Key Losses: G Travis Diener (19.7 ppg, 7.0 apg), F Marcus Jackson (3.3 ppg, 8.5 rpg), G Dameon Mason (11.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg), F Todd Townsend (5.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg),
Postseason:NIT: Lost to Western Michigan 54–40 in the first round
Brooklyn, NY/St. Benedict’s (NJ) Prep
St. Paul, MN/Transfer from Tulane
St. Paul, MN/North Dakota School of Science
Country Club Hills, IL/Hillcrest
Marshfield, WI/Transfer from Minnesota-Crookston
This is the biggest -- and best -- recruiting class coach Tom Crean has put together since coming to Marquette. James has the potential to become a star at the point, while McNeal and Matthews will also be contributors early. Lott will get plenty of minutes up front and could start at small forward. Burke is talented but is considered a project. Fitzgerald has the type of versatility that Crean craves in his players.
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For the first time in recent memory, Tom Crean was spared a ride on the college coaching carousel, avoiding what had become an annual distraction that affected recruiting and left MU fans up in arms. Nonetheless, it was still an eventful offseason for Marquette's seventh-year coach.
First, talented but enigmatic off-guard Dameon Mason ended a rocky two-year stay at MU by announcing his intention to transfer (he eventually chose LSU). Then administrators embarked on an embarrassing two-month quest to rename the school's sports teams, only to wind up keeping Golden Eagles.
Crean's coaching staff also took a hit for the third straight season. He'll have two new faces next to him on the bench this year after his two longest-tenured assistants moved on to pursue other opportunities.
And the biggest challenge is yet to come. Crean must find a way to integrate seven new scholarship players -- a handful of whom are expected to become starters -- with some talented returnees. All must come together in a hurry if the Golden Eagles harbor any hopes of making its inaugural season in the Big East a successful one.
With apologies to Duke's J.J. Redick, Steve Novak is without peer as a long-range shooter in college basketball. Last season, he shot 46.1 percent from behind the arc (89-of-193), 90.5 percent from the free throw line and caused mismatches galore at the power forward position for opposing coaches.
This year, though, much more will be expected of Novak. As the most experienced returning frontcourt player, he'll have to improve on last season's average of 4.1 rebounds, become more proficient at creating his own shot inside the 3-point arc and also toughen up defensively.
Most of MU's other returnees up front are unproven but have flashed potential. Chief among them is 6-foot-8-inch, 242-pound sophomore Ryan Amoroso, who was the team's best offensive threat on the blocks until tailing off down the stretch.
Junior center Mike Kinsella is a 7-footer with a soft shooting stroke, but he has yet to find his stride because of foot problems. Sophomore Ousmane Barro is a raw but rangy athlete who can run the floor and wreak havoc with his long arms. Senior Chris Grimm is a solid defender and role player.
Redshirt sophomore Dan Fitzgerald, a transfer from Tulane, will probably play every spot but center at some point this season and could see some big minutes at both forward spots. Incoming junior college transfer Jamil Lott will be given every chance to earn a starting spot next to Novak.
The perimeter is where the influx of new talent will be most evident, as Crean begins the process of switching over to a three-guard offense. Three incoming freshmen -- Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews -- all figure to play extensively, with senior Joe Chapman and Fitzgerald adding some experience and versatility.
James is a dynamic athlete who will be handed the keys to MU's offense from Day 1. His ability to break down defenses, get into the lane and dish it out to Novak, Fitzgerald and others on the perimeter will be crucial. McNeal projects to play on the wing, where he should become a factor defensively.
Fitzgerald could very well wind up as the team's backup point guard based on how well he performed last year in practices. At 6-9 he could be an effective weapon against opposing teams' backups. Matthews, Wisconsin's Mr. Basketball as a high school senior, might also get a look at the point. Chapman improved by leaps and bounds last year, proving he can hit the three on a consistent basis and also play the point in a pinch.
Six newcomers to Division I and no post presence to speak of will make the Big East a meatgrinder for MU, especially in the early going. That being said, the Golden Eagles will be much deeper than the last two seasons, when transfers and injuries left them shorthanded, well behind the curve talent-wise and ultimately in the NIT. Earning one of the final seeds in the 12-team Big East Tournament is a realistic goal for this group.