Big East Q&A Preview: Marquette Golden Eagles

Who: Marquette Golden Eagles 10-10 (2-6)
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI
When: January 31 at 2 pm (EST)
TV: Fox Sports Regional
Radio: 1070 AM/107.5 FM the Fan

After a much needed week off to rest up and get some practice in, the Butler Bulldogs are headed back to the newer house in a familiar neighborhood as they’ll visit the Marquette Golden Eagles for a Saturday afternoon showcase between the two newest coaches to enter the Big East ranks. Butler is coming off its biggest win over a ranked team in program history, beating the Seton Hall Pirates at Hinkle last Sunday. Meanwhile, Marquette fell to those same Pirates on Wednesday, but after Butler squandered away a double digit lead in the Bradley Center during their last visit to Milwaukee, I’m sure they know this trip will be anything but easy. To get a better sense of how things are going in the land of beer, cheese and Braun, I spoke with Brewtown Andy of Anonymous Eagle of the SB Nation, a site dedicated to covering all things Marquette. So here…we…go.

BH: This Marquette team, despite its record, has been competitive in most every game its played this season. Has that been more encouraging or agonizing given the Golden Eagles have 8 scholarship players?

Brewtown Andy: If you want to put it on a gauge where encouraging & agonizing are opposite ends of the spectrum, I’d have the needle leaning more towards encouraging. The fact of the matter is that after losing the four seniors plus Todd Mayo, this was probably going to be a lost season regardless of who the coach was, unless Steve Wojciechowski brought a magic elixir with him from Durham. Wojo’s putting his stamp on the program and establishing what it means to play for Marquette with him at the wheel. That’s fine by me, and as long as we keep seeing fight from the team, I’m happy with the long term direction of the team.

Disclaimer: This is my opinion, obviously. I know I’ve seen some crazier opinions floating through the #mubb tag on Twitter. Stuff like a guy demanding all the money they’ve ever donated to Marquette back, another guy making the “I want this team as my pall bearers so they can let me down again” joke. I really don’t know what these guys were expecting from team after losing so many key pieces from last season.

BH: After starting out really strong, Luke Fischer has slowed down a bit now in the heart of Big East play. Have teams scouted him better, or is it just the size of the league that’s got him looking slightly more human?

Brewtown Andy: I’m going to say it’s a bit of both. Fischer rocketed to an amazing start against Arizona State, but the Sun Devils had very little tape on him from last season at Indiana, and absolutely zero tape on what Marquette could do with a legitimate big man. From there, MU played three sub-300 KenPom teams, and although Morgan State had a 7-footer on the roster, there’s a reason why that dude’s at Morgan State, y’know?

So that’s four games of tape on what Marquette’s doing with Luke, and four games where he was really, really good at that. That’s enough for high quality coaches like those in the Big East to at least muster some kind of defense against him, and tack on the night in, night out appearance of talented big men in the league, and that leads to problems all around. Plus, Fischer’s kind of foul prone anyway (4.5 per 40 minutes in Big East games via KenPom), so that’s not helping his chances out there.

BH: On a scale of 1 to 5 floor slaps, how would you rate Wojo as a coach a little more than midway through his first season?

Brewtown Andy: I’m giving him a 5. He came in with a view of how he wanted to play all the time, and after losing to Nebraska-Omaha, Wojo realized he needed to change something, particularly the man-to-man defense. That led to the introduction of a 2-3 zone, which helped Marquette pick up two wins in the Orlando Classic, and as of late, Wojo’s been mixing in some 1-3-1 zone as well to keep opponents on their toes.

That’s really smart coaching stuff, and on top of that, it shows Wojo’s willing to find ways to maximize both the talent he has and their opportunities to win ball games, regardless of how it might conflict with how he actually wants to play. Plus, he’s getting great contributions from redshirt freshman Duane Wilson and true freshman Sandy Cohen has been playing very well over the last few games, which I think points out a great ability to develop players and instill confidence in them as well.

Plus, he’s got that recruiting thing on lockdown already, or at least that’s what the McDonald’s All-American Game says.

BH: One guy that’s really blossomed this season after being blackballed by the guy in Blacksburg is Duane Wilson. How big of a star do you see this kid becoming when he’s got a strong case to be the rookie of the year in the Big East?

Brewtown Andy: First, let’s be fair to Mr. VPI: Duane Wilson suffered a stress fracture in his leg in October, and then elected to sit out the rest of the season as a redshirt in late December. It’s hard to say how much he would have contributed after having to sit out months worth of practices, so it was probably the right choice. Of course, we also don’t know exactly what Buzz Williams said to him to encourage the redshirt.

As far as his future stardom goes: Wilson’s on pace to finish this season with the 5th most points by a freshman in Marquette history. He would surpass Jerel McNeal and be just behind Bo Ellis. I don’t know how closely you follow Marquette’s history, but that’s REALLY impressive stuff. To put it in more nationally relatable terms: KenPom does comparisons for each player, comparing them to other guys in the database in their own year of eligibility. Amongst the freshmen with similar statistical years to Wilson: St. John’s D`Angelo Harrison, DePaul’s Billy Garrett, and Duke’s Austin Rivers. Those are some prettttty good freshmen, particularly Rivers, who was drafted #10 overall after his freshman year.

BH: What have been your impressions of the Big East so far this year, and do you think this is the level of play we can expect going forward, or is this year going to be more outside the norm in terms of league-wide success?

Brewtown Andy: I think I like this league this year more than the league last year. I like the idea of there being very little separating a lot of the teams, and thus we get fantastic games every night of the week. However, for that to continue to work, it means everyone’s going to have to keep scheduling like crazy in the non-conference part of the season. If there’s not going to be someone rolling through the league at 17-1 or 16-2, there’s going to have to be a lot of high quality non-con wins to help prop the conference up when it comes time for the NCAA tournament committee to take a look at things. It seems that everyone understands that, given the kind of games we’ve seen this season, not to mention the debut of the Gavitt Tipoff Games next year.

Is it sustainable long term? Probably not. Not in a “we’re all totally screwed” kind of way, but in a “there will be the occasional down year here and there” kind of way. As long as kids like Henry Ellenson and Jalen Brunson keep picking Big East schools, everything’s going to be okay.

BH: What do you see as being the keys to the game on Saturday?

Brewtown Andy: Luke Fischer’s fouls, first of all. Andrew Chrabascz strikes me as exactly the kind of dude that Fischer would rack up quick and bad fouls against, and MU doesn’t need to make anything more difficult for themselves. After that, I think it might be making sure the game doesn’t turn into a shooting competition between Matt Carlino and Kellen Dunham. I’m pretty sure that neither fan base wants to see their star shooter start taking ill advised jumpers just because the other guy is blasting them in at a ferocious rate. Of course, if they’re both knocking long range bombs down, we could be in for a pretty fun game.

BH: What’s your drink of choice after Marquette wins and losses? Are you a Kentucky-esque one-and-done with your drink, or do you take the Chris Otule route and keep going well past what you originally intended?

Brewtown Andy: Kentucky one-and-done for me, on multiple levels. Over at Anonymous Eagle, we refer to it as “Victory Bourbon,” but it works after losses, too. I’m currently out of 15 year Pappy Van Winkle, and currently “suffering” with a bottle of 10 year from the Van Winkle distillery. Until I can find another bottle of the really good stuff (and if you have a connection that you don’t mind sharing, let me know), I might have to dig into the bottle of their rye that I have around the house.

(Note: He really knows his audience as I really enjoy a good Bourbon in victory and defeat)

BH: With Milwaukee likely to build a new arena within the next few years, what’s one feature that most stadiums or arenas are lacking that you would strongly advocate including in the new arena, and what’s one thing that you know will be in there that you would completely leave off their building plans?

Brewtown Andy: I can think of one thing I’ve seen in other arenas that I want the new Milwaukee building to have: A apparel shop. The BC has a few relatively tiny kiosks scattered around the building where you can buy a Marquette T shirt, or a Jabari Parker Bucks jersey, or a Milwaukee Admirals puck or stick. I’ve been to the United Center in Chicago and the American Airlines Center in Dallas, and both places have at least one large section of the building dedicated to selling you anything you can get a Bulls/Blackhawks/Mavericks/Stars logo on. Design it right, and you can even have it accessible from the outside on non-game days for people to come in and get whatever they need.

I’d also love to see dedicated stat video boards. Right now, I’m at the mercy of the Bradley Center staff to get more than just points and fouls. Since this will be the first NBA arena built after the league went to the SportVU camera setup, it would be fantastic if the arena had video boards that could show (mostly) live data from the cameras, or even just advanced metrics like effective field goal percentage or turnover rate. I’d even settle for a rotation of team and individual traditional stats.

I really want to thank Andy for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions, and am looking forward to the game on Saturday. Let us know what you think the keys to the game are in the comments section as well as the message board, and as always.

Go Dawgs.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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