Photo Courtesy of USA today
As this year’s Marquette Golden Eagles come closer and closer to having their tourney drought extended one more year I will be looking forward to what the Golden Eagles rotation could look like come next fall. Marquette will be graduating three seniors that have contributed quite a bit to the 2016-2017 squad as Luke Fischer, Katin Reinhardt and Jajuan Johnson will all be gone when Marquette takes the floor next November. All three players average over 24 minutes and account for a large amount of offensive production.
Despite these losses the cupboard is not bare for Steve Wojciechowski’s team heading into next year. Markus Howard, who still hasn’t even turned 18 yet (March 3rd) will almost certainly lead the attack from the point guard position. As a very young freshman he has averaged 21 minutes per game, 50% shooting from the field overall and has connected on 54% of his attempts from behind the arc. Howard also happens to be the leading scorer for this year’s team averaging 12.9 ppg. Needless to say the point guard position is in secure hands heading into next year. Possibly joining him in next year’s starting backcourt is Andrew Rowsey. Rowsey started five games this year but has mostly come off the bench averaging 19 minutes while putting up 11.0 ppg. Pairing those two in the backcourt could give Marquette problems when facing teams with bigger guards as both Rowsey and Howard are a bit on the smallish side. Wojo could elect to keep Rowsey as instant offense off the bench as he is fourth on the team in scoring and shoots 44% from three point range. Having said that, advanced stats suggest the offensive production from this pairing could outweigh any possible defensive deficiencies that may arise. Howard and Rowsey are 1st and 2nd on the team in their per 40 minutes stats, Howard averages 24.6 points per 40 minutes and Rowsey 22.3. If you look at these two guards using PER (Player Efficiency Rating is a per-minute rating developed by ESPN.com columnist John Hollinger. In John’s words, “The PER sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance.”) Rowsey is first on the team at 26.2 while Howard is third at 24.9. Despite these impressive offensive stats from Rowsey Coach Wojociechowski has elected to start Haanif Cheatham for 25 of the 28 games so far this season. Cheatham is a jack of all trades guard who was named Marquette’s best defensive player for the 2015-2016 season and it is his defensive presence that may give him the nod over Rowsey in the starting backcourt next year. Also factoring into the backcourt rotation is Dominican High School product Duane Wilson, Wilson will be a senior next year and brings experience and athleticism when he’s on the floor. In a very crowded backcourt situation this year Wilson averages 16.3 minutes per game and is second on the team in steals. Marquette’s backcourt for next season will be filled with talent, experience, and versatility; their front court however, will be filled with question marks. The one known quantity is Sam Hauser who has had a very productive year as a freshman; he is fourth on the team in minutes, second in rebounds and has shot 44% from deep. He was also 5th on the team in PER at 17.0. Marquette will look for him to take on an even bigger role next year as his usage rate (Usage rate, or as it is also commonly referred to “usage percentage,” is defined as an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor. In layman’s terms, it is the number of plays used by a specific player.) was only 14.2 percent which was 11th on the team. Hauser has mainly been a shoot and catch type player but as he gains experience he should be able to mold himself into a more well-rounded player.
Beyond Hauser is where the real questions lie when projecting Marquette’s 17-18 rotation. None more so than at the other forward spot opposite Hauser. Deon Franklin is a red shirt sophomore from Treviso, Italy. He has only played in 7 games this year and for a total of only 15 minutes. The other option currently on the roster is Sacar Anim who is redshirting this year. The Golden Eagles have also signed a power forward named Jamal Cain who is a 3 star prospect from Taylor, Michigan. A lot can change from now until next season but Coach Wojociechowski is likely to play a lot of minutes with three guard line-ups to due to the lack of depth in the front court. The Center position is also major question mark with the graduation of Luke Fischer. Matt Heldt is a sophomore from Neenah, Wisconsin who has played sparingly so far this season. He had his best game of the season against St. Johns on February 21st where he scored 15 points and grabbed 10 boards. Heldt was a highly recruited center coming out of high school and is a traditional back to the basket center. Marquette will need his physical presence in the paint if they want to compete at a high level next season in a very physical Big East Conference. Heldt is certainly the leader in the clubhouse to start at center next year at least until Harry Froling is eligible. Froling is an interesting prospect who hails from the land down under. He is a four star prospect and a transfer from SMU. Froling was also a member of the Australian Junior National Team that was able to earn a silver medal at the U17 world championship in 2014. He will be eligible to play after the fall semester next year. He will be an interesting addition for a Marquette team that will be in need of rim protection, rebounding and defense. Marquette will likely begin the year with a very guard heavy rotation and look to see what they have for big men as the season progresses. Their backcourt is deep and talented; the question will be whether the rest of the roster can catch up to their level of play.