Even though Marquette is still smarting from its first round beheading in the NCAA tournament, the week since Virginia’s national title victory was nothing but a rolling blue-and-gold wave.
Nearly every prognosticator penciled the Golden Eagles into their 2019-20 preseason top-10, and those ranking were set in stone once Markus Howard announced his return to school last Friday. MU fans were already bookmarking flights to Atlanta for next season’s Final Four and fitting the Fiserv Forum for a Big East championship banner.
But just as quickly as the tides were rising on next year’s potential, they came crashing down just as swiftly with the sudden and shocking news that brothers Sam and Joey Hauser will transfer from the program.
The elder Sam averaged 14.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game last season en route to a second-team All-Big East selection, while Joey – a former top-60 recruit – posted 9.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists. Both hit more than 40 percent of their three-point attempts as well. Marquette’s potent frontcourt play and perimeter shooting went from first-rate to non-existent in one fell swoop.
On the surface, this decision makes no sense. Sam has already burned three seasons of eligibility, so unless he is on-pace to graduate this spring, he will have to sit out one season before playing his final year with his new team. Joey has similar issues; he graduated from high school early after injuring his ankle, and used his first collegiate season to redshirt and rehab with the Marquette trainers. He will still have to sit out a season as a transfer, but it will count towards his four years of eligibility, unless the NCAA grants him one more season because it was deemed a medical redshirt.
Why the Hausers transferred, we don’t know yet. (Virginia is reportedly the early frontrunners for the Stevens Point natives, though Wisconsin is involved as well.) Whether it’s because of a fractured relationship with the coaching staff, playing time concerns, future professional opportunities, fit within the school or something else entirely, it doesn’t really matter as much now (though the details will almost certainly leak over the coming weeks). The big question is: Where does Marquette go from here?
All hope is not lost in 2019-20, especially if Howard keeps true to his Twitter post and stays in Milwaukee for his senior season. Building around an All-American is a good place to start, and the Golden Eagles will still surround him with some intriguing backcourt pieces pieces. Utah State transfer guard Koby McEwen figured to slot in as a key complementary player, but now he will take on a much more featured role. Redshirt senior Sacar Anim, redshirt sophomore Greg Elliott and sophomore Brendan Bailey will have to step up, but the potential to grow is there for all three.
In the Hausers stead down low, bigs Theo John and Ed Morrow will take on a much more prominent scoring role, and junior wing Jamal Cain will need to dust off the potential he showed as a freshman. Expect Marquette to be very active in the transfer market now that it suddenly has two scholarships available as well.
But this season was supposed to be the year. Even amidst all the stops and starts during the Steve Wojciechowski era, fans could always look towards this upcoming campaign, and think, "Damn, we’re gonna be good in 2019-20." That’s gone up in flames now; only disheartening questions remain.
Will Howard average 40 shots per game on this team? Why do so many players leave Wojo? (Seven players have transferred during his five years.) Are any other players thinking about leaving? Can Wojo supplement future rosters with high-level recruits? How hot is Wojo’s seat right now after a disappointing finish to 2018-19 plus a pair of gutting transfers? Can he construct an offense without elite shooters?
Mere days ago, we all knew what the Golden Eagles were going to be: Howard and the Hauser brothers lighting up the Big East with more ball-handling and shot-blocking help around them. But today, those far-flung championship dreams are almost certainly dead and the future of the program is in massive flux. The Hausers transfer decision has shaken the entire college basketball terrain to its core.
When Brian's not writing about sports, he is probably prattling on about Marquette hoops, digging through statistics, or re-binging his favorite television series. Any conversation that begins with a quote from "The Office" or "West Wing" is a surefire way to grab his attention.