When you're assembling a non-conference schedule, you have to take a few things into consideration. Are there rivalry games we play every year? What multi-team event are we participating in? Do we have a home-and-home contract to honor? Do we have an inexperienced team that needs a chance to grow together? Do we have an experienced team that needs to be challenged?
All of those questions have to get answered, and the schedule you assemble has to relate to those answers. That, kids, is how you end up scheduling Jackson State and Grambling State.
Sunday, November 29: vs Jackson State
2014-15 Record: 11-21
Returning Points Leader: Raeford Worsham, 13.5 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Raeford Worsham, 7.9 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Yettra Specks, 1.8 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: #316
Wednesday, December 2: vs Grambling State
2014-15 Record: 2-27
Returning Points Leader: Mark Gray, 10.5 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Mark Gray, 5.9 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Chase Cormier, 3.4 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: #351
I don't have a lot of rules when it comes to non-conference games, although most of that has to do with the fact that Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker doesn't let me pick the games. But if I was allowed to pick the games, one of my rules would be "Don't schedule teams from the SWAC." Rule #2 would definitely be "Don't schedule two teams from the SWAC." That's what we have here, though. Grambling State hasn't finished in the top 300 of the KenPom rankings since 2005, and that year they were #299 out of 330. Jackson State isn't much better, finishing below 300 on KenPom each of the past four seasons and carrying a peak KenPom era final ranking of 249 back in 2007 when they won the SWAC's auto-bid. They were slotted as a 16 seed in the tournament and got blasted by 43 points by defending champion Florida.
The fact of the matter is that between these two squads, they won a total of 11 games against Division 1 opponents last season. All 11 wins come from Jackson State's side of the ledger, and two of the wins were against Grambling State. As I write this, it has been 487 days since Grambling State defeated a Division 1 opponent. Their last D1 win came on March 11, 2014, in the SWAC tournament that season when they beat - wait for it - Jackson State, 84-75.
This will be the first ever meeting between Marquette and Jackson State. It will be the fifth all time meeting between MU and Grambling State, with the Golden Eagles holding a 4-0 series advantage with all four contests coming since the 2002-03 season.
One final note: I know some of you are reading this and saying, "WOAH, Sunday home game in November! Attendance is going to stink because of the Packers game!" Well, I've got good news for you: This is the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and Green Bay plays their game for that "week" on Thanksgiving night against the Chicago Bears. That obstacle is cleanly taken off the table, which only leaves the fact that a lot of students might not be back on campus for the JSU game, depending on when it starts.