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Better Know A Gavitt Tipoff Games Opponent: Northwestern

This week, we look at what the TV producers might consider to be the most intriguing game to arrange.

This is Willie Wildcat, and definitely not Sprocket from Fraggle Rock.
This is Willie Wildcat, and definitely not Sprocket from Fraggle Rock.
Andy Lyons

Marquette has a varying history with the members of the Big Ten.  They have a long running series with Wisconsin, of course, and there are a few other schools that MU has squared off with over the years.  With the announcement of the Gavitt Tipoff Games and at least six games against Big Ten opponents, we're going to check in on Marquette's history against each of the 13 teams and see what could make for the most interesting match ups.

For lack of any particular order of importance, we'll go in order of how many times Marquette has seen each particular opponent. This week, we turn our attention to the team that's currently coached by a former co-worker of Marquette's current coach.


All Time Series: Northwestern leads, 15-14

Last Meeting: December 3, 1994

When Northwestern and Marquette last played, their current head coaches, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski, were both enrolled at Duke University.  It's been *that* long.

As is the case with most of Marquette's series with Big Ten teams, this series has its weight in the early years of the 20th century.  The two teams made the trips back and forth between Evanston and Milwaukee 15 times in the 1930s and 1940s after starting things off back in 1921 and renewing the run in 1927.  After two games in 1950 - one in February and one in December - the series lay fallow for more than a decade and a half until both squads were invited to the 1967 Rainbow Classic in Hawaii.  Al McGuire must have liked something about the Wildcats, as he would make Northwestern a mostly regular December feature on the Marquette schedule.  McGuire's Warriors played Northwestern a total of five times, with MU coming out ahead every time and turning around MU's record against the Wildcats in the process.

Before that 1967 game in Hawaii, Northwestern held a 14-5 all time advantage over Marquette.  As you can see from that record at the top of the page, things have turned around since then.  Marquette was won two straight against Northwestern, and nine of the last 10 encounters.  Of course, it's worth noting that Northwestern had only four winning seasons between 1967-68 and 1994-95, and only six more since then.

So if Marquette has held an advantage in the series for the last 50 years and Northwestern isn't known as a basketball power, why would this game be interesting for TV producers?  As I mentioned earlier, Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski played together at Duke and then from 2000 through 2013, they were both assistant coaches at Duke.  It's the first head coaching position at any level for both men, and with the combination of former teammates and co-workers and the coaching tree of Mike Krzyzewski involved in the mix, you can see how TV guys would be tripping over themselves to try and get Marquette and Northwestern on the same court.

Speaking of courts, if you were dreading Marquette playing Northwestern because of the atrocious court in Evanston that appears to be half painted, worry no longer!  As covered by our friends over at Inside NU, Northwestern is debuting a new court this year that if nothing else, appears to actually have been finished properly.

Usually I try to hold off discussion of the coach of the team in question until this section of the discussion, but it was impossible to talk about Northwestern and Marquette without bringing up Chris Collins.  The longtime Duke assistant went 14-19 in his first season in charge of the Wildcats, which is technically better than the 13-19 that got Bill Carmody fired the year before.  Essentially what it means is that Collins managed a win in the Big Ten tournament and Carmody didn't.  While a 14-19 season isn't anything to get anyone excited on the surface, there was a hint of things to come when the Wildcats pulled off two road wins four days by winning at #14 Wisconsin and at Minnesota back on January 29th and February 1st respectively.  Northwestern also pulled an upset of #23 Illinois at home a few weeks earlier, so those Badger and Gopher pelts had the Wildcats sitting at 12-11 overall and 5-5 in Big Ten action.  That had the sparks of attention for Northwestern getting a chance to play their way into their first ever NCAA tournament berth, but they promptly lost their next seven games and that was that.

Welsh-Ryan Arena hosts Northwestern basketball, and if nothing else, it might be more of a challenge for Marquette alums in the Chicago area to invade than the Allstate Arena.  It's smaller than the Allstate at a capacity of 8,117, and the Wildcats averaged 6,719 per game last season, including a sellout for that game against the downstate rival Illini.  For those of you playing along at home: Yes, that is a higher average crowd than DePaul, who averaged 6,363 last season, but play in front of the 18,500 seats at the Allstate.