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 is the penultimate entry to our series, and one with a suddenly interesting subplot.
All Time Series: Minnesota leads, 14-19
Last Meeting: December 7, 2000
By the time the Gavitt Tipoff Games start in November of 2015, it will have been almost 30 years since Marquette defeated Minnesota in a game of basketball. The Gophers have won five straight against MU, but the games were in 1987, 1988, 1998, 1999, and of course, as mentioned above, 2000. That's the downside of a conference affilliation: regular regional rivalries have been nearly permanently disrupted. Marquette and Minnesota played 20 games between 1966 and 1988, and while the series wasn't renewed every single season, that's pretty damn close. But when Marquette joined the Midwest Collegiate Conference in the fall of 1989, 14 games a year had to be turned over to the conference, and thus ended the regular meetings between these two teams.
The Gophers seem to have a knack for being a ranked team when they face Marquette. Eight games in the history of this series have featured a Minnesota team that was nationally ranked at the time. Marquette has only come out of those games with a win on one occasion, back in 1952. That 70-59 win over the #9 Gophers is also the first win against a ranked opponent in program history.
As mentioned earlier, this potential game has gotten a little bit more interesting in the last month. Wally Ellenson elected to transfer from Minnesota to Marquette, at least on some level because head coach Richard Pitino didn't appear to have any interest in using Ellenson. He'll sit out this coming season, and then be eligible for the first two years of the Gavitt Tipoff Games agreement, so it could be a fun time to see Ellenson become a major player for Marquette and lead the Golden Eagles to victory against his former squad. Of course, it also wouldn't hurt if Wally's move to Marquette heralded the intentions of his younger brother and top 2015 recruit Henry Ellenson to attend Marquette, giving the MU lineup just that extra little punch towards a win over the Gophers.
As mentioned, Richard Pitino is the head coach of the Gophers, and he recently finished his first season at the helm. He took over after Tubby Smith was fired after making the NCAA tournament for the third time in his six seasons running the show. That's how the cookie crumbles sometimes. The Gophers finished 25-13 in Pitino's first season, four more wins than in Smith's last season, but the same number of losses. They also went 8-10 in Big Ten action, the same as the year before, and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Minnesota did, however, take advantage of three home games in the NIT to get to the semifinals in Madison Square Garden, and after eking out a overtime win over Florida State, brought home the NIT championship with a 65-63 win over SMU. The Gophers only had two seniors contributing quality minutes to that team, so I think it's safe to expect to see this program get better over the next few seasons.
Minnesota plays their home games in Williams Arena, which is most notable for its elevated floor, just like you've seen at the Final Four for the last two seasons. The capacity of The Barn, as it's affectionately known, is 14,625 following a renovation in 1997. Minnesota uses some kind of goofball statistics system that doesn't list their average attendance on their season stats, but thanks to the NCAA, we know that the Gophers averaged 11,255 last season. While well short of the maximum capacity for the building and thus prime opportunity for a Marquette invasion, it did rank as the 32nd best crowd in the country.