But with four seniors gone, including a trio of players that finished their college careers in the top ten on MU's all-time leading scoring list, expect Williams to try a few different combinations with his opening group this during the first month of the 2009-10 season. Williams has seven new players on his roster.
"I know two guys, but I think we probably want to start five, Williams joked Wednesday at a news conference. "I don't know who all those guys are going to be."
Here are three things to watch as MU opens Friday night at the Bradley Center vs. Centenary:
#1 Marked Man
Lazar Hayward was able to fly under the radar for two years while playing in the shadow of Jerel McNeal, Dominic James and Wesley Matthews. This season, you can bet that all opposing coaches will be yelling out "Who has 32?"
The lone returning starter from a season ago, Hayward will be the focal point on each scouting report this season. He'll draw double teams and you can bet that some Big East defenders will use UFC-like contact to keep him from getting the ball.
With apologies to Jerel McNeal, you could argue that Hayward was Marquette's most important player last season due of his versatility. He plays both inside and out and causes match-up issues at each end of the floor. Though his scoring is essential to Marquette's success, his ability to steal rebounds from frontcourt players is equally important. Hayward averaged 16.3 points per game and 8.6 rebounds in 2008-09.
#2 Junior Mints?
Despite back-to-back 25 win seasons, Marquette is picked to finish 12th in the Big East by Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. For MU to surprise the national media, Junior College All-Americans Dwight Buycks and Darius Johnson-Odom need to provide additional scoring punch early and often.
Johnson-Odom has been slowed by a foot injury that kept him out of practice much of the first two months. He aggravated the injury Saturday in an exhibition game vs. Milwaukee School of Engineering. When healthy, Johnson-Odom is an outstanding athlete that should provide much-needed offensive punch.
Buycks' quickness and versatility at the guard spot should provide immediate help to seniors Maurice Acker and David Cubillan in the backcourt. The Golden Eagles scored more than 40 points off of turnovers in Saturday's victory and will have to continue to create mistakes that lead to easy baskets. Defensive pressure will help energize Marquette's transition game...and that starts with the guards.
"That's going to be a big part of our game," said Buycks. "We're looking to cause a lot of turnovers...that's a priority."
#3 Post Pattern
After being injured most of last season, 6-10 sophomore center Chris Otule appears much improved. Because MU is again an undersized bunch, Otule will often have an extremely important defensive assignment when the Golden Eagles face interior players with the ability to score.
Both Otule and junior Joe Fulce (who also missed most of last season due to knee surgery) will have to help Hayward and swingman Jimmy Butler out on the boards.
The Golden Eagles missed Fulce's aggressiveness and athleticism in the paint last season.
"He's not afraid," said Williams of Fulce. "He'll go get the ball."
Emmett Prosser is a former sports producer at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online and has covered the Brewers, Bucks and Marquette basketball in many capacities for 13 years.
Prosser also signed a year's worth of 10-day contracts with the Cleveland Cavaliers' media relations department after graduating from Xavier University so he could get three-point shooting tips from NBA great Mark Price. The son of an English teacher and former basketball coach, Prosser attended Marquette high school.
In his spare time, Prosser enjoys live music and fooling people into making them believe he can play the drums. He also serves on the board of directiors for United Cerebral Palsy.