When Marquise Carter signed with Gonzaga last Spring, I envisioned the performances we have seen from him the past two games being something that would occur from day one. However, as Carter and this Gonzaga team struggled throughout the first half of the season, I became increasingly confused why his game didn't seem to transfer to the Division I level. While he isn't a player that will "wow" anyone with remarkable amounts of athleticism, he brings a steadiness and strong court sense to the table which makes him a truly ideal combo guard. Perhaps he was lost as the coaching staff continued to play rotation roulette over the past three months, but as the rotation has settled down, Carter has emerged as the guy that could push this team in the the NCAA Tournament.
Although his stats this season appear underwhelming, it has been the play from Marquise over the past two weeks that has made me so optimistic. Since the loss to Memphis, Carter has played 30+ minutes in all four games and scored in double-figures in three of the games. Most importantly, with Carter on the court, guys like Steven Gray, Demetri Goodson and David Stockton can focus primarily on their role and not do more than they are capable of. Carter has proven to be an excellent distributor of the ball, as he averaging over four assists per game during the recent winning streak. He also has displayed the ability to be a strong defender, which has allowed the coaching staff to use a number of different defensive looks and matchups.
While the evolution of Marquise has been great, a big recipe for his success has been the coaching staff finally deciding on a rotation and sticking with it. Although many of us would love to see more from Mangisto Arop, I will take a steady rotation any day of the week. Finally giving extended playing time to a guy like Sam Dower has opened up the paint for both guards and other forwards. Elias Harris has also started to round into form, which has made the job easier for guys like Goodson, Carter, Gray and Stockton. With defenders being forced to pay more attention to Dower and Harris, opportunities are being presented to the four guys who make up the perimeter rotation. If Carter and Goodson can hit some of the open looks they have been given recently, it opens up the ability to drive into the paint and find Dower, Harris and Sacre for open looks.
Instead of having a team that peaks in November, it appears that this group might be hitting its stride heading in to March. I don't know if this group will ever see some of the lofty potential that I thought was possible in September, but at this point it's nice to see a cohesive group developing and rotation evolving. As long as the eight guys that the coaching staff has decided on can stay healthy and continue to improve, this is a team that can challenge for the WCC Championship. Although I never thought I'd say it after the firs two months of the season, the key for this chemistry and improvement may in face by Marquise Carter.