What better time to do an early season preview than after the season has already started?
Unlike those outlets who think it’s more appropriate to do a season preview “before the season has started as a normal human being would,” I am writing this “preview” three games into the Golden Eagles season. With both the benefit of hindsight from last season and some early season feedback, I will give you the “hey, let me look at your test before I turn it in” guide to Marquette basketball for the 2018-2019 season. Alright, let’s fly…
1) Will someone dribble the basketball?
Despite the offensive prowess of the 2017 team, the ballhandling of the guards often left something to be desired. Upper tier defensive teams would push the Marquette guards farther and farther from the 3 point line. Leaving the opponent’s extended defense primed to be torn apart by a highly skilled ballhandler – something Marquette lacked. Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey both struggled to dribble out of midcourt traps and penetrate defenses, averaging 2.5 and 2.4 turnovers a game respectively. The departing Rowsey, being the superior of the ballhandlers, the issues remains for the 2018 season.
In the offseason, Marquette appeared to answer this need with Joseph Chartouny. At 6’3’’ and highly touted as a transfer from Fordham, it was thought he could be the bigger bodied ballhandler the Golden Eagles sorely needed. His play through three games has been a disappointment. The team’s inability to penetrate helped Indiana limit Marquette to 73 points. The case for optimism is that the point in the hardest position to pick up a new system, especially in a complicated system like Wojciechowski’s and Chartouny simply needs time to adjust… I hope.
2) Will someone be able to stop the ball from going into the hoop?
After watching the 2017 Marquette defense be any combination of thrown around, pick apart from the perimeter, slashed, stretched, rammed, and jammed it is clear to any a basketball novice that the defense is the area in most need of improvement. After watching the defense allowing an astonishing 78.5 points a game last year; I frequently found myself cursing the basketball gods that the Golden Eagles didn’t have an Ethan Happ at the 5 (sorry, Marquette fans he’s a baller). With the team’s explosive offense, scoring 81.3 PPG, one elite big may have transformed the team from a defensive sieve to a legit top ten team.
Opposing offenses too often pulled the Marquette guards well in front of the 3 point line creating lanes for opponents to crash to the hoop and take advantage of the Golden Eagle’s inconsistent bigs. In turn, if Marquette packed the lane opponents would take advantage of the undersized backcourt and chuck up three’s over their mismatched counterparts.
Fortunately, for Marquette losing Andrew Rowsey may have been a blessing in disguise. This is far an insult from Rowsey’s skills on the court. On the contrary, his 20.5 PPG and .415 3PT percent will be missed. However, with Rowsey and Howard, each listed at 5’11” (generously) opposing guards were often able to bully the two when on the court together. One severely undersized guard can be covered up, but two likely was a bridge too far, especially against highly skilled teams. With much of Rowsey’s minutes being eaten up by a more sizeable combination of Sacar Anim and Joseph Chartouny. There is reason to be optimistic.
At least so we thought. If the shellacking against Indiana teaches us anything – it is that many of the defensive problems from last season still persist. Chartouny and fellow transfer Ed Morrow have not played well so far. The defense still has issues switching on screens and allowing penetration. For now, I’ll give the cop-out assessment that it’s still very early in the season, with a lot of new pieces moving around. But, unfortunately, it is something to watch for as the season progresses. I’ve seen many powerhouses struggle from the get go but get rolling around the 10-15 game mark. Let’s hope Woj and the incomers just need a little time to settle in.
3) Will the Golden Eagles make the NCAA tourney?
Answer: Despite defensive struggles persisting and inconsistent ball handling, the answer is yes. Losing Rowsey may hurt on offense, but the additions of Joey Hauser, Brendan Bailey, Ed Morrow, and Joseph Chartouny, as well as development from the core players, this team is far too talented to miss the tourney (despite certain names mentioned not looking so hot, so far. Cough Cough Chartouny).
4) Will Sam Hauser become an elite player?
Yes, but don’t expect Sam Hauser to be a household name anytime soon. The elder Hauser averaged 14.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.9 AST, 1 STL, and shot .487% from beyond the arc a season ago. Beyond the box score the “swiss army knife” dubbed Hauser excelled on defense and the execution of both transition and half court play. Nagged by a hip injury, he did tail off near the end of the season.
Despite a somewhat slow start this season, I fully expect Sam to take that next step into the upper crust of college players. I also anticipate his 5.6 three-point attempts a game to tick up with Andrew Rowsey’s departure. Unfortunately for Hauser, he is unlikely to gain superstar status. He may have his consistency to blame for this. Lacking the flashy high-flying dunks and 40-point games other more highly advertised players, he will remain Marquette fan’s dirty little secret.
5) Will Joey Hauser and Brendan Bailey usher in a new era of Marquette Basketball?
Marquette has a glowing future resting on the dynamic freshman duo, but you may not see it this year… at least not from Bailey. The son of Thurl Bailey, Brendan enters his freshman year at the age of 21, delaying his college career for mission work. On the positive side, Bailey will play his college career with a more developed body than his peers, but there will be a great deal of rust to shake off. A consensus top 100 recruit, Bailey is a highly talented wing with potential for an advanced perimeter game. However, prior to the conclusion of his mission trip in March, he was only able to practice once a week. I think it is fair to not make any conclusions about the extent of his game, until at least the midpoint of the season.
Joey Hauser, on the other hand, has already shown flashes of his potential. Scoring 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting in an otherwise bleak game against Indiana. Hailed out of high school as the “more talented Hauser” – he has big shoes to fill if he’s going to surpass the bar set by his highly skilled brother. A legitimate 6’9” with a larger frame than his brother, while coming out of high school with similar shooting abilities, Joey could be an absolute monster for Marquette in a season or two – and if his performance against Indiana means anything, perhaps a bit sooner.
6) How many triples will Markus Howard hit this year?
Marquette’s premier sharpshooter drained 111 threes a year ago and 82 as a freshman. So, the question really is: Is it ridiculous for a Marquette fan to think Markus has a shot at Steph Curry’s single-season record of 162 3-point makes?
The answer is probably yes, but I do believe he has an outside shot. Andrew Rowsey’s 8.6 triples attempted a game has to go somewhere. If Howard’s 3-point percentage ends up closer to his freshman year mark of .547% versus last year’s mark of .404%, it’s very conceivable he will be in the rage of 130-145 threes made. For this to happen, he will also need the Hausers, Elliot, and Cain to step up so that defenses can’t take Howard away from beyond the arc. Curry’s record likely isn’t going anywhere for a while, but – hey there’s no harm in dreaming.
7) Can Marquette Fans turn the Fiserv Forum into the Marquette Madhouse?
Why not give fans an assignment too? Too far gone are the days of a consistently packed Bradley Center – fans losing their minds for some Golden Eagle Basketball. Look I kind of get it. The arena had the feel of a concrete bunker more than a sporting venue. But now, with an improved Marquette team and a stadium gifted to us by the architects of the basketball gods, it’s high time to pack the Forum and go nuts for our boys in blue and gold.
Edit: This “preview” was written before the completion of Marquette’s 74-55 victory of Presbyterian. I have to give Joseph Chatnouny some credit here, as he demonstrated some of his upside as both a sorely needed distributor and as an additional weapon from the perimeter.