Predicted Record: 23-8 (13-5)
Big East Finish: First
NCAA Tournament Result: Sweet 16
Marquette has what I call a plethora of posts with Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, Jamil Wilson, Steve Taylor and others. The question will be how Marquette fills the void at guard without Junior Cadougan, Trent Lockett and Vander Blue.
Derrick Wilson will get the opportunity to play some serious minutes—especially with freshman Duane Wilson out with a foot injury for most of the nonconference schedule. But how Wilson utilizes those minutes will be the thing to watch in the beginning of the season.
The shooting guard position will also be of some intrigue in the early going. Junior Todd Mayo is likely to get the first crack at the starting job, but JaJuan Johnson will be breathing down his neck. The freshman from Memphis, Tenn., has raised some eyebrows during the preseason and should factor into the rotation immediately.
The Golden Eagles will need a proficient scorer at the 2-guard to take some of the pressure off the big men. With Derrick Wilson unproven as a viable threat, Mayo, Johnson and perhaps Jake Thomas will be relied on to give Marquette a scoring presence on the outside.
Marquette's biggest advantage is its versatility.
Imagine a potential lineup consisting of Derrick Wilson, Juan Anderson or Steve Taylor, Jamil Wilson, Otule and Gardner on the court at the same time. This lineup may be a stretch of reality, but it's a good example of the array of options Buzz Williams has at his disposal. The Golden Eagles are never about one guy but rather are a team that consists of multiple guys who can lead the team in scoring on any given night. This trait can be a blessing or a curse, but Williams usually finds a way to get the most out of his lineup.
The new Big East raises plenty of new questions and matchups, but Marquette's challenging nonconference schedule should prepare the Golden Eagles for conference play. Williams mentioned in his media day press conference that he felt he over-scheduled.
Whether that be a motivational ploy or not, Marquette's nonconference slate is daunting.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will come to the Bradley Center on Nov. 16, when Marquette's presumable 27-game home winning streak will be in major jeopardy. Later in the month, Marquette will head out west to face Arizona State and play in the Wooden Legacy Tournament, where the Golden Eagles could meet Miami, San Diego State or new conference foe Creighton. Following the tournament, Marquette will return home to face Wisconsin at the Kohl Center. A trip to Las Vegas to face New Mexico at the MGM Grand rounds out a brutal schedule to start the season.
If Marquette can overcome some rocky guard play against fierce competition in the early stages of the season, then the Golden Eagles should be able to handle the new Big East.
Creighton, Georgetown and St. John's all could challenge for the inaugural Big East title, but in a league where no game is a cake walk, Marquette's depth will come through in games where the stars are struggling.
Expect a top-two finish in the reformed Big East and a fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance from the 2013-14 Marquette Golden Eagles.
All quotes used in this story were obtained firsthand.