Marquette has lost out to all but one of their 2104 recruiting class after Buzz Williams departed for Virginia Tech. Coach Wojo was able to keep Seymour's Sandy Cohen, but lost Ahmed Hill and Satchel Pierce to Virginia Tech, Marial Shayok to Virginia and most likely Malek Harris to Kansas State. It's always tough for a new head coach to keep any of the recruits from the previous staff, so this is not unexpected. In my mind Wojo has still done a terrific job since he took over. He was able to keep all returning players, which is a win in itself because of the high transfer rate nowadays. He kept Cohen, who has a chance to become a very nice player for Marquette. There are also reports Marquette is close to bringing BYU's transfer guard Matt Carlino to bring some experience to club that only has 4 upper classman.
Bringing back all 9 returning players is very important, there is a lot of talent on this team, Buzz just refused to play any of the freshman. Going into next year, Wojo will have a lot of depth in the back court with Mayo, Johnson, Duane Wilson, Dawson, and Derrick Wilson. I know we haven't seen much from Duane Wilson or Jajuan Johnson, but they were rated top players for a reason and have a really good chance of florishing in Wojo's fast pace offense. I'd look for Johnson and Duane to take advantage of their opportunities and give Marquette the best chance to win going forward.
It's tough to lose out on the recruits Buzz brought in, but Wojo was able to keep the core of this team intact and that alone, has made Wojo's offseason a successful one.
Loyalty for coaches to college basketball program seems to be a lost art in today’s game. Coaches year in and year out are rumored for job openings and only a handful seem to be content with staying in one spot. After Buzz Williams abruptly left for Virginia Tech, two weeks ago. His loyalty to Marquette gone faster than it took for him to show off his new Virginia Tech pin on national television. Marquette now needed to find someone that strongly embodied the word loyalty.
Marquette found their guy in Duke’s Associate Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski. “If you talk to people about me, I’m a very loyal guy, I have amazing loyalty to the university and Coach K and I can’t wait to have that loyalty to Marquette and this program.” Wojciechowski was a player for 4 years and an assistant at Duke University for 15 years under Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Marquette needed to find stability at their coaching position after their past two coaches left for other jobs. They needed someone they would be able to count on to continue to build up this program and would be here for a long time.
They believe they found that guy in Wojciechowski. “If My Track record is of any indication, I stayed at Duke for 15 years, I could of left a lot over the last ten, but when place feels like home for me and a place is good for my family then that’s a place I’m going to stick with and stick to.” This will be Wojciechowski’s first head coaching job, but he comes from one of the most successful programs in the country in Duke. He’s been on two National Championship teams and has worked with Coach K on Team USA’s staff from 2002 to 2012.
Marquette took a chance on the only assistant they interviewed, but with all his experience their gamble could pay off in big ways. At his introductory press conference, Wojciechowski was asked if he considered this a stepping stone job, his response seemed to erase any ideas that it was, “ My sole focus is on Marquette, I didn’t leave the job I was at, working for the guy I did, my alma mater, to go to a place I see my family at for a long time.” In today’s college basketball it’s hard to trust what comes out of a coach’s mouth, but Steve Wojciechowski said all the right things on Tuesday and if he is a loyal as he says he is Marquette should benefit for a long time.
I was really impressed with the way Wojciechowski handled himself during his press conference, and I think he has a chance to be here for a very long time. Like he said his track record shows he’s been loyal. He’s had many opportunities to leave for head coaching jobs, but he said they weren’t the right fit until Marquette. If he is so committed on making sure where he ended up was the right fit, I would think he wants to be here for the long haul. He already has a young talented team in place and if he is able to keep some of Buzz’s recruits they can immediately get back to the NCAA tournament. He has a lot of upside and could push this program to the next level. Only time will tell, but from the fire he’s shown throughout his career as a coach and a player it would be hard to bet against him.
It’s been a roller coaster week for Marquette basketball fans. Monday rumors of Marquette landing VCU head coach Shaka Smart and then Thursday night turning down Marquette’s offer. Now with the elimination of Smart as a candidate, this put Marquette in a bit of a crossroads. They can either look to find another big name to fill the position or possibly go with someone smaller, but has potential to be a long-term answer. Personally, I think Marquette needs to hire a coach that has the ability to keep the incoming recruits and be able to recruit top level athletes. Those need to be the criteria when hiring the new coach.
With that being said I believe they need to hire a big name guy in order to continue the success this program has had. Buzz made this program better off when Crean left it, and now Marquette needs to continue to build on to what Buzz did without taking a step back. Interim Athletic Director Bill Cords talked about how the program is better now than when he was running it before and they will have to ability to pick a high quality coach. And I think he is right.
This is the best open coaching job in the country right now and spends more money than any team in basketball besides Duke. While missing on Smart is tough right now, it shows how loyal Smart is to his team and in my opinion Marquette needs to find a guy as loyal as Shaka Smart to ensure stability for at least 7 to 10 years. I think there are many candidates out there that fit the mold and I firmly believe Marquette will find the right coach and continue to improve their program into the future.
Marquette has four games left to determine whether or not they get into the NCAA tournament. A big key for them in these next four games will be the 3 point shot. In the past three games Marquette has been outscored from three point land 31 to 15 and in the last two games. They have given up 26 and only have made 6. Granted in the past two games they played Creighton, who is the number 1 three point scoring team in the Big East averaging over 10 per game. The biggest stat that is alarming to me is their overall 3 point defense. Marquette’s offensive three point percentage is dead last in the conference, but their 3 point defense is ranked 2nd to last.
With defense being Marquette’s strengths this year, it is really strange to see them that low in three point defense. Teams have put up more three point attempts against Marquette than any other team in the Big East (559) and they have given up the most three pointers (203). It is hard to say if these numbers are from missed defensive assignments or teams just hitting shots, but in both cases these numbers are a little bit alarming.
For a team that only makes about four three-pointers a game, they are giving up around eight. If this team has any chance of making the tournament they will need to improve their three point defense in these last four games. Things don't get easier as they will face two teams in the top five in three pointers made per game with Villanova (2) and Providence (4). There are a lot more factors that will be key for this final push, but 3 point defense will be key if Marquette will be dancing come March.
Marquette wins their third straight game at home Saturday against Xavier 81-72. The seniors came up big on National Marquette day, no bigger than guard Jake Thomas who scored 18 points on 6 three-point shots. Thomas, after the game talked about how his shooting was off the past few games, and he worked extra hard this week to improve.
Thomas in the past two games before today was 2 of 10 from beyond the arc. Today he was 6 of 10 and made 3 in a row in the second half. Thomas said he and a team manager have gotten up before practice all week to shoot 500 threes and it looks like so far it has paid off.
Marquette forced 19 turnovers and Derrick Wilson lead the team with 6 steals, tying a career high. MU had 27 points off turnovers, and only committed 5 on the other end.
The past three games this team has looked to have turned the corner and they have put themselves as Buzz said “in a position to be in a position”. A big game coming up with Creighton on Wednesday and if they are able to pull off an upset this team could start inching closer to a tournament spot or what Buzz said “ Hashtag bubblelife”.
Marquette may be the worst three point shooting team in the conference, but Jamil Wilson has been hot lately from beyond the arc. In the past two games against Butler and Seton Hall, Jamil is 7 of 10 from three. He was 3 of 5 against Butler and 4 of 5 against Seton Hall. In the Butler game all his threes came stopping Butler runs, including the start of the second half when Butler scored 8 of the first 9 points to go up 8. In the Seton Hall game Jamil started out on fire hitting his first 4 and all within the first 5 minutes of the game.
If Jamil is able to knock down 3s consistently it makes him that much harder to guard with his ability to get to the basket. The biggest thing is he’s made these threes in transition and all have been good shots. If he can get confident in his outside shooting it adds another dynamic to Marquette’s offense that will help open up looks for Davante and Chris.
Hopefully Jamil will continue his hot shooting from 3 because they are going to need it facing off against Creighton, the three point leaders in the Big East, who make about 11 a game.
With Marquette’s latest heart breaking loss to Villanova in overtime, it seems their tournament hopes are slim to none. Before we completely give up on their chances, I’m here to shine a light of hope on it. I know what their record is and how they haven’t beaten a good team yet and that loss Saturday put them in an even bigger hole, but what I saw from the team on Saturday gave me confidence they can pull it together and go on a run. Saturday’s game was tough pill to swallow, coming all the way back to tie it and get to overtime and then laying a huge egg in overtime.
Talk about an emotional rollercoaster for the team and fans? I saw something in this team Saturday that I felt was lacking in consistency before-toughness and passion, two traits we have seen from previous Marquette teams. Saturday and even the game against Georgetown before that, they finally looked like they developed the passion that has made Buzz's Marquette teams so great in the past. I was really pleased with what I saw from the team in the past two games and if they played like this from the beginning of the year, we wouldn’t be talking about a team fighting for their tournament lives.
Jamil Wilson has been the player we expected the past two games doing a little bit of everything. Todd Mayo has hit some huge shots and has given the offense a much needed boost. We have seen Steve Taylor Jr, and John Dawson come in clutch when Marquette needed a spark. All this has made me feel better about the direction this team is going. I get that they still lost on Saturday and they still have a lot to fix, but I honestly think this team has a run in them still and their schedule is rather favorable. Here’s a look at their next 7 games:
The next seven games, with four of them at home, Marquette has a chance to run the table. They face a hot Providence team, Butler and Xavier, the latter two ,on the road, in close games .Creighton, arguably is the best team in the conference. I know there’s chance they could easily go 0-4, but being at home is a big advantage and they could just as easily go 4-0. With the way they played on Saturday I’d be leaning towards the latter. Then you have 3 very winnable road games at St. John’s in the Garden, and Seton Hall and DePaul who they both already beat at home.
I know 7-0 maybe a bit of a stretch, but even if they went 6-1 it would put them right back in the tournament picture. If they went 6-1 their record would be 17-10 with a 9-5 conference record with 4 to play. Their final four have two at home and two on the road. If they were to get to 20 wins and win one or two in the conference tournament they would have a good chance of making it.
All this maybe a long shot, but Buzz has been able to rally his players before and the way they have played the past two games has shown signs they still have life. It will just be a matter of getting over the hill that they have been climbing all season.
Marquette looked to bounce back from two straight losses against IUPUI. They did just that, with a blow out win 86-50. Marquette came out firing on all cylinders going on a 18-2 run to start the game. They hit their first 4 threes including 3 from Juan Anderson. Marquette shot 64.9% for the game, their best since 2002. This was arguably the best offensive game of the year for them. The ball was never stationary, they were able to penetrate the zone, and knocked down the open shots. They had 28 assists on 37 made baskets. There were a lot of positives to come out of this win today. Here’s a few that stuck out to me.
Jamil Wilson: I think this was one of his best games of the season so far. He was terrific from start to finish. He was 7 for 10 from the field, hauled in 7 rebounds, and dished out 6 assists. This is what Marquette needs game in and game out from their best player. Jamil needs to be the leader of this team from the beginning of the game to the end and today he showed what he is capable of doing.
Juan Anderson: Juan after the game described himself of wanting to be the glue of the team. He was just that today. He made his first three shots from beyond the arc, finished up with 11 points. He also grabbed 4 rebounds, had 5 assists and a team high 5 steals. If Juan is able to knock down his shot consistently that will help open up the offense more and force defenses to stop sagging in the post. Anderson’s play is encouraging for an offense that has been lacking shooters.
The Freshman: Deonte Burton and Jajuan Johnson combined for 20 points and were a combined 10 for 15 from the field. Deonte Burton had a emphatic dunk in the second half that showcased the ability he possesses. Johnson has shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and create shots for himself and he showed his ability to hit the open guy in the passing lanes. These two freshman have provided a huge spark off the bench. Watching the growth of Burton and his ability to get the rim gives a lot of optimism for the impact he can make come the conference season.
Marquette had five players score in double digits, and five players had at least three assists. Buzz has continued to talk about the right to earn shots, and their unselfish play today with getting the ball inside and finding the open shot. Marquette earned the right today and it showed in the score. Next up for Marquette is Ball State on Tuesday night.
~~To say Marquette had a bad game offensively is almost too kind. Shooting 19% for the game and only making 10 baskets is downright horrendous. You would think holding a team like Ohio State to 52 points would give you a good chance to win. This was the lowest shooting percentage since 1996 and the lowest point total since 2000. Even with this being such an ugly game, there is no need to panic yet. This is the third game of the season and Buzz generally has his team playing their best basketball by February into March. Look at last year with the two bad losses they had against UWGB and Florida in the beginning of the season. They will bounce back and learn from this tough loss. Here is what stood out to me from this game.
Guard Play: This was an extremely poor day for the position. Combined they shot 4 for 29 from the field. Mayo was 3 for 15, Thomas 0 for 7, and Derrick Wilson was 1 for 7. Mayo forced a lot of shots, but I think that was because everyone else struggled to get open looks. Jake Thomas had a few threes rim in and out. For a shooter if those go in maybe it is a different story. Derrick missed some lay ups early and later was forced to take some jumpers because Craft basically left him unguarded. I was happy to see Derrick be more aggressive going to the basket. This is something he didn’t do in the previous two games, but he still needs to finish. The offense seemed to become stagnate at times causing Derrick to have the ball late in the shot clock. This also hindered the ability to feed the ball into the post to Gardner and Otule. There were no angles to get the ball into them. It also allowed Ohio State to sink multiple defenders to the ball when it was in the post forcing turnovers and creating tough shots for the big men. I am concerned about the lack of movement and the inability to shoot from the outside. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the young guys start to get more playing time if the guard position continues to struggle.
Turnovers: Marquette committed 20 turnovers. That is way too many against a team like Ohio State. I credit Ohio State for being very active with their hands, especially Shannon Scott with 5 steals. Marquette needs to take care of the ball better. They had key turnovers in the second half that contributed to Ohio State’s run that put the game out of reach.
Jamil Wilson: This is one of those games where you would have liked to see Jamil take control and be one of the main guys on offense. He struggled to get anything going shooting 1 for 9 and ending up with 3 points. He had the height advantage all day against Smith, but couldn’t do anything with it. He has all the talent in the world to be their go to guy when the big guys are being shut down. He just needs to put it together consistently.
This is a game Marquette would like to have back, but the good news is there is a lot of season left. Ohio State was the better team and figured it out in the second half offensively. Marquette was able to keep Ohio State’s offense on check most of the game. The offense is just a work in progress. You can bet teams will pack in the paint and give the guards shots until they can prove they can make them. This will be a good learning experience for Buzz and his team.
Marquette puts their 27-game home win streak on the line against #10 Ohio State on Saturday. Both teams come in at 2-0 and is there first meeting since 1994. They were scheduled to play on the boat last year, but condensation ruined that plan. This will be the first big test for Marquette this year. I took a look at the Buckeyes and here is what I saw and what Marquette needs to do to keep their win streak alive. Starting Five
G #4 Aaron Craft 6-2 Sr. 11.5 ppg
G #3 Shannon Scott 6-1 Jr. 12.0 ppg
G #32 Lenzelle Smith Jr. 6-4 Sr. 13.5 ppg
F #10 LaQuinton Ross 6-8 Jr. 12 ppg
C #23 Amir Williams 6-11 Jr. 9.0 ppg
G #12 Sam Thompson 6-7 Jr. 13.0 ppg
Ohio State primarily runs a pick and roll offense. Almost every possession a screen is set, whether it’s on ball or off ball. The pick and rolls help utilize their guards’ quickness in getting to the basket. In the first two games OSU went to the free throw line 73 times. Guard Aaron Craft has 21 of those attempts. Ohio State is also very good from beyond the arc. Craft, Scott, Smith and Ross all capable of knocking down three pointers. Off the bench Sam Thompson provides an offensive spark with his athleticism and big play ability. Thompson led all scorers in their last game against Ohio with 24 points.
Ohio State is very active with their hands around the ball. Aaron Craft at times will leave his man and follow the ball attempting to trap the ball handler. OSU will press full court and put a lot a pressure on the other teams’ guards to get across half court. Ohio State’s advantage of playing four guards is their quickness and recovery speed. They are more likely to take chances on steals because of their ability to get back quickly.
Keys to the Game
Size: Ohio State starts four guards and makes them vulnerable inside. Marquette should look to use their size advantage with Jamil Wilson, Gardner, and Otule. I expect to see Gardner and Otule on the floor together multiple times throughout the game.
Being Aware of Aaron Craft: Offensively, Marquette will need to be aware of Craft at all times. He has a knack for getting his hands on the ball wherever it is. When the ball is in the post, they will need to make sure to keep the ball up and secure from Craft’s active hands.
Guard Play: Aaron Craft will most likely be guarding whoever is playing the two guard. Meaning Derrick Wilson or John Dawson will need to have some sort of offensive presence. If Craft is able to take away the scoring from the shooting guard, Wilson or Dawson will need to be able to create shots to make it a lot harder to just shut down that position.
Fouls: Ohio State was in the bonus with 16 minute left in the first half against Ohio. Marquette will need to limit the fouls to keep them off the free throw line that early. No team can win when their opponent is in the bonus for that long. It would slow the game down tremendously. On the other end, Marquette’s size should be able to draw a lot of fouls down low. With drawing those fouls, converting on free throws will be extremely important.
This game will be very exciting to watch on Saturday as both teams have a lot of talent. Marquette has the size advantage, but the Buckeyes have the edge at guard. I think this game comes down to the final possessions. This will be a god test for both teams early in the year.