With the 2015-2016 season now in the books, we take a moment to look back at the performance that 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 roster in order of total minutes played (lowest to highest). Next up on the list is the older of the two dudes from Rice Lake.....
#22 - Redshirt Junior - 6'6" - 210 lb.
What I Think We'll See
Ideally, this would be the part of the program where I tell you about Ellenson's advanced stats and offer insight into how he fits into Marquette's overall structure. There's two problems with that: 1) He barely registered as a player in his first two seasons on KenPom due to his limited minutes and 2) I don't think we're seeing the same Marquette this year that we saw during head coach Steve Wojciechowski's first season. I mean, is it fair to tell you that in his sophomore year, Wally put up similar defensive rebound rates to Steve Taylor last year? That's a true statement (16.8% for Wally, 16.5% for Taylor), but Ellenson played fewer than 4% of Minnesota's minutes that season. It's the very definition of Small Sample Size Theater.
What we're stuck with, then, is the same thing that we were stuck with for the freshmen: the four games in Europe and Marquette Madness.
The good news is that this gave us a pretty good idea of what to expect. Wally's probably not going to score a lot for the Golden Eagles (averaged six points in Europe) and that's fine. There's scorers on this team. What this team does need is exactly what Ellenson showed over and over in Europe and at Madness: a glue guy. Hustling for rebounds, diving after loose balls, putting in the extra effort to chase down the attacker getting out on the break, he can do all of this.
I know this maybe doesn't sound very fun for the viewer, but it really is. This is why I spent all that time talking about his high jump exploits at the start: Marquette has an Olympic caliber high jumper as their glue guy. Insane putback dunks where Ellenson flies in out of nowhere? Seen it. Chase down pin blocks on fast breaks? Seen it. Skying over dudes and grabbing rebounds that you're surprised a guy with his body type can haul in over and over and over? Seen it.
Wally Ellenson is going to be a regular candidate for The 1 on Fox Sports Live every night that Marquette plays a game. Get ready.
What I Want To See
I mean, I think that's pretty much it. Wojo showed on the European trip that Wally's going to be playing a bench role on this team, and he can do all of that glue guy stuff from that role. There's no pressure on him to carry this team on any level other than emotional and energy.
What I Don't Want To See
I really don't want to find out that Tubby Smith and Richard Pitino were right about what Ellenson can contribute to a basketball team. There was that burst in the very first European game where Ellenson racked up fouls at an alarmingly quick rate. Marquette only has 10 scholarship guys available this season, and if Wojo's going to be trying to run with this squad, it's going to be an "all hands on deck type" of situation. While I firmly believe that Ellenson will be an important contributor to this team, it's going to be exactly the type of contributions that he can make that could - no, WILL be the difference for Marquette.
Soooo..... how'd y'all feel about the one and only season of Wally Ellenson in a Marquette uniform?
Let's ignore..... whatever the hell it was that resulted in Wally no longer being a part of the team even though he has a year of eligibility left, and instead, just focus on the 33 games where he was part of the active roster. Well, okay, 29, because he had four DNPs this season.
That brings us to the weirdest part about Ellenson's season. For a guy who was clearly going to be the energy/glue guy on the team, his minutes were all over the place. In addition to four DNPs this season, Ellenson had nine games where he played fewer than five minutes, including two appearances in Big East action where he officially entered the game but didn't officially register a minute played. On the flip side, he had five games where he played at least 15 minutes.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that three of those big outings ended up being losses in Big East play, really.
The expectation for Ellenson this season was to be a glue guy. An energy guy. Pop off the bench, dive for a loose ball, grab a rebound, make a block, get a steal, and then head back to the bench after providing a break for someone else. His stats were never going to jump off the page at you. His per-40 minute stats are somewhat interesting: 8.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks. That's pretty good!
So why did he only play 254 minutes out of the 6700 played by the team this season? Well, because he fouls a lot.
A lot, as in second worst fouls called per 40 minutes on the team, with his 6.1 trailing only Matt Heldt's 7.1. It was probably especially annoying to Wojo that Ellenson's fouls were largely on the defensive end, or at the very least on loose balls. When we looked at Marquette's offensive foul issue in early February, he had just three offensive fouls total, which accounted for just barely more than 10% of his fouls on the season, and he ended up finishing with 39 fouls on the year and just eight turnovers. Generally speaking, you're not going to be a really useful energy guy when you can't avoid fouling whenever you step out onto the court. Combine that with Marquette finishing #38 and #25 in the country in Defensive Free Throw Rate in the past two seasons, and you know that Wally's foul totals were driving Wojo straight up the wall.
Ellenson's shooting also didn't help his case for further minutes this season. For an energy guy, you'd like to see a better performance than 5-20 (25.0%) from three point range, either as a higher percentage or merely a lower number of shots attempted. That's not what Ellenson's game is, was, or ever will be at the collegiate level (he went 3-18 in two years at Minnesota), and while he never attempted more than three longballs in a game, it's still not a useful way to get yourself more minutes.
Best Game: Well, this is an easy one. Nine points, eight rebounds in 20 minutes against Xavier on January 16th, which was such a great performance that Wojo gave Ellenson his lone start of the season in Marquette's very next game. That Xavier game, of course, was the contest where the Golden Eagles rolled out to a 15-6 lead on the Musketeers with 13:43 left in the first half before surrendering a 21-0 run that flipped the score to 32-18 and pretty much ended any chance of MU pulling the upset against the #7 team in the country.
Season Grade, on a scale of 1-10: Well, there it is, in the second sentence of What I Don't Want To See: "There was that burst in the very first European game where Ellenson racked up fouls at an alarmingly quick rate." We can't really deny that Ellenson was having a pretty decent contribution to the team - other than his three point shooting - when he was getting out on the floor. However, his time on the floor to have that kind of an impact was being cut down by Wojo's inability to be able to trust him to play without fouling.
All Wally needed to do this season was be an effective energy guy, and he really couldn't be trusted to do that. I don't really like it, but I can't give him a better score than a 3.