After a dominating victory over a D-III team, MU is ready to begin the season this Friday against Prairie View A&M. I'm going to skip the pre-game preview for this and move on to the more important parts of the upcoming season. Before I do, a couple pre-season predictions:
- Jae Crowder will, at some point, be a starter on the team this season. Everything I have read and heard about this kid is nothing but positive, and it seems like he'll have an early impact. He certainly did on Saturday in the exhibition game against SJU with 15 points and 5 boards. Not a bad start to the season. Plus, the fact that he has JUCO experience gives him a leg-up on the other freshmen. Fulce and Otule started on Saturday, but I'm looking for Crowder to replace one of those guys in the next few months.
- Total conference wins for the season will be 10-14. Marquette doesn't have any brutal stretches like in recent years (see 2008), but the one that stands out in my mind is the two-week stretch from late January to mid February, where they have to play Syracuse at home, at Villanova, at South Florida (who plays pretty well against us for some reason), and at Georgetown. I see us losing 3 of those 4 realistically, but we've played G-town and 'Cuse pretty tough recently, so maybe we go 2-2 or 3-1. All in all, if Crowder, Blue, and Cadougan truly step up this year, we'll have a dynamite team. We already know what we have in Jimmy Butler, and DJO and Dwight Buycks have plenty of room to improve on what were solid seasons last year. Having one more shooting threat as well as some much-needed size inside will give MU all the tools it needs for a double-bye in the Big East tourney. If this team doesn't gel though by January, 10 wins is more likely.
Non-Conference Road Ahead
Looking at the schedule from now until New Years, there are clearly 4 games worth noting: Duke in the semis of the CBE, the winner/loser of Gonzaga and K-State depending on what we do against Duke, home to Wisconsin, and at Vanderbilt. What worries me is that MU could potentially lose all of these games as they're against solid opponents, and only one of these games is at the Bradley Center. Ideally I'd like to see us go 2-2 against this field.
I'm predicting we'll lose to Duke in the CBE (sorry, Duke wasn't nearly as good when we beat them in the CBE in 2006) and bounce back to beat Gonzaga. All in all, not a bad start. For the third time in four years, Marquette will take down in-state rival Wisconsin in a close game. I'm really hoping that this is the year Wisconsin finally doesn't surprise everyone, something tells me I'll be wrong since they disprove everybody during the regular season year-in and year-out. Lastly, I don't feel good about going down to Nashville to play Vanderbilt. Vandy has the ability to take us down given that their home court is a tough place to play (they've only lost 6 times at home in the last 3 years) and they can hang with us in a shootout. Luckily their star big man A.J Ogilvy is gone, which gives us a nice break in the paint.
Four days until MU's season tips off. This team has loads of potential and I'm hoping it gets realized very soon.