Marquette minute projections for 2021

I’ve run this post the past 2 years (2019, 2020), and although there’s plenty I got wrong, per usual, I was generally in the right zip code. Of course, with generational talent like Markus Howard and relative lineup stability, pretty much anyone with a Twitter account could have gotten as close as I did.

All of that is a preface to this year’s minutes projection, because I truly have no idea what to expect.

Losing two multi-year mainstays in Markus and Sacar Anim means there are pretty much no sure things. Sure, a future NBA talent like D.J. Carton is going to get a healthy share of minutes, but will that be closer to 35 you’d expect for someone of his talent, or 25 that you’d slot in for a VERY GOOD immediate transfer? I don’t really know.

So without prolonging the inevitable, here’s how I see the rotation shaking out this season.

2021 Projections

Wojo’s offense doesn’t differentiate much between the 2 and 3 spot, so don’t look too much into the SG v SF designation. We’ll most always see a variation of 3 guards, a wing and a big or 2 guards, 2 wings and a big.

The other thing to note is that this is a prototypical offseason fan projection in that each season, fans fall into the trap of believing the team will run 10 deep and every player will have a big role.

I usually try not to fall in that same hype cycle, but as stated in the opening graphs, I just don’t have a good feel for the rotation. The last time Marquette had so much offensive equality was 2017, and this is how the minutes shook out that season.

Of course, banking on an outlier is foolish, so feel free to point and laugh come March.

Studs (25+) – D.J. Carton, Koby McEwen, Theo John

It’s important to note that in previous years, the Studs category cutoff was 30 minutes, but without anyone projecting to hit that arbitrary mark, I had to lower the bar a bit.

As the two most talented guards, Carton and McEwen are the easiest calls to see heavy minutes. Both can create shots for themselves and others, defend 1-3, and have the offense run through them.

Carton averaged 23.9 minutes a game as a true freshman on a very good Ohio State team, so it’s not a huge stretch to think he’ll be right around 30 this year. I’ve also written extensively about his talent and what a perfect fit he is with Wojo’s style of offense.

Koby already averaged 28 on a team with Markus Howard, so he’s probably the safest bet to top 30 of all the options. He’s tough and physical, can get to the rim and is a tremendous rebounder. But the end-of-season collapse, whether due to injury or yips or whatever, just puts enough doubt in my mind that I can’t put him ahead of Carton.

He’s had back to back seasons shooting 32% or worse from 3-pointt range and his ORtg hasn’t topped 100 (the breakeven point) since the 2017 season. He mentioned playing with Howard made it difficult for him offensively, so there should be no issues now that he’s no longer playing alongside the greatest scorer in a generation this time, right? He has the skills, now it’s on him to prove it. He’ll be given every chance to do so.

And then there’s Theo. As a 4th year anchor of the defense, and surefire starter, the table will be set for him to play as long as he’s able. The foul troubles that plagued him freshman and sophomore year (8.5 and 7.5 Fouls/40) abated a bit last season, bringing it down to a still high 5.1 fouls per 40 minutes, per KenPom.

He had surgery to repair a hand issue earlier this year, the injury that nearly forced him to shut it down for the season. Ideally, addressing that will help him regain a bit of aggressiveness on offense, but even in Year 4, that side of the court is a bonus. His defense slipped from historic in 2019 to merely very good in 2020, but again, he will be given every chance to play as much as he can, and after recording a career high 20.9 mpg last year, I believe he takes another step forward and gets near 25.

Key Contributors (20+) – Dawson Garcia, Symir Torrence, Justin Lewis

More than any section, I think all 3 represent the biggest “hopes” on my part.

Dawson is a McDonald’s All-American and former MVP of the U-18 World Cup 3 on 3 tournament, representing Team USA. He’s a natural scorer, using his quickness, touch and 6’11” frame to create mismatches all over the floor. He’ll carry a scoring burden from day one and play an integral part of the success of this team.

So why isn’t he in the studs group? I don’t think he’s a better option to back up Theo at the 5 than Justin Lewis, particularly defensively. He’s a natural stretch 4 who will get almost all of his minutes there. But he’s still a freshman and there is a very capable 4 in Jamal Cain ready to ease those growing pains. Unlike Henry Ellenson, there’s no need to have Dawson play through his struggles. As such, I think he’ll end up playing between 50 and 60% of available minutes.

Symir has been drawing rave reviews of late from Wojo himself, and makes a ton of sense to handle half of the point guard duties this season with his pure PG mentality.

Justin Lewis is the player who has taken the biggest leap in my projected playing time. It’s tough to draw real takeaways from practice and scrimmage clips, but he’s been impressive all Fall.

He’s got a Big East ready body with a huge wingspan and should be the primary backup at the 5 to Theo, while still being capable of playing a few minutes at the 4. Again, he hasn’t seen 1 minute of real game action, so this could end up looking very foolish very quickly, but I’m past the point of no return. I believe.

Rotation (10+) – Jamal Cain, Greg Elliott, Jose Perez, Dexter Akanno

In my first few attempts at mapping out playing time, I had Cain and Elliott lower, but the more I think about it, 4th year players who’ve had decent roles before don’t normally take a step back unless the talent coming in is head and shoulders above them. I don’t think that’s completely the case.

I advocated for Cain to take Bailey’s role down the stretch last season and am one of the last remaining tenants on Elliott island. But with 4 years in the system comes less hope that they will become something they have proven they aren’t.

Jamal is a fantastic rebounder and has turned into a very good 3-point shooter. He’s limited in who he can defend, but has length and enough athletic ability to be a decent defender in general. But he can’t create shots for himself or others. His assist rate has never topped 9% and his TO rate has never dropped below 20%. He’s a good role player and that’s what I expect him to be again.

Greg Elliott has been hampered by injury every year he’s been at Marquette, and this one is no different. He’s still recovering from offseason surgery, and was being eased into full contact play. The constant rehab of this that and the other thing has stunted his growth as a player.

He’s still a threat from deep and is generally an efficient scorer that stays in his lane, but he showed tremendous defensive potential his freshman year, and really hasn’t ever reached that level again. Maybe it’s an injury thing, maybe the sample size is just too small, but that’s one thing that could see him take on a larger role.

I went in deep on Jose on Sunday, but basically, he’s a good depth option at this point.

Dexter tantalized us this summer with some outrageous workout/scrimmage clips, but he still hasn’t found his way back on the court after a bout with COVID.

I just have a hard time seeing a redshirt freshman who has missed a month of court time leading up to the season show up and become a mainstay. Not to say that it can’t, and if he’s as good as some of these clips tease him to be, he’ll find a way to get extended run. But I’ll have to see to believe.

Spot Player (0-10) – Oso Ighodaro

He may not be ready to make a huge impact this season, but his combination of length, skill and athleticism is tantalizing. He’d be a good redshirt candidate most years, but with it being a “free year” eligibility wise, no need to worry about that.

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Categories: Analysis


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