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Five Point Play V4: A look at Marquette’s front court

Marquette Tribune File Photo

Coach Buzz Williams has overhauled the Marquette roster in his three seasons since taking over for Tom Crean, and year four is no different. Instead of completely relying on guard play, Williams has brought in a handful of face-up forwards and true post players to balance his offense.

This week we have a special guest, former Marquette forward Dwight Burke, to help us break down what to expect from the current Golden Eagle forwards. Burke is playing overseas in France for Hermine Nantes Atlantique. Last season, playing for Nova Hut Ostrava (Czech Republic), Burke averaged 13.5 points and 7.6 rebounds.

1. Assuming Jae Crowder leads the team in rebounding, who will finish second in rebounds per game?

Dwight Burke, former Marquette forward: If Jae is expected to lead the team in rebounding, my guess on who’s in second place would be Chris Otule.  I really think he’s due for a break out year.  He has put in a lot of work and dealt with injuries and being put through the grind of having Buzz on his you know what for years. I’m pulling for him to have a great impact for the team and in the league this season.

Andrei Greska, Marquette TribuneJamil Wilson. With his long body and

Marquette Tribune file photo

athletic style of play, he should grab the same number of boards Jimmy Butler did last season. Chris Otule will improve his numbers, but with his vision issues I don’t see him out-rebounding Wilson. As for Davante Gardner, he needs to have added an inch or two to his vertical over the summer to get mentioned with the rest of the big men.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: Jamil Wilson. Chris Otule and Davante Gardner won’t get enough minutes to average the numbers to get the boards that Wilson will get. Crowder will probably be around eight per game, and Wilson will be between 5.5 and 6.5. Wilson’s rebounds per minute may not be what Otule or Gardner’s might be, but he will be second on the team. In my mind there’s little doubt about that.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Chris Otule. What a difference a healthy year can make for a player. Had it not been for Junior Cadougan’s stellar play down the stretch, Otule would have been the most improved player from last year’s team. He has the “Big East body” and, when healthy, is a force down low. One of the biggest storylines heading into the season is how Otule can improve even more, stringing together two healthy offseasons. My guess is that improvement will shock a lot of people.

Cracked Sidewalks: Jamil Wilson.  Wilson figures to start and play big time minutes for the Warriors at any number of positions.  He’s a superior athlete who will present matchup problems for opposing coaches, who will often slot smaller players to guard Wilson.  Wilson’s rebounding rate — both offensively and defensively — were solid as a freshman at Oregon, and with extended minutes he’ll wipe the glass clean.

2. Over-under: 8.0 points per game from Davante Gardner.

Dwight Burke, former Marquette forward: I really like Davante’s potential, and after seeing him play in open gym sessions this past summer, I think he has grown as a player.  If he logs enough minutes a game to achieve it, I’ll say give him the thumbs up for over eight points per game.  I think he’s actually a better natural scorer on the block than Otule is, but with offensive rebounding and timely touches in the post he can definitely do it.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Under. Although Gardner has tremendous moves for a big man, and has worked out a ton to trim down his body, I still don’t think his defense will be at a level where he will see the court for more than 15 to 20 minutes. And while he averaged 4.6 points in nine minutes last season, he only averaged 2.1 points during conference play. It’s all about his defense.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: Under. As I mentioned in the question before, the

Tribune file photo

points per minute stat may be lead by Gardner, but I see him playing under 20 minutes per game. Therefore, he’s not going to get eight points per game. I see Gardner having some big games, where he’ll get 15 or more, but then there will be those where he only gets two or three points. It’s under for now, but in future years it will be over.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Over. The departure of Jimmy Butler opens up a whopping 34.6 minutes at the forward position, and someone’s going to have to fill them. Assuming Jamil Wilson averages somewhere between 17 and 22 minutes, that leaves 12 free minutes. If Gardner can grab even half those, eight points per game is attainable. He was excellent his freshman season, and it’s scary to think what a full offseason in the weight room and individual practices will do for his offensive game. His defense needs work, but he’s the best scoring threat off the bench Marquette has in 2011.

Cracked Sidewalks: Over, way over. Gardner will be a double-digit scorer giving MU its first legitimate low-post scoring threat since Robert Jackson. By all accounts Gardner has worked on his game and conditioning this off-season and will command consistent minutes from the get-go this year.  With experience and better conditioning, Garder could emerge as the most improved player in the Big East this season.

3. True or false: Chris Otule will finish top five in the Big East in blocks (in 2010-11, Georgetown’s Julian Vaughn was fifth at 1.9 blocks per game).

Dwight Burke, former Marquette forward: True…and that’s completely an unbiased response. Chris can be a great position defender.  He doesn’t jump the highest, but he has a wide body with long arms and, with a high level of activity on the weak side, he can get around two blocks a game easy.  Its up to him, but in that area I think sky is the limit.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: True. By the end of last season, Marquette had a true shot blocking presence in Otule, and teams had to plan around him. Ironically, I think that Jimmy Butler’s departure will lead to more penetration by opposing teams, leading to more blocks from Otule. He should only improve on his average of 1.48 blocks per game and challenge for the Big East crown.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: False. 1.9 is a lot, and Otule, like Gardner, won’t average over 27 or 28 minutes a game. Otule has developed his game greatly, especially on the defensive end, but I see him averaging more like 1.5 blocks this year. In the Big East, there always will be a lot of big men who will be as good, if not better, shot blockers than Otule.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: True. Otule’s natural progression (remember, he’s a fourth year junior) leads me to believe he will be one of the best defensive big men in the Big East this season. He would have needed 15 more blocks last year to reach 1.9 per game, and it’s far from a stretch to think Otule can do that. He had 55 blocks a year ago, and 70 is certainly attainable for the improving Otule.

Cracked Sidewalks: True. Otule showed great improvement last season and was able to stay healthy.  With another off-season under his belt Otule figures to impact games even more this year.  Otule’s strong performances in the season’s final month last year show that his trajectory as a player remains high.

4. After losing Jimmy Butler’s services, is Marquette’s defense in the front court a liability?

Dwight Burke, former Marquette forward: While its true that Jimmy was one of Marquette’s best overall defenders last season, I wouldn’t say that the front line is a liability now.  To be honest, I think the front line can be more of a force defensively this year.  There are more players who will have an opportunity to actually play, with “Jimmy-esque” defensive potential.  Jamil Wilson and Juan Anderson are the first that come to mind in that respect.  Both have long, active bodies who I think can strap up and lock down if they put their mind to it.  I also think you could make the front line bigger if you slide Gardner in at the “4″ position and move Crowder down to guard a “3.”

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Let’s face it, Marquette’s frontcourt has never been stellar to begin with. Without Butler, I think they will be in a world of hurt. Wilson is still an unknown, but he doesn’t appear to have the same physicality that Butler portrayed. While Otule and Crowder will remain key cogs, they are both prone to getting in foul trouble. A front line of Gardner and Wilson won’t have any team shaking in its boots.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: Jimmy Butler wasn’t even a front court defender at times, so I don’t think so. I think Jamil Wilson will have a great season, especially

Tribune file photo

defensively. For what Butler did effort and hustle wise, Wilson will make up for with elite athleticism. Jae Crowder will step up as well, along with the two big men hopefully making big strides. I don’t think it will, but time will tell.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: I’ll take the easy way out and say yes and no. Yes, because Davante Gardner was pretty awful last year and Jamil Wilson is an unknown. Jae Crowder struggled defensively somewhat because of foul trouble, but all three are capable of improving. Chris Otule, however, will be relied upon to cover a team’s best “big” every night, and I see him succeeding in that role. If Crowder can stay out of foul trouble and Wilson is half as good as we think he is, Marquette will be in good position on the front line.

Cracked Sidewalks: No, Marquette’s front court defense is solid and should (we hope) improve year to year.  As for Butler, don’t forget, Marquette’s defense was best last year when he was guarding an opponent’s top perimeter player. This year I worry a lot about Marquette’s inability to defend the perimeter, where it was one of the worst in the country last season.  Junior Cadougan struggles to keep opposing point guards out of the lane, DJO is a talented but spotty defender, while Todd Mayo andJamail Jones are unproven.  Vander Blue – he can defend – and it might be up to him to become the defensive stopper on the perimeter. Marquette’s defensive approach remains an issue under Buzz.

5. Will Jamil Wilson exceed expectations set for him in 2011? What kind of impact will he have?

Dwight Burke, former Marquette forward: To be honest, after getting a better look at him in person this summer, I think Jamil is one of the best all around players on the team.  He’s talented, but I’m not exactly sure what the expectations put on him are. I think his mentality has to become a bit more aggressive, but he has amazing potential and a bright future at Marquette if he stays healthy and works hard.

Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: No. Expectations are already skyhigh, with fans slotting him in seamlessly into Butler’s role. That’s a lot to ask for a player who averaged 4.7 points in 17 minutes as a freshman at Oregon. It will take time to adjust to his new teammates and Buzz’s style of play. With that being said, I do believe he will be a key component of this team’s success averaging 10 points and six boards.

Matt Trebby, Marquette Radio: Yes, he will. Outside of those that cover the team, I really think Wilson is underrated. I don’t think many people know what a talent he is. He is a freakish athlete and a much better shooter than people give him credit for, although there still is room for improvement. I see Wilson averaging 12 points and six rebounds this year, if not more, and having a big year for Marquette.

Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: No, but that’s not a knock on him. Reports from those who have seen him practice say he is one of the best players on the team, and he already has an NBA body. But nothing in an open gym can re-create what life is like in the Big East in front of thousands of screaming fans. Remember, he’s only a sophomore and hasn’t played in a true game setting since March 2010. Wilson will be a key contributor and average somewhere in between what Davante Gardner (4.3 points, 2.0 rebounds) and Jae Crowder (11.7 points, 6.8 rebounds) did last year, but let’s not crown him Jimmy Butler quite yet.

Cracked Sidewalks: Expectations are already too high for Wilson, and he won’t exceed them.  That said, he’ll be a double figure scorer and an effective rebounder this season, a strong complement to the star-powered duo of Jae Crowder and DJO. He’ll be the star next year.

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