he’s a shooting guard, then he’s sitting behind Kam Jones in the rotation at the very least. Ross would have to prove that he’s at least as much of an offensive threat as Jones is while also showing that he can defend better than Jones, and Jones has a head start on both categories since he’s been playing for Smart for a year already.
Between Jones and Tyler Kolek taking up the primary backcourt roles, Stevie Mitchell established as a defensive pest with the ability to knock down shots, and Sean Jones lurking to pull whatever minutes he can get at point guard, things might be tough for Ross to get on the floor. If he proves he can guard 1 through 3, that might provide the Golden Eagles with some roster flexibility. One thing we know for sure, though: Ross is going to have to defend if he wants to play at all.
Why You Should Get Excited
I’m pushing the boundaries here, because as we’ll get to in a second, I’m not preparing myself to see a lot of Chase Ross this season. However, the fact of the matter is that Marquette is not getting a lot of preseason buzz as an NCAA tournament caliber team because there’s just not anyone on the roster that looks like an immediately obvious go-to-guy threat.
I’m not going to say that Chase Ross can be that guy and that’s why you should be excited for his freshman campaign. That would be a little silly to put out into the universe. There’s a chance of it though, because we’ve seen weirder things happen, but that’s not what I was trying to get to here. Maybe this Marquette team doesn’t have a dominant star like they did with Justin Lewis last season. Maybe this is a “sum is greater than the parts” team. Maybe this is a “12 guys all pulling together and doing a little bit to help the team win” squad, and if that’s the case, there has to be some kind of role from Ross. If we’re seeing a positive outcome to the season and we’re seeing useful contributions from Ross, then that’s a highly productive freshman season for the young man, no matter what the stats look like at the end of the year.
There’s no other way to say this: Chase Ross is the freshman that I’m expecting to see the least amount of playing time this season. Sean Jones has an obvious path to the floor: Whatever backup minutes Tyler Kolek is allowing. Same goes for Ben Gold with a shot at backing up Oso Ighodaro as well as fitting into whatever Marquette’s plan at the 4 is this season. I don’t seen an immediate way to get Ross onto the floor like I do for those two guys. That’s probably not ideal, but hey: He’s a freshman, and it’s supposed to be hard for freshmen to get on the floor, right?
The primary reason why it’s hard for freshmen to get on the floor for Shaka Smart? You have to defend. What if Ross just isn’t prepared for the speed and physicality of college hoops even though he reclassified back a year when he transferred to Cushing Academy? There’s nothing wrong with that, as Smart has made it pretty clear that his recruiting plan is to get guys who can contribute to his team for four years. Maybe Ross’ major impact for Marquette is just down the road as he develops as a high major Division 1 player. Nothing wrong with that, it just means we might not see him all that much this season.
Well, I was wrong. This is our third player review, and the first two were Sean Jones and Ben Gold. Chase Ross played more minutes than both of them, and at 589 minutes total on the season, he quite honestly came close (689!) to playing more than both Jones and Gold together. I didn’t see that coming, and credit where credit’s due to the young man for making that happen.
How did he make it happen? Ross took up Stevie Mitchell’s mantle as “annoying as hell defensive pest that comes off the bench as a freshman.” Look no further than Ross averaging over a steal per game this season even though he only averaged 16ish minutes a night. At 40 steals on the year, Ross tied for the fifth most by a Marquette freshmen, pulling even with Tony Miller and Tony Smith, and trails only Jerel McNeal, Doc Rivers, Dominic James, and Traci Carter. Only three rotation guys averaged a “steals per 40 minutes” north of 2.0 this season, and Ross is one of the three alongside Mitchell and Tyler Kolek. You want it in a little fancier terms? Check out those asterisks up there, as Chase Ross finished the season at #43 in the country in steal rate according to KenPom.com, and was second on the team behind only Stevie Mitchell. How about this, since it marks MU’s overall defense, not just Ross’ ability to come with steals: As good as Marquette’s defense was this season (#43 in the country per KenPom by the time everything came to a stop), it was actually better when Ross was on the floor. Per Hoop Explorer, MU gave up an adjusted for opponent strength 97.9 points per 100 possessions, which is good, any time you’re under a point per trip, you’re doing just fine. With Ross on the floor? That number was waaay down at just 93.6 per 100 trips.
Ross was so bought in the defensive end, I am left wondering what kind of conversations the coaching staff had about his playing time this season. It’s self-evident that he deserved more playing time because he could help Marquette get stops. The question becomes how much did Ross dampen the offense when he was on the floor. As much as those Hoop Explorer numbers love Chase Ross’ defense, the same can not be said for his offense. Marquette was nearly 12 points per 100 possessions better on offense with Ross on the bench, and sometimes it’s better to be blasting the opponent off the floor than locking them down. Part of that has to be Ross’ three-point shooting. He finished the year at 32.3%, which is below that 33.3% efficiency cutoff that you like to see, which, y’know, not great, but maybe you say “ah yes, freshman” and just handwave it. Unfortunately, Ross’ worst games from beyond the arc were against Marquette’s toughest opponents. 15 games against what KenPom calls top 50 opponents? 14%, just 3-for-21. Top 100? Better, but still not good: 28.9%, just 11-for-38. He also shot just 25% from long range in Marquette’s final 10 games, and that’s mostly because he went 3-for-3 against St. John’s in the Big East tournament game. Ross had been shooting nearly 35% for the season up to that point, so maybe we can just say “freshman wall” and trust that he’ll get it figured out for next season.
Okay, that’s nearly 600 words of reviewing and chatting. Let’s get to the fun part, shall we? Chase Ross is a bad dude, and has an opportunity to turn into the baddest dude in the entire Big East as his career continues. I present Exhibit A, best known as “Chase Ross dunks KC Ndefo off the face of the planet.”
HOW GREAT IS THAT!?
If you thought I was getting through this entire review without dropping that in, you are clearly new here. Welcome, pull up a chair, ‘77 Golden Ales are in the fridge.
The only downside of that highlight clip is that it does not start with Ross making like Hall of Fame free safety Ed Reed and cutting off Femi Odukale’s very terrible outlet pass and thus terminating Seton Hall’s chance at capitalizing on a Stevie Mitchell turnover. Ndefo will not be the last person that Ross catches in a Marquette uniform, and there’s an argument that a full season of college action and an offseason of strength and conditioning training will actually make it easier for the incredibly athletic Ross to catch guys at a higher rate down the road.
Well, obviously that Seton Hall game has to be included in the conversation. On top of leaving Newark with KC Ndefo’s soul, Ross played what was (and stayed) a season high in minutes with 24, chipping in eight total points while shooting 4-for-8 from the field along with two rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Ross did best that scoring output on three occasions, getting to 10 points three times. They were largely unremarkable games: Both outings against Georgetown, the home game against Butler, and the McGuire Center game against Central Michigan. He had 10 points in the three conference games and 11 against the Chippewas, but really only the National Marquette Day game — his other game with 24 minutes played, by the way — really needed the scoring from him and even then maybe not that much.
You know what, let’s go with National Marquette Day against Butler. Sold out building, relatively close contest, big minutes, season high in scoring, plus he added a rebound, an assist, a steal, and two blocks. Nice all around game.
It wasn’t a blowaway success of a season, but it was well over the expectations that I had for Ross. His size and athleticism combined with his attitude on the court to be a solid backup for both Kam Jones and Stevie Mitchell in the guard rotation, and he excelled on the defensive end to earn a big pile of minutes all season long. The offense might have been a work in progress, but when you can make an impact on defense, you’re going to be trusted by Shaka Smart to figure your offense out as long as you’re being smart about it, and Ross was nowhere close to a liability in the turnover department. I’m going to give him an 8 for the year, but it’s a strong 8 without any hesitation.