If Steve Wojciechowski's first season as Marquette's head coach turns out to be anything like his first recruiting class, the Big East is in for a pleasant surprise.
Wojciechowski, or 'Wojo' for short, will be working without 71-percent of the scoring firepower and five of the top six scorers that the Golden Eagles had at their disposal last year in which they missed their first NCAA tournament since 2004-05. A trio of forwards in Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, and Jamil Wilson have graduated while guards Jake Thomas and Todd Mayo (pro ball) have also moved on from the program. Outside of this group's scoring abilities, they also accounted for 59-percent of Marquette's rebounds per game last season.
Roster subtractions: Davante Gardner (14.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Todd Mayo (11.3 ppg), Jake Thomas (7.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.3 apg), Jamil Wilson (11.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2.6 apg), Chris Otule (5.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg),
Returnees to watch: Derrick Wilson (5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.8 rpg), Deonte Burton (6.9 ppg), Duane Wilson (redshirt freshman), Steve Taylor Jr. (2.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Juan Anderson (3.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
If Steve Wojciechowski wants to avoid Marquette's second straight season without an NCAA berth, Brigham Young graduate transfer Matt Carlino and redshirt freshman Duane Wilson must pick up a ton of slack in 2014-15. Carlino will play alongside senior point guard Derrick Wilson, who was not known for his volume scoring last season having scored in double figures just six times despite logging 30.8 mpg. Carlino ran the point and attempted the most 3-balls for BYU last season (60-171, 35%), so he may see more time off the ball in Milwaukee. Duane Wilson, a top-100 recruit who sat out last season due to injury and a timely flu, can play point guard but may not need to with Carlino and Derrick Wilson as more seasoned guys in front of him.
At the 'three', Wojo will likely go with 6-foot-4 sophomore Deonte Burton, who scored in double figures in Marquette's final four games, including 23 against Xavier, a career high, in the Big East Tournament. Beyond Burton, it's tough to speculate who will see minutes on the wing beyond Jajuan Johnson (4.3 ppg) and top-100 wing Sandy Cohen III, since the Golden Eagles will be dealing with a barren frontcourt.
With the departure of three senior forwards this spring and most of Marquette's 2014 recruiting class de-committing due to Buzz Williams fleeing to Virginia Tech, there are now gaping holes where Otule, Gardner, and Jamil Wilson used to play. Help will come in the form of 6-foot-11 Indiana transfer Luke Fischer, but he isn't eligible until December due to NCAA transfer rules. Outside of Fischer, Marquette has just one other player listed above 6-foot-6 on their roster: Steve Taylor Jr., a 6-foot-7 junior that played just 10.3 mpg last season. Juan Anderson, a 6-foot-6 forward that averaged a marginally better 13.5 mpg for Buzz Williams, is another candidate to join Taylor Jr. and Fischer in Wojo's frontcourt. The lone member of the Golden Eagles' 2014 recruiting class, 6-foot-6 Sandy Cohen III, could be required to play as a stretch four, although the top-100 recruit may be better suited for minutes as a wing right now.
After checking out the tools that Steve Wojciechowski has at his immediate disposal, it seems apparent to me that Marquette will not be the team we were used to seeing over the last six years under Buzz Williams. Three-point shooting will likely be improved upon this winter due to playing a smaller lineup out of necessity. During the last four seasons under Williams, Marquette finished sub-250 in percentage of points coming from three-pointers, including sub-300 for three of those campaigns. At the same time, his teams were known for their above-average offensive rebounding by committee (top-105 in OR% last four seasons including 15th in 2012-13), which doesn't appear to be a strong point on paper this coming season.
As a result of the mass exodus of seniors and head coach Buzz Williams from last season's disappointing team, 2014-15 looks to be a rebuilding year in the bottom half of the conference for proud basketball school Marquette. However, if Steve Wojciechowski's recruiting thus far is any precursor of what he brings to the table on the court, the Big East will benefit greatly from Wojo's presence in Milwaukee as early as 2015-16. Or perhaps the Golden Eagles will be slept on again this season, like they have in years past.
For a look back at the rest of our Big East previews, check below: