Marquette Basketball: Factors That Will Make or Break Golden Eagles' in 2013-14

Ryan CuriFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2013

Mar 30, 2013; Washington, D.C., USA; Marquette Golden Eagles forward Juan Anderson (center) huddles with his team during the second half of the finals of the East regional of the 2013 NCAA Tournament against the Syracuse Orange at the Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The 2012-13 Golden Eagle squad was led by Vander Blue, though there were plenty of complementary pieces around Blue. Seniors Trent Lockett and Junior Cadougan provided veteran leadership alongside Blue in the backcourt, though both have now graduated. Besides that, Marquette will have plenty of familiar faces, while also adding a five-man recruiting class in 2013.

Bigs Davante Gardner and Chris Otule should continue to platoon at the center position. Jamil Wilson is bound for a breakout final season, while returning forwards Juan Anderson and Steve Taylor Jr. should be improved from a year ago.

Jake Thomas needs more confidence from behind the arc, while Derrick Wilson and Todd Mayo's roles are expected to increase with the loss of all three starting backcourt members. Buzz Williams adds his best recruiting class yet to the players listed above, making for another promising season in Milwaukee.

Freshmen Play

While no freshman on this year's roster should have to be an immediate go-to guy, each will play a role whether big or small. John Dawson is the least heralded of the five-man class, as a point guard hailing from New Mexico. Dawson's minutes should be minimal as a freshman, though that could change.

Duane Wilson is expected to compete with Derrick Wilson (no relation) for the starting point guard slot. While Derrick is a steady ball handler and defender, Duane should bring a different element offensively as a dynamic scorer and better athlete.

JaJuan Johnson should always be in a dogfight for minutes at the starting shooting guard spot with junior Todd Mayo. Johnson is a big time scorer, who can hit from the outside or use his length to get to the rim and finish.

Deonte Burton is a slashing wing who has limited range shooting from deep, but will have no problem getting physical in attacking the basket. Burton is left-handed and can guard multiple positions with his bulldogish 6'4" and 228 pound frame.

Finally, Marquette adds yet another junior college transfer in the form of Jameel McKay. McKay was a two-time All-American at the JUCO level after averaging a double-double for his career. McKay hopes to be as successful as former junior college starts that played for Williams, such as Dwight Buycks, Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, all of whom play in the NBA.

Guard Play

The last two seasons, Marquette has been predominantly a guard-heavy team. Not so in 2013-14, following Blue, Cadougan and Lockett's departures. Derrick Wilson and Mayo have been reserves for two seasons, though they are unproven while playing extended minutes.

There's a debate on whether a small forward is considered a backcourt or frontcourt player. While I tend to believe the small forward, or three, is considered a backcourt player, it does depend on the team. On the forward-heavy Golden Eagles in 2013-14, we'll count the small forward as a frontcourt player.

This leaves Marquette with six backcourt players, six frontcourt players, and a player like Burton who can slot at either wing position. As previously mentioned, Dawson and Thomas' minutes should be limited and situational. 

The Wilson battle at point guard and Johnson-Mayo battle at off-guard will be intriguing ones. My expectation is that Williams will start the two juniors early in the season, though the two young gun freshmen could see a majority of the minutes there by season's end, regardless of their starter/reserve status.

Williams is a fan of going deep into his bench, which is why I believe he'll have to find a way to get Burton on the court as a true freshman. Burton is a hard-nosed kid, the type of vintage Marquette player that Williams has utilized with his physical and energetic style of play.

Mayo has been streaky as a shooter, while Derrick Wilson is a pass-first point guard. Freshmen Duane Wilson, Johnson and Burton will all have to pack a scoring punch, while still utilizing Marquette's deep and talented bevy of frontcourt players.

Ability to Shoot From Deep

Despite five of Marquette's six leading scorers being perimeter-oriented offensively, the Golden Eagle were not a good three-point shooting team in 2012-13. Forward Jamil Wilson led the squad in long range shooting, connecting on 36 percent of his looks from deep.

While Blue, Cadougan and Lockett will be missed, it won't be as perimeter shooters, as they were successful on 30, 23 and 33 percent of their three-point shots, respectively. Mayo, Anderson and Thomas all connected on roughly 28 percent of their long-distance shots, leading to a team average of a mere 29.6 percent from behind the arc.

Blue and Jamil Wilson each stepped up and hit clutch three-point shots in their opening NCAA Tournament wins over Davidson and Butler, each of which were come-from-behind wins. Mayo and Thomas also hit threes when needed, with the Syracuse regular season matchup coming to mind.

The second matchup with Syracuse wasn't so kind though, as the Golden Eagles converted on only three of 24 shots from long range against the well-renowned Syracuse zone defense. Just the game before, Marquette made three of six shots from deep in a win over Miami.

Marquette does not have to be a great three-point shooting team by any means. They do have to improve upon their sub-30 percent mark from last year, however. Jamil Wilson, Mayo and Johnson will be the three players that shoot the most shots from there.

If and when Thomas is called upon, he has to be able to fire the ball up towards the hoop without hesitation. Anderson is capable of knocking down the open triple from the top of the key as well. Just having the threat of three-point shooters on the perimeter will make MU a much tougher team to defend.