The name of the game in the modern NBA is shooting. And few people in college basketball shoot the ball better than Marquette’s Markus Howard. Looking at Howard’s game log feels like you’re reading the stats of a video game character – Howard shoots early and often, averaging 27.8 points per game this past season. It was a career high and his third consecutive year averaging over 20, and the Marquette star graduated as the all-time Big East scoring leader, ending his career on a string of five consecutive 30 point games. Howard drew some criticism due to his role with Marquette, which often involved him taking high volumes of shots. When he was hot, Marquette could hang with anybody, but if he was cold, the Golden Eagles frequently struggled.
Everyone knew Howard could shoot coming into the year, but he wasted no time in reminding viewers, dropping 40 and 51 points in two games at the Orlando Invitational, leading Marquette to a 3-0 record at the tournament. Howard displayed his ability to grind out wins when his shot wasn’t on in an early conference victory against #10 Villanova; despite shooting just 3-12 from beyond the arc, Howard dropped 29 points, closing out a 71-60 victory on the strength of a 12-12 effort from the free throw line. In a pivotal road game at Georgetown, Howard torched the Hoyas for 42 points in an 84-80 triumph.
Wherever Howard ends up playing at the next level, he won’t have to be the go-to guy anymore, which may allow him to utilize his spectacular, if sometimes streaky, deep shooting to his advantage. As 35-foot three-pointers become almost commonplace in the NBA, Howard’s ability to pull up from virtually anywhere on the court will be a great asset for whoever secures his services. Howard shot 42% from three, and it feels like he could be a valuable sparkplug off the bench early in his career, with the potential to develop into a starter if his shot becomes a little more consistent, and his play a little more efficient.
Prediction: Round 2, Pick 57, Los Angeles Clippers
Patrick Beverley is a 31-year old point guard for the Clippers, and he’s a defensive stalwart that could help mentor Howard on that side of the floor. Meanwhile, Howard has an NBA-ready shot, and he could fill minutes for Los Angeles as they implement their load management tactics with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
Each of our podcast personalities are picking a college basketball All-Star starting lineup. This season has been known for its chaos and lack of one true standout star, which makes this exercise as none of our team’s had more than two of the same players as another lineup. Here is Cal Christoforo’s squad:
Point Guard: Markus Howard – Marquette
- You may want your point guard to be a great game manager, distributing the ball, not turning the ball over, making safe plays to win the games. Kind of like a Ryan Tannehill of college basketball. And that can work, as the Titans proved this year, but I want a Patrick Mahomes running my offense, a guy that can absolutely take the game over and single-handedly lift his team to victory. Howard is the best guard when it comes to this ability, and it’s not close. He averages 27.6 points per game, and when it comes down to clutch time, I want a guy who can make a shot from anywhere on the court.
Guard: Jordan Nwora – Louisville
- Nwora has been a very capable leader of the Louisville offense, and with 7.4 rebounds per game, he’s one of the best rebounding guards in the country. He’ll help clean the glass when Howard misses and making a bevy of his own shots as well – Nwora averages 18 points per game on 44% shooting, and he’s absolutely capable of taking over a game if necessary.
Guard: Anthony Edwards – Georgia
- Don’t overlook this man just because he plays for Georgia. The Bulldogs may not be going dancing this year, but Edwards is definitely one of the best players in the country. He can also rebound very well for a guard – picking 5.4 boards per game, and he offers yet another perimeter scorer to complement Howard. Edwards averages 19.5 points per game playing in a brutal SEC as the best player on a bad team, meaning every single team he plays is gameplanning to stop him. When they have to deal with Nwora and Howard too, Edwards will be free to ball out.
Forward: John Mooney, Notre Dame
- Leading the nation with 23 double-doubles, Mooney has been a force for the Irish all year. He can occasionally shoot it from three, but he rebounds like a maniac and imposes his will in the paint. With Notre Dame running a 4-guard offense very often, Mooney is usually the only man inside the paint, helping facilitate the ball movement, and taking over games when necessary. If I’m looking for players that consistently put up great numbers to take me on a tournament run, I’m definitely taking Mooney.
Center: Vernon Carey, Duke
- Having scored 25+ points five different times and is capable of dominating the boards, having collected up to 17 rebounds in a contest. With Mooney already inside, Carey can focus a little less on rebounding and more on attacking the rim and getting easy buckets in the paint whenever the 3s aren’t falling.
Coach: Bruce Pearl – Auburn
- You love to see a coach get fired up, and that’s exactly what Bruce Pearl does, consistently getting his guys going for big games, delivering passionate pregame speeches and getting hyped up after a huge win. Pearl has also turned a team that was under .500 for five straight years before he started his tenure into a Final Four team by his fifth season. He’s also on pace to lead the Tigers to their third straight tournament appearance, the first time they’ve done that since 1984-1988. Best coach in the nation. Period.
Each of our podcast personalities discussed an all-star starting five in our most recent podcast, and so now, we’re publishing each of their respective teams. With no clear best player and a wide range of talent available, picking one starting lineup is a tough task. However, here is Nathaniel Lapoint’s best shot.
Point Guard: Payton Pritchard – Oregon
- When it comes to the point guard position, there is nobody in the country better at running an offense than Pritchard. He has the clutch gene, seen in his recent 38-point performance against Arizona, he can both score and distribute the ball efficiently, averaging 5.5 assists and 20.1 points per game on 46% shooting, one of the highest shooting percentages by a guard in the country. No doubt that Pritchard is quarterbacking the offense here.
Guard: Devon Dotson – Kansas
- The Jayhawks are the best team in the country, and Dotson makes this squad go. All due respect to Udoka Azubuike in the paint, but the Kansas big man is not nearly as relevant without Dotson drawing so much defensive attention. And even with the attention, Dotson averages 18 points per game on 46.4% shooting, turning the ball over just 2.3 times per game. Pretty good guard to help Pritchard run the show.
Guard: Markus Howard – Marquette
- After securing two of the most efficient shooters in Pritchard and Dotson, the third guard slot belongs to Markus Howard, who leads the nation in three-point shooting. Although he shoots at a slightly more inconsistent clip, just over 41%, Howard launches up such a volume of 3-pointers that he is averaging over 27 points per game. His large quantity of shots and points, combined with the efficient play of Dotson and Pritchard create a dynamic scoring trio around the arc.
Forward: Vernon Carey – Duke
- One of several Duke stars, Carey puts up a solid 17.6 points per game and grabs just under nine rebounds. He shoots at a 58% clip, mostly from inside the paint, and he provides a powerful scoring option inside, if my trio of guards are struggling to get open looks.
Center: Luka Garza – Iowa
- Garza was a pretty easy pick to be my center. He’s one of the hottest players in the country right now, scoring 20+ points in all but two games of 2020. The Hawkeyes lean on their big man, who draws a ton of attention and still drops almost 24 points a game while cleaning the glass to the tune of 9.6 rebounds per game. Shooting at 55% and averaging 1.8 turnovers per game, the lowest on the team, Garza provides efficient and lethal inside scoring. Teams can’t guard Garza when he’s the best player on his team – try guarding him when he’s got three of the best guards in the country handling the ball.
Coach: Brian Dutcher – San Diego State
Dutcher deserves loads of credit for what he has done in San Diego. He’s taken the Aztecs from a middling Mountain West squad to potential #1 seed in the NCAA tournament, having just made the dance just once in the past four years. San Diego State wasn’t even projected to win the Mountain West Conference before the season, yet they’ve compiled a 27-1 record and a top-5 ranking. Lots of respect for the players out there, but without Dutcher at the helm, I don’t think this team is close to where it’s at.
When you are your team’s go-to player, you have the chance to put your team on your back, or to shoot your team’s way out of the building. In our recent podcast, Nathaniel Lapoint discussed Marquette’s Marcus Howard, and his ability to do exactly this for the Golden Eagles. “I was at the Marquette-Murray State game, and quite frankly, I watched Marcus Howard shoot Marquette out of the tournament” Lapoint commented. That was more or less true as, despite posting 26 points, Howard fired up 27 shots – the rest of the starting lineup shot 30 times combined. He lofted 14 three-pointers, which was two more than the rest of the starters combined. His mass volume of shooting outweighed his 26 points, as a 33% effort from the field was not enough to overcome Murray State, and the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles crashed out of the tournament in the Round of 64.
This season, Howard has remained Marquette’s stud, averaging a career-high 27.8 points per game, shooting 40% from three and 42% from the field. He has a whopping 10 games with at least 30 points, and three with 40+. There is no question that Marquette lives and dies by Markus Howard, which gives him the potential to takeover March Madness, if he can lift Marquette back into the tournament. He’s a high-risk, high-reward player, and if he gets hot at the right time, he could send the Blue Jays on a run in the tournament.
Howard is undoubtedly the key to Marquette’s success – the Golden Eagles are 9-1 when he scores at least 30 points – and his high volume and shooting ability earns him a spot in our March Impact Player Profile Series.