No. 20: Marquette Golden Eagles

0 Comments

Midnight Madness is Friday. So we’re kicking off our college basketball coverage with our men’s preseason Top 25. Look for five teams posted a day, all this week.

2010-11 record: 22-15 (9-9), 6th in Big East (tied)
Lost in Sweet 16

Coach: Buzz Williams, 69-37, 4th year (83-53 overall)

Last NCAA miss: 2005

2011-12 roster [click here]
2011-12 schedule [click here]
2010-11 team stats [click here]

The good: Can we start with that efficient offense? In three seasons under Buzz Williams, the Golden Eagles ranked 9th, 22nd and 22nd in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Only Duke and Syracuse can top that. Credit a group of versatile, patient players who hit their twos, hit the offensive glass and don’t commit turnovers.

And would you look at that! Williams has yet another squad just like that.

Darius Johnson-Odom is a Big East Player of the Year candidate, Jae Crowder is one of the nation’s best all-around players and  sophomores Davante Gardner and Vander Blue should be ready to see their roles increase. Add in Chris Otule’s size (6-11) and Junior Cadougan’s moxie and it’s a roster capable of another Sweet 16 appearance.

The bad: For all that efficiency, Marquette has lost at least 10 games in each of Williams’ three seasons, including 15 last year. Sure, many of them came in ridiculously close games and against excellent teams, but at some point the Golden Eagles need to make the leap from maddeningly good to simply “good”. Part of that’s luck, part of that’s playing in the Big East, but it’s a reality.

It’s also where Marquette’s lack of size hurts. It struggles on the defensive boards and saw opponents post a 49.9 eFG%, a number usually associated with Texas Tech or Cal. You know, softer teams.

The unknown: Jamil Wilson, an Oregon transfer who sat out last season, and Juan AndersonWilliams, yet another wing, should be a factor for their talent, but it’ll be the standard chemistry and playing time concerns other teams have as well.

The bigger unknown? How the Golden Eagles handle success. Last season’s squad meshed despite their transfer backgrounds and myriad losses. This Marquette team is expected to be among the Big East’s best teams – and a Top 25 mainstay.

There’s no pressure to winning as an underdog. But winning when it’s expected is more difficult. Marquette should be up to the challenge, but I’d expect a few bumps along the way.

Counting down the preseason Top 25

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.