Evaluating the Candidates to Replace Buzz

Marquette basketball is at a pivotal moment after former head coach Buzz Williams left the program to take a seven-year deal to be the head coach at Virginia Tech University. Williams built the program back to national prominence during his six-year tenure, but has left the programs at a crossroads.

The next coach Marquette hires will have to maintain the success Williams brought to the school. Williams made the NCAA Tournament in five of his six seasons and led the Golden Eagles to two Sweet Sixteens and an Elite Eight appearance in three-consecutive years.

Williams' departure can be linked to plenty of reasons, but the fact of the matter is that he leaves a big void in a university filled with instability. Here is a list of the four of the most viable coaching candidates that Marquette could be hiring.

Shaka Smart

Shaka Smart- There might not be a more sought after candidate than Smart, who has turned unknown Virginia Commonwealth into a consistent NCAA Tournament darling. In his first head coaching job, Smart coached the Rams to a record of 137-46 in five seasons. Smart hit the coaching spotlight in the 2011-12 season, when he led his 12th-seeded Rams to the Final Four. Smart has been rumored to numerous jobs over the past few seasons, but Marquette and Wake Forest have both emerged as interested programs. Smart is known for his "havoc" defense and full-court press that Marquette's personnel could buy into and adjust to easily.

Ben Howland

Ben Howland- The former UCLA head coach may be the most prestigious coach available as he led the Bruins to two-consecutive Final Fours in 2006 and 2007. He's coached talented prospects like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love and would be the big name Marquette is looking for. Howland left on bad terms with UCLA after losing control of his team and failing to discipline Reeves Nelson, who was allegedly a bully on the team. Howland also has experience in the (old) Big East, having coached Pittsburgh to the Sweet Sixteen in 2001-02 seasons.

Gregg Marshall

Gregg Marshall- Marshall is coming off of a disappointingly early exit in the third round of the NCAA Tournament after leading Wichita State to 35-straight wins. The Shockers are 65-10 in the past two seasons under Marshall and became a nationally prominent program thanks to a Final Four run last season. Some claim Marshall's success stems from the weak competition in the Missouri Valley Conference, but his stingy, defensive style of coaching will fit in nicely with how Marquette played under Williams.

Steve Masiello

Steve Masiello- A relatively unknown guy on the coaching front, Masiello transformed the Manhattan Jaspers from a 14-win team last season to a 25-win squad that nearly knocked off the defending champions in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. He is only 36-years-old and was a walk-on guard at Kentucky from 1996 to 2000. He could be someone who will make Marquette his permanent home if he succeeds.

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