Things don’t get easier for Marquette, which faces Arizona State to begin trip

MILWAUKEE — Just four games in, Marquette has
already reached what may be a turning point in its season. There’s certainly no
reason to panic just yet, but it’s concerning when Buzz Williams rants about
how there’s a disconnect within the program in November.

How will the Golden Eagles respond to what essentially was a
calling out of everyone involved with the program? Only time will tell, but Marquette
will have to figure things out quickly with its next five games played away
from the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Marquette begins its West Coast swing with a game at Arizona
State on Monday. The Sun Devils, who will likely be 5-0 and ranked in the Top
25 by next week, will provide the Golden Eagles with a stiff test.

After two down seasons, ASU returned to the postseason last
year and won an NIT game before falling to Baylor. Behind star sophomore point
guard Jahii Carson, the Sun Devils have their eyes set on making the NCAA
tournament for the first time since James Harden donned the maroon and
gold. 

“I think they are an NCAA tournament team,”
Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. “I think Jahii Carson is an
early-entry draft pick as a sophomore. Coach (Herb) Sendek is one of the more
intelligent people that has ever been employed as a coach.

“Going into what could have been a pivotal year, he was
willing to completely change how they play on both ends of the floor. They are
dramatically different than they have been.”

The Sun Devils have other talented pieces, but they will
only go as far as Carson takes him. A lighting quick guard who has already said
this year will be his last in college, Carson is averaging 24.0 points and 5.5
assists per game.

Carson turned down scholarship offers from bigger programs
in order to be the difference in turning ASU’s program around. After sitting
out his first year on campus as an academic non-qualifier, Carson has done just
that.

His 18.5 points per game average last season was second-most
in school history and seventh-most in Pac-12 history. The first-team All-Pac-12
selection and co-Pac-12 Freshman of the Year will challenge Marquette’s
struggling backcourt.

“Jahii Carson is arguably one of the top three point
guards in the country,” Williams said. “Really good things happen off
his hand.”

Though ASU lost Carrick Felix to the draft and Evan Gordon
to Indiana, Carson has received quite a bit of help from Penn State graduate
transfer Jermaine Marshall. The former honorable-mention All-Big Ten selection
has fit in seamlessly, averaging 18.5 points per game.

The Sun Devils’ two high-scoring guards are going to put
pressure on Derrick Wilson, Jake Thomas, Todd Mayo or whoever Williams decides
to give minutes to at both guard spots.

The duo combined for 60 of ASU’s 86 points in an impressive
road win over UNLV on Tuesday, as Carson went for a career-high 40 points
against the Rebels.

“They play small, with four perimeter guys,”
Williams said. “Some of them look like they can guard a bigger guy, but
they are four guards with a really skilled five man. They play really fast and
they will put us under stress real fast, real quick.”

Sendek has played zone defense religiously for the majority
of his career but recently shifted to man-to-man. Despite the change, Williams
expects ASU and most teams to play zone against the Golden Eagles until they
prove they can shoot.

Marquette is currently 260th in the country in points per
game at 67.5, and that includes a win over Grambling in which it scored 114
points. The Golden Eagles have got just 14.4 percent of their points on
3-pointers, 328th in the nation.

Both of those numbers are directly caused by Marquette’s
extremely poor shooting percentage numbers. The Golden Eagles are 305th in the
nation in field-goal percentage at 38.1 percent, 326th in effective field-goal
percentage at 41.0 percent and 346th out of 351 Division I teams in 3-point
percentage at 18.3 percent.

“If your opponent doesn’t make any shots it makes more
and more sense to keep playing zone,” Williams said. “In the same
matter, whether we (see) man or zone, I think it’s important we get the ball
reversed. I think it’s important we get the zone to shift.

“The way you can get the zone to shift is to get a
paint touch. You want to play in the high post and the short corner as much you
can. You want your shots, if they are not coming off penetration, that someway
the ball went from one side to the other quickly to allow you to take an uncontested
shots.”

The Golden Eagles could see the Sun Devils twice in the same
week, as both teams will travel from Arizona to California for the Wooden
Legacy tournament  that begins Thursday.

Marquette opens up the tournament with a Thanksgiving day
game against Cal State Fullerton. On opposite ends of the bracket, Marquette
would only face ASU or Big East foe Creighton in its final game in California
on Dec. 1. 

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