2007-2008 Marquette Golden Eagles Basketball Preview
Marquette Golden Eagles -
2006-07: 24-10, 10-6, 5th (t)
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Marquette’s trio in the backcourt took them to the NCAA Tournament last season. Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews are back to do it again, but this team can go much further if the frontcourt can develop some consistency. It did not happen last year, but another year of experience could turn one of the big men from a role player to a star.
Jamil Lott is the only significant loss to the Golden Eagles. Lott was a part of the starting frontcourt roulette that Coach Tom Crean was forced to employ and he ended up starting 11 games on the season and averaged 2.1 points and 1.8 rebounds. Lott was the least used and least productive of the frontcourt players who earned some starts last season so the group is not expected to miss him too much. Little used Craig Kuphall and Mike Kinsella will not be suiting up for the Golden Eagles this season.
The immediate need is obviously in the frontcourt, but Marquette also has to look ahead to when James, McNeal and Matthews leave the perimeter depleted. Those three are all juniors, but it is very unlikely that the trio will remain a trio next season. Trevor Mbakwe and Patrick Hazel will look to shore up the frontcourt. It is Mbakwe who is the most highly touted recruit of the relatively lowly touted recruiting class. Mbakwe is a tough player who will spend just about all his time in the paint. His 6-7 frame is undersized to battle with opposition in the Big East and he will have to add some crafty moves to go along with his toughness if he is ever going to be a consistent scorer. For now he can at least grab some boards and pick up a few blocks. The only incoming freshman to the backcourt is Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball, Scott Chrstopherson. The 6-3 shooting guard will have some time to adjust to life in the Big East before the team will need him, but he is a good shooter who can handle the ball. However, the addition that could have a bigger impact this year is transfer Maurice Acker. The Mid-American Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2005-2006, Acker averaged 9.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2.4 rebounds for Ball State before splitting for the brighter lights of the Big East. Acker will not be needed much this year, but at least he has some experience and can provide quality depth off the bench.
Who to Watch:
Ousmane Barro is the frontcourt player who has improved quite a bit throughout his career. Now a senior, Marquette hopes he can take another big step forward. Averaging 8.1 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.0 blocks was a pleasant surprise last season, but Barro will have to keep it up and find a little more consistency if the Golden Eagles want to get into the Sweet Sixteen. Barro will be the guy under the basket and Lazar Hayward and Dan Fitzgerald will fight it out for the starting spot next to him. The good thing about Hayward and Fitzgerald is the fact that they could not be any more different. When Coach Crean needs a more traditional, albeit undersized, power forward he calls on Hayward. If he needs a shooter, he goes with Fitzgerald. Hayward had a tremendous freshman campaign, averaging 6.6 points and 3.6 rebounds in just 16.3 minutes per game. Fitzgerald put up better numbers, but it is Hayward who has the potential for a big breakout season.
Final Marquette Projection:
With James running the show and McNeal and Matthews by his side, Marquette can beat anybody. Those three averaged 42.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 10.9 assists and 5.9 steals. McNeal and Matthews averaged more turnovers than assists and that is something the group needs to work on. The only other bad thing that can be said about them is the fact that they shot under 30 percent from three-point land as a group. They do enough other things to make the poor shooting more than forgivable, but it would be nice if James could do a better job keeping the defense honest with a more dangerous outside shot to mix in with his always effective driving to the basket. David Cubillan, the lone guard off the bench last season, helps with the long ball, shooting 42.5 percent from beyond the arc last year. With Acker now eligible, the backcourt will have a couple options to go to and that should help keep James, McNeal and Matthews fresh down the stretch. And when those three are rolling, Marquette is the most dangerous team in the conference.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Dominic James, Junior, Guard, 14.9 points per game
Jerel McNeal, Junior, Guard, 14.7 points per game
Wesley Matthews, Junior, Guard, 12.6 points per game
Lazar Hayward, Sophomore, Forward, 6.6 points per game
Ousmane Barro, Senior, Forward, 8.1 points per game
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