Marquette Conference Predictions

The writing staff weighs in on the conference portion of Marquette's season

John Dodds, Site Administrator: (20-11, 9-9 Big East, 9th place)

MU is ranked right around 25 in the polls, and I think this is about right. MU will be a very exciting team to watch in The Big East – very much like the US Olympic "Redeem Team" with lots of great smalls but not enough bigs.

These issues make me extremely cautious about the season:

1) Tough Conference: The Big East will be strongest since MU joined in 2006. A record 8 teams are rated in the Top 25.

2) Post Play/Depth: 6-7 Burke and 6-5 Hazel have improved but can they matchup agaisnt the top bigs in the Big East? 6-10 C Chris Otule has potential but he is young and missed too much time to contribute immediately. 6-5 Joe Fulce was out until late December but thank goodness he is back. MU fans don't want to see Hayward having to play center. Rebounding. Rebounding. Rebounding.

3) Schedule: This year, the conference scheduling was not kind to MU, with tough single road games (@ Louisville, @USF, @ND) and some challenging home-and-home matchups with Villanova and Georgetown. [BTW:Wisconsin has home and home games with Penn St, Northwestern and Indiana.] MU must win almost all of its home games and sweep DePaul. The final five games will be brutal[@Gtown,UCONN,@UL, @Pitt,Syr] so MU must have at least eight wins in the bank before that stretch. MU must start off fast!

4) Statistics: The team gets fouled a lot, so free-throw shooting is KEY. The bench, with the addition of Otule and Fulce, must contribute or the big 4 will get worn down.

This will be a fun year to watch the team. Buzz Williams has beaten Wisconsin and NC State. The seniors have bought into the new systems on offense and defense. The guards could take MU to the Promised Land, but it will be close. I will take 9 wins and NCAA Tourney appearance and run. The "last 10 games" may not be a positive stat for MU, but I hope the NCAA Committee takes the difficulty into consideration.

I look for UConn, Georgetown, Louisville, ND and Pitt to be in the top 10 all year. MU, Syracuse, Villanova and WVU will be in the 11-to-25 area. I think UConn, Georgetown, Pitt and Louisville tie at 14-4, with ND at 12-6. I see MU at 9-9, finishing 8th.

Marco Radenkovich, Asst. Editor/Student Writer: (23-10, 11-7 Big East, 8th place)

The Golden Eagles will get to eleven wins due to their guard play, with Matthews, McNeal and James grabbing a win against Syracuse to push them into "lock status" for the NCAAs. They'll also win one game in the tournament for good measure.

Marquette begins the season on New Year's Day against Villanova, and this game will be VERY close. It will come down to free throws, and that's where they rely on Matthews and Hayward. After ‘Nova, they take care of Cincinatti and Rutgers handily, winning by 15-plus.

Their next test is against Huggy Bear and West Virginia. Both teams will be fighting for 6th-10th place, but Marquette wins this game as the students return. Hayward takes over this game with a double-double, and MU wins by ten.

After a win against DePaul, Marquette's first loss will come at Notre Dame. The Joyce Center is extremely tough on opposing teams. Marquette matches up well, but unfortunately the game comes only two days after DePaul. Harangody proves to be too much, as ND wins by 12.

It doesn't get any easier ,as Georgetown travels to the Bradley Center. The game won't be decided in the last few minutes like last year – The Hoyas will jump all over the Golden Eagles early and win easily.

Marquette travels to Chicago to play DePaul, which is never a guarantee win. Marquette takes the game, as their team outlasts Koshwal and Tucker. Tucker's athleticism is matched, and he's shut down, leading to a big MU win.

Winning at South Florida isn't too difficult, and the team rests starters for Villanova. Fulce and Otule won't be at 100 percent, yet, and it shows in Philly. Nova outlasts the tired Marquette squad.

The Golden Eagles return home to play St. John's and Seton Hall. James gets his payback on Jeremy Hazell and lets his shooting do the talking, with 25 to lead MU. These two games are placed perfectly on the schedule, as Marquette goes into the rough final stretch.

Marquette takes only one of the last five games. They take care of Syracuse at home on senior night, lose close games to UConn at home and at Pittsburgh, and get roughed up at Louisville and Georgetown. At 11 wins, Marquette enters the Big East tournament, wins the first game and possibly a second game. Marquette grabs a 7-seed on Selection Sunday. The rest is anyone's guess!

Jeff Wolf, Editor/Head Student Writer: (21-10, 10-8 Big East, 8th place)

Marquette's top four scorers combine for one of the most formidable quadrilaterals in the country. Dominic James' assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.6. Jerel McNeal has shown flashes of dominance and is shooting a solid 41 percent from three. These players, especially Wes Matthews, have benefited tremendously from Buzz Williams offensive system, which takes advantage of their natural strength of driving to the basket. However, four players does not a team make.

I don't want to say that the Golden Eagles have no depth, but their bench makes game-changing contributions about as often as Sean Bean plays the good guy.

Jimmy Butler, the top reserve statistically, has averaged only 4.1 points per game through 13 contests. But it's the defensive liabilities that really limit the reserves. Pat Hazel and David Cubillan, especially, have issues with help-side defense, and their minutes reflect that.

Team defense, overall, has been an issue for the Golden Eagles, and it all starts with deficiencies in the interior. Those are especially bad deficiencies to have in this conference, and MU needs more from Dwight Burke, who so far this season has recorded 33 points and 43 personal fouls. Hopefully, the addition of Joe Fulce and Chris Otule can help steady the post. Early returns have been good, but their learning curve continues to be a steep one.

As far as predictions go, the Golden Eagles split with Villanova, drop both to Georgetown and beat pretty much everyone else they're supposed to beat. I had predicted a conference upset or two before, but the way Buzz Williams reacted after that loss to Dayton makes me think that this team will avoid those types of letdowns like the plague. The regular season highlight will be a win in the Zoo in late February, but, unfortunately, that will be MU's only win in their last five games.

MU will finish eighth in the conference and makes it to the NCAAs thanks to a few wins in the Big East Tournament.

Nick Chmurski, Student Writer: (22-9, 11-7 Big East, tied-6th place)

This year's Marquette team is one the most experienced they've had in recent years. However, the Big East is also experienced and very, very talented. Thanks to the conference's strength the Golden Eagles should have their hands full every time they step on to the court in Coach Buzz Williams' inaugural season. All in all, I expect Marquette to have a respectable showing and finish in the upper-mid tier of the conference.

When one looks at MU's schedule, what jumps out are the names "Georgetown", "Connecticut", "Louisville", "Pittsburgh", and "Syracuse" in succession representing the team's last five games. While this undoubtedly will be the Golden Eagles' toughest stretch of the season, their first six games in conference might prove to be just as important. It's crucial that MU win five of their first six games if they have any aspirations of being a top-six seed in the Big East Tournament, as I believe they're going to drop four of their last five games during that brutal stretch.

Everyone knows what to expect from Marquette's Big Four of Hayward, James, McNeal, and Matthews, but what remains to be seen is the impact that the rest of the team will have. Especially important will be the play of newcomers Chris Otule, Joe Fulce, and Jimmy Butler. If any of those three, chiefly Otule, can emerge as a noteworthy contributor, MU could be looking at a few more victories. On the contrary, if the bench lacks production it could be a rough season in conference for the Golden Eagles.

All together, I think it should be a fun and very interesting season. Here's how I see it…

W – Villanova (home), Cincinnati, Rutgers, West Virginia, DePaul (twice), Georgetown (home),USF, St. John's, Seton Hall, Syracuse

L – Providence, Notre Dame, Villanova (away), Georgetown (away), Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh

Alex Jesswein, Student Writer: (21-10, 10-8 Big East, 7th place)

I'm going to stick with my preseason prediction (21-10 overall) and say that Marquette finishes 10-8 in the Big East. In order for Marquette to accomplish this feat they will need three things to happen.

One, they have to control their home court. No game is easy in the Big East but you should win the one's at home in order to finish in the top half. I think MU cannot afford more than two losses at the Bradley Center.

Second, the Golden Eagles must not get off to a slow start. With the brutal five game finish that they were handed, they cannot afford to lose a lot of games early.

Finally, Marquette needs to get some kind of production from the center position. North Carolina State was an excellent example of what I would like to see on a more regular basis. Burke and Hazel don't need to score a ton of points, instead just provide solid defense and rebounding.

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