Marquette Slowly Rebuilding But Hope is on the Horizon

Posted by Chris Stone on January 5th, 2016

Under former coaches Tom Crean and Buzz Williams, Marquette made the NCAA Tournament in eight straight seasons from 2006-13. Despite all of that success, a tumultuous period in program history began just one season removed from a 2013 trip to the Elite Eight. It begin with a sour relationship between Williams and former athletic director Larry Williams (no relation). The latter Williams resigned in December 2013 amid a cloud of uncertainty. The former Williams, for his part, surprisingly left the program for Virginia Tech at the end of the 2013-14 season. In retrospect, the decision was calculated. Williams decided that Marquette, a school with no football program and mired in the thick of a shaky Big East realignment, was not well-poised for future success. The Golden Eagles’ 17-15 record that season certainly wasn’t reassuring.

Steve Wojchiechowski is in the midst of a rebuild at Marquette. (Mark Hoffman/The Journal Sentinel)

Steve Wojchiechowski is in the midst of a rebuild at Marquette. (Mark Hoffman/The Journal Sentinel)

Steve Wojciechowski, the associate head coach at Duke at the time, saw Marquette differently than Williams. He saw a school where, similar to his alma mater in Durham, the men’s basketball program is an integral part of the university. He also recognized that the program has a proud and passionate fan base that will not accept mediocrity. In his first season, Marquette finished 13-19 and once again missed the NCAA Tournament, but a top-10 recruiting class that included highly-touted freshman Henry Ellenson brought a rejuvenated sense of hope. Those expectations were tempered very quickly at the start of the season. In the span of a single November week, the Golden Eagles lost their home opener to Belmont, needed overtime to get past IUPUI, and was walloped by Iowa. They bounced back with neutral court victories over LSU and Arizona State in Brooklyn en route to a 10-2 record that also included a surprising victory over Wisconsin in Madison. The beginning of Big East play, however, brought forth some new adversity. After a disappointing home loss by 20 points to Seton Hall, Marquette hit 0-2 in league play after an 80-70 loss to Georgetown on Saturday. Read the rest of this entry »

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Trick or Treat: Burning Questions for Five Big East Teams, Part I

Posted by Mike Hopkins on October 29th, 2015

With Halloween nearing, we thought it would be fun to answer a preseason burning question for each Big East team using a simple “Trick” or “Treat.” Part I of this season preview answers one key question for each of the teams picked in the bottom half of the preseason Big East Coaches’ Poll. We’ll tackle the remainder tomorrow.

St. John’s: Can Chris Mullin actually coach?

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

(Photo: Brad Penner, USA TODAY Sports)

Treat: Chris Mullin has not coached a single second of basketball at any level. That’s an indisputable fact unless there is some CYO coaching experience back in the day that we don’t know about. Mullin does, however, know the game of basketball and it will be that knowledge of the game blended with his longtime NBA experience (both as a player and executive) that will aid him on the Red Storm’s sideline. The former National Player of the Year (Wooden, UPI, USBWA – 1985) has also surrounded himself with an excellent staff that mixes college coaching with NBA player development experience. Despite having to basically bring in an entirely new roster this season, expect St. John’s to surprise some people with its effort and Mullin’s in-game coaching.

Seton Hall: Can Isaiah Whitehead lead the Pirates?

Trick: While Isaiah Whitehead is clearly the best player on Seton Hall, that doesn’t automatically mean he is the team’s leader. Last season was marred by locker room issues and a horrible 11 losses in the team’s final 14 games. Jared Sina left the program during the season and Sterling Gibbs — the player who presumably would be an ideal leader as an upperclassmen — decided to use his graduate transfer exemption and finish his collegiate career at UConn. Kevin Willard is putting all of his eggs in the Whitehead basket as he turns over the point guard duties to the Brooklyn sophomore. Whitehead spearheaded the recent decision to get the team off of social media this season — probably a good sign — but he’ll have to prove that he can lead the Pirates when things go sideways on the floor. Is he capable of that role?

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Marquette’s Season Hinges on a Single Phrase: Why Not Us?

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 12th, 2015

The future remains bright for first-year Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski. Players, coaches and fans all knew this would be a rebuilding year for the Golden Eagles, with the staff focused on developing its younger players and instilling a defense-first mindset to eventually return the program to winning ways. Transfers Matt Carlino and Luke Fischer brought much needed offensive firepower to Milwaukee this season, but Marquette still finished 13-18 overall and just 4-14 in Big East play, competing in many close games that they were simply unable to close. Next season promises more: After receiving a commitment from consensus top-five recruit, Henry Ellenson, Wojo proceeded to add four additional four-star recruits across a range of positions, bolstering the team ahead of the departures of seniors Derrick Wilson, Juan Anderson and Carlino.

With little on the line, Mark Carlino and Marquette played about "as well as we could play" according to head coach Steve. (AP/Frank Franklin II)

With little on the line, Mark Carlino and Marquette played about “as well as we could play” according to head coach Steve Wojciechowski in the upset over Seton Hall. (AP/Frank Franklin II)

So with very little on the line this week, Wojciechowski instituted a new mindset for his team as it entered the Big East Tournament. “Why not us? Seeds don’t matter,” Wojciechowski said. “I’ve been in situations where I have been coaching on teams who have been the No. 1 seed and we got our butts kicked. Seeds don’t matter. [For] everybody it’s a fresh start.” Maybe the Golden Eagles don’t have the most talented or athletic group of players, and certainly the season hasn’t gone the way they had hoped, but the players seem largely unphased by it. “We’re huge underdogs, so we have nothing to lose and we’re going to play that way,” Carlino said. “Hopefully play aggressive and play to win.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Steve Wojciechowski Quietly Rebuilding Marquette With Young Talent

Posted by Alex Moscoso on January 7th, 2015

The path to a head coaching position at a high major university is not a beaten one; many of today’s coaches ascended different ladders to get to their current positions. Some coaches got there by taking little-known schools to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament; others took an open position at the same school when their boss moved on; while still others first served as high-profile assistants to established coaches in more prestigious programs. Marquette’s first-year head coach, Steve Wojciechowski, falls into the latter category with a pedigree few others can boast. After a successful four-year playing career at Duke, he spent 15 years apprenticing for one of the best to ever coach the sport, Mike Krzyzewski. But despite the unimpeachable regard everyone holds for his former coach and mentor, success at the highest levels has not been guaranteed for Krzyzewski’s acolytes. Now that Wojciechowski is the leader of one of the most tradition-rich programs in the country, he’s hoping to start a tradition of his own in Milwaukee. On Tuesday night in Washington, DC, he came very close to getting the first truly big win of his young career when Marquette battled the Hoyas to a tight six-point loss.

Steve Wojciechowski's first job as a head coach is to rebuild a proud Marquette program.

Steve Wojciechowski’s first job as a head coach is to rebuild a proud Marquette program (Gary Porter).

When the 38-year old accepted the Marquette job last spring, the program was not in the same shape as it had been when it made eight straight NCAA Tournaments from 2006-13. After a disappointing 17-15 season, former head coach Buzz Williams downgraded to Virginia Tech because of the uncertainty of the athletic director’s position (currently being filled by interim AD, Bill Cords), and a general concern about the new Big East’s visibility in moving from ESPN to Fox Sports 1 as its primary television carrier. Another factor in his departure may have been the stark realization that his current roster simply was not all that competitive. After Shaka Smart and Cuonzo Martin passed on the Marquette job, this opened the door for Wojciechowski to become a first-time head coach at a respected basketball program with an opportunity to rebuild it in his own image.

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ACC M5: Early Season Tournaments, Part II Edition

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on November 24th, 2014


Note: To gauge relative team strength, we are using current Kenpom ratings.

  1. EA Sports Maui Invitational: It’s the beginning of what ESPN has traditionally called Feast Week, and a big part of that annual tradition is the EA Sports Maui Invitational which starts today. Each year, one of the schools visiting Hawaii opens with host Chaminade, and this time it’s Pittsburgh (#43) in Game 3 (9pm ET – ESPNU). A look at the bracket shows that should the Panthers advance tonight as expected, they will be guaranteed two games against good competition. On Tuesday, they will face either San Diego State (#23) or BYU (#49), and a trip to the finals (Wed – 10pm ET – ESPN) would probably mean a meeting with favorite Arizona (#5). These games are of great importance to Pittsburgh, who plays another relatively weak non-conference slate otherwise. The only other game outside the ACC against a top 50 opponent is at Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Last season, it was the lack of quality wins that put the Panthers on the NCAA bubble until their ACC tournament win over North Carolina, so picking up at least one in Maui this week would be very helpful for Jaime Dixon‘s squad.
  2. Cancun Challenge: After a glance at the bracket, the field playing in Riviera Maya, Mexico is very weak compared to the other events this week. As luck would have it, Virginia Tech (#176) is the third highest rated team but they face the favorite, Northern Iowa (#64) in the Tuesday’s opening round (7pm ET – CBS Sports Network). Northwestern (#100) is the only other school in the field ranked in the top-245, so if the Hokies lose their first game they will likely have two games that won’t do much for Virginia Tech’s (or the ACC’s) RPI.
  3. Battle 4 Atlantis: In a few short years, this event has established itself as one of the best early season tournaments, annually loaded with elite programs. This year is no exception with six top-30 schools in the bracket. North Carolina (#15) takes on Butler (#53) in the opening game (Wed – Noon ET – ESPN2) and will face either UCLA (#18) or Oklahoma (#28) after that. If they get to the finals (Fri – 4:30 ET – ESPN), the Tar Heels could have the heavyweight matchup of the entire week, if Wisconsin (#4) makes it there as well. That would arguably give North Carolina the ACC’s “Best Non-conference Schedule” award by a mile. In December, the Tar Heels face Iowa at home (Dec. 3), take a trip to Lexington to take on top-ranked Kentucky (Dec. 13), and then have a neutral site game with Ohio State (Dec. 20).
  4. Orlando Classic: This one doesn’t start until Thanksgiving Day with Georgia Tech (#90) playing Marquette (#113) in the final game of the day (8:30 ET – ESPN2). A win in that one would probably send the Yellow Jackets to a Friday meeting with Michigan State (#13). Along with Kansas (#10), the Spartans are clear co-favorites in this event, with each of those teams trying to rebound from big losses in last week’s Champions Classic. A look at the bracket reveals a moderate field other than those two traditional programs. Of course, Marquette is an interesting opponent for Georgia Tech, now that long time Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski is at the helm of the Golden Eagles. But to beat his old ACC rival, Wojo will need to coax a better performance out of his team than he got this past Saturday, losing at home to Omaha by eight points.
  5. Barclays Center Classic: Virginia (#6) will close out the ACC’s early season tournament participation with a trip to Brooklyn for the Barclays Center Classic. On Friday, the Cavaliers meet LaSalle (#99) in the second game of the night (9:30 ET – NBC Sports Network), with (#94) Vanderbilt playing Rutgers (#124) in the opening semifinal game. The winners will meet Saturday for the championship (9:30 ET – NBC Sports Network) with the Cavaliers being heavy favorites to bring home the title, one week after Duke won the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on the same court. The Barclays Center has established itself as a busy destination spot for November college basketball tournaments. In between the two aforementioned weekend events, the Brooklyn arena will host a stacked Progressive Legends Classic, beginning tonight with semifinal match-ups (Villanova vs. VCU, and Michigan vs. Oregon).
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One on One: A Big East Preview with Jon Rothstein

Posted by Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) on November 3rd, 2014

RTC interviews one on one

Rush the Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you throughout the preseason with previews of each of the major conferences.

With the college basketball season nearly upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to gather some expert opinions on the nation’s major college basketball conferences. As part of our national preview with the Big East, RTC correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the pleasure of speaking with a Big East expert in CBS Sports Network College Basketball Insider Jon Rothstein (@jonrothstein)

Rush the Court: Villanova enters the season as the pretty clear favorite to win the league. The Wildcats return four starters from a team that went 29-5 last season. What are some reasonable expectations for Jay Wright’s squad this season?

Expectations are high for Jay Wright and Company. (Getty)

Expectations are High for Jay Wright’s Villanova Team (Getty)

Jon Rothstein: I think reasonable expectations are to win the Big East title, have a chance at winning the Big East Tournament title, and get another high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova was terrific last year in close game situations. I think there is a real possibility that Villanova could be a better team this year than it was last year, but have a worse record because its non-conference schedule is that much more difficult. What makes Villanova so good this year is that it does not lose 50/50 balls. Every ball that is being contested seems to go Villanova’s way almost every time. A big reason for that is Josh Hart. Hart is a guy who can go on a tear for Villanova this year, as he will step into a more enhanced role with the departure of James Bell. I think right now if there is one person who epitomizes Villanova’s culture and brand, it is Josh Hart.

RTC: Georgetown had a below average season last year [just 18-15 overall and 8-10 in conference]. There are no two ways around that. Does John Thompson III’s team have enough firepower to ensure a more successful campaign this season?

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Morning Five: 04.02.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2014


  1. The biggest name on the coaching carousel (or at least the longest) is off the market as Marquette hired longtime Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski to be its next head coach. It is pointless to go in-depth about Wojciehowski because he was possibly the most well-known college basketball assistant coach in the country, but he will have a tough task in front of him in replacing Buzz Williams at Marquette. We hesitate to put too much stock into the Krzyzewski coaching tree just because of Chris Collins’ (relative) success in his first season at Northwestern, but it would appear that Wojciehowski would have a good chance of being successful at Marquette given his experience.
  2. With the Marquette vacancy filled, the most prominent remaining opening is at Wake Forest. Yesterday, the school met with Tulsa coach Danny Manning to discuss the opening. Even without Manning’s background in the state of North Carolina, this would be a tremendous hire for Wake Forest and the position is certainly a step-up for Manning assuming that he is confident that he can make the team a winner in the ACC, which would be much harder to do than build a consistent winner at Tulsa. Given the difficulty of winning at Wake Forest and Manning’s name recognition, the smart move would probably be to parlay Wake Forest’s interest into a better contract at Tulsa and then try to move on to a much bigger job when Tulsa makes a NCAA Tournament run.
  3. We usually don’t discuss women’s college basketball on this site (particularly at this time of the year), but we are intrigued by the decision of Louisiana Tech to hire Tyler Summitt as its next women’s basketball coach. Tyler, is of course the son of the legendary Pat Summitt (the all-time NCAA Division I wins leader), so the fact that he followed in his mother’s footsteps should not be that shocking. What is surprising is that Tyler is only 23 years-old and Louisiana Tech has one of the more storied traditions in women’s college basketball so it is hardly the typical starting job although the team has fallen on tough times recently. Tyler will be replacing Teresa Weatherspoon, another women’s college basketball legend, at Louisiana Tech.
  4. Along with the coaching carousel the next few weeks will be full of NBA Draft decisions. Yesterday, Johnny O’Bryant announced that he would be entering the NBA Draft. O’Bryant, who averaged 15.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season, is predicted to be a mid-second round pick. Two other significant players–Gary Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie (and his glorious mustache)–are reportedly still deciding although rumors indicate that they are leaning towards entering the NBA Draft. For Harris the decision would appear to make sense as he is expected to be a borderline lottery pick. Dinwiddie is a more questionable case as he is coming off a season-ending knee injury and is most likely a second-round pick.
  5. Matt Carlino, who stepped in for Kyle Collinsowrth in the NCAA Tournament, is transferring from BYU with one more year of eligibility left. Carlino averaged 13.7 points, 4.3 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game this season and will be eligible play immediately as he is scheduled to graduate from BYU this summer so he would appear to be an almost ideal transfer target. This will be Carlino’s second transfer as he left midway through his freshman year at UCLA.
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ACC M5: 02.19.13 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 19th, 2013


  1. AP (via USA Today): Sometimes punchlines just write themselves. Apparently Sidney Lowe is in some hot water for not submitting federal tax returns for three straight years as NC State coach, which begs the question as to exactly how he thought that would fly. Filing tax returns shouldn’t be new, and there’s not a known history of Lowe evading taxes before he got to Raleigh, so this story is more than a little strange. I’d expect this to be resolved sooner rather than later, but it’s still an odd way for the former Wolfpack great turned less-than-mediocre coach to resurface in the headlines.
  2. Tallahassee Democrat: Anyone who’s watched Michael Snaer play over the past four years knows his best asset is his competitiveness. It’s also his curse. There’s a reason Leonard Hamilton often takes Snaer out early in the first half. He can get too jacked up on the energy in the game and start to force things. That used to happen a lot. It still happens sometimes, especially when teammates aren’t playing up to their abilities or a big call goes the wrong way. But Snaer’s gotten a lot better at playing within Florida State’s offense this season. He’s never going to be consistently levelheaded, but there’s also a reason he’s hit more ACC buzzer-beaters than anyone in recent memory.
  3. Raleigh News & Observer: Joe Giglio laid some reality on NC State fans, specifically the ones who think that the Wolfpack are still Final Four contenders. The last 10 ACC teams to reach the final weekend all finished league play with a margin of victory of greater than 10 points (unrelatedly, RPI-praisers should take note here, as it’s probably not a coincidence that margin of victory is related to NCAA success). Currently, NC State’s margin of victory sits right at 6.1 points a game and the squad has only one won game by double figures. That’s not elite.
  4. Winston-Salem Journal: It wouldn’t be ACC coverage without some talk of officiating (and a little hint of bias). The only thing missing from this article is the context surrounding the calls. One, a technical called against Jeff Bzdelik after a no-call on Kammeon Holsey (Wake lost by one); the other, a technical not called against Steve Wojciechowski after a blatantly missed double-dribble going into the half. The first was actually far more influential (a four-point swing in a very close game); the second turned out not to be. But it’s interesting the different amount of latitude that different coaches are afforded. However, not knowing exactly what was said (there are supposed to be “magic words” that will earn technicals if directed at officials), it’s hard to be too harsh on Brian Kersey.
  5. Testudo Times: Pe’Shon Howard is back after his indefinite (one-game) suspension. But after Howard’s suspension led to an upset over Duke, how much time will he actually see going forward? That remains to be seen. It’s valid to point out that Howard likely would’ve disrupted Maryland’s already choppy (thanks to a merciless number of turnovers) but effective offensive rhythm. But he’s also got more experience, which holds some value too. If he can find his jump shot — which is probably unlikely at this point — he’ll be an asset to Maryland. If not, Mark Turgeon should think about using him as a sub to spell Seth Allen and Dez Wells in very specific situations.

EXTRA: Somehow Holden Thorp managed to parlay his athletic and academic scandals into a great gig at Washington University in Saint Louis. I’m sure leaving his alma mater is still tough, but this sweet new job has got to make things feel a lot better.

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ACC Morning Five: 01.09.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on January 9th, 2012

  1. Washington Post: John Feinstein takes a look at the ACC’s mediocrity since the additions of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College — despite a 9-0 vote against it from the basketball coaches — in 2004. Since then, the league has slowly become a two-team battle between Duke and North Carolina. Mike Krzyzewski faults the way the expansion was handled because it killed the round-robin for a system that benefits the same teams every year by having fixed playing partners (i.e., it’s fine for Duke and North Carolina because they get tons of exposure already and play each other twice, but Boston College plays Virginia Tech and Miami each year, which isn’t nearly as valuable).
  2. Fayetteville Observer: Bret Strelow takes a look at the Duke coaching staff, anchored by three guards who all played together in Durham nearly two decades ago. Jeff Capel has already been a head coach, but there’s little doubt that Steve Wojciechowski or Chris Collins would struggle to find a head job if they looked. The three also have a record of dealing with adversity at Duke, having played in the infamous 1994-95 season when Coach K took most of the year off to recover from back surgery and the Blue Devils finished under .500. Now they’re trying to help a team that’s facing some recent adversity, albeit a whole lot less, achieve its potential this season.
  3. Orlando Sentinel: Apparently Florida State felt “optimistic” going into its ACC opener against Clemson. Well, as you probably know, it’s going to be tough to be optimistic coming out of the game now. The Seminoles allowed nearly 80 points and lost by a final deficit of 20 to the Tigers, not exactly the start they were looking for. Now, with no real marquee wins and six losses already, Florida State is almost certainly on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. The Seminoles need to turn things around very quickly.
  4. Duke Basketball Report: Strelow mentioned it briefly in his article above, but Al Featherston also talks about the new positioning of Jeff Capel on Duke‘s bench. Capel now sits in the middle of the bench where he can talk to players as they come out or to try to get a feel for the team’s sideline energy. Two players I expect he’ll talk to frequently are Tyler Thornton and Quinn Cook, who Coach K has running the point together currently to help Seth Curry move off the ball where he excels. As the year goes on, expect Cook to see more and more time and Thornton to be used primarily as a spark plug at crucial junctures.
  5. Charlotte Observer: The ACC is transitioning both on the bench and on the court. The conference has multiple new coaches for the second time in as many years, while freshman play an important role on most teams trying to replace the departed stars. That transition has shown so far in the loss column, where ACC teams combined to lose an astonishing 50 non-conference games coming out of the weekend.
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Who Will Succeed Coach K At Duke?

Posted by nvr1983 on May 12th, 2011

Over the weekend, Duke announced that recently fired Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel had been selected to be its newest assistant coach. The announcement itself was noteworthy as Capel, who just two years ago was considered one of the hottest names in coaching, had fallen to the point where he was forced to take an assistant coaching position. The question of how Capel had fallen so quickly could be answered in several ways (most notably the departure of Blake Griffin and the disappointing performances of McDonald’s All-Americans Willie Warren and Tiny Gallon), but remains mysterious.

Capel will be returning to Duke (Credit: Bryan Terry/

Capel’s return to Durham also raises the more intriguing question of who is next in line to succeed Mike Krzyzewski when he eventually decides to retire, a possibility that was made more clear recently with the retirement of Gary Williams, one of his chief rivals in the ACC at nearly the same age as Krzyzewski. The first question is whether the Duke administration will want to pursue an internal candidate or would look at outsiders. We imagine that Krzyzewski would make a strong push to hire an internal candidate or at least someone with strong ties to the program, but the performance of most of the disciples from his coaching tree has been underwhelming to put it lightly. There have been a number of prominent head coaches (Mike Brey, Tommy Amaker, Johnny Dawkins, Quin Synder, and Capel) who have coached under Krzyzewski during his time at Duke as well as two others serving as associates alongside Capel (Steve Wojciehowski and Chris Collins).

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