Shaka Smart has done wonders for the Marquette Golden Eagles in his first two years in Milwaukee. He immediately turned the program around. Marquette earned the second seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest in program history. They also got out of the first round for the first time in a decade. The team also reached their highest ranking in the AP Poll since 1978, which was the year after they won the National Championship. This was all despite being picked to finish ninth in the preseason Big East coaches poll. All but one significant player from last year’s roster returns, and this team looks poised to contend for a title.
You can check out the previous teams in my rankings here.
Preseason College Basketball Rankings: #6 Marquette Golden Eagles
Tyler Kolek had an incredible year and seemed to keep improving as the season went on. He won Big East Player of the Year, Big East Tournament MVP, and All-Big East First Team honors. Kolek had a whopping 85 more assists than any other Big East player did and also led the conference in steals. He was also second in the conference in points produced. He is the ultimate point guard and could earn All-American honors this season.
Kameron Jones was the Golden Eagles’ leading scorer last season. It made him fourth in the Big East in points scored. He shot 64.3% from inside the arc. On the defensive side of the ball, he was 10th in the Big East in steals. He also had the lowest turnover percentage in the conference. Jones really took a big leap forward in his sophomore season, earning All-Conference honors along the way. Stevie Mitchell also took a step forward as a sophomore and gives the Golden Eagles another option at the guard spot.
Oso Ighodaro took a huge leap as a junior last season. He more than doubled his scoring average, almost doubled his rebounding average, and nearly tripled his assists average. In addition, he had the fifth most blocks among all Big East players. Yet another player who made a leap was David Joplin. He won the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year award, averaging over nine points and three rebounds. He should easily slide right into the starting lineup spot left open by the departure of Olivier-Maxence Prosper, who went to the NBA after blowing away scouts at the draft combine.
There is also an intriguing group of role players returning. New Zealand native Ben Gold showed some promise in the limited action that he received last season. He could have a sizable role this season as their post depth. Guards Chase Ross and Sean Jones, both of whom were also freshmen last season, also provide some depth.
Head coach Smart also brings in two four-star guards. Tre Norman is an athletic and physical guard who has drawn comparisons to Marcus Smart. Zaide Lowery is the other guard. Both were borderline top 100 recruits via 247 Sports. It’s a crowded backcourt, but they could both carve out a role as they present some intriguing depth options.
PF – Oso Ighodaro (11.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 3.3 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.5 BPG)
PF – David Joplin (9.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 0.8 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG)
G – Kameron Jones (15.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.1 BPG)
G – Stevie Mitchell (7.1 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG)
PG – Tyler Kolek (12.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 7.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG)