On Thursday it was announced that Golden Eagles redshirt junior center Chris Otule had a left ACL injury. How long Otule will miss has yet been determined, but, given the historical nature of ACL injuries, he won’t be back for a while.
Then on Friday Marquette learned that freshman forward Juan Anderson would miss three to four weeks with a right shoulder injury.
These setbacks for the No. 11 Marquette Golden Eagles (8-0), however, will allow a team that has been proclaimed Buzz Williams’ deepest squad in this, his fourth year as Marquette head coach, a chance to prove the point.
With Otule out, Marquette loses its starting center.
Otule has started every game thus far this season and leads the team with 13 blocks through the first eight games. He provided a stable defensive force inside that made opponents think twice about entering the lane.
In his absence, sophomore forward Davante Gardner should expect to see more minutes in his new starting role. At 6’8” and 290 pounds, he is large enough to play with the Big East’s post players.
Where Marquette will really miss Otule is on the defensive end—where Gardner struggles. Gardner is known as an offensive player who can score in bunches, and it is Otule who’s the defensive stopper who struggles on the offensive end of the floor.
Gardner is slower and doesn't have the rebounding capabilities that Otule does. But Gardner's big paws typically have stick 'em on them when a rebound comes his way.
The sophomore struggles when he goes against long defenders or has to defend long, athletic posts—all areas Otule is more advanced than Gardner in.
But it won’t just be Gardner who replaces Otule. Gardner averages 14 minutes per game and will see an increase, but his minutes per game should only jump to about 20 a game.
Redshirt sophomore forward Jamil Wilson and senior forward Jae Crowder will also see more minutes.
Wilson is second on the team with nine blocks, and at 6’7” can play inside or out. His greatest contributions to the Golden Eagles have been on the defensive end. While he’s not as large as Otule, he can provide shot-blocking like Otule.
Crowder already averages 27.9 minutes per game, but with Otule out, it should turn into a three-man rotation at power forward and center with Wilson, Gardner and him. Crowder should creep nearer to the 30 minutes per game range.
With regards to Anderson, his presence will not be missed nearly as much.
Since his suspension over the first three games of the season, he has played a mere 16 minutes in five contests.
He did make major contributions in Marquette’s 61-54 victory over Wisconsin, however. He had five rebounds, one block, an assist and a big reverse layup that was part of a Marquette 6-0 run to open up a 47-40 lead with 10:45 left in the game.
A whole plethora of players will see more minutes with Anderson out, as Marquette’s roster is filled with players who can play the small forward position. Sophomore Vander Blue, freshman Todd Mayo, sophomore Jamail Jones and Wilson are all players who could see increased minutes.
With all the odds stacked against them, this is the type of situation where the Golden Eagles have excelled in the previous three years under Williams.
We’ll have to see if that’s the case. The show begins Saturday evening with Wisconsin-Green Bay.
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