Wednesday, May 09, 2007


May 9, 2007

Head Coach: Tom Crean
2006-2007 Record: 24-10 (10-6 Big East) NCAA 1st Round

Returning Players:
Dan Fitzgerald, Senior (Forward)
Ousmane Barro, Senior (Center)
Lawrence Blackledge, Senior (Forward)
Dominic James, Junior (Point Guard)
Jerel McNeal, Junior (Guard)
Wesley Mathews, Junior (Guard)
Dwight Burke, Junior (Forward/Center)
David Cubillan, Sophomore (Guard)
Lazar Hayward, Sophomore (Guard/Forward)

Eligible Transfer:
Maurice Acker, Sophomore (Point Guard)

Incoming Players:
Scott Christopherson (Guard)
Trevor Mbakwe (Big Forward)
Patrick Hazel (Forward)
Damian Saunders (Forward)

Jamil Lott
Mike Kinsella

Open Items/Issues:
The first item of business when looking at the Marquette roster is no notice that there are currently 14 players slated for next season, meaning somebody will not be with the program next season. As of this time, there has been no official word on anyone leaving the program as a transfer. However, Lawrence Blackledge did not finish last season as part of the active roster as he was sidelined by head coach Tom Crean to work on his academics.
The other watched item regarding Marquette is Dominic James' draft status. James is testing the NBA waters this spring and has no plans on hiring an agent unless he gets a promise that he will be a 1st round draft pick. It seems as though James always planned on making the jump after this season, but a shooting slump and Marquette's slow finish has forced him to cautiously throw his hat into the ring. For me, I think James needs to concentrate on making his teammates better if he decides to return to college. He seemed to disrupt some of the flow last year trying to shoot himself out of his slump. Playing the role of point guard more, rather than just the position, will help this team quite a bit.

It was hard to believe that Marquette had not won a meaningful post-season (conference tournament or NCAA) game since Dwyane Wade left entering last season. It was a near guarantee that the streak would end last year, which it did, but Marquette fans had to be somewhat disappointed that only the conference tournament drought ended with their Wednesday night victory over St. John's in the 1st round of the Big East tournament. Since Wade took his game to the NBA, the Golden Eagles are 1-4 in conference tournament action and have two NIT's and two 1st round NCAA exits, including last year's loss at the hands of Michigan State.

The ending of last year was not helped by the injury suffered by Jerel McNeal which kept him out of the Big East regular season finale through the end of the season. However, Marquette had already lost four their last five before McNeal was injured, so the direction they were heading was down to begin with.

With or without Dominic James I see Marquette as a strong contender for one of the coveted top four spots in the Big East. Tom Crean found himself some 'James Insurance' in the summer of 2006 when Maurice Acker transferred into Marquette from Ball State. As a frosh, Acker averaged 9 PPG and 4.6 assists a game. Acker is small and quick, like James, but not quite the explosive athlete and will look to defer to his teammates offensively more often, which might not be a bad thing. If James return, the potential of this team becomes one of a top-two or three Big East team with a potential deep run in the NCAA Tournament if James puts his NBA draft-testing experience to good use. If he spends another season trying to showcase his shooting ability, Marquette will struggle against teams daring them to shoot outside and forcing their big men to play both ends of th ecourt in a half court setting.

Jerel McNeal and Wesley Mathews are also upper-echolon performers in the Big East and Lazar Hayward looks to be a player that could step-up greatly in 2007-2008. Ousmane Barro continues to improve and the recruiting class promises to bring in some depth for the frontcourt. Dan Fitzgerald and David Cubillan showed they are more than adequate role players late last season. with that returning talent and add in an explosive player like James, this is a Marquette team that can definitely make a lot of noise next season. Tom Crean is one of the highest paid coaches in the country, but if Marquette struggles again in the postseason he could be looked upon as a coach getting a lot of mileage out of Dwyane Wade falling into his lap. Crean is a better coach than that, but next year there will be pressure on his team to live up to expectations that will be quite high.


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