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5 questions Marquette must address before the 2016-17 season

Michael McLoone/Icon Sportswire

In his second year on the job, Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski did a fantastic job of tuning around the Golden Eagles. They improved from 13-19 in the 2014-’15 season to a more than respectable 20-13 record last season.

The Golden Eagles’ marked improvement coincided with the arrival of stud freshman Henry Ellenson. The Big East Freshman of the Year and All-Big East First Team member was definitely as good as advertised. However, as many anticipated, he lasted just one year and is now collecting a paycheck in the NBA.

Can Marquette overcome the loss of Ellenson and build on the momentum it created last season?

That’s just one of the central questions facing the Golden Eagles, which you will read about here:

5. Ellenson is gone — now what?

Marquette was by no means a one-man team last year, but Ellenson’s impact was immense, and his production (17 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game) will be hard to replace.

That said, he and brother Wally (a reserve) are the only two players departing the program. Wojciechowski has a wealth of talent ready to step up. Haanif Cheatham, Luke Fischer, Duane Wilson and Jajuan Johnson are a good core to rally around.

Add stud freshman guard Markus Howard—who we’ll talk about soon enough—and Wojciechowski has some strong weapons to work with. As opposed to last season, expect the Golden Eagles to be more balanced this year.

4. What should we expect from transfers Katin Reinhardt and Andrew Rowsey?

Shooting. Lots and lots of shooting.

USC transfer Katin Reinhardt and UNC Asheville transfer Andrew Rowsey are noted for their range. Suffice to say, neither one is afraid to pull the trigger beyond the arc.

Last season, the well-traveled Reinhardt shot 37.3 percent from three-point range with the Trojans while attempting 4.7 three pointers per game (down from 5.1 attempts per game in 2014-’15). Meanwhile, Rowsey, in his last season in Asheville, shot 38.2 percent from three-point range on a whopping 8.6 attempts per game.

If Wojciechowski give these guys the green light, watch out. In any event they will provide Marquette two great zone-busters off the bench.

3. How will Wojo use Markus Howard?

As though Wojciechowski needed another lead guard, he got one anyway—and a great one at that—when Howard, a four-star recruit, reclassified to the 2016 class and decided to become a Golden Eagle.

While Wojciechowski didn’t need Howard per se, he will make great use of the scintillating point guard. Athletic and quick, Howard loves to get others involved and is a lighting rod with the ball in his hands.

You can’t deny the talent he has, and Wojciechowski won’t limit him in the least. Expect Howard to flourish in multiple-guard sets.

2. Is too much being expected of Haanif Cheatham?

While Ellenson was the freshman everyone talked about, the Golden Eagles had another frosh that made an indelible impression last season.

Cheatham, a smooth 6-5 wing, was also named to the Big East All-Freshman Team after averaging 11.8 points and 2.2 assists per game. Cheatham is adept at attacking the rim, as well showing off a sweet stroke from the perimeter. He should be Wojciechowski’s new go-to scorer; look for him to answer the bell.

While he won’t have the same profound impact on Marquette’s offense that Ellenson did, Cheatham is a damn good player in his own right.

1. Can Luke Fischer carry the load by himself in the frontcourt?

To say Marquette is thin up front is an understatement.

Aside from Fischer, the only big man on Marquette’s roster is sophomore center Matt Heldt—and he received just 5.1 minutes per game last year. Perhaps four-star freshman forward Sam Hauser can play some power forward, but he is probably better suited to play the three-spot.

That basically leaves Fischer carrying the load.

Even though he played in the shadow of Ellenson, Fischer is as reliable a big man as there is in the Big East. He is coming off a junior season in which he averaged 12.1 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting a solid 60.8 percent from the field.

Fischer will get his, but regardless, the team will be defined by its guard play.

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