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2007-2008 Marquette Golden Eagles Preview

by Andrew Force | November 12th, 2007

2006-2007 Record: 24-10 (10-6), T – 5th
Postseason Games:

3/7/2007 at St. John’s Big East Tournament W 76-67
3/8/2007 Pittsburgh Big East Tournament L 79-89
3/15/2007 vs Michigan State NCAA first round L 49-61

Returning Statistical Leaders:
14.9 ppg – Dominic James
14.7 ppgJerel McNeal
6.9 rpgOusmane Barro
4.9 apgDominic James

Starting Lineup: Key Stat:
C Ousmane Barro 6-10” Sr. 59.9% from the floor, 3rd in Big East
F Lazar Hayward 6-6” So. 18 points versus Nova
G Wesley Matthews 6-5” Jr. 9, Years his father played in the League
SG Jerel McNeal 6-3” Jr. 2-3: record when McNeal does not play
PG Dominic James 5-11” Jr. 5’11”–,Add 3 inches = NBA Now

Key Player Loss: Jamil Lott. Though he only contributed ten minutes per game, Lott had an innate toughness which filtered down to the most timid teammates.

Impact Newcomer: James has started every game of his college career, 65 straight. McNeal has started all 60 games he was healthy for. In two years, Matthews and Barro have started 48 games.

There are not many minutes available to incoming freshmen. High school kids are savvy. Even the biggest of egos know vacancies are necessary for game time to present itself.

For this reason, Coach Tom Crean did not bring in a monster class.

Just days before the first official practice, the NCAA Clearinghouse declared Trevor Mbakwe academically eligible. He will likely play the most of the freshmen.

Tough Question: Can someone score in the paint?

Last season, without a post threat, the proffered solution was to have the guards drive into the lane and score. Unfortunately, this did not suffice. Barro or Fitzgerald has to be able to contribute more than put-back buckets. Perhaps Lawrence Blackledge will be able to help in this regard.

The word out of Marquette camp is that Lazar Hayward is scoring in buckets from the blocks. His frame is relatively small, but he plays with authority unlike any other Eagle player. The mid-October ruling on Trevor Mbakwe is enormous. Mbakwe’s length coupled with his vigorous play gives MU a viable low-post scoring option off the bench. This previously deficient feature will greatly diversify the attack.

Marquette simply is not solid enough from the 3-pt. arc to deal with teams extending their defense. Currently no one respects the MU inside game. Crean and Co. have to change this belief system.

Too Much PT: Lazar Hayward. The prep school phenom came to MU with a serious buzz. Media and coaches raved about his sweet stroke. One season later Hayward has knocked down just 10 triples for a beleaguering 11% clip.

This short team has no business starting a poor shooting undersized forward. Pick it up Lazar.

Get Him on the Floor: Maurice Acker.

Even though Dominic James is short and quick, he is not exclusively a point guard. James has Allen Iverson flair and ownership. There are certainly times when the offense consists of the explosive Dom attacking alone.

In actuality many possessions DJ rests in the forecourt while Wesley Matthews Jr. brings the rock from the baseline.

Ball State transfer and former HS teammate of McNeal, Acker plays point guard the old-fashioned way. Pass first, pass second.

Point Guards’ Impact: When James is going well, Marquette is nearly unbeatable. Like a double-edged sword, his creative spirit enables the Eagles to flourish and fail. There are times he does too much, but Crean will never rein him in. The chances he takes are integral.

Expectations: The Eagles began to flutter as the season wore on. MU actually dropped four of the final six regular season contests. A Big East Tournament quarterfinal loss accompanied by an embarrassing opening round NCAA exit did not sit well with the Wisconsin-based fans. Tom Crean’s job is secure to be sure, but the guard-led Eagles must prove last year was an aberration. While the 10-6 record in 2005-2006 with several integral freshmen was a pleasant surprise, the 10-6 mark a year later was a veritable disappointment.

Final Word: The Golden Eagles are one of the most entertaining Big East teams. James is a fascinating player, but McNeal is sincerely the key.

He turned the ball over 4 times per game and shot 42% from the floor, yet his presence is invaluable. If McNeal improves shot selection and James stops shooting at a ridiculous rate of 5+ 3-pointers per game, this team can win the conference.

–Andrew Force

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