Buzz Williams has implemented a deep and fast-paced style of play since becoming the Marquette head coach five years ago. The 2013-14 season should be no different for a team that returns plenty of talent while adding the Big East's top recruiting class.
In 2012-13, Vander Blue led the team in scoring, Trent Lockett in rebounding, Junior Cadougan in assists and steals and Chris Otule in blocked shots. Of those individual stat leaders, I predict only one of the five to repeat this year, as Otule is the only one of these players coming back.
Here are the players who will lead the Golden Eagles in each statistical category.
As a junior, Davante Gardner finished second on the team with an 11.5-point average. The big-bodied center comes off the Golden Eagles bench, despite playing nearly 22 minutes per contest.
Regardless of whether Gardner starts as a senior, he is now the Golden Eagles' go-to scorer following Blue's questionable decision to test the NBA draft waters.
Gardner shoots just under 59 percent from the field and uses his body to draw fouls, where he converts 84 percent of his free throws. I would expect Gardner to average between 13 and 16 points this season, as Marquette is not a team that relies on just one big-time scorer. Nonetheless, Gardner could make a case to be the new Big East's Player of the Year.
Gardner PPG: 14.8
Last season, Jameel McKay averaged 17.8 points and 10.5 rebounds as a member of Indian Hills Community College's squad. While it's unrealistic to think McKay will match those numbers as a junior at a Division I school, it'd be foolish to undervalue him.
After all, Buzz Williams recruited Jimmy Butler, Dwight Buycks, Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom to play in Milwaukee from the JUCO level, and all of them are now NBA players.
Last season, Trent Lockett led the Golden Eagles with 5.1 rebounds per contest, edging out Jamil Wilson's 4.9 and Gardner's 4.8 boards. Rebounding is a skill that translates regardless of the level of basketball. McKay stands 6'8" and checks in at only 210 pounds, but his athleticism will make up for his lanky build.
McKay RPG: 6.7
Another newcomer to the Golden Eagles roster has a legitimate shot to lead the team in one of the five major categories: true freshman Duane Wilson.
As a prep senior, he averaged 18.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists. Duane and Derrick Wilson are likely to share time at the point guard position, though Duane could also find time as the 2 as he is more of a combo guard than Derrick.
Duane is capable of scoring and will get his points, but he won't need to be a shoot-first point guard considering the weapons on this roster. Regardless of his starting or reserve role, he possesses more upside than Derrick, which is why I see him leading the team in assists. Last year, Cadougan led the team with 3.8 assists, as no other player averaged more than 1.8.
Wilson APG: 3.4
Point guard Derrick Wilson gets recognition on this slide for his defensive efforts. As a sophomore, Wilson averaged 0.7 steals in only 13.1 minutes per game. The team leader was Cadougan with 1.1 steals, though he played more than twice as many minutes as Wilson did. Wilson found himself on the court at the end of close games, as his on-ball defense was unmatched.
Wilson defended Butler's Rotnei Clarke in last November's Maui Invitational on Clarke's buzzer-beating prayer that beat MU. If you get the chance to watch the video, though, notice the perfect defense that Wilson played. Marquette later got its revenge on Butler, knocking it out of the NCAA tournament in the third round in what turned out to be coach Brad Stevens' last collegiate game.
Wilson SPG: 1.4
Not many people get the chance to go to college for six years. Otule is one of those people.
Brilliant performances last March led Buzz Williams and Otule to apply for a sixth season due to injuries that kept him off the court in his first few seasons in Milwaukee. During Otule's first four seasons, he averaged 1.6 blocks before averaging 1.0 in 2012-13.
Otule is the team's starting center over Gardner, although he plays less at just below 18 minutes per night. Not until late in the season did Williams play big lineups with Otule and Gardner together, which is something I'd enjoy seeing again this coming year, especially considering Marquette's great frontcourt depth. Otule plays his role perfectly when healthy, and here's to hoping for his best season yet.
Otule BPG: 1.4