QUESTION #1 — Is this a Big East tournament team?
Depending on how you want to look at it, Marquette men’s lacrosse missed the 2023 Big East tournament for one of two reasons. #1 is falling behind 7-2 in the first 18 minutes on the way to a 16-14 loss to Providence in the Big East opener. #2 is losing three straight overtime games to end the season, all to Big East squads that were ranked in the top 15 at the time, with two of them coming at home. Flip the PC game, and Marquette is 2-3 and Providence is 1-4 instead of the other way around, and the Golden Eagles are the #4 seed instead. Win one of the Georgetown/Denver/Villanova games, and who knows how the standings shake out.
If we presume everyone is roughly the same as they were last season, Marquette is inches away from being a Big East tournament. That’s a couple of lucky bounces here, an extra hustle play there, a random scattering of picking up an attacker a little bit faster, and yeah: This is a Big East tournament team.
But that means something has to be different than last year.
QUESTION #2 — What’s going to be different this season?
See, here’s the thing: Marquette’s returning their top five scorers from last season. They’re returning most of their close defense from last season, with only the departure of Zach Granger affecting the corps, and the mere existence of Mason Woodward anchoring the defense means guys just need to fit into place around him.
Heck, Marquette’s schedule is mostly the same from last season, up to and including neutral site games against Michigan and Penn State, two teams coming off NCAA tournament appearances even though they lost to the Golden Eagles in 2023. Last year’s slate showed that this roster was good enough to give NCAA tournament teams a hard time, but it wasn’t going to be perfect at beating teams of that caliber, and it was going to struggle against lesser teams. No disrespect, St. Bonaventure, but you were 1-7 when you faced MU last year, and no one was impressed with Marquette’s 9-5 win.
We can’t just presume that Marquette is going to be better just because they bring back most of what worked for them last season. That was only good enough for 6-8 overall and 1-4 in the Big East. Is consistency from week to week and game to game the biggest answer as to what needs to change?
QUESTION #3 — Who’s going to break the scoring record first?
Devon Cowan starts the year 38 points short of Ryan McNamara’s career points record. As luck would have it, Cowan’s career best for a season is 38 points. Injuries have slowed him down the past two seasons, so if he’s healthy for all 14 contests this year, hitting 40 points and surpassing McNamara is within the bounds of believability.
But Bobby O’Grady is coming off a 50 point freshman year and a 49 point sophomore year, and so he needs 54 points, short of the Marquette single season record, to break McNamara’s record. O’Grady needs more points than Cowan does, but O’Grady has been a better point per game scorer than Cowan, 3.41 to 2.78. If he keeps that clip up, O’Grady has a chance to catch and pass Cowan before he gets to the record.
Oh, and Jake Stegman needs 61 points to break McNamara’s record, too. That’s going to be a heavier lift of course, because it will take breaking the single season points record, but it’s possible. Stegman set the program record for assists in a season last year, so what happens if he manages to put a helper on every Cowan and O’Grady goal this year? What if Marquette’s offense gets a little bit more efficient in 2024, and that means a few more assists for Stegman? I wouldn’t lay odds on Stegman being the guy to get to 153 career points first, but he’s in the race at the very least.