Marquette Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for Golden Eagles Newcomers
After combining for a Big East title alongside Georgetown and national champion Louisville in 2012-13, as well as an Elite Eight performance, it's safe to say that Buzz Williams has things handled in Milwaukee.
The Golden Eagles are the preseason favorites to win the new Big East, though they will get stiff competition with Butler, Georgetown, Creighton and Xavier. And despite losing Vander Blue as an early entrant to the NBA draft, expect a fourth straight Sweet 16 from MU.
Here's a look at the team's newcomers, four of which are freshmen and the other a junior college transfer, which happens to be one of Williams' strong suits.
Duane Wilson and JaJuan Johnson Will Be Marquette's Best Backcourt Combination
Returning guards Derrick Wilson and Todd Mayo are the most experienced returning backcourt players, following the losses of Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue and Trent Lockett, whom all started in 2012-13.
Derrick Wilson does not look to score and Mayo is as streaky as they come though. Freshman Duane Wilson is a combo guard who could see minutes at both positions, though listed as a point guard. Johnson is a smooth natural scorer who should have no trouble fitting in right away at either shooting guard or small forward.
Though Derrick Wilson and Mayo have the experience that could lift them into the starting five, the potential of Duane Wilson and Johnson is much higher. Look for these two freshmen to play together often, forming a duo that could last four years.
Duane Wilson and JaJuan Johnson Won't Be Starters
To start the season, expect juniors Derrick Wilson and Todd Mayo to slot in as the starting point and shooting guards, respectively. Heck, those two may even hold those starting roles the entire duration of the season.
In Buzz Williams' deep rotation system, however, just because you start the game doesn't mean you'll finish it. Williams rides the hot hands and though Mayo can get hot from deep and Derrick Wilson is a steady ball-handler, Duane Wilson and Johnson will be the two making winning plays for Williams.
Both Duane Wilson and Johnson have to buy into Williams' game plan. Davante Gardner, one of the nation's top returning players, has never been a starter for Marquette and may not even this season as Chris Otule was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Coming off the bench has in no way limited Gardner's production though.
Jameel McKay Will Do His Best Jae Crowder Impersonation
After two seasons playing JUCO ball, Jae Crowder came to Marquette. After being used as a role player as a junior, Crowder took an incredible leap by being named the Big East Player of the Year as a senior and being selected in the NBA draft's second round.
Crowder, who now sees consistent minutes for the Dallas Mavericks, did a little bit of everything to help Marquette win. On paper and at first glance, McKay and Crowder resemble each other. McKay could slot in immediately at power forward following two All-American seasons at the junior college level.
While it may be a bit much to expect McKay to be the Big East Player of the Year within the next two seasons, it's not too much to think McKay will be a versatile scorer and rebounder in the suddenly loaded Golden Eagle frontcourt.
Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom, both NBA draftees and Marquette alum, also went the junior college route before playing for Williams. Seeing other former JUCO players' success had to make McKay's decision to head to Milwaukee an easy one.
Deonte Burton and John Dawson Will Play Their Roles Well
As mentioned before, Williams play a deep bench, typically 10 or 11 players per night. With 13 scholarship players on the roster, minutes may be limited for freshmen Burton and Dawson, at least initially.
Dawson could find time if Williams utilizes Duane Wilson as a shooting guard, allowing Dawson to back up Derrick Wilson. Otherwise, he's third on the point guard depth chart, though that shouldn't deter Dawson from continuing to improve and see minutes later in his Marquette career.
Burton struggles as an outside shooter but has no trouble cutting to the basket, which could make him an intriguing backup at small forward behind senior Jamil Wilson. Burton will have to fight for minutes with Juan Anderson, who recently decided to come back to Marquette after stating he would transfer out.
5-Man Incoming Class Will Be Key to Marquette's Inaugural Big East Title
After losing Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom from the 2011-12 team, Marquette was pegged as a middle-of-the-pack team in the Big East last season. Instead it tied for the conference title. No matter the expert projections, betting against a Buzz Williams coached teams is a bad idea.
Making up production from the losses of Cadougan, Lockett and especially Blue will not be easy, but it would be foolish to think Marquette cannot replicate another conference title and Elite Eight run, especially considering the high marks this recruiting class has received.
This is Williams' best class yet in his six years in Milwaukee and here is how I see the lineup looking:
C: Chris Otule/Davante Gardner
PF: Jameel McKay/Steve Taylor Jr.
SF: Jamil Wilson/Juan Anderson/Deonte Burton
SG: Todd Mayo/JaJuan Johnson/Jake Thomas
PG: Derrick Wilson/Duane Wilson/John Dawson