To break down Crowder's game, we've brought in Andrew Fleck from SB Nation's excellent Marquette blog Anonymous Eagle. To give you a taste of how serious they take Big East basketball up there, they're covering the 2013 season in the middle of July.
1) Marquette has put a few unheralded 6'5-6'7 wings into the NBA (Wes Matthews, Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler) recently. How does Crowder compare with them?
When comparing their careers at Marquette, I would say that Matthews and Butler are similar to each other and Hayward and Crowder are similar as well. Matthews and Butler have a more traditional wing type of talent, whereas Hayward and Crowder played out of position defending the post for their entire time at Marquette. Crowder had the most prolific career of the group, both from a team perspective (two Sweet 16s, more than the other three combined) and a statistic perspective (only player in Marquette history to record 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in just two seasons).
2) Crowder seems like the classic tweener at 6'6 240. What do you think his best role would be in the NBA?
To start off his career, I think Crowder will be best used as an energy/change of pace guy off the bench. He'll be able to cause matchup problems by defending guys bigger than him which he did on a regular basis at Marquette, and then turning around on the offensive end and being able to hit shots from behind the arc as well as near the rim. He never shies away from contact, and he seems to always know where the ball is going ahead of time, leading to a perfectly timed block or deflection for a steal.
3) Is he going to have an easier time guarding taller guys on the interior or playing guys his size on the perimeter?
Shortly after the season, Crowder told the Marquette student newspaper hoops blog, PaintTouches.com, that he was planning on cutting down to 225 to be more of a wing player. But he weighed in at 240 at both the NJ combine event and the official NBA combine. I suspect that he received feedback from NBA teams that they liked his ability to guard bigger guys and elected to keep the weight on.
He's strong enough to not get shoved around by bigger guys and his quickness and agility allows for him to stay with his man. Part of the reason that Crowder nearly broke MU's single season steals record is because it seemed that at least once a game, he'd poke a ball out of his man's hands in the post.
Can he keep that up in the NBA? It's hard to say. But I do think he'll have an easier time defending bigger back to the basket type of players than he will slashing wings.
4) You don't see many guys Crowder's build with a good outside stroke. Is that something he has always had or developed at Marquette?
The reputation on Crowder when he came in to Marquette was that he was going to be able to step right in and fit into the hole left behind by Lazar Hayward's graduation: stout post defense and the ability to shoot from behind the arc. He became a master of what we refer to at Anonymous Eagle as The Patented Lazar Hayward Trailer Three Pointer. In fact, Crowder ended up being so proficient at shooting threes from the top of the key that he ended up earning the nickname "Straight Away Jae."
5) SMU made a big splash with the hiring of Larry Brown before they join the Big East. From your perspective, how do you think Brown can do and how stable is this conference in the midst of all the realignment?
First things first: You'll be hard pressed to find a Marquette fan who wants to see SMU succeed on any level in the Big East after reports that they tried to make a big money play for Buzz Williams. To answer the question, since he left Kansas and went to the NBA, Brown has the reputation of being the kind of coach that get more than expected out of the players that he has.
I would expect that to continue at SMU, but I don't know how valuable that will be to the Mustangs going forward, because I don't think anyone really expects Brown to still be the coach by the time the incoming freshmen graduate. He might provide an excellent base for SMU going forward, but it's going to be up to the next guy to keep that going.
As far as stability goes, with Boise State officially announcing their departure from the Mountain West Conference, it seems like things are about as stable as they're going to get. I think that the newly announced college football playoff system will end up stabilizing conference realignment. I think it's inevitable that it expands to an eight team playoff, and the money generated by those games will result in a decreased emphasis on being in the biggest money generating conference, as the most important thing becomes getting into the playoffs to earn your school as much money as possible.