As announcements go, Marquette informing the world that Marquette will follow up November 19th's home game with Iowa with the Legends Classic on November 23 & 24 falls somewhere between "sun to rise in east" and "water is wet." After MU had scheduled 3 games in the first seven days of the season, it was going to be kind of ridiculous to jam another game in on the Saturday between Iowa and a trip to Brooklyn. Still, that's the order of the schedule, so that's the direction that we have to go.
Monday, November 23 & Tuesday, November 24: The Legends Classic
2014-15 record: 18-16
Returning Points Leader: Savon Goodman, 11.2 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Savon Goodman, 7.6 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Tra Holder, 3.6 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: 63
2014-15 record: 22-11
Returning Points Leader: Keith Hornsby, 13.4 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Tim Quarterman, 5.2 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Tim Quarterman, 4.0 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: 44
North Carolina State
2014-15 record: 22-14
Returning Points Leader: Anthony Barber, 12.1 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Lennard Freeman, 5.6 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Anthony Barber, 3.7 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: 31
So, I'm sure you're saying right now, "Hey, didn't you say Games 4 and 5 at the top? Isn't that two games? Why did you list three teams?" Here's how the Legends Classic works: Four teams pairing off on the first day, in this case, Monday, November 23. The winners play each other on Tuesday, November 24, while the losers of Monday's games also pair off in the consolation game on Tuesday. While there are three possible opponents, Marquette will only play two of them. Who will be Marquette's semifinal opponent? Well, according to the press release on the Regional Rounds, we're not going to find that out until some time in August.
Based on the recent home-and-home series with Arizona State, my preferences in opponents are with LSU and North Carolina State. Yes, I know Marquette had a home-and home with LSU in 2012 & 2013, and yes, Marquette went home-and-home with the Wolfpack back in 2009 and 2010. That's still a longer layoff to the all time series than just the past two seasons, so that's what I'm going with.
All three possible opponents present an interesting story angle for Marquette. In NC State, you get a team that's been a perennial NCAA tournament team under head coach and noted Chris Otule storyteller Mark Gottfried. They lost Trevor Lacey who declared for the NBA Draft after his junior season, as well as Kyle Washington who transferred to Cincinnati, but there's still a solid core of dudes coming back to make them a legitimate team.
LSU was also an NCAA tournament team last year, and they actually lost to NC State in their first game on a nifty little shot by BeeJay Anya. That was LSU's first tournament appearance since 2009, though, and that's not the reason why this game would be interesting. The Tigers have 247 Sports' third best recruiting class for 2015, because that's what happens when you have three top 60 recruits. Even more impressively, they have two in the top 20, including 247's top 2015 guy, Ben Simmons. Television broadcasters love themselves a storyline, and that's definitely what you get with LSU's trio of talented new guys squaring off against Henry Ellenson and his four freshman friends, who happen to be ranked #12 in 247's class rankings.
Speaking of things that TV guys love, it's head coaches with a connection. After last season, Arizona State relieved Herb Sendek of his duties as head coach and replaced him with Bobby Hurley. Hurley, of course, played point guard for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, just like Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski. The two men never played together, as Hurley left Duke in 1993 and Wojo arrived in 1994, but given that Wojo almost nearly went directly from the court to the Duke bench as an assistant, I think it's safe to say that the two have gotten to know each other over the years.
If you want to take a historical look at who you want Marquette to play, the Golden Eagles don't have a rich history against any of the three opponents. The oldest series of the three is against LSU, as the two teams met for the first time in history in the semifinals of the 1970 NIT. That game is notable for historical purposes: First, it was Pete Maravich's final college game as MU ruined his shot at going out on a high note. That's also the year that Al McGuire turned down the NCAA tournament because he didn't like Marquette's draw in the field, so that's kind of a real kick in the pants for LSU fans. Marquette's first ever meeting with NC State is also fascinating historically, as it came in the 1974 national championship game after the Wolfpack snapped UCLA's streak of seven straight national championships with a win over the Bruins in the semifinals. Marquette has winning records all time against both Arizona State (3-1) and LSU (2-1), but they have a losing record against NC State at 2-3. It would be nice to get that one back to .500.