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2019-20 Marquette Basketball Player Preview: #1 Brendan Bailey

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Marquette has a Sam Hauser sized void as the 4 spot. Can Bailey fill that hole?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: FEB 12 Marquette at DePaul Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2019-20 college basketball season is right around the corner, so let’s get into the Marquette Golden Eagles basketball roster and take a look at what to expect from each player this season. We’ll be going through the players one by one: First MU’s freshmen, then the lone graduate transfer, followed by the two guys who were on the team but sat out all of 2018-19 for one reason or another, and then wrapping up with the returning players, going in order of average minutes played 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:

  • Reasonable Expectations
  • Why You Should Get Excited
  • Potential Pitfalls

With that out of the way, we shine a spotlight on the first of the returning players from last year’s active roster.....

Brendan Bailey

Sophomore - #1 - Forward - 6’8” - 200 pounds - Salt Lake City, Utah

Going into last season, expectations for Brendan Bailey were a complete mystery. He came out of high school as a top 100 forward, but he had also just completed a two year Mormon mission in which he was on a tight schedule that only allowed Mondays for him to hone his skills. Even a full summer participating in basketball activities at the McGuire Center in 2018 wouldn’t be enough for fans to question where he would be on a physical level. Luckily Brendan plays a position that was occupied by the Brothers Hauser last year, so any contribution from his part would be welcome, but not necessary for the team’s success.

The coaching staff made the smart decision by putting him in the starting lineup for the first few games in an effort to get a better idea of what he brings to the table. As the competition became more difficult, he was watching the majority of games from the comfort of his seat.

Then came the dreaded stretch at the end of the season in which Marquette lost 6 of their final 7 games. The team needed a spark off the bench, and Bailey was the one to provide it as a rare bright spot for the team. He played over half of available minutes during the final 5 games. In that time he posted a 55.4% effective field goal percentage, protected the ball better than anyone on the team, and provided some of the best defense from a freshman in the country.

Now the 22 year old sophomore has a massive opportunity to etch his name in the Marquette history books with the departure of Sam and Joey Hauser. As much as Wojo has discussed the possibility of a two-big lineup, reading the tea leaves from the European tour and private scrimmages indicate he won’t be doing it the majority of the time. With Bailey fitting the ideal mold of a Wojo 4, he will get as many minutes as he wants if he shows continued progress.

Reasonable Expectations

As I just mentioned, Brendan will play a ton of minutes because they’ll need him to occupy the minutes. While that essentially means he’ll become Sam Hauser’s replacement, he does not have that same skillset. Both take excellent care of the ball and can be somewhat passive, but Bailey is nowhere near the shooter that Sam is and actually needs to work on making his shot more consistent.

If you remember the days of Katin Reinhardt, then that’s probably a better starting point for what to expect. Brendan looks a lot more comfortable putting the ball on the ground and has excellent body control around contact, even if he’s not quite strong enough to consistently fight through it. That extra mobility should give the offense a lot more flexibility if he’s able to improve on his shot to stretch the floor. He’ll likely be the third scorer, at least at first, behind Markus Howard and Koby McEwen.

On defense, his Elastigirl limbs will let him take the toughest assignment on every opponent. He closes out on three pointers so well, which is critical in a conference where seemingly every team stocks up on snipers every year. Even if his offense doesn’t develop as much as fans would hope, his versatility on defense will be enough to keep him in the lineup.

Why You Should Get Excited

Alright I’ve held onto my cards for long enough. If you follow this community well enough to know my opinions, you will know that I am stupid high on Brendan Bailey. Want to know why?

Look at this.

Look at this (don’t look at the score though oh god why).

Look at this.

Look at this.

When he was in the game, Bailey was not used much at all. Only 5.8% of players in the country had a lower usage than him while on the court, actually. But when he got the ball and decided to go he showed flashes of a star in the making. He absolutely was not perfect, and I’ll get to that in a minute, but the way he finished the year really made it seem like things were starting to click for him. That last clip shows how much of a nightmare he can be even on defenders smaller than him. Keeping them honest with a more consistent shot could make him deadly.

Speaking of which, in that previously mentioned 5 games stretch, Bailey shot 38.9% from deep after. In the closed door scrimmage against Indiana, he made 4 of his 6 attempts from behind the arc. I KNOW that the sample size is small and I KNOW his season-long percentage was 25%, but taking into consideration his time off for the mission and the jump players normally take between their freshman and sophomore years, it’s worth a much closer look. He does not need to be a sniper to become a weapon, but it would add another level to his game if he can bump his three point accuracy to 35%, and it really does seem reasonable.

The biggest area of need for the team coming into the year is finding players to take better care of the ball. Marquette barely scraped the top 250 in turnover rate rate last year and needs consistent offensive players who don’t cough the ball up. Bailey has the makings of one of those players. His season high for turnovers in a game last year was 1. The first issue that would come to mind when describing a freshman with a two year gap from basketball would be carelessness with the ball. This wasn’t an issue that plagued the freshman last year and there’s no reason to believe it will this year.

On defense he can guard every single position. Yes all of them. Centers like Nate Reuvers from Wisconsin, Luka Brajkovic from Davidson, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree from Villanova, Sandro Mamukelashvili from Seton Hall, and the tall scarecrow that Creighton decides to put under the basket in lieu of the injury-riddled Jacob Epperson are all guys that Bailey’s length can really disrupt. He’s also quick enough to keep up with smaller guards, and even if he isn’t his recovery skills are superb and can make up for any miscues. He’s a Swiss Army Knife that would be the perfect fit in a defense that already boasts guys like Greg Elliott, Theo John, Ed Morrow and Sacar Anim. Even though Markus Howard displays enough effort to make himself a halfway decent defender, putting guys around him to make up for the lack of size can put the defense on a level not yet seen in the Wojo era.

To summarize all that rambling, I think Brendan Bailey will be First Team All Big East this year.

Potential Pitfalls

Obviously there’s a scenario in which he is not First Team All Big East. Perhaps even many scenarios. I’m fully aware of how bold that prediction is and I’m not blind to the reasons it might not happen. The development between freshman and sophomore year is the most important leap a college player can make, as the growth in subsequent years in much less pronounced, on average. It can never be assumed that anything not shown consistently in previous years will now be likely to happen. Think about the amount of times national media members began a sentence with, “When Ethan Happ learns how to shoot...” It’s not easy to take an offensive game to the next level, and there’s a very real chance that Brendan Bailey doesn’t shoot better than 25% from deep next year.

Look at this.

Yes it’s a freshman mistake and yes it’s the type of non-Markus aggressiveness the team needed at the end of last year, but this shot was completely out of rhythm without his feet being set. There are numerous other examples even during his Good Stretch in which he catches the ball without his feet being set and hoists it up without moving said feet. There were a ton of airballs and rim grazers that good shooters don’t do.

On defense, the same principles apply. While his floor is still “Above Average Defender” and he can keep up with smaller guards, sometimes he just...didn’t.

Look at this.

Mustapha Heron just waltzed right past him to get the easy bucket plus a foul. Brendan’s reaction time was never the greatest thing in the world and while the length makes it easier to recover, it’d be neat to not need to in the first place.

Any hiccups are also going to be looked under a microscope from the coaching staff. The schedule picks up quickly and if the freshman-sophomore jump doesn’t happen quickly, Wojo will not hesitate to give a combination of Ed Morrow and Theo John minutes at the 4 to give Jayce Johnson more of a chance to show his worth. If Bailey does not react well to that sort of pressure, any flaws could be made worse.

Conclusion

Don’t listen to the guy who wrote the pitfalls. That guy’s a dork. ALL ABOARD THE BRENDAN BAILEY HYPE TRAIN.