Welcome back to the AE Mailbag! It’s been a while since our last one, which we pulled together during Finals Week for giggles. We’re going to try to do these once a week between now and August, so feel free to keep firing your questions in to the email inbox — firstname.lastname@example.org — or hit us up on Twitter — @AnonymousEagle — if you’ve got something that’s nagging at you. Marquette sports, college sports, movies, TV, favorite foods, whatever you’ve got, we’ll be happy to try to answer it.
Here we go!
From JJ in the email inbox: I have a son who will be attending Marquette in the Fall so I have just begun following Marquette basketball. I had a couple of questions for you. How had Ed Morrow looked in practices? When will Brendan Bailey begin practicing with the team?
From @bsmoothin: Which newcomer makes the biggest impact next year between Joey Hauser, Ed Morrow, and Brendan Bailey?
These two kind of fit together, so we’ll pair them together.
First, we’ll tackle JJ’s angle. Unfortunately for your first question, this wonderful blog site you see here is a side gig, so the free time for attending Marquette practices is about zero. All I can give you is what I saw from Ed Morrow at Marquette Madness back in October, and he was a VERY LARGE DUDE. First thing that popped into my head was an immediate comparison, physique-wise, to Jae Crowder. The other important thing to note about Morrow is that there’s been no word coming out of practice or around campus that Morrow has suffered any injuries this season, which is a big deal. Morrow missed four games as a freshman and seven games as a sophomore due to injury, so merely staying healthy for a year is something important here.
Brendan Bailey should be wrapping up his two year Mormon mission any day now, if I remember correctly. The plan appears to be for him to be on campus for the first summer school session, which kicks off on May 21st. That will allow him to begin strength and conditioning training right away, along with the off-season skills training that MU’s staff puts the guys through. There is a severely limited amount of full team interaction during the summer, but Bailey is expected to be a full participant in all off-season activities, even if those don’t qualify as “practice.”
This swings us around to the biggest impact part, and I’ll make sure to include Ike Eke in fairness to the redshirt freshman. Here’s my order of expected impact, at least here in March of 2018, going from biggest to smallest: Morrow, Hauser, Eke, Bailey.
Here’s the thought process: Morrow is a proven commodity, averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in 23 minutes as a sophomore at Nebraska. He is a rim protector unlike anyone Marquette had on the roster this past season, even though he left Lincoln with the mindset of doing something other than playing an undersized center. The younger Hauser is, from my perspective, a bigger version of his older brother, so he should be able to step in and contribute immediately. Eke has had a full season to recover from back surgery and develop himself physically since that procedure last fall.
As far as I’m concerned, until I see Bailey on the floor wearing blue & gold, I’m not going to expect anything from him. Yes, the good news is that he’s going to be a 20 year old freshman. The bad news is that he hasn’t been playing basketball or doing strength and conditioning training of any notable value for two years. Back in January 2017, BYU football coach Kalani Sitake participated in ESPN’s coaches’ room commentary for the college football national championship game. Syracuse’s Dino Babers mentioned it’s easier for Sitake to coach his linemen because some of them are 23 or 24 years old because of Mormon missions, and that’s the equivalent of coaching grown men against 20 or 21 year olds. Sitake’s response was quite simple: If sending kids on Mormon missions was a good athletic plan for them, Alabama would be sending every one of their guys on missions. So, sure, I hope Bailey can chip in right away. I’m not breathlessly waiting for him to average 10 points and three rebounds a game, either.
From @lessthannick11: Crunchy peanut butter or smooth?
If you’re giving me the option, I’ll take smooth over crunchy every day of the week and twice on Sundays. It’s nothing against crunchy, I’ll be happy to eat that if it’s all you have to put on my sandwich/toast/bagel/whatever. The deciding factor is spreadability. I’m trying to get as much of the surface area covered in as little time as possible, and having all those whole nut chunks in the peanut butter means I have to take a extra time to make sure the edge is getting enough peanut butter.
From Jessica in the email inbox: Presuming Carolyn Kieger still has one scholarship spot open for 2018-19, what do you think she’ll do with it? Given that we don’t know how much Tori McCoy can contribute with her health issues, and with the loss of Shantelle Valentine, do you think MU will go after a post player? Or perhaps a point guard that Danielle King can groom during her senior season?
YAY A WOMEN’S BASKETBALL QUESTION/A NON-MEN’S BASKETBALL SPORTS QUESTION! Jessica is the best, everyone.
We’ll start with the scholarship chart to confirm that yes, Kieger has one open spot for the fall.
What we can tell is that it was Kieger’s plan to have a point guard in this freshman class, as Kaela Webb had committed near the start of her junior year of high school. That never materialized into a signed letter of intent, though, as Webb will be headed to Providence in the fall instead. That leaves this fall’s freshman class as only Wisconsin standout (and Marquette legacy) Chloe Marotta, who has a reputation as a rebounding wizard.
If there was someone available, I think that Kieger would prefer to add a point guard, or at the very least a highly skilled combo guard that she could turn the keys over to in 2019. The downside of trying to do that is between King, Natisha Hiedeman, and Amani Wilborn, there’s almost no lead guard minutes to be had on next year’s roster. Even if there was someone available who could contribute right away, I don’t know if they would be interested in Marquette. The lack of freshman year playing time could very well have had something to do with Webb’s departure.
My guess as to the coaching staff’s plan of succession in the backcourt? Selena Lott. She’s got the size, speed, and agility to be able to do it, and she’ll be more than familiar with the system come 2019. She’s also, uh, the only likely option that’s currently on the roster. It’s also possible that Kieger’s plan is to get splashy with her 2019 recruiting class, but with 7 months til signing day, Destiny Strother is the only commitment that’s come to my attention.
From @PaintTouches: On Rob Dauster’s NBC Sports College Basketball Talk podcast, ESPN’s Jeff Goodman says Steve Wojciechowski would still be the favorite to replace Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, if Wojo gets hot again. So my big Q: How does Wojo leave Marquette?
This was actually a poll that PT had up on Twitter that closed yesterday, with these three options and their final results.
- Fired at Marquette - 51%
- Replaces Coach K - 33%
- Retires as the new Al McGuire - 16%
Right now, Tuesday, April 3 as I write this, the most likely answer of the three is that Steve Wojciechowski’s tenure on the Marquette sideline ends with him voluntarily leaving to take the vacant Duke job at some point.
Now, before you get all RABBLE RABBLE WOJO AIN’T WON NOTHING PAAAAWWWWWL at me, let’s look at the facts here. 1) Wojo’s contract runs through the end of the 2021-22 season. Considering that he’s still in charge right this minute, that means that it’s probably going to cost Marquette $4 million to buy him out if need be after next season. That likely means that Wojo’s still going to be in charge when March 2020 rolls around unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong in 2018-19, becauuuuuuuuuse 2) Marquette hasn’t fired a coach since 1999. Whatever valid criticisms you want to level at Wojo right now, you have to admit that he’s doing better than Mike Deane did, and thus it’s hard to see someone in the McGuire Center actually pulling the trigger on a coaching change any time soon.
Taking those two things into account, it means something very, very bad is going to have to happen in order for a firing to take place any time soon. With that being the case, every season that goes by makes it more and more likely that we reach the point where Mike Krzyzewski ends up retiring. He turned 71 in February, and he’s already had his fair share of health issues over the years. Coach K has already walked away from his responsibilities as head coach of the US national team, so it seems like it’s only a matter of time before he hangs up his whistle at Cameron Indoor for the last time. The longer Wojo lasts at Marquette, the more likely it becomes that the Duke job is available for him to take.
Both of the first two options are more likely than Wojo turning Marquette into a decade long national championship contender, which is what MU was under Al McGuire, and they’re definitely more likely than Wojo retiring after multiple decades on the Marquette sideline. Facts are facts. Think of it this way: How far away is Wojo from turning Marquette into what Villanova is right now? If it’s more than 5 years, then it’s much more likely that the Duke job comes available before that happens.
If you’re about to angrily scroll down to the comments section and tell me about how I’m defending Wojo for no reason or head off to Wikipedia to edit and complain about how I accept mediocrity and how dare I do such a thing while Wojo drags the program down to depths unimagined by even the anglerfish, 1) calm down, it’s just sports, and 2) please enjoy this tweet from Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker from Monday night.
From @muwarrior14: What’s your take on DePaul?
Hoooooooooooboy is that a can of worms.
Okay, so let’s start with this: As much of a punching bag that we turn the Blue Demons into on Twitter and various forums, Dave Leitao’s second run in charge of DePaul is kind of going okay. Yes, obviously his 29-65 overall record and 9-45 record in Big East games is very not great. However, I can’t ignore the fact that the Blue Demons finished the 2017-18 season with a top 50 defense according to KenPom. There they are, right at #49 in adjusted defensive efficiency. That’s their best finish on the defensive end since Jerry Wainwright’s second season in Lincoln Park (#44 that year, best in the KenPom era), and not coincidentally, it’s also the last time that DePaul finished a season over .500 both overall and in league play. I don’t know if this means that DePaul is on their way back to relevance or even postseason contention, but Leitao’s doing something right, at least for one season.
That brings us to the other side of things, which is what I suspect that the question was actually asking. The Blue Demons as an athletic department and perhaps as a university are under siege right now. There has been an undeniable movement against athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto growing for a while now, and that’s the kind of thing you have expect when your flagship athletic program has reached one NCAA tournament during your 15+ year tenure and that came back in your second school year in charge. Things really turned against Ponsetto when she brought Leitao back for a second go-round after a mostly successful three year stint in the early 2000s ended with him taking the Virginia job. It wasn’t a bad hire, honestly, based on his previous tenure with DePaul, it was just uninspired and definitely gave the impression that Ponsetto didn’t really care about what happened with men’s basketball.
That brings us to this school year, where The DePaulia, the DePaul school newspaper, has launched into full-fledged investigation mode against Ponsetto and the school’s administration for the construction of DePaul’s contract with Wintrust Bank. The new arena that the basketball team plays in carries Wintrust’s name and, as you might expect from a deal like that, Wintrust has the rights to the ATMs on campus and is DePaul’s corporate banking partner. The problem with this is that Kandace Lenti, Ponsetto’s brother’s wife, is an Executive Vice President with Wintrust. Perhaps more pointedly, Kandace Lenti is married to Eugene Lenti, DePaul’s softball coach.
See the problems now?
None of that even gets into the fact that DePaul’s attendance only went up by about 1,200 ticket buyers from last season with their move to Wintrust Arena, or that Wintrust Arena is actually a terrible facility once you turn your attention away from the basketball court, or that Marquette recently entered into a banking agreement with Town Bank, a subsidiary of Wintrust, or that the NCAA has reportedly launched an investigation into possible violations by the men’s basketball team.
To circle back to the original question: DePaul’s a bigger problem for the Big East than they usually are. You can be bad. You can be under NCAA investigation. You can be in the midst of your alumni in open revolt against your athletic director. You can’t be all three.
From @CharlieWeber45: How do you see our open scholarships being used? Who are our top 3 graduate or incoming freshman targets with a decent chance of joining MU?
Just so we’re all the same page, here’s the men’s basketball scholarship chart.
As you can see, Marquette has two scholarships open for the fall of 2018. As you can also see, the 2018-19 roster is heavily stocked with guys you would loosely qualify as “frontcourt” players or “bigs” or “forwards” or something to that effect. Seven of the 11 players fit that description, and I’m not sure where you want to put Brendan Bailey, who was listed at 6’7” tall, but only 170 pounds on his 247 Sports recruiting page. When you expand that out to the projected 2019-20 roster, it’s six of the 10 expected guys.
That’s heavily tilted in one direction, and unless you really want to start depending on Sam Hauser to play a lot of shooting guard, Marquette somewhat desperately needs tall guards to counter Markus Howard’s defensive liability of merely being under six feet tall. In particular, Marquette needs a point guard, and they need one that can play right now. Now, I know what you’re saying: Isn’t that Markus Howard’s job? Well, I’m not sure about that. It’s possible that Steve Wojciechowski looked at the particular skill sets of Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard and said “okay, Andrew, you’re the distributor,” and that was that. The argument can be made that Marquette would have been best served in the long term by Howard playing that role more than Rowsey, but that didn’t happen.
To that end, we also have a data set that indicates quite strongly that Wojo still believes that Marquette is best served by someone not named Markus Howard handling the distribution duties. So far this spring, we’ve seen MU reach out to multiple taller guards who are transferring. We have two traditional transfers in Pitt’s Marcus Carr and Utah State’s Koby McEwen, and two graduate transfers in Albany’s Joe Cremo and Fordham’s Joseph Chartouny. You don’t see a link for Chartouny because I am loathe to write an actual article about Marquette’s pursuit of him merely on the basis of who Steve Wojciechowski and Brett Nelson are following on Twitter, and right now, that’s the only confirmation that we have. Does it mean they’re probably exchanging DMs on the regular? Definitely seems possible! Does it mean that a DM or two was sent, but that’s the end of it and they haven’t gotten around to clicking the unfollow button? Maybe!
As far as freshmen... well, that’s pretty much out of the question right now. I suppose it’s possible that Marquette could suddenly get involved with Brandon Williams, who withdrew his commitment to Arizona in the wake of Book Richardson’s arrest, but if they haven’t already, I wouldn’t expect any movement. MU was recruiting Courtney Ramey before he committed to Louisville, and they did reach out again after he backed away from the Cardinals following the dismissal of Rick Pitino. However, that was in October, and things appear to have gone nowhere on that front since then. James Akinjo might be an intriguing prospect, as he was released from his letter of intent to Connecticut following Kevin Ollie’s departure, but there’s been no discussion of MU getting involved out of nowhere there.
Could Marquette dig deep and find an underrecruited gem? Maybe, in the way that anything’s possible. Akinjo is ranked #95 in the country according to 247’s Composite system, so let me ask you this: Do you want Wojo to turn the point guard duties on what should be his most talented team over to a freshman outside the top 100? If this is going to be the team that has the highest preseason expectation out of any of Wojo’s five teams, do you want the whole thing being pinned on a top 200 recruit that MU started recruiting, well, essentially right now? Seems like a bad plan, right?
From @MrRdgrsNghbrhd: Should Marquette shoot even more threes as a team next year?
To make sure everyone’s clear on what this means, Marquette shot 924 three-point attempts this season, the 22nd most in the country. Those 924 attempts accounted for 44.4% of all of Marquette’s shots this season, the 42nd largest percentage in the country. They made 385 of those attempts, breaking the all-time program record.... which was set at 336 last season. Those are the only two seasons over 275 made threes in program history. 301 of those 924 attempts came off the hands of Andrew Rowsey, who set a program record for three-point attempts, and Marquette does not have an obvious reliable 40% career shooter like Rowsey coming in to replace him in the lineup.
In other words: No, they probably shouldn’t try to shoot somewhere between 950 and 1,000 threes next season. The logistics of trying to set a school record for makes in a third straight season seems slightly absurd.
The question, I suppose, really becomes whether or not you believe in Greg Elliott and Jamal Cain’s shooting numbers. They shot 37% and 47% respectively from long range, although Elliott let fly less than once per game, and Cain didn’t average two attempts per game. If you believe that those two can triple or even quadruple their number of attempts without suffering a drop off in accuracy, then yeah, maybe taking a run at 1K in attempts is worthwhile.
We should also take into account Sacar Anim. While he finished the year at just 24% from long range and is just 25% for his two-year career, we have to point out that all eight of his made threes in 2017-18 came in his final 18 attempts. That’s 44%. If that’s remotely real, then again, maybe trying to shoot 1,000 threes in a season is a logical goal.
It’s possible, I suppose, that Marquette could roll out a six-man lineup rotation of Markus Howard, Greg Elliott, Jamal Cain, Sacar Anim, Sam Hauser, and Joey Hauser that could, in theory, knock down threes from all five positions. It would be not entirely unlike what Villanova did to win a national championship this year, and the Wildcats fired off over 1,100 threes through the course of their season. The difference, of course, is that Omari Spellman is 6’8” and 255 pounds, while the younger Hauser is 6’9” but only 215 pounds.