Friday, November 04, 2005

2005-6 Marquette Roster Breakdown

As I try to come up with creative new ways to break down my view of the Marquette and Wisconsin (and eventually, UWM) rosters each year, I think I’ve finally come up with my favorite way of doing so. It’s nothing fancy, but for each player, I’m talking about three things. They should be self-explanatory, but just in case you’re not that bright, here’s what those three things are:

1) What I Love: These are the things that I think are the player’s strengths–clearly reasons to love a player. I might overplay the word "love" a bit, but even if I don’t reach the level of loving a player’s slightly above-average jump shot, it just sounds a bit better than "What I Kind of Like."

2) What I Don’t Love: Every player has a weakness. As with anyone’s weaknesses, it’s fun to point them out and make ourselves feel better by knocking others down a notch.

3) What I Expect: Primarily this is focused on what I’m expecting from the player this year, but forgive me if occasionally I delve into the future. With some of these guys, it’s tough not to.

And as a final disclaimer, plenty of these guys are new, and I haven’t seen them play yet. In the interest of being complete, I’m still breaking them down, but recognize that in doing so, I’m only going off of things that I’ve read. So it’s a pretty invalid assessment. But don’t worry–I note who these guys are in their profiles, so you’ll know when I’m talking out of my ass.

On to the breakdowns:

Wesley Matthews (G)

What I Love: He's athletic, seems to be a charismatic leader, and as we saw last year in the high school state tournament, he's going to have the ability to take over games--maybe not this year, but somewhere down the road. If I was creating a prototypical off guard on paper, I'd want him to have the physical attributes of Matthews.

What I Don't Love: While dominating in the state tournament last year, the previous times that I saw Matthews he had a tendency to get lost in the background. Is this indicative of him only getting up for big games, or am I just really stretching to find a reason not to absolutely love this guy?

What I Expect: I'm obviously a homer for guys who played their high school ball in state, but I'm expecting good things from Matthews this year. Given Tom Crean's history of failing to settle on a consistent starting lineup throughout the year, I won't say that he's a regular starter, but he'll work his way into starting a significant number of contests by the end of the year. Look for his time to steadily increase and for him to take minutes from Joe Chapman as the year goes on. And in future years, look for him to be one of the key guys that returns Marquette to being a team to be afraid of.

Mike Kinsella (F)

What I Love: People say that he shoots it well for someone as tall as he is, so that's probably nice. Truth is, I only saw him on the court a smattering of times last year, since he was so often injured. On the plus side, having seen him in street clothes more than his uniform, he does appear to be a stylish dresser.

What I Don't Love: That he's constantly injured. It's a lot easier to like a guy if he's actually able to take the floor, but Kinsella's always dinged up. Of course, during the games he did get into last year, I was vastly underwhelmed, but part of that is probably due to him being so out of practice.

What I Expect: Nothing. Kinsella's hurt right now, and I suspect that he'll battle through injuries for the rest of his time on campus. And during the brief times that he's not injured, I can't imagine him being in basketball shape or totally getting in rhythm with his teammates. It's sad, since it's not really his fault, but I just don't see Kinsella ever contributing.

Matt Mortensen (F)

What I Love:
That Marquette was able to recruit someone from as far away as Utah.

What I Don't Love: That Marquette managed to recruit someone who's talent level doesn't seem to match the talent level of his high-level division one teammates.

What I Expect: Nothing this year. Probably nothing next year, or the year after that. Unless Mortensen improves drastically, he'll either end up as a supportive, ego-less player who rides the pine for every game and only plays in practice, or he'll be Marquette's latest in a long line of transfers.

Steve Novak (F)

What I Love: There is no better spot-up three-point shooter in the country. When Novak is on and open, he is a deadly weapon. And it's next to impossible to stop him, since he's 6'10", and almost no one can block a guy that big shooting threes. From what I'm told by a friend who had the opportunity to observe him during the summer a few years back, he's also about the hardest working, most dedicated basketball player around.

What I Don't Love: For all of Novak's talents, he's also got severe limitations. While he's a mind-boggling shooter, his lack of rebounding ability, strength and quickness is equally astounding. Sometimes I wonder if he's about to cry when he has to go strong to the hoop with the ball against a defender. And if what I'm told about his work ethic is true, it's certainly not as if Novak isn't trying to improve. But as I said, he's got limitations, and other than his one phenomenal skill, those limitations impact every aspect of his game.

What I Expect: Novak's going to have his best season, and people won't even realize how great a season it is. In fact, Dominic James will probably get much of the credit that belongs to Novak this year because he'll be the main guy passing the ball to Steve. Expectations for Novak are consistently over-inflated, so people expect him to be the team leader this year. The problem is, Novak isn't meant to be a guy that carries a team on his back like former teammate Travis Diener did. He's a role player--and a great one at that. But because he seems mentally tough, he'll lead this team as well as anyone who shouldn't be thrust into that role can. His numbers will only be slightly better than what he's done in the past, but make no mistake--these numbers will be infinitely tougher for Novak to reach.

Ryan Amoroso (F)

What I Love:
He's got great strength and a general court-awareness that leaves me smiling. For a man who's job is primarily playing inside, he's got a pretty decent outside shot. Also moves fairly well for a man who's body has as much bulk as his.

What I Don't Love: Well, there was that time that he committed a bizarre intentional foul during a dead-ball situation against Louisville last year. Aside from pointing out one boneheaded play, though, for a man of his size, he could also stand to work on his rebounding a bit more.

What I Expect: I think Amoroso is going to be a starter for the bulk of the season. He's probably the best of the lot in terms of frontcourt players for Marquette, and though that's not saying much, he'll deserve his time. He's never going to be a primary threat, particularly with the talent in this year's freshman class, but he's going to be a rock-solid contributor who I don't see making many more Louisville-level boneheaded moves. The only thing that could hinder him slightly this year is that though he's the best of the bigger players, he's not the best by much, and Tom Crean has showed that he's not afraid to make drastic changes to his rotation from game to game. This is of particular concern to Amoroso, since rebounding is typically Crean's excuse for drastic cuts of minutes for his big players, and Amoroso needs work on his rebounding. Starting one game and playing three minutes in the next game could play games with Amoroso's head, and that's the last thing anyone needs.

Joe Chapman (G)

What I Love:
He’s a heady guy who’s not going to do anything to make you say "wow," but is going to find a crafty way to do what needs to get done.

What I Don’t Love: He’s sort of a man without a position. I’m told that he played forward in high school, but obviously he’s too small to do that in college. Last year he was billed as a back-up point guard option, but when Travis Diener went down long-term, Chapman didn’t sniff the point guard spot until the team was in desperation mode. Despite being billed as one of the team’s top 3-point shooters in a Journal Sentinel blurb a few weeks back (whoever wrote this should be fired--feel free to check the stats on Marquette’s web page), his shooting isn’t quite up to snuff for an off-guard.

What I Expect: Chapman’s going to have another boring, but effective Joe Chapman-type year. He’s not going to make errors, but he’s not going to bring a tremendous amount to the table, either. He’ll start at first and play big minutes, but look for the frequency of his starts and the number of his minutes to decrease as time wears on. After all, Marquette’s a young team, and they’re not going to be riding Joe Chapman back to the NCAA tournament in two years.

Dominic James (G)

What I Love:
I’ve only seen him at Marquette’s Midnight Madness, but even just seeing that, I can tell you that if he’s one of the most athletic human beings that I have ever seen. Someone with his quickness and leaping ability is a once-in-a-lifetime type of find.

What I Don’t Love: Mr. James had better be athletic, because it’s tough to play division one basketball when your height doesn’t crack the 6-foot barrier.

What I Expect: Again, having never seen him actually play a game of basketball, it’s tough to assess. Most have Mr. James penciled in as the starting point guard this year, and I can’t disagree. He’s got the tools to be one of the all-time greats at Marquette, and one just hopes that he has the skills. His development will largely determine whether Marquette will be a strong NIT team on the rise this year, or a lowly Big East doormat. I’m betting on the former.

Jerel McNeal (G)

What I Love:
The talk that I’ve heard is that McNeal is playing like he’ll be the second best player in the freshman class. And if you’ve seen Wesley Matthews play (clearly Dominic James is supposed to be the #1 guy), you’d know that being slotted at #2 in the class just above Matthews is something to be very proud of.

What I Don’t Love: My only lasting impression of McNeal was him getting pushed around while defending Joe Chapman during the midnight madness scrimmage. Chapman, while a nice player, isn’t exactly an elite guard. If he’s taking it to McNeal like he was at midnight madness, then something’s off.

What I Expect: Big minutes in the guard rotation, and two years from now my comments about how his defense was lacking in a scrimmage to look nit-picky and foolish. I haven’t seen it yet, but those more schooled than I say this guy should be a star.

Chris Grimm (C)

What I Love: He’s got a big body. He’s had some surprisingly good defensive games.

What I Don’t Love: He’s not particularly quick. He’s not a credible offensive threat. And, of course, his most obvious flaw is his knack for drawing fouls–often away from the ball. To date he remains the only man I’ve ever seen commit two off-the-ball fouls in a span of less than 30 seconds. I’m still utterly astounded that many publications were predicting that Grimm would be a 4-year starter when he came out of high school.

What I Expect: Many are saying that Marquette’s influx of talent will leave Grimm out in the cold. Believe it or not, I think Grimm will play just as many minutes as he did last year, if not more. He’s got experience, and given that none of Marquette’s big men stand head and shoulders above the rest, that experience gives Grimm the edge. I still don’t see who’s going to push him out of his role. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he’s a servicable option, particularly since this team is going to hinge on guard play, anyway.

Ousmane Barro (F)

What I Love:
He’s big, athletic and has a huge wingspan. Any team would love a guy built like this.

What I Don’t Love: He’s raw, and while that shouldn’t be a huge concern (Marquette knew he was a project when it recruited him), Marquette hasn’t shown the greatest ability to develop big men lately. Easily the best two interior players in recent memory have been Robert Jackson and Marcus Jackson, the former of whom transferred to Marquette after three years in the SEC, and the latter of whom was a junior college transfer. In contrast, Barro’s a guy who’s only played organized basketball for only a very short time. Hopefully he’ll reach his vast potential, but history’s not painting a great picture right now. Oh, and he looked completely ridiculous in the Midnight Madness three-point competition.

What I Expect: I honestly don’t know what to expect. Barro could miraculously become a starter and be the one guy that steps up to take control of the currently hazy Marquette frontcourt. He’s certainly got the raw talent to do so. Or he could improve 0% from last year and be a little-used reserve. After the stretch last season where he went from starting 4-5 games in a row to playing under 5 minutes per game over the next 5 games, anything is possible. My best guess is that he’ll lose some of his minutes to the new bodies up front this year. If he ever hits his stride, though, look out.

Dwight Burke (F)

What I Love:
He’s got a cool name, and he came in third place (behind two tremendous athletes) in the Midnight Madness dunk competition.

What I Don’t Love: I haven’t seen enough to find anything that I don’t love just yet, but I guess the fact that he’s a freshman means that he has a lot to learn.

What I Expect: I wish I could give a definitive answer here, but I haven’t seen enough of Burke to know what he brings to the table. Based on what I’ve heard, however, he will probably struggle, at least this year, to pry playing time from the other, more experienced players in the frontcourt. I’d imagine that he’ll get some chances to prove himself early on, though, as Marquette attempts to sort through its unanswered frontcourt questions.

Dan Fitzgerald (F)

What I Love:
I’ve never seen him play, but the talk is that he’s a versatile player who can play every position except center and he could end up the best player on the team.

What I Don’t Love: He’s a transfer from Tulane, and though he was just a freshman when he played for the Green Wave, he didn’t have the kind of dominant stats that you’d expect for someone who’s sometimes held up as possibly Marquette’s most integral player. In fact, he put up pretty modest numbers at Tulane.

What I Expect: Hard to say what to expect from Fitzgerald, as I’ve never seen him play. I am excited to see him hit the court, even if I’m worried about him being over-hyped. I’ve heard him talked about as everything from a sure starter to a solid sixth man. Based on prior history and current talk, I’m going to pencil him in as a solid 6th man with tremendous upside. I’d say that’s a bold call, given that I don’t even know what he looks like.

Jamil Lott (F)

What I Love:
He’s said by the Journal Sentinel beat writer to be a decent bet for a starting spot. And he’s a juco guy, so he’s got some experience beyond high school under his belt.

What I Don’t Love: Unlike doling out reasons for optimism, which is easy, I don’t think I can dole out reasons for pessimism until I’ve actually seen the guy play a couple of times. So I’ve got nothing.

What I Expect: Pretty much the same thing that I expect from anyone in Marquette’s frontcourt this year–his playing time will shift up and down throughout the year as the Golden Eagles attempt to figure out what to do with their big men. Given that Lott is talked up as a potential starter, I’m guessing that he’ll be one of the most likely candidates to get regular minutes throughout the season. Your guess is as good as mine as to whether this will happen.

Tom Crean (Coach)

What I Love:
Crean is a hard working, master marketer. He’s the kind of guy that I suspect would be pretty good at just about anything that he chose as a career. He gets that coaching a college basketball program is not just about teaching kids how to play basketball, but it’s about running an organization. And make no mistake–Crean is in control of the everything. His taped pre-game messages to fans, his emphasis on Marquette’s rich basketball tradition, and the reports that I heard from friends of Crean personally calling season-ticket holders last season to encourage them to attend Marquette’s NIT game all speak to the immense work that he’s done to revive a program that was in bad shape when he arrived. Even though Marquette pretty much ended up being terrible last season, people are still very interested in them. And that’s not something you could say about teams coached by most of Crean’s recent predecessors.

What I Don’t Love: It has often surprised me, given Crean’s smiling face and strong connection with fans, that plenty of people that I know talk about Crean’s ego and personality rubbing those that routinely come into contact with him regularly the wrong way. Perhaps there’s some truth to this, as the high number of players and assistant coaches leaving the program early would seem to lend some support to those theories. I’m also not a fan of Crean’s massive playbook, and compared with coaches in similar positions, I haven’t found his basketball acumen to be overly impressive. His general program management skills have to help overcome what he lacks in terms of knowledge of Xs and Os.

What I Expect: As noted above, Crean’s not going to be a guy that wins games for you with on-court strategy. In fact, much of his game coaching last season left something to be desired. His key role, however, is as a program manager. And as that, he seems to be doing well. He’s pulled in a recruiting class that has me salivating. He’s got an easy task promoting Marquette’s move into what arguably is the best basketball conference in the country. And he’s come out of the entire mascot/nickname fiasco of last spring without becoming personally tainted. If the talent that he has sticks around for awhile, Crean could return to his past successes very soon.

Even though I'm doing Wisconsin's roster as well, today, because I don't want to immediately bury Marquette in the second spot on the page, I'm going to hold off posting the Badger breakdown until this evening.


At 12:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marquette will suck for at least fifteen years. They shouldn't have moved to the big east without a dwyane wade type of baller to bail them out. Honestly, you take away Wade three years ago or whatever and they don't even make the tournament. Let's focus on Madison and Milwaukee basketball, please.

At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to hear from you Fran...


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