How do we feel about the lone season in Milwaukee for the grad transfer from Maryland?
With the 2021-22 season long since in the books, let’s take a few moments to look back at the performance of each member of YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles this year. While we’re at it, we’ll also take a look back at our player previews and see how our preseason prognostications stack up with how things actually played out. We’ll run through the roster in order of total minutes played going from lowest to highest, and today we move along to the grad transfer with the biggest impact on the MU roster this past season……
Graduate Student – #32 – Guard – 6’5” – 205 pounds – Baltimore, Maryland
** — notes a top 500 national ranking per KenPom.com
WHAT WE SAID:
I think that question can be answered by the fact that Morsell was Just A Guy at Maryland. You could probably move him up to Dude on the Guy/Dude/MFer rating system given that he was a starter in the Big Ten, but there’s nothing about Darryl Morsell’s statistical profile that screams “mega-watt standout star.” I’m not 100% tied in to what’s going on with the Terrapins, but if they’re sitting at #18 in the preseason KenPom ratings and #21 in the preseason AP poll…. then I’m guessing that Mark Turgeon was probably expecting to use Morsell exactly the way he has in the past.
At Marquette, Morsell gets the opportunity to be The Guy or at the very least, The Guy Until The New Guy Fully Blossoms. In terms of Division 1 college basketball experience, Darryl Morsell is the most experienced player on the MU roster this season. Everyone on the team, even Greg Elliott, the longest tenured Golden Eagle, could learn at least a thing or two (or in the case of the freshmen, three or four) from Morsell along the way this season. Not only is he going to be the guiding light and voice for this team from a morale perspective, but with no one else established as The Guy right now, this is a perfect opportunity for Morsell to shine a bit brighter than he has in the past.
There’s a reason why (or maybe several reasons why) Morsell is projected by T-Rank as carrying the heaviest minutes load this season as well as leading the team in scoring (13.7) and in assists (2.9). He’s the guy on the team who knows best how to get a bucket when the team needs a bucket, and he’s the guy who knows best how to set his teammates up for success. His role is to be the rock that everyone else can lean on…. right up until Justin Lewis is ready to take the Autobot Matrix Of Leadership from him.
Why You Should Get Excited
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Shaka Smart is known for his ability and preference for coaching up the defensive end of the court. Whether it’s discussion of his Havoc defense at VCU, or how he abandoned that at Texas but still developed highly efficient ways of getting stops, or his mentions of how he wants his MU teams to play with a little bit of violence to them on that end of the court, the importance of defense is unmistakable.
And to kick off his first season at Marquette, Shaka Smart gets to make use of the guy voted as the best defensive player in the entire Big Ten last season. And, on top of that, Morsell won that trophy by shutting dudes down, not by layering the stat sheet with gaudy steal numbers.
Marquette fans might actually be aware, at least not necessarily consciously, of exactly what Morsell can do. December 1, 2019. Marquette had reached the championship game of the Orlando Invitation behind back-to-back 40 point games from Markus Howard, including a 51-spot against USC. 11-for-23 inside the arc, 14-for-27 outside of it, 27-for-32 at the charity stripe in two games. In the championship game? #5 Maryland and Darryl Morsell’s defensive abilities. Howard? 1-for-12, six points, four turnovers, Marquette loses by 21.
And now that guy plays for Marquette.
Over the past few seasons, we’ve said, while assessing potential matchups, “oh, well, [so-and-so] is Marquette’s best backcourt/wing defender, so they’ll get the assignment of stopping [insert guard/wing threat here]. That has been, under the previous administration, a discussion of “best possible option” more than anything else.
Not now. Not with Morsell. Not with this coach.
Darryl Morsell is going to make lives miserable across the Big East this season. It’s going to be GREAT.
Darryl Morsell can’t shoot.
Year-by-year three-point shooting percentages: 12%, 29%, 33%, 26%.
Year-by-year effective field goal percentages: 43%, 50%, 47%, 51%.
He had to shoot 58% on two-pointers last year in league play (9th best in the Big Ten) to balance out his 9-for-37 three-point shooting (24%) to get his effective field goal percentage up to 20th best in the league at 52.4%.
Here’s the thing: Darryl Morsell was never asked to shoot at Maryland. Career average of 7.3 attempts per game, always between 7.0 and 7.5. As a result, the fact that he couldn’t never really mattered all that much.
But now he’s going to be asked to score. Because someone on this team has to score, and he’s not here just because he really likes current MU assistant and former Maryland assistant DeAndre Haynes a whole lot. Marquette is in a lot of trouble if those shooting percentages stay where they have been but the attempts start going up towards 10 or 12 or more per game. If Morsell figures it out, if he manages recapture his touch from Big Ten play in 2019-20 when he shot 36% from long range….. well, then it’s fine.
If he doesn’t? If he can’t? Well, MU still needs that 30 minutes a night of defensive play, so he’s gonna have to keep playing anyway. Can a desire to go out on a high note as a team outweigh a desire to go out on a high note on a personal level? That might be the big question for Morsell this season.
There is nowhere else better to start our discussion about how this season went for Darryl Morsell at Marquette than what we thought would be the biggest worry for his campaign. After three years at Maryland where the Baltimore native was a subpar three-point shooter at best and one were he was merely an acceptable shooter from beyond the arc, Morsell wrapped up his collegiate career with a better than was expected 34.7% from long range.
Even better than that, Morsell cooled down to only 34.7% for the entire 31 game season. He shot that breakeven 33.3% in Big East play, and a kind of not actually good 2-for-8 in MU’s final two games of the season. Up through MU’s non-conference finale against UCLA, Morsell shot a whopping 38.3% from three-point land.
In fact, the only shooting complaint we can really lodge against Morsell is that he didn’t quite match his career best effective field goal percentage of 51.1%, set in his final year at Maryland. He was only at 51.0%, and that means because he was doing so well at shooting threes, his two point shooting actually took a pretty big drop from the year before. Still, it’s hard to argue about a guy shooting 50.5% inside the arc, especially when Marquette was depending on him to get to the rim and score over and over again all season long. Quite literally, 2021-22 had Morsell’s most field goal attempts of his collegiate career as he let a shot go 334 times after never breaking past 242 in any of his four seasons as a Terrapin.
The best part of this? It’s exactly what Marquette needed from him and there was no proof that it was actually going to happen. His shooting numbers from Maryland speak for themselves, so rewind your brain back to late October. Look at this roster again. There are absolutely zero proven quantities on the team in terms of “we can give this guy the ball and he can get us a bucket when we need it.” Absolutely none. We believed that Justin Lewis could be that guy, but there’s nothing about his freshman year that said it would actually happen. The door was flung wide open by head coach Shaka Smart for Morsell to be this guy for Marquette, and Morsell stepped confidently through it and said “I got you, Coach.”
Yes, we said back last fall that Morsell doing this should be the Reasonable Expectation for him….. but that’s because this was clearly the plan for Smart’s first season in Milwaukee. There was no guarantee that it was actually going to work. More to the point, there was even less of a guarantee that it was actually going to work to the tune of getting the Golden Eagles to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2019. But it did. Credit where credit is due, both to Smart for seeing the potential in Morsell and to Morsell for actualizing it on the court every night.
Morsell did all this while still being an effective defender. Heck, you can argue he was a more effective than ever defender. His 2.2% steal rate was a career best, bouncing up from the 1.8% he had the year before at Maryland. His fouls called per 40 minutes tied a career high, but you can easily argue that has more to do with Shaka Smart demanding a more vicious style of defense than Mark Turgeon ever did in College Park. Morsell’s defensive win shares (1.2) was right in line with his numbers at Maryland, so I think we can easily see that he was doing exactly what Marquette needed and wanted on that end of the court as well.
The biggest impact from Morsell might not even have been on the 2021-22 season. It’s going to be a wait and see thing, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the young guys on the roster have a much better idea of what they need to do to succeed in the Big East going forward because of the leadership that Morsell provided the team. Look at Stevie Mitchell turning himself into a defensive hustle machine as the season went along as an example. That’s step #1, step #2 is Mitchell carrying it forward next year and getting better, and step #3 is Mitchell explaining the deal to the Chase Rosses and Sean Joneses of the world. If Smart’s tenure as MU head coach is successful in terms of being a defensive powerhouse year after year after year, we may just be able to look back and say “This is because of Darryl Morsell, y’know.”
Before we really dive into this, can I point out that Morsell was named KenPom.com Game MVP of Marquette’s first four games of the season, and did it with four straight 20 point performances? How’s that for setting a tone for the rest of the team for the rest of the season?
His season high for points this year was 26, and you can make a case for both of those. Game #2, Marquette beats New Hampshire 75-70, and you can see how MU needed every single one of his 26 points there. He also had three rebounds, five assists, and a steal. The other one was the home game against Seton Hall, the fourth of MU’s seven straight wins in Big East play. Other than going 8-for-12 from the field, Morsell also added five rebounds, three assists, and two steals in the 73-72 victory. Big time performance in a big time spot in a close game.
I think there’s an argument for his outing at home against Butler, too. MU wins 64-56, in a game they really needed, and Morsell added 16 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. You could probably make a case for the game immediately previous to that, the 83-82 loss at Creighton. 23 points on 11-for-18 shooting, including 10-for-15 inside the arc, two rebounds, two assists, two steals. I think we have to rule that one out though, because yikes, five turnovers, including one that effectively lost the game for the Golden Eagles in the closing moments.
I think I’m going with the Butler game. That was a “we can not lose this one” game, given that MU had lost four of the previous six, including a very not okay 85-79 loss in Indianapolis to the Bulldogs just 14 days earlier.
I don’t think this rises allll the way to a perfect score. If you really sit and study it, there’s juuuuust enough flaws to the season, both from Morsell personally and to how the season ended in general for the whole team, to justify giving this campaign full marks.
But you know what? It was exactly what the doctor ordered for Year One of the Shaka Smart Era from this guy in particular. I’m giving Darryl Morsell a 9 for his lone year as a Golden Eagle and tipping my cap to him for everything that he did to help the team and the program.