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Visiting preseason predictions

With the 2012-’13 season in the books, we decided to look back at our preseason predictions and see how accurate (or inaccurate) we were. The key of this post isn’t to pat ourselves on our backs or joke at how off we were, but rather to see how this year’s team and individuals fared, relative to preseason projections.

Best-case scenario

What we predicted: A top-3 conference finish and a third straight Sweet 16 berth; Vander Blue becomes the go-to player with an improved outside shot

What happened: Amazingly, Marquette fared better than even our best-case scenario had projected. The Golden Eagles went to their first Elite 8 in 10 seasons thanks to a deep roster, solid inside play and, as we predicted, the presence of Blue as a superstar.

He did limit sloppy turnovers, was much more controlled at the rim and showed a much-improved jump shot. Not only that, he took over the reins as the team’s leader when things started heading south in non-conference play. There were plenty of reasons for the team’s success this year, but none more important then Blue making good on his five-star status as a high school prospect.

Worst-case scenario

What we predicted: Bubble team late into March; Chris Otule does not regain 2011 form, limiting his minutes and efficiency; Todd Mayo never recovers from suspension; foul trouble hurts depth

What happened: With a weak bubble, Marquette essentially was a lock by the first week of February. Key wins over Wisconsin, Georgetown and Pittsburgh the eventual Big East champions were well on their way to an NCAA Tournament berth for the eighth straight season.

Looking at what we said may have held them back, the Golden Eagles didn’t see see Otule return to his 2011 form…he was even better. The last two months of the season the 6-foot-11 center made a serious impression on both the team’s defense and offensive efficiency. Mayo never recovered from the suspension, leaving his future at Marquette in doubt, but foul trouble was never a real issue because of Steve Taylor and Juan Anderson, both of whom provided spot minutes to keep Jamil Wilson out of foul trouble.

X-factor

What we predicted: Trent Lockett brings success in non-statistical fashion; he makes the little plays that turn games around; he struggles early in the season but makes his mark late in the year

What happened: Bingo. This wasn’t an earth-shattering projection, but we were pretty spot-on with this one. Lockett’s per-40-minute numbers were down from his previous two seasons at Arizona State, but the scrappy Lockett made numerous big plays that never showed up in the box score. His offensive rebounding was clutch down the stretch and he was one of the better defenders on the team. Lockett described X-factor in his senior season.

Most important

What we said: No one can replace what Cadougan brings to the table; He won’t lead Marquette in many categories, but he’ll mean the most in the end

What happened: It could be argued that Blue became the most important player by the end of the season, but Cadougan’s successes went hand-in-hand with his team’s. He was crucial against Wisconsin, Connecticut, Syracuse and Butler. If he wasn’t the most important player on Marquette, he was close.

Most improved

What we predicted: Juan Anderson is a changed man, light-years ahead of last season; injuries don’t limit his production

What happened: The sophomore from Oakland was better in his second year, but Jamil Wilson’s production didn’t allow for him to make the jump we expected he would. Instead, that honor went to Blue. Named the most improved player last year, Blue made a significant jump in his junior season. His scoring was up, his confidence was at an all-time high and his NCAA Tournament clutch factor spoke for itself.

Jamil Wilson was a close second in this category, especially the last 50 days of the season. In Marquette’s final 15 games, the fourth-year junior averaged 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds, and showed the aggressive attitude everyone was waiting for. The sky’s the limit for him in 2013-’14.

Biggest upset

What we predicted: At Florida on 11/29 will be a revenge game for last year’s Sweet 16; vs. Syracuse on 2/25 as a send-off to the Orange

What happened: So, about that Florida prediction. An 82-49 thrashing in Gainesville wasn’t what we hand in mind when we made that call. The Golden Eagles were 5-1 at the time, and their only loss was the buzzer-beating loss to Rotnei Clarke and Butler. But the Syracuse game worked out.

Davante Gardner’s 26 points helped No. 22 Marquette top No. 12 Syracuse in a game that helped the Golden Eagles maintain their positioning in the Big East standings. We expected Syracuse to be better than it was at the time of that game, but it was still a major win at the time.

Worst loss

What we predicted: At Green Bay on 12/19 will be a sneaky game on the road; at Rutgers on 3/5 will prove a tough road test because of Rutgers’ skill

What happened: We definitely hit on the Green Bay loss. Marquette was completely out of sorts in that one, scoring just 47 points and putting a black mark on the team’s resume that carried them everywhere they went.

Rutgers was another one we hit on, but with a catch. We thought Rutgers would contend for a top-8 spot in the Big East this year, which clearly didn’t happen. But Marquette did struggle at the RAC, needing until late in the second half to pull away from the Scarlet Knights.

Overall prediction

What we predicted: 21 wins; One win in the NCAA Tournament; Jake Thomas does not fill Mayo’s shoes; the frontcourt holds the most stability; Vander Blue is the team’s top player; Davante Gardner goes to the All-Big East honorable mention team and Junior Cadougan is top-5 in assists

What happened: If you predicted an Elite 8 appearance for Marquette, head to Vegas. Immediately. Marquette was 90 seconds away from failing to meet our NCAA Tournament goals and one half away from meeting them exactly.

But they pulled it together, stomped second-seeded Miami and were within 40 minutes of their fourth Final Four appearance.

What we didn’t predict was the Big East success. With Louisville and Syracuse leading the way, no way did we think Marquette could contend for a Big East regular season title, but they did.

Blue was the team’s top performer and Gardner did garner All-Big East honors. Thomas didn’t fill in for Mayo well at all, but it didn’t hurt Marquette. The frontcourt was definitely Marquette’s most stable area thanks to Gardner, Otule’s resurgence, Jamil Wilson’s late success and Steve Taylor sparking the offense at times. 

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