Life After Dominic
As we all know, senior point guard Dominic James will miss the remainder of the Marquette season with a broken fifth metatarsal in his foot. The loss comes comes at the worst of times and was a huge blow to any chance the Golden Eagles’ had at winning the Big East, but either way the season must go on and there will be no grace period against poor competition for Marquette go gain new chemistry with whoever is inserted into the starting lineup. I think it is important to see how the James loss is going to affect both players individually and the team as a whole.
The biggest affect this will have on anyone is Maurice Acker. For just the second time in his Marquette career, he will come into the starting lineup and be called upon to log major minutes. He has some experience at the position, starting all 28 games his freshman year at Ball State, but nothing like what he will face to end the year in Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. I thought he did an excellent job distributing the ball against UConn and played pretty solid defense against a red-hot Husky back court. The one huge difference that James gave you that we will not see with Acker is the dribble-drive penetration. While he does not turn the ball over much and finds open shooters, he’s not going to make anything happen off the dribble. I would look for the same type of performance from him (6 points, 5 assists) from here on out. However, another guy that will need to somehow step up his performance once again is Jerel McNeal. In the second half of the Connecticut game, McNeal was on fire in every part of the game and it took all that to still lose by 11. He has averaged 6.6 assists per game his last five games and I look for him to bring the ball up the court on some possessions and get the offense going and, while James averaged only 11 points per game, those need to be made up somewhere and McNeal might have to do the trick. If McNeal is forced to take on that role, Wesley Matthews will need to step up on the offensive end. He has played very well as of late and will need to continue that play in the absence of James. Look for more Matthews shots and higher point totals if MU is going to stay competitive in the next three games. Lazar Hayward’s role and Dwight Burke’s role do not change much going forward except that Hayward will probably take more outside shots and, if Marquette goes with a big lineup that does not include Acker, Hayward will be asked to play the small forward position and more than likely will guard someone faster than him. Coming off the bench, play from Jimmy Butler will increase somewhat. I still look for him to rotate with Burke throughout the game but if a rotation starts with Acker, Butler will be asked to not only play more, but produce more as well. Another guard that will be in the rotation is David Cubillan. Cubillan will come in and, ironically enough, play an Acker-type role. Acker averaged 11.7 minutes before the UConn game (which made it jump to 12.5) and I’d look for Cubillan to get about half of that if Acker is not able to play 33 a game. Pat Hazel may see some minutes if Buzz Williams is REALLY forced to go to his bench in James’ absence.
The night of the UConn game, I was ready to throw in the towel with this team. As can be seen with my Dominic James blog, he was a huge part to this team’s success. But don’t sleep on Maurice Acker or any of the other Golden Eagles. Acker is a junior that has played with this team for two years, including Jerel McNeal since 5th grade. He played in the rotation and got the occasional big minute games, meaning that the team has faith in this guard. His role is drastically changing from defensive stopper to offensive court leader but I have faith that this team can still go far. Don’t forget McNeal, Matthews, and Hayward that have led this team from Day 1. McNeal and Matthews are playing some of their last games as Golden Eagles and I know they won’t let one injury, regardless of how big it was, ruin a whole season of hard work.
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