Evaluating Marquette After the Ohio State LossPosted by George Hershey on November 19th, 2013
Marquette fans were disheartened after Saturday’s home loss to Ohio State, ending the nation’s longest active home winning streak at 27 games. The Golden Eagles managed to only score 35 points and looked hopeless offensively all game long. They ended up shooting 18 percent from the floor and went a miserable 1-of-18 on threes. Pundits from around the nation were criticizing and making fun of the Golden Eagles’ ineptitude on the offensive end. The Golden Eagles definitely deserved it after the tough loss, but contrary to what some may have you believe, the season is not over and there is still plenty to look forward to. Here are three quick reasons why Marquette will have another successful season regardless of what happened over the weekend.
- They held an experienced and talented team to 53 points: Lost in the fact that Marquette couldn’t score is that the Buckeyes weren’t all that impressive on the offensive end either, largely due to the Golden Eagles’ defense. Derrick Wilson brings a defensive tenacity to the point guard position unlike any other player on the team. Last year he was used to harass and wear down opposing lead guards, such as in his first career start where he limited Wisconsin star Jordan Taylor to 13 points and forced him into five turnovers in a key win over the Badgers. Jamil Wilson, Juan Anderson, and Steve Taylor Jr. are big guys who are capable of guarding multiple positions with their length and athleticism. Wilson has averaged over a block per game the past two seasons while seeing time at center and both forward spots. Chris Otule has also averaged over a block in each of the past four seasons and with his improved mobility after recovery from knee surgery, he should flourish this season, allowing Williams to play he and Davante Gardner together. The team has not had much of a problem with the new foul rules, so as long as they continue to build team chemistry, the Golden Eagles should again sport an elite defense as evidenced by their sixth-ranked adjusted defensive rating from Ken Pomeroy.
- The four freshmen combined for eight minutes: The only Marquette freshman to play was Deonte Burton, whose only contribution in the box score was two rebounds. Buzz Williams does not have a Jabari Parker or an Andrew Wiggins who will be an immediate star, but after bringing in his best recruiting class since becoming a head coach, there is plenty of talent among his freshman. Burton already has a Big East level body and JaJuan Johnson came in as a player touted as a future NBA Draft pick. Point guard Duane Wilson is an explosive scorer who should have a chance for minutes if Derrick Wilson cannot create enough offense, and John Dawson has shown some solid playmaking skills in limited action. Williams is likely bringing the freshmen along slowly, but he naturally will have a tough time trusting them to produce so early in the season. There is little doubt that these players are plenty talented and represent the future of the program, but after only a month of official practice and two games, they weren’t ready to play at the elite level required to beat a team like Ohio State. Eventually Duane Wilson and Johnson should help supplement the team’s non-existent perimeter shooting, while Burton looks like he will fit perfectly into the middle of the offense where he can hit mid-range jumpers or attack off the dribble.
- Buzz Williams is the head coach: In each of Williams’ last couple of years in Milwaukee, the team has experienced some early season losses that left fans thinking that the season might be a lost cause. There was a 2011 loss at home against Vanderbilt when the Golden Eagles found themselves down 20 within minutes. There was last year’s loss at Green Bay where Jake Thomas, a walk-on transfer, was the best option for offense while down two in the final seconds. Williams has said that every year his team is different and it takes time for the group to find its identity and really click. The current team lost three starters from last year’s Elite Eight squad and many of the role players from last season will have to learn to step up. At this point, Marquette fans have to trust the fact that Williams has had so much success throughout his career that he will have his team ready for Big East play by January, and more importantly, the NCAA Tournament in March.
As bad as Saturday’s loss was, it was only Marquette’s third game of the season. As players get more comfortable in their roles, shooting should improve as the season wears on. The Golden Eagles’ huge rivalry game against Wisconsin will be a better barometer for the season when they meet in December, but right now it is too early to make any rash judgments. Breathe easy Marquette, it’s a long season ahead.