The start of the new year has seen an expanded role for forward Jae Crowder, and the junior college transfer has shown the ability to be a game-changer in the Big East and provide a new look to the Golden Eagles rotation.
Crowder played 39 minutes in the Big East opener against West Virginia, and finished with 29 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four steals and a blocked shot. His previous high in minutes was 35 ... in the previous game, when he had 11 rebounds and eight points in a loss to Vanderbilt.
Having Crowder in the lineup, and having center Chris Otule healthy and available in the middle, allows Buzz Williams to have a bigger lineup than he's had in the past. Crowder is still adjusting to guarding bigger players, which wasn't a big concern in junior college but will be in the Big East, but he's quickly made himself irreplaceable for his scoring and rebounding ability.
What's most encouraging is that his latest effort came against a Mountaineers squad that has a lot of size in the middle. Crowder doesn't have classic power forward height or bulk, but he's been able to hold his own against bigger opponents, shoring up what was a preseason concern for the Golden Eagles.
He'll be tested throughout Big East play, as the league continues to enjoy a reputation for physical play underneath.
Crowder's emergence also gives the team a more balanced attack. He's one of three Golden Eagles averaging double figures, with Vander Blue and Dwight Buycks checking in an 9.9 ppg apiece. This may not have the firepower that some of Buzz Williams' previous teams have had, but early in the season it is proving just as difficult to stop.
--Freshman G Reggie Smith, who started five games early in the season, elected to leave school at the end of the first semester and will transfer. He averaged 1.4 points and 1.5 rebounds in his eight total games.
--Sophomore center Chris Otule became a sensation in December when the ESPN crew calling the team's loss to Vanderbilt revealed that he had only one eye. Though he's worn goggles throughout his career, not many knew that he had an artificial left eye since childhood until it came up during the broadcast.
BY THE NUMBERS: 12-14 -- The number of shots made and attempted by Jae Crowder during the team's victory over West Virginia that opened the Big East season for the Golden Eagles. The junior college transfer finished with a career-high 29 points.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've lost four games by a total of 14 points -- one at home, one on the road and two neutral-site games. I think it's big. The whole thing, though, is in our next game it's going to be another one- or two-possession game. And I think that's just how you have to coach, practice and prepare. I just think that's the nature of doing at the highest level on a daily basis." -- Coach Buzz Williams told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at Rutgers, Jan. 5
KEY MATCHUPS: Rutgers is still searching for its first conference win, but has played better this season under new coach Mike Rice. A key will be the play of Marquette's inside players, who will look to shut down the middle and force the Scarlet Knights guards to shoot three-pointers. Rutgers also may be without standout freshman Gilvydas Biruta, who was ejected in the Scarlet Knights' loss to Villanova for throwing a punch at Dominic Cheek.
--at Pittsburgh, Jan. 8
KEY MATCHUPS: This will be a big test for the youngsters in the Marquette backcourt. When they're in the game, freshman Vander Blue and sophomore Junior Cadougan will find themselves matched up against veterans Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown. On the other hand, there's plenty of film to study on the three Panthers, and much less on the Marquette duo.
FUTURES MARKET: Reggie Smith's transfer leaves Marquette with just four guards on scholarship -- a rarity, given the Golden Eagles reliance on its backcourt over the past few seasons. He started five games at point guard, but Dwight Buycks will likely continue to see most of the time at the position, with Junior Cadougan and Vander Blue also filling in. The fourth scholarship guard, Darius Johnson-Odom, is much more of a shooter than a ballhandler.
--Sophomore guard Junior Cadougan was slowed in December by a viral infection, and in fact did not even attend the team's victory over Mississippi Valley State because he was still contagious and the coaching staff did not want it to spread. He was working his way back into the proper conditioning in early January, but was back in the rotation.
--Senior forward Joe Fulce missed three games with an injured knee, but was back on the court by the end of December.
Marquette Hoops Top Stories
Highlights of 2017 PF Hasahn FrenchHasahn French is a productive 2017 forward. Here are highlights of French from the Pangos All-American Camp.
Highlights of four-star center Theo JohnTheo John is a four-star center from Minnesota. Here are highlights of the 2017 prospect from the Pangos All-American Camp.
Scout's Inside Recruiting ScoopSep. 14 -- What's the latest on the top recruits in the country? Scout's basketball recruiting team -- Evan Daniels, Brian Snow and Josh Gershon -- break down the latest, including…
Bruin Report Online09/14/2016
French Talks Upcoming VisitsSix-foot-7, 225 pound power forward Hasahn French is now setting visits. GI caught up with French today to hear the latest.
Post-July 2017 Top 100 Player RankingsWith the July evaluation periods, Nike Skills Academy, adidas Nations and Under Armour's Elite 24 over, Scout's basketball recruiting team has updated the 2017 top 100. DeAndre…