All Stats in the Stat Box are from the 2013-14 season
UT Martin and Marquette have a bit in common: both feature new coaches, quite a few new players, and both are coming off down years.
“Down,” though, is relative. Marquette’s down year was their first sub-20 win season since 2004-05. UT Martin’s down year was their fifth straight losing season, and third straight sub-10 win season.
But there’s a lot of reason for hope for both that their rise will be quick.
Heath Schroyer has a history of rebuilding programs, doing so previously at Portland State and Wyoming. He comes to Martin with an interesting mix of guys he inherited at UTM, and new guys — one of which he’s already coached. The challenge: putting the numerous pieces (read: 17-player roster) together, in short order.
One of the most encouraging signs is Myles Taylor. A knee-injury at the end of his sophomore year impacted Taylor last year, especially during the first few months. Not only does the knee appear healed, but Taylor looks to be in the best shape of his career: a career that’s seen him already average nearly 15 points and six rebounds. If he can rise back to the level of his sophomore year — or even beyond, he’ll be on the shortlist for best forwards in the league.
The Skyhawks also have legitimate threats in the backcourt in UNLV transfer Deville Smith, and JUCO transfer Alex Anderson. Throw in returnees like Marshawn Newell, who showed real promise last season, and Dee Oldham, and you have a lot of depth for an area the Skyhawks have struggled.
Marquette was a senior-heavy team last year, so new coach Steve Wojciechowski, a long-time Duke assistant, has a bit of an uphill climb. His top returning scorer, Deonte Burton, averaged just 6.9 points a game last year, but was named to the Big East all-rookie team. They have a strong point guard in Derrick Wilson, but he has a reputation for not shooting the ball, making the choice of who to defend a bit easier.
There’s not a lot of size for the Golden Eagles, either. Until the end of the first semester, their tallest player is 6’7 Steve Taylor Jr.
The Vegas line isn’t kind to UT Martin — but this may be a real opportunity for the Skyhawks. Marquette is a program, a name people recognize, but this doesn’t feel like a Marquette team, at least not yet. Schroyer knows that you need time to change the culture of a program, but it could get a real jump start if the Skyhawks pull off a big upset on the road.