The Marquette basketball season got underway last week, with the Golden Eagles rolling past Mount St. Mary’s and Norfolk State to pick up their first two wins of the season.
Buzz Williams’ crew now heads to the Virgin Islands to participate in the Paradise Jam tournament. Marquette will play Winthrop (0-2) and then play either Mississippi (2-0) vs. Drake (2-0).
Here’s a look back at the Golden Eagles’ first two games and what we saw.
1. Through two games, who has been the biggest positive surprise?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Derrick Wilson. He has been everything early reports said he would be defensively, and offensively has done what he needs to do: zero turnovers in 34 minutes. We knew he was going to see minutes because of the lack of depth, but it’s apparent that it’s his talent that is earning him minutes. He looks comfortable and his minutes will keep Vander Blue and Todd Mayo on the wing, where both are much better.
Cracked Sidewalks: Vander Blue. It’s one thing to be hopeful that he’ll have a rebound season, and it’s another to watch it on the court. Through two games, he’s been efficient offensively.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Vander Blue. He’s posted double-digit points in both contests while showing a renewed confidence after a freshman season that did everything to crush his confidence. We saw stellar offense in non-conference action from Blue last year (seven games with double-digit points). So we’ll have to see how he does against the elite non-conference competition.
Mike Singer, CBS Sports: How good freshman G Derrick Wilson’s defense has been. Against Norfolk State, Buzz subbed him in for Junior, and on the ensuing inbounds pass, he forced a turnover. Later, on a 3-on-1 fast break, he took a charge to halt the Spartan comeback. He’s routintely played with the starters, which isn’t a knock on Junior, who has played extremely well too, but moreso a testimony that Wilson contributes more defensively than Cadougan does. Offensively, he’s still a freshman who can’t score and sometimes makes careless passes to the wing whle initiating the offense. He also has a VERY short leash and anytime he turns it over, back comes Junior.
Anonymous Eagle: Mr. Kensington already covered this on our site, but he was pleasantly surprised with the way Jamail Jones played in the first game. He got a fair amount of floor time, and looked far different than the hesitant kid that looked reluctant to do anything besides shoot threes last season. He played with a lot of confidence. He didn’t do anything to follow up on that in the Norfolk St. game, but it was enough to still be hopeful for #TeamFlatTop going forward.
2. Through two games, who has disappointed the most? What’s the remedy?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: It’s hard to say anyone has been a disappointment after wins of 54 and 31, but Davante Gardner looks the same as last year. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a disappointment that he hasn’t looked better defensively (one defensive rebound in 30 minutes). Again, it’s still early, but I want to see that his hard-working offseason to trim down means something on the defensive end. I’m still chillin’, doe, just want to see more.
Cracked Sidewalks: I’m going to pass on this question, because some guys were strong in one game but less so in another game. It’s really much too soon to say anyone has disappointed. However, I will say that the answer is NOT Jamil Wilson. Jamil has been fine.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Jamil Wilson. Before the season started people (including this guy) said Wilson was Marquette’s third best player. That couldn’t be further from the truth at this point. He’s shown an ability to really get at it defensively, something Buzz Williams has to be pleased with, but offensively he looks tentative and unsure of himself. Hopefully that uncertainty and tentativeness will evaporate with time.
Mike Singer, CBS Sports: Jamil Wilson/ Davante Gardner. With Wilson, it really isn’t his fault. He’s slowly learning how to play with a team that got along fine without him, granted it had Jimmy Butler. He seems out of sync with the offense — his strength– which may be a result of the sporadic playing time Buzz has given him. Buzz is treating him like a freshman as he slowly determines the uber-talented forward’s role. To be fair, Davante has lost some weight. Last year, he was on the wrong side of 300, and now is down to around 290. He’s still slow, a big liability on defense, and still occasionally appears disengaged. However, if Otule gets in foul trouble, Davante isn’t a bad second option- a big banger who can provide instant offense.
Anonymous Eagle: Jamil Wilson. Perhaps we were/are expecting too much from the red shirt sophomore, but all signs in the off-season pointed to someone that was going to have a breakout season this year. Not so much thus far. Sure, Jamil has a full year of practice time under him in his new program, but there is no substitute for actual in-game experience under the lights with his “new” teammates. We suspect once he gets a handful of games in, he’ll find a rhythm and start producing more like we had anticipated. He quietly had a stat stuffer game against Norfolk State. Perhaps the warm ocean breezes of the Virgin Islands can fill his sails and really get him going.
3. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), how much of a concern are the 26 offensive rebounds allowed by Marquette through two games?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: I’ll go with a 3. Chris Otule has looked good on the glass, Jamil Wilson is still trying to find a rhythm and Juan Anderson, one of the team’s best rebounders in the two scrimmages at Marquette, has yet to get on the court. These first two games have been awkward for the defense because of the lopsided score, but expect more of a lockdown attitude when the “real” games begin. This weekend will tell a lot.
Cracked Sidewalks: If one is the least concerned, the answer is one. That will work itself out. I’m much more concerned that we allowed Norfolk State to shoot an eFG% of 52%. And because it’s worth repeating over and over: The most important part of defense is effective Field Goal percentage (eFG%). Defensive eFG is twice as important as forcing turnovers. Defensive eFG% is three times as important as preventing offensive rebounds. It’s fourteen times more important than not letting your opponent get to the free throw line.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Five. Most of the 16 offensive rebounds against Mount St. Mary’s were allowed off of long shots which create long rebounds. There were of course offensive rebounds that were poor positioning by Marquette in that one, but the majority of them there was nothing Marquette could do. Against Norfolk State there were times where Marquette just got beat to loose rebounds, as Jae Crowder acknowledged. Team will have to get after it better.
Mike Singer, CBS Sports: Five. The team allowed 16 offensive rebounds versus an undersized, undermanned, Mount St. Mary’s squad and then gave up 10 more to Norfolk State after a weekend in between games. Certainly Buzz harped on it during Sunday’s practice/walk-through, but evidently it didn’t resonate too loudly. Even more disturbing is that the of the 10 offensive rebounds Norfolk State nabbed, only 1 of them came from 6-10 NBA prospect Kyle O’Quinn. They need to follow Buzz’ triangle formation on rebounds; one on the strong side, one on the weakside (where they got burned vs. the Mount), and one in front of the hoop.
Anonymous Eagle: This one gets a two. Sure it’s not something you want to see against inferior opponents. But both these teams were launching (and missing) so many 3s and other bad shots, there were a lot of crazy bounces off the rim and weird chances for offensive boards. Also, MU was grabbing offensive rebounds at almost exactly the same rates as Mount St. Mary’s and Norfolk State were (advanced metrics FTW!), so it’s nothing to lose any sleep over it just yet.
4. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), how much will Juan Anderson’s three-game suspension hurt his progression?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Two. Each player on the roster has played at least 30 minutes total through two games, and those are important minutes for freshmen. He’s not in danger of being passed over in the rotation because if he can play, he’ll play. It will throw off his chemistry a bit when he finally sees his first action (which will be at a neutral site instead of at home in a blowout), but he has still been practicing with the team.
Cracked Sidewalks: Two. It’ll impact his progression much less than the stretch of the season where he missed practice. He’s still practicing regularly.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Six. Vander Blue may lockdown the small forward position if he continues to play the way he has. Jamil Wilson looks to be the defensive stud from the bench (which is what Anderson’s known for) and Jamail Jones can provide the offensive burst from the position off the bench. Where does that leave Juan? And we haven’t even talked about the doghouse Buzz has him in for the bad publicity his actions brought to the program.
Mike Singer, CBS Sports: Three. Juan knows he screwed up. The team still isn’t playing top-tier opponents and after the first game vs. Winthrop, he’ll suit up and slowly work his way into the rotation. Juan’s strength doesn’t include scoring, which takes the most time to develop at the D-1 level. His strengths are rebounding, defense, hustling, and making good passes. You can be sure that Anderson will be flying up and down the court in an effort to build trust back with Buzz.
Anonymous Eagle: This one is a two, also. It’s never something you want to see happen, but it’s a pretty chintzy infraction. It doesn’t mean he’s a bad kid or anything like that, although it does mean whoever offered him the ticket is a nozzle. Yes, he’s missing out on a little bit of floor time, but it’s not like we’re anywhere near determining a regular rotation. He’ll have plenty of time to shine before we get into the meat of the schedule. Plus, Buzz always says game time is earned in practice and Juan’s been able to practice. So if he’s still doing that well, he’ll get his minutes. A quick check of his Twitter feed tells us that he’ll be in the Virgin Islands this weekend, so we’ll have a very good idea of his playing time by Tuesday morning.
5. Who is Marquette’s third best player?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: It’s the obvious answer, but it’s also the correct one: Vander Blue. Yes, we saw this non-conference production out of Blue last year, but he’s a year older and is playing with more confidence. His defense is already in mid-season form and he’s playing aggressively on the offensive end. One of the most underrated statistics through two games is Blue’s 10 assists. He’s doing a little bit of everything and is starting to form a role on this team, and it’s great to see after so many people wrote him off last season.
Cracked Sidewalks: Right now, Vander has been the third best player. Net points contributions so far are Jae Crowder (+21), Darius Johnson-Odom (+18.5), and Vander Blue (+12).
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Vander Blue is the third best player thus far. It’s shocking to say it, but he’s gotten after it defensively. Coaches have said he’s on the verge of becoming a lockdown defender. Offensively, the jumper still isn’t the prettiest but he has knocked down open ones. And he’s looked confident on the break both as a scorer and creator.
Mike Singer, CBS Sports: Vander Blue. He’s been solid in all facets of the game thus far and was the focal point of the offense against Norfolk State (6 assists). The key will be whether he can remain a viable third option on offense once the team sees better competition, and as always, if he maintains his stellar defense. His shot isn’t too aesthetically pleasing but he can still beat his man and get to the foul line. Those close to the team heard rumors of his improved attitude and so far, those claims seem to hold water.
Anonymous Eagle: Vander Blue’s been all over the floor in the first two games! If he continues to be effective on the offensive side of the ball, I have no doubt that he will completely separate from the rest of the pack and solidify himself in the top three of the team. He looks like a confident, determined player so far this year and it seems apparent that he’s focused on not repeating last year’s Big East disappearing act.