|Marquette G Todd Mayo is expected to shoulder a bigger load in 2012 after the loss of Golden Eagles' leading scorer Darius Johnson-Odom. (US Presswire)|
Preview: Marquette Golden Eagles
Last year: 27-8 overall, 14-4 Big East (second), lost in the Sweet 16
Coach: Buzz Williams (5th year, 96-45; 6th overall, 110-62)
Projected starters: PG Junior Cadougan, Sr. (6.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 5.4 apg); SG Vander Blue, Jr. (8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.6 apg); SF Todd Mayo, Soph. (7.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.2 apg); PF Jamil Wilson, Jr. (7.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.1 apg); C Davante Gardner, Jr. (9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 0.7 apg).
Top newcomers: G Trent Lockett. The Arizona State transfer averaged 13.0 points per game last season for the Sun Devils and earned Pac-10 Second Team honors in 2010-11. Lockett helps compensate for the loss of leading scorer Darius Johnson-Odom. Jamal Ferguson, the No. 31 rated shooting guard in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com, could provide depth off the bench. Steve Taylor, a 6-7, 200-pound forward, helped lead Simeon High School (Ill.) to three straight state titles. Taylor, the No. 24 rated power forward by Rivals, could be a part of the rotation up front from the outset of the season.
Key losses: Johnson-Odom and F Jae Crowder. The Golden Eagles lose 35.8 ppg and 11.8 rpg with the departure of their top two scorers from 2011-12. That represents 47.7 percent of Marquette's scoring and 33 percent of its rebounding from a season ago. Lockett can be depended upon to replace Johnson-Odom's perimeter scoring, but the Golden Eagles will need to find a way to replicate Crowder's inside presence.
What you need to know: Marquette hasn't skipped a beat since Williams replaced Tom Crean in 2008. Although the Golden Eagles haven't been to the Final Four since Dwyane Wade left school in 2003, Marquette has earned a berth in the NCAA tournament in seven consecutive seasons. In each of Williams' four seasons, Marquette has been .500 or better in the hotly-competitive Big East. It's likely both streaks will continue in 2012-13.
Mark the calendar:
- Nov. 9 vs. Ohio State (Carrier Classic, Charleston S.C.): The matchup against the Buckeyes aboard the USS Yorktown in the Charleston Harbor will provide a unique environment for the season opener. The Buckeyes have two of the top returning upperclassmen in the nation in G Aaron Craft and F Deshaun Thomas.
- Nov. 29 at Florida: The Golden Eagles will have a chance to avenge last season's Sweet 16 defeat to the Gators in the rematch in Gainesville. Florida could be a handful up front with veteran forwards Patric Young and Erik Murphy.
- Mar. 2 vs. Notre Dame: The Golden Eagles open March with a critical showdown against the Irish. It's important for Marquette to receive a first-round bye in the Big East tournament if it hopes to cut down the nets at Madison Square Garden. Only four teams in the conference receives byes. The Golden Eagles and Irish could be competing for the final one.
Biggest question: Can Wilson fill the void created by Crowder? Over the past several years, a host of tweeners -- Crowder, Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler -- have excelled for the Golden Eagles as undersized forwards. If Wilson emerges, it might push Marquette's season into the second week of the NCAA tournament.
Best-case scenario: Lockett blends in with the returning talent and becomes a threat for opposing defenses night in and night out. Wilson and Gardner continue to develop, as the Golden Eagles improve on a -0.1 rebounding margin (12th in the Big East) from last season. Marquette receives a good draw in the tournament and makes it to the Elite Eight.
Worst-case scenario: Marquette is unable to receive consistency from the aforementioned big men and senior center Chris Otule is limited again by injuries. The Golden Eagles face a mid-major with a first-round NBA Draft prospect in the second round of the tournament and are dominated on the boards. Williams' team is upset in their first game of the Big Dance.
Reality: Using balanced scoring, Marquette advances to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season. The Golden Eagles are eliminated in a tight, contentious game in the regional semifinals. Given the losses of Johnson-Odom and Crowder, that would be another step in the right direction for Williams.
Season opens: vs. Ohio State, Nov. 9, 7 p.m. ET
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.