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Five burning questions: Marquette offseason edition

Bench

It’s been nearly three months since Marquette’s season ended with a 68-65 loss to Xavier in the Big East Tournament. Between then and now, here’s what’s happened:

Buzz Williams left for Virginia Tech and took a pair of recruits, Ahmed Hill and Satchel Pierce with him; Shaka Smart was Marquette’s Twitter coach for a few hours; #DoneDeal; Steve Wojciechowski was hired; 2015 commit Nick Noskowiak de-committed and re-committed; the entire returning roster opted back in with Wojciechowski, despite a few considering otherwise; Wojciechowski hired his staff after 2014 signee Sandy Cohen stayed loyal to his commitment; Myron Medcalf wrote that Marquette was one of the “bad jobs” in college basketball and Andrei set him straight; and most recently, the annual Marquette-Wisconsin date was released (Dec. 6).

For a 17-15 group that lost its last four games and failed to earn a postseason bid, quite a bit happened because, well, it’s a Marquette offseason. Nothing’s ever quiet around here.

There’s still four more months until Marquette Madness, meaning plenty can still change. So, in order to fill some time before the season begins we’re taking a look at five burning questions that will need to be answered.

1. Is Wojo’s roster complete?

As it stands, here’s what Marquette’s current roster looks like:

PG: Matt Carlino, Derrick Wilson, John Dawson
SG: Todd Mayo, Duane Wilson, Jajuan Johnson
SF: Deonte Burton, Sandy Cohen
PF: Steve Taylor, Juan Anderson
C: Luke Fischer

Wojciechowski still has two scholarships available for this class, but he’s been adamant about not filling a spot on the roster just to fill it; there’s value in rolling scholarships over, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that happen. Loyola Marymount transfer Gabe Levin will be in Milwaukee the next three days, but even he would need to sit out a year so it doesn’t help the Golden Eagles’ shallow roster for 2014-15. Coveted Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter also has been contacted by Marquette, yet his only visits to date have been St. John’s, Maryland and South Carolina.

The 2014 recruiting class appears to be all but set, and there aren’t many immediate transfers left on the board. All those factors considered, it wouldn’t be a surprise for Marquette’s 2014-15 roster to be set as is. Never say never, but Wojciechowski said at last week’s press conference that he was comfortable with his current team.

2. Where does Duane Wilson fit in?

We spoke with Wilson at Wojciechowski’s introductory press conference about his decision to redshirt, and the talented point guard admitted he made the right decision in sitting a year after suffering a stress fracture in his leg before the year began. Now completely healthy, the question becomes the role he’ll play in his first real season.

Pre-Matt Carlino, Wilson’s role would have been on the ball, filling in with Derrick Wilson and John Dawson. But with the BYU transfer in the fold and likely starting in his graduate season, point guard is all of a sudden the Golden Eagles’ deepest position. That means Wilson should see time at either of the two off-the-ball positions on a Marquette team that will run three-guard sets more often than not.

And that shouldn’t be a problem. Wilson shot better than 55 percent from beyond the arc as a high school senior, and Deonte Burton said Wilson looked more comfortable as a shooting guard in both practices last year and workouts this spring/summer. Though Todd Mayo and Jajuan Johnson make the 2-guard spot deep, there’s going to be room for Wilson. And there’s positives in having two or more ball handlers on the court at the same time, something Mayo and Johnson can’t do – Derrick Wilson and Dawson can handle the rock but don’t bring much in terms outside shooting.

3. Will Steve Taylor step up to the plate?

If Marquette’s roster stays as is, they’ll be among the shortest teams in Division I; Steve Taylor (6-foot-7), Juan Anderson (6-foot-6) and Sandy Cohen (6-foot-6) will be the Golden Eagles’ tallest players, with the 6-foot-11 Fischer manning the center position once he’s eligible second semester.

The departures of Davante Gardner, Chris Otule and Jamil Wilson left a major burden on the remaining bigs, and for now that’s Taylor, and Taylor only. Battling through personal beefs with Buzz Williams and battling his way back from knee surgery, he appears to have turned a corner and has a fresh start with Wojciechowski, a head coach he seems to like.

For all the #FreeSteveTaylor hashtags on Twitter, the Chicago native wasn’t all that impressive as a sophomore. True, he deserved more minutes than the 10.3 he averaged last year, but he also shot a horrendous 32 percent from the field and blocked one shot in 237 minutes. One could argue Taylor will be Marquette’s most important player next season, much like Derrick Wilson was (and largely failed at) a year ago.

4. Is Deonte Burton capable of becoming an All-Big East performer?

There were very few positives to take from Marquette’s worst season in nearly a decade. But one major plus was Deonte Burton, who emerged as a real contributor in his first season. In case you needed to churn the hype machine up another notch, consider that KenPom.com listed Cleveland Melvin’s freshman season as one similar to Burton’s 2013-14 numbers. Granted Melvin averaged 14.3 points in 26 minutes as a freshman, but in his second season he averaged 17.5 points and 7.4 rebounds. If Burton comes anywhere close to those numbers – he could get close to Melvin’s 32 minutes in a best-case scenario – Marquette is going to be in a great spot.

We’ve documented Burton’s tremendous assets and upside in detail this season (search “Deonte Burton” on the website) and the sky’s the limit for him in Year 2. Burton doesn’t need to be an All-Big East performer as a sophomore, but Marquette is replacing three starters and its sixth man and will need to replace its scoring somehow. With consistent minutes, a new offense that should cater more to his drive ability and a year of experience under his belt it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Burton lead Marquette in scoring. Can he become that player?

5. Is Matt Carlino Trent Lockett 2.0 or a one-year fill in?

It should be noted any time Wojciechowski, a former point guard himself, brings in a floor general, and Carlino is no exception. The BYU transfer took the long road to get where he is right now, and he comes with more baggage than Trent Lockett did two years ago. But the two can have the same kind of impact as experienced seniors who do more of the little things required each night to be victorious. Case in point, Lockett never blew up the box score but he finished his one season at Marquette as the Golden Eagles’ best perimeter defender in the Buzz Williams era.

Carlino can have that impact as a shooter. As we tweeted out shortly after he committed to Marquette, Golden Eagles starting point guards the last four seasons combined for 63 3-pointers…Carlino had 60 on his own just last year. Marquette has been horrendous from beyond the arc in five of the last six seasons, and Carlino has a chance to change that.

Wojciechowski wanted Carlino, but he also filled a void at point guard, where Derrick Wilson simply wasn’t cutting it beyond being a defensive stalwart and solid game manager. Carlino brings a solid contributor to the court and another body on the roster. But can he inject life into a backcourt lacking outside shooting and propel Marquette to a few additional wins?

We shall see.

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