Marquette’s 2021 Known Knowns, Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns

(Photo by Ryan Messier/Paint Touches)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

After pretty successful runs the past two seasons, I figured we’d dust off the format and preview the 2021 season the way we know best. (Here are the 2020 and 2019 versions, for those interested.)

Again, all we are trying to do here is identify what we are certain of, what we think we don’t know, and what we know we can’t expect or predict.

Known Knowns

No uber usage

It’s really strange to think about, but the type of offense we’ve seen the past 3 seasons with a high scoring ball dominant guard, while undeniably effective, is pretty anomalous in recent Marquette history. In fact, no MU player had reached 30% usage since the 2007 season, prior to Andrew Rowsey in 2018.

Markus, rightfully, took it to the next level the past two years, reaching levels of usage (uber usage at 32%+) no Marquette player, and very few players nationally had ever reached.

But he’s gone now, and there’s no player on this current team that will come close to breaking the 32% usage mark. As highly as I, and others around the program, regard D.J. Carton, he isn’t the same type of scorer as Howard was, and won’t have the same type of green light.

And from early indications, he won’t even be the primary point guard early on, as Symir Torrence, a true PG in every sense of the word, will be given the first crack at ball-handling duties.

The offense will still rely heavily on pick and rolls, giving guards plenty of leeway in most situations, but without having the greatest scorer in Marquette history to fall back on, you can take it to the bank that no one player will be a uber-usage type player.

Reliance on freshmen

Under Buzz Williams, only 2 freshman ever reached 45% of minutes played their debut campaign, Vander Blue in 2011 and Todd Mayo in 2012. Under Wojo, 9 players in the last 6 seasons have reached that threshold.

This is not qualitative in terms of whether it is a good or bad thing, I just want to lay out the facts that Wojo has shown time and again that he can and will play freshmen if he feels they help the team win.

As such, I think we can take it as a given that we’ll have at least one freshman (and most likely 2) hit 45% of minutes and become core parts of the rotation. (For more on Dawson Garcia and Justin Lewis, check out our minute projections post).

COVID Craziness

There are 3 Big East teams, and over 40 teams total currently in quarantine after COVID positives. This will be a constant this year. Games will be postponed. Some will be cancelled. Others will be added out of nowhere.

Basically, it’s a sure thing that this will be the most disjointed season in our lifetimes. Just have to accept the pauses and enjoy the games we do get.

Known Unkowns

Everything else?

I know it’s a bit strange to leave the known section so bare, but I really don’t think it’s that big of a stretch to say we don’t truly know anything substantively about this team.

Improved Defensive TO Rate

Take the defense, for example. I think it will be much improved from last season, particularly when it comes forcing turnovers. Last season, MU finished 345th in the country D TO rate, meaning only 8 teams in the whole country forced fewer turnovers. The 15.1% rate was the worst in at least KenPom history (going back to 2002) and it would not surprise me if it was the worst in MU history.

So I am fairly confident that replacing Markus with Symir and DJ alone will improve MU’s numbers considerably. But being confident isn’t the same as knowing. It’s obvious Wojo’s system has been a prevent D the past 2 years, and the results have been much better overall than the 2 before that. I don’t think he will be changing that up much with 3 true freshman and 2 immediate transfers getting folded into the mix.

So there should be an uptick based on personnel alone, but I doubt we see any big schematic or ideological changes.

Fewer 3-point attempts

Wojo mentioned it himself, that he doesn’t see this group being quite as perimeter oriented. Losing one of the greatest shooters in school history, with no light at all, is a good reason for that.

Marquette finished last season in the top 30 of 3s taken as a rate of all field goals attempted, at 44.5%. If you cut Howard out of that calculation, Marquette only attempted 10.8% of all field goals as 3s, which would have been 95th best in the country.

Worse 3pt%

And as you would expect from losing 3 38%+ long distance shooters (Howard, Anim, Bailey), I think a decrease from the 10th best 3-point shooting team in the country can be expected.

More and better Paint Touches

No, not us. We will stay as niche and erratic in our posting as ever.

But with better interior scorers added to the roster in Dawson and D.J., it makes sense that we’ll see more of a focus to get the ball inside a higher percentage of possessions.

Add to that the fact that Symir is a wizard with his passes, and you have all the ingredients for a more inside out attack than we’ve seen the last 4 years.

Unknown Unknowns


I put this here every year, and every year it pops up in unexpected ways. Without being in the locker room every day, fans just don’t have a good sense of what the mood and chemistry of the team is. And as we’ve seen time and again, it makes a huge impact on games, seasons and programs.


Dexter Akanno still isn’t cleared to play, so that’s a known unkown, but there will be injuries and other games missed, both by MU and its opponents that will affect things through March.

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