With two days until Marquette Madness, Paint Touches is breaking down the most valuable Golden Eagles, from 14 to 1. The list is not based on talent, but rather who is most valuable to the success of the 2012-2013 Marquette team.
*NOTE* These rankings were compiled by Mark Strotman and Andrei Greska. Write-ups were done by Strotman (odds) and Greska (evens).
7. Chris Otule: It’s tough to call fifth year center Chris Otule all that valuable when his team advanced to a Sweet 16 without him just six months ago, but his importance will be seen in an indirect way in 2012. When Otule is in the game, Jamil Wilson no longer has to play makeshift center. Even Davante Gardner can shift down and match up on a shorter power forward with Otule manning the middle, and Steve Taylor can roam the perimeter more frequently with Otule in the game. Directly, Marquette’s best shot blocker returns to a team that blocked 3.5 shots per game, 11th in the Big East.
6. Todd Mayo: When Mayo was suspended indefinitely by Buzz early in the summer, it became jarringly clear how important Mayo is to this team. Suddenly, the limited number of returning offensive threats from the perimeter were seriously diminished. Would this be Buzz worst outside-shooting team in his 5-year tenure? Mayo May not set the world on fire from beyond the arc (he only shot 33.3 percent from 3), but he is the most reliable returning guard, capable of creating his own shot at any point. His role will be similar to last year’s as the first man off the bench, with his minutes going up a bit from the 21.1 he averaged. Should the sophomore avoid a mid-season slump, he will be one of the leading scorers come tournament time.
5. Vander Blue: Marquette has had truly elite defenders the last two seasons in Jimmy Butler (2010) and Jae Crowder (2011). Blue could very well be the next in line, as his combination of speed, length and athleticism allows him to cover three positions on the floor. He’s an above average rebounder, plays passing lanes as well as anyone on Buzz Williams’ drive, and has the drive to be a great defender. His offense needs an uptick, specifically on the perimeter, but Blue’s true value (since Todd Mayo returns) will be defensively. One could argue Marquette’s last two Sweet 16 trips were, in large part, because of Butler’s and Crowder’s defense. Now it’s time to see if Blue can do the same. If the offense is there, he quickly moves into the top-3 most valuable players.
4. Jamil Wilson: His length? Mouth watering. His athleticism? Tantalizing. His potential? Off the charts. Why is he only ranked fourth then you ask? Wilson’s production is not quite up to par with his abilities just yet. That is not to say he has been a poor player, averaging 7 and 4 in your first season with a new team is nothing to sneeze at, but expectations for the junior from Racine begin near the ceiling. Wilson needs to be more aggressive on the boards, but with a healthy trio of big men in Otule, Gardner, and Taylor, Wilson won’t have to face off against many big men, making it imperative that he use is size to his advantage when crashing the boards. Defensively, his shot blocking ability was second best behind Otule. Add in a more consistent jump shot (or an unblockable fade-away as seen below) and it won’t be a matter of “if” he’ll get drafted, but how high he’ll go.
3. Trent Lockett: The 6-foot-4 wing’s arrival gives Marquette a scrappy scorer, a tough rebounder and a senior leader. He took the reins, along with Vander Blue, in Boot Camp, an impressive feat considering it was his first Boot Camp. What’s most valuable about Lockett, however, is that he’s proven. He and guard Keala King led the Arizona State Sun Devils last year, albeit to a 10-21 record, but Lockett was the go-to guy. Buzz Williams may ask him to be that player in Milwaukee. He has similar wing players around him in Todd Mayo and Vander Blue, and his rebounding would have been more valuable last year, but Lockett’s addition takes Marquette from a middle of the pack Big East team to a top-4 conference contender.
2. Davante Gardner: When Gardner gets into position on the low blocks, Marquette guards should be forced to feed the Ox. It seems like every paint touch he gets results in a positive result,—whether it be a bucket, a trip to the line, or a dish to wide-open player. With his smooth touch and ridiculous rate at which he grabs offensive boards (he grabs 15.9 percent of the available rebounds on offense), it is no stretch to say that he is Marquette’s best returning scorer. The knock on him had always been he couldn’t stay in the game due to his conditioning, but when Otule went down last year, he began to prove he could handle the heavy load. There is no denying Gardner’s defense is average at best, but his offensive prowess and high efficiency make him the second most important piece to the puzzle this upcoming season.
1. Junior Cadougan: Look no further than Marquette’s two elimination games last year against Louisville (Big East Tournament) and Florida (Sweet 16) to see Cadougan’s value. In those two games, Cadougan combined for nine points, 10 assists, 11 turnovers and six personal fouls. Cadougan’s two worst performances ruined Marquette’s offense, which shot just 37.5 percent from the field. This year’s point guard situation is the same as it was last year, and at this point Derrick Wilson can’t be counted on as a starter. Cadougan makes the Marquette offense run, and furthermore he’ll be counted on to shoot more (5.6 field goal attempts per game last year). He’s a senior who has been playing for Buzz Williams for four years, and it’s finally his time to shine as Marquette’s on-court leader. He’s by far the most valuable asset for the Golden Eagles.