Thursday, October 26, 2017

Howard's expanded role will play a pivotal part in Marquette's success in the 2017-18 season

                                                   Photo Credit: Marquette Athletics

Marquette Golden Eagles

2016-17 record: 19-13, 10-8 Big East

Postseason result: 93-73 L to South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament first round

Notable games: vs Purdue (Nov. 14), Maui Invitational (Nov. 20-22), at Wisconsin (Dec. 9), vs Xavier (Dec. 27), at Villanova (Jan. 6), vs Seton Hall (Jan. 9)

Projected starting five:

G Markus Howard
G Andrew Rowsey
F Sam Hauser
F Harry Froling
C Matt Heidt

Progress, not perfection.

Marquette Golden Eagles coach Steve Wojciechowski fits the mold to a tee as his third season saw a drastic improvement with 19 wins, a win over No. 1 Villanova and their first trip to the NCAA Tournament since the 2012-13 season.

With winning comes higher expectations and despite Katin Reinhardt, Jajuan Johnson and Luke Fischer graduating, along with the transfers of Duane Wilson (Texas A&M) and Traci Carter (La Salle), the Golden Eagles return one of the more exciting backcourts in the country with Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey.

Howard took the Big East by storm as a freshman as he led the team in scoring (13.2 per game) and played a pivotal part in Marquette’s league-high 82.2 points per game last season.

“It will be a big emphasis for us to lead given we are guards and me and [Andrew] are going to be the guys that everyone will be looking to,” Howard said.

The addition of SMU transfer Harry Froling could help balance the perimeter play with a consistent post presence— a part Marquette lacked last season.

“Offensively, we want to play in many cases similar to last season because it was a strength of ours,” Wojciechowski said. We want to play with pace, great spacing, take the care of the ball and be unselfish. I think our group understands what we expect.”

“We want to balance things out by getting the ball to the paint, more off the drive post passes and offensive rebounding.”

As flashy as the offense played, the Marquette defense looked more like a bad fast food meal at McDonald’s as it allowed the third most points per game in the Big East at 77.2 points per game and gave up more than 80 points in eight games. Wojciechowski has instituted unconventional defensive tactics at practice in the off-season in hopes of seeing a more inspired effort.

“We practiced with bricks in our hands to start out practice in a defensive stance. Rowsey said. “Coach [Wojciechowski] has emphasized defense, defense, defense this year and not that we didn’t play it last year, but we didn’t like it. We liked offense way better because it was our bread and butter, but it is more about finding our defensive edge, so we can some more games.”

Marquette’s non-conference slate should provide an outlook on how its season might fare as it hosts Purdue in the Gavitt Tipoff Games and could play teams such as VCU and Wichita State in the Maui Invitational. The annual rivalry against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center rounds out a challenging slate before entering Big East play against Xavier on Dec. 27.