Key Returners: Markus Howard, Sam Hauser, Sacar Anim, Matt Heldt, Greg Elliott
Key Losses: Andrew Rowsey
Key Newcomers: Joseph Chartouny (Fordham), Ed Morrow (Nebraska), Joey Hauser, Brendan Bailey (Mormon mission), Ike Eke (redshirt)
Outlook: One of the many fruits borne from the Coach K coaching tree, Steve Wojciechowski finds himself in the unenviable position of sitting squarely on the hot seat. Despite bringing in considerable talent to Milwaukee, Coach Woj has made just one NCAA Tournament, losing in the first round in 2017 as a lowly 10-seed. His teams have shown a complete, almost pathological aversion to playing defense, with the past two years being particularly haunting descents into the depths.
Relative to the Golden Eagles’ peers (Power 6 schools), it’s been an outright disaster on this end. Marquette is one of three schools to finish in the bottom 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency in both of the past two seasons, per KenPom:
The other two are LSU, who fired its coach after the first year, and Washington State, who is coached by Ernie Kent, the NCAA coaching equivalent of an unkillable cockroach. Not exactly a great sign for Woj's job security if things continue this way.
But thankfully, help is on the way! Among many, many weaknesses, perhaps the biggest flaws in the Golden Eagles' D were 1) a lack of size on the perimeter and 2) a lack of physicality in the paint. These won't be fixed overnight, but the transfer additions of Joseph Chartouny as a long-armed, anticipatory point guard and Ed Morrow as a burly, rebound-guzzling forward should help fill these bottomless voids. Chartouny has ranked second and first in the country in steal rate over the last two seasons, using his otherworldly hands and stout frame to create mayhem defensively. Aside from the steals, though, the benefit of plugging in his 6'3 size in place of 5'10 meatball Andrew Rowsey is a massive upgrade in itself. When Markus Howard played without Rowsey last year, Marquette's defense was Actually, Legitimately Good, but when they played together, hellfire rained down:
Rowsey was a fantastic shooter and one-on-one scorer, but the numbers don't lie - he was an actively harmful defender. Morrow, on the other hand, should greatly help in post defense, rebounding, and rim protection - he profiles as a true power forward, something Marquette hasn't truly seen Steve Taylor in 2015, instead playing a collection of 4-wing or 2-center lineups.
Within the returning roster, rising sophomores Greg Elliott and Theo John both offer significant defensive upside, as well. Elliott was a disruptive wing defender last year, ranking in the Big East's Top 20 (and Top 275 nationally) in both block and steal rates. He's a string bean, though, so his offseason weight room progress will be key for his impact this year. John is a mobile mountain of a man, a broad 6'9, 240-pounder who showed potential as a rim protector. Like many freshman bigs, though, he fouled far too often to stay on the floor (8.5 per 40 minutes). Sacar Anim, Jamal Cain, and former Top-100 recruit Brendan Bailey (back from a 2-year Mormon mission) are all toolsy players with potential on D, as well.
The other end of the court is where Marquette has thrived in recent years. Rowsey's devastating collection of stepback moves were nearly impossible to guard, especially given his range, and the team's collective three-point assault (also starring Howard and junior forward Sam Hauser) gave opponents headaches as they scrambled to keep all three covered. Hauser shot an immaculate 48.7% on 195 attempts, and the Golden Eagles welcome his (possibly more talented?) brother Joey Hauser into the mix this year. Joey won three straight state titles (two alongside his brother) in high school before missing his senior year due to ankle surgery (he then enrolled early at MU), and his combination of guard skills, smooth shooting stroke - something he shares with his brother - and size should make him an impact player right away.
Chartouny doesn't necessarily fit the bombs-away approach, but he's a skilled passer and should be able to use his height to find Marquette's plethora of scorers. Plus, his presence allows Howard to play off the ball and focus on what he does best - getting buckets. Elliott and Anim aren't shooters, but Elliott can hit one if left open, and both excel at driving into the space opened by their teammates and finishing at the rim or drawing contact.
Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't give uber-garbage man Matt Heldt some love. Heldt finished #2 in the entire country in offensive rating last year at 138.2 thanks to his commitment to shooting almost exclusively on dump-offs from guards and put-backs. He was an effective rebounder on both ends, he blocked a few shots, and he made his free throws (88%!) - no wonder he's a member of my colleague Matthew's "Know Your Role All-stars," made up of big men who effectively play within themselves.
Bottom Line: Marquette should be a significantly more balanced team this year, but despite the expected improvement on defense, the offense will still feature a prolific three-point shooting attack behind Howard and the Hausers. Wojo may be on the hot seat entering this year, and while I admit it's risky to believe so thoroughly in a team that hasn't proven its ability to play semi-competent defense, I like the way this roster fits far more than past Marquette iterations. The NCAA Tournament should be a minimum goal, and aspirations for making the second weekend would not be outrageous.