A quick glance at the Golden Eagles’ starting lineup could raise a few eyebrows. First year coach, Buzz Williams, will start four seniors and one junior. Of those starters senior forward, Dwight Burke, is the tallest at 6’8”. Yes, Marquette will create match-up problems for themselves and opponents.
Seniors, Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews return for the Eagles’ back court. All three averaged double figures for a team that lost by one to Stanford in the second round of last year’s NCAA tourney.
James is kind of an enigma. After averaging 15 points and 5 assists during his freshman campaign the point guard has seen his game and numbers go in the wrong direction. At times last year the Richmond, Indiana native looked unhappy and unmotivated. Don’t be surprised if James excels with Williams moving from assistant to the head coaching position. Maybe the reins will be loosened.
Usually teams that press don’t do well in March, but the Golden Eagles could be an exception to the rule. They have an experienced team, and Williams could incorporate a variety of defenses that keep opponents off-balance.
Junior, Lazar Hayward, should start in the front court. Maurice Acker and David Cubillan, a pair of junior guards, will see plenty of time off the bench.
Along with a rugged Big East schedule (six teams in the AP’s pre-season top 25) Marquette’s non-conference schedule includes match ups with Dayton 11/29, Central Michigan 12/2, Wisconsin 12/6, Tennessee 12/16, and NC State 12/22.
Beware the Hurricanes! Folks in Durham and Chapel Hill – heed my warning!!! Head Coach, Frank Haith, returns for his fifth season with a starting lineup that includes three seniors and two juniors. Miami gave Texas all they could handle in the second round of last year’s Dance. Those players return experienced and ready to go.
Lance Hurdle, Jack McClinton, and James Dews return in the back court. McClinton averaged almost 18 ppg last season including 42.7% from behind the arc and 91.9% from the charity stripe. Dews threw in 10 ppg.
Dwayne Collins and Jimmy Graham will start in the front court. Both measure in at 6’8” and are active on the boards. They combined for eleven boards per game – making it difficult for teams like UNC to establish a rebound and outlet game.
6’7” senior, Brian Asbury, and freshman, DeQuan Jones will be a big part of Haith’s rotation.
Now that the distraction known as O.J. Mayo has moved on to the N.B.A., it will be interesting to see if fourth-year head coach, Tim Floyd, can get the Trojans to play to their abilities. Many are saying the Pac-10 will be down this year. I’ll believe it when I see it. Teams like Washington St. and Washington will not beat themselves.
6’9” junior, Taj Gibson, should benefit the most from Mayo’s departure. At times last year the Trojans looked constipated on offense and Gibson struggled to get into the flow of the game.
Gibson will be joined in the front court by freshman, DeMar DeRozan and sophomore, Kasey Cunningham. But the Trojans have plenty of size on the bench – ‘610” senior, Keith Wilkinson will provide muscle as will 7’ Mamadou Diarra and Leonard Washington.
Juniors, Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis will run the back court. The duo averaged a combined 19 points per game last season.
As long as Billy Donovan stays in Gainesville, the Gators cannot be overlooked. But even Donovan will be taxed this year as his eight-man rotation will include two freshmen and four sophomores. The Gators will make their share of mistakes, but should be able to muddle their way through the SEC schedule.
Walter Hodge is the lone senior in the starting lineup. Last year the 6’ guard averaged 10 points and just under three assists per game.
Sophomores, Nick Calathes, Jai Lucas, and Alex Tyus join Hodge. Donovan has expressed his dissatisfaction from time to time with this group. While they can put numbers on their board – combined for 28 per game – they lacked commitment on the defensive end.
6’8” Dan Werner completes the starting five.
Chandler Parsons, Eloy Vargas, and Kenny Kadji will log plenty of minutes. Donovan is high on Kadji and Vargas – a pair of true freshmen.
Curry averaged almost 26 ppg last year while leading Davidson to the Elite Eight. Despite everyone in the gym knowing who was going to shoot for the Wildcats, Curry dropped buckets at a dizzying pace.
If Bob McKillop’s team is to repeat, they will need contributions from the foot soldiers.
Andrew Lovedale averaged six points and 5 boards per game last year. He’ll be joined in the front court by Stephen Rossiter. William Archambault will provide minutes off the bench.
Max Gosselin and Bryant Barr return to the back court.
6’10” freshman, Frank Ben-Eze, could prove a perfect complement to Curry. As defenses extend the true freshman will need to take advantage of one-on-one coverage in the paint.
Brendan McKillop, the coach’s son, will be a valuable in the Wildcat rotation.