The Marquette Golden Eagles have defied pundits this season, clinching a share of the Big East Championship with two games to go despite being picked ninth in the preseason Big East coaches poll. There are many reasons for Marquette defying expectations. One of those reasons is how well the Golden Eagles’ backcourt complements each other. The skill sets of the Marquette guards just feed off each other so well.
It begins with Tyler Kolek. He is the engine for the Golden Eagles. Kolek has been talked about a great deal and has earned it. The point guard averages nearly 8 assists per game and this year he has found his shooting stroke making him a very difficult cover.
Tyler Kolek helped lead Marquette to the Big East title last night.
🔥 21 PTS
🔥 10 AST
🔥 1 STL@MarquetteMBB pic.twitter.com/qFkzKBK3D9
— SLAM University (@slam_university) March 1, 2023
Kolek looks like a completely different player offensively from last year. A season ago, he shot 32% from the floor, including just 28.1% from 3. He averaged just 6.9 points per game to go with 5.9 assists per game. This year, Kolek is averaging 12.7 points per game to go with 7.9 assists per game, which ranks second in the country. He is shooting nearly 49% from the floor and over 39% from 3. It’s been a complete turnaround this year, adding scoring punch with his dynamic playmaking ability and that is why Marquette has the 4h best offense in the country.
Jones is the bucket-getter for Marquette. He is a microwave, heating up quick and hitting the opposition with a scoring avalanche at times. Jones has a unique skillet with his ability to knock down the 3 but also is crafty and able to finish around the hoop in a variety of ways. quickly
The Memphis, Tennessee native is averaging 15.3 points per game on shooting 47.1% from the field and 36.7% from 3. Jones is a high-volume scorer but can get good looks at the basket consistently due to the passing ability of not only Kolek but big man Oso Ighodaro. With Kolek’s unselfishness and Jones’ scoring ability, they are a nice match in the backcourt.
Kam Jones with the FINISH! #MUBB | #WeAreMarquette pic.twitter.com/iznXlx12xD
— Marquette Basketball (@MarquetteMBB) March 9, 2023
Then there’s the consummate “glue guy” Stevie Mitchell. Mitchell is not a big-time scorer but is certainly capable offensively. The guard isn’t on the court for points. Mitchell does everything else. He is a great defender who plays hard whether he gets 5 shots or 15 shots. Every team needs a guy like Mitchell on their team. He’s in the right place at the right time, cuts and hustles, and plays hard no matter what. For Marquette, a guy like Mitchell is a perfect fit around the dynamic scorer in Jones and floor general Kolek.
At most places, the Glue Guy is appreciated.
At Marquette, Stevie Mitchell is celebrated.
“This team would be nowhere near where it is if it wasn’t for Stevie.”@SethDavisHoops reveals his 2023 All-Glue Team: https://t.co/tWLMigf7EA pic.twitter.com/9KFUzYZjxV
— The Athletic CBB (@TheAthleticCBB) March 6, 2023
Mitchell is a threat offensively, though. He averages 7.2 points per game on 47.1% shooting which tells you how well he plays off and cuts to open spots to be hit with pinpoint passes from Kolek and Ighodaro.
Now, it’s not just about offense. Mitchell is regarded as a good defender, averaging 1.7 steals per game and his added strength doesn’t allow him to be backed down. However, Kolek and Jones are not really regarded as defensive standouts. But both are willing defenders and have very good anticipation, particularly Kolek. Also, Shaka Smart’s culture of how important energy and deflections are, helps everyone really take pride in defense. Despite not being considered defensive stalwarts, both Jones and Kolek also average 1.4 steals per game or more, and Kolek in fact leads Marquette in steals and averages 1.8 per game.
Two Big East players had more steals than fouls:
1. Tyler Kolek (42 steals led the BE; 39 fouls)
2. Kam Jones (29 steals; 25 fouls)#mubb
— Mark Strotman (@markstrot) March 6, 2023
The guard trio plays off each other perfectly
There are several reasons why the Golden Eagles are Big East Champions. One of those reasons is roster construction and the vision of Shaka Smart with the skillsets of his roster, including the backcourt. Kolek, Jones, and Mitchell play off each other so well and as a collective group, do everything you want on the court. Jones is an electric scorer. Kolek does a bit of everything with phenomenal court vision and passing ability. Mitchell does all the little things and defends his tail off. Marquette isn’t the most talented team, but you can see they play for each other and they play cohesive basketball as well as any team in the country.
*Stats listed were prior to the Big East Tournament