Marquette Basketball: Are Golden Eagles True Favorites to Win Big East in 2014?

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Marquette Basketball: Are Golden Eagles True Favorites to Win Big East in 2014?
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Anytime a team returns two key contributors and nine letter winners from a squad that advanced to the Elite Eight, they should be considered a dangerous threat the next season. 

In the case of the Marquette Golden Eagles, they have been perceived as such a huge threat to the rest of the revamped Big East that they were chosen as the No. 1 team in the conference's preseason poll at Big East media day last week in New York City. 

Ranking Team Preseason Poll Points
1 Marquette 74
2 Georgetown 70
3 Creighton 61
4 Villanova 58
5 St. John's 56
6 Providence 41
7 Xavier 38
8 Seton Hall 20
9 Butler 19
10 DePaul 13

Last season, the same Golden Eagles side barely escaped out of the second round of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, but after they survived a potential upset at the hands of Davidson, Buzz Williams' team made it to the Elite Eight with wins over Butler and Miami (FL) before bowing out at the hands of old conference foe, Syracuse. 

Over the years, Williams' Marquette teams have proven that they can play with the big boys when it matters the most, and they will be expected to do just that this season. 

As we ask with all teams that are picked to win their conference in the preseason polls: Do the Golden Eagles have enough talent to actually be the true favorite in the Big East? 

For starters, the Golden Eagles return a pair of seniors who did plenty of damage in conference play last season in forwards Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson. 

Gardner is easily the most recognizable player on the roster at the national level due to his contributions in the paint last season.

The 6'8" Suffolk, Va., native recorded 11.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game during the 2012-13 campaign, and he will look to replicate those numbers and then some in his final collegiate season.

The same can be said about Wilson, who averaged 9.7 points and 4.8 rebounds in his redshirt junior season a year ago.

/Getty Images
Jamil Wilson will be an integral part of Marquette's frontcourt this season.

Gardner and Wilson will be asked to do plenty down low for the Golden Eagles, and they will be allowed to do so because of the defensive prowess of center Chris Otule, who ranks fifth all-time in blocked shots at the Wisconsin school with 114. 

The presence of the 6'11" sixth-year senior will cause opponents plenty of trouble because of his length and ability to deflect shots away with ease. 

With most of the attention on the frontcourt, the players in the backcourt will not be fully under the microscope, but they will be asked to significantly contribute in an effort to replace the presence of Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue, who both left the program after last season. 

One of the players posed with the difficult task of replacing the two veterans at the guard position will be junior Derrick Wilson, who averaged just 13.1 minutes per game last season. 

Joining Wilson in the backcourt will be a plethora of program veterans in junior Todd Mayo, redshirt senior Jake Thomas and junior Dylan Flood. 

If that trio of players slips up at any point in the season, the Golden Eagles have a triumvirate of freshmen that they can call off the bench in Deonte Burton, Duane Wilson and JaJuan Johnson. 

Lest we forget the presence of forward Juan Anderson, who made 31 starts last season and is a valuable cog in the machine as well.

There is also a bit of good news when it comes to the members of the conference this season as two of the four teams who defeated Marquette in conference play last season, Cincinnati and Louisville, have departed the conference. 

Williams' Golden Eagles will have no problem defeating the low-lifes of the conference in DePaul, Seton Hall and potentially Butler, who could be in the midst of a major rebuilding season. 

Is Marquette the True Favorite to Win the Big East?

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But, we honestly don't care how they perform against the teams ranked near the bottom of the standings.

We all care about how they do against the likes of Creighton and Georgetown, who will be the two main title contenders. 

Creighton is an unknown opponent to most of the Big East teams, but the Golden Eagles could have the answer to the Bluejays' National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott if they use the combination of Otule and Gardner in the right manner on the defensive end in the two meetings between the teams this season. 

That leaves an old foe in Georgetown, who will surely find themselves near the top of the Big East standings by season's end once again. 

In their two meetings last season, the Golden Eagles and Hoyas split with both teams winning in their respective home venues. 

While Marquette's depth looks to be strengthened this season, Georgetown's is a bit rattled since Greg Whittington is injured once again and Otto Porter Jr. is now in the NBA. 

If everything plays in their favor, which it looks like it will, Marquette could easily head to Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament as the No. 1 seed. 

A lot has to be determined between now and then, but as we speak there is no reason not to crown Marquette as the preseason favorite to sit atop the Big East throne in March. 

 

Do you believe Marquette is the favorite to win the Big East this season? 

Comment below or leave me a comment on Twitter, @JTansey90. 

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