The Marquette University basketball team has plenty to look forward to. Coming off a season in which they went way beyond expectations and rode into the Sweet Sixteen, they will hope to make a serious run at their first ever Big East Championship. Buzz Williams had his best coaching year to date with last season’s tournament success, and why not; he is well respected as a leader, especially behind the scenes. Williams had his first full season with his players, players that weren’t around for his predecessor Tom Crean. Armed with the players he recruited, the players he coached and taught, Williams lead the Golden Eagles to their deepest March Madness run in 8 years. Marquette received an AP preseason ranking for the second time in Williams’ tenure, and they have the talent to try to go further.

Marquette will get its core leadership from two seniors: Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder. Johnson-Odom and Crowder are both junior college transfers who scored in double figures last year and are expected to be the biggest threats on the court. Crowder arrived on campus last season and became a crucial scorer from the start. Though he slowed a bit in his contributions late in the year, he developed as an all-around player and could be one of the more underrated players in the Big East.

Johnson-Odom was last year’s leading scorer, a reliable distance shooter and a great defender. Intelligence is the thing that will establish Johnson-Odom as the leader of this squad, and the preseason all Big East guard should be primed for big things. Though Marquette graduated a good chunk of its scoring, Johnson-Odom shouldn’t feel the pressure to carry the team on his shooting touch. Juniors Chris Otule and Junior Cadougan will take larger roles in the starting rotation and will contribute to an offense that was fractions of points behind the best scoring team in the conference. Under Coach Williams, you can expect the offense to cruise at an intense speed, playing well in a conference that demands it.

Defense is where they’ll have to put most of their focus. While generally strong, they slipped up at times and relied too heavily on winning shoot outs. The nights where their 3 point shots were not falling, they’d find themselves down big. Marquette did a lot of fighting from behind, a resilient team that really turned it up late in the year. They finished 11th in the Big East but could contend for a top-4 seed this year. Though there is some uncertainty about the future of conference alignment, look for Marquette to set themselves up as a perennial tournament team. Coach Williams has a bright future here in Milwaukee.

 

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