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Making sense of a busy day of Marquette news

The road gets tougher for Marquette, starting with a Sunday showdown against Louisville.

Today’s round of news may have left us with more questions than answers. (Photo by A Martina Ibanez-Baldor)

Well that was eventful.

On the first day of the official college basketball offseason, Marquette was making waves left and right with players leaving, staying and still deciding.

It began when Paint Touches revealed this morning multiple sources have disclosed that junior Vander Blue is strongly considering foregoing his senior year to enter the 2013 NBA Draft. (Be sure to check out the full story.)

That was followed by Marquette announcing the transfer of freshman guard Jamal Ferguson after one season in Milwaukee to be closer to home and be in a position to get more playing time.

“I am hoping to find a school closer to my family, who are very important to me,” Ferguson said. “I would also like to obviously find a situation where I can have more playing time on the court.”

As if two big stories weren’t enough, Jeff Goodman also revealed that Chris Otule would be returning as a 6th year senior net season, tweeting out “Marquette big man Chris Otule has decided to return for a 6th-year, source told CBSSports. Should be a formality to receive extra year.”

Paint Touches has also heard some speculation that sophomore Todd Mayo would not be returning to the team next season, but a source with knowledge of the situation expects him back.

Take a second to catch your breath and ponder over just how much information that is. Over the course of the past 10 hours, Marquette has gone from being one over the scholarship limit with five incoming players next season, to potentially being under the limit by one.

The news itself is less important than what it could mean to the team next season and in ones to come. Otule’s return is a huge boost to Marquette’s chances of repeating as conference champions next season and advancing deep in the tournament again.

Although his numbers may seem underwhelming at first glance, 5.1 points and 3.5 rebounds, he adds a different dimension than any other player the Golden Eagles have or will have next season. Otule’s defensive presence alters the way teams attack the paint, with the big man leading the team by averaging 1.0 blocks per game.

He’s no offensive slouch either, capable of putting up monster games as he did against Notre Dame in the regular season and Davidson in the NCAA Tournament, but it is his defensive abilities that set him apart and put him on another level than any other returning player.

It’s too soon, arguably idiotic , to worry about preseason rankings for next season at this point (except for the prestige and added attention it brings), but CBSSports.com has Marquette ranked 10th and that was assuming Otule wouldn’t return. He doesn’t make the Golden Eagles a top-5 team on his own, but it will raise expectations even more.

As for the three guards in the news, Vander’s departure would be a big loss for Marquette, but one that may be able to be overcome, not by one player, but by committee. Blue led the team in scoring last season at 14.8 points per game and was Mr. Clutch, hitting two buzzer-beating, game-winning lay-ups last season, adding a 29-point performance against Butler to get to the Sweet 16 as well.

That type of production isn’t easily overcome, but don’t we hear that just about every year?

Jamal Ferguson’s departure wasn’t a complete surprise, but it wasn’t expected either. He saw sparse action during conference play, though as Mark detailed last week, he did look good in the limited action he did see.

Mayo’s departure would be more unexpected, although he was used infrequently as the season wore on after coming back from suspension in December. He averaged 5.3 points in just over 14 minutes a game, but didn’t see playing time against Miami and never scored more than five points in the final eight games.

Should Blue head to the pros, combined with Ferguson’s departure, it would put a lot of pressure on the incoming freshman to perform, a proposition that is daunting in Buzz Williams’ scheme. Jajuan Johnson and Duane Wilson would have to live up to the hype for Marquette to get much production from it’s back court.

Taken as a whole, today’s flurry of news still leaves a lot of questions. We will have to see how it all shakes out before analyzing further.

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Categories: Analysis, Columns, Home, Offseason

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