It's never easy when you lose the Conference Player of the Year to graduation. It becomes especially hard when the other senior you lose is also a First Team, All-League player, helping form one of the nation's deadly duos.
That's what coach Buzz Williams of Marquette had to deal with last March when both Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom's collegiate careers came to a close. For most teams, it takes three consistent scorers, with help from other players, to be a special team.
Last year in Milwaukee, however, these two seniors were the guys scoring in double figures every night, with an occasional third scorer rising to the need. Both Crowder and DJO have taken their talents to the NBA, and while Marquette could certainly use them right now, they could be just fine without them by season's end.
Keep in mind that I wrote this article before the Marquette-Florida matchup Thursday night, before altering some of the minutes below based on what I saw. So bear that in mind and while the Golden Eagles looked terrible on Thursday, I still believe they can turn it around but need to ASAP.
Prior to Thursday night's game, each player on the roster's minutes per game are as follows:
By mid conference play, I believe Williams will need to alter these minutes slightly. While still sticking to a run-and-gun, substitute freely mindset, the best players on the team will need to be on the court at the end of close games. Here is my proposal:
According to this rotation, the young guns Steve Taylor, Jamal Ferguson and Dylan Flood would not be a part of the immediate rotation and would only see time in blowouts. This is assuming that Todd Mayo will be back in action, otherwise Taylor could see similar minutes to what he's receiving now.
I had no player listed at 30 minutes-plus, but had 10 players receiving double-figure minutes. I believe playing 10 players on a regular basis is about as deep as a team can go, although Williams could decide against that. He could also decide to go with a smaller rotation, which could take away minutes from one or two reserve players listed above.
While I have no problem with his current starting lineup of Cadougan, Blue, Lockett, Anderson and Otule, I do believe that Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner should be the front court tandem at the end of games.
No, Marquette does not have the star power that led them to a second place Big East finish a year ago, but they have enough weapons to absolutely be a top-half Big East and NCAA Tournament-bound squad and even a top-third squad in one of the nation's premier conferences (for now).
Senior starters Cadougan, Otule and Lockett will not be present on campus a year from now, but I expect the Golden Eagles to be better in 2013-14 than this current season. For one, I love that MU's current class distribution is so even, with three seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen.
On top of that, Williams will be bringing in arguably his best recruiting class a year from now. The team's top-three scorers, Gardner, Blue and Wilson will all be back next year as seniors and are only starting to scratch the surface of their abilities now.
Anticipate a battle for a Big East title coming Marquette's way in 2013-14 and not just because some of the conference's elites will be gone by then.