Finally, an oasis of sanity in this schedule comes our way in the form of the yearly game against Wisconsin. It's an RPI boost to a schedule that desperately needs it at this point, as Chicago State is the fifth team on the 2015-16 schedule that finished 2014-15 with a KenPom ranking worse than 300.
Look, I get that you have to count walk on Michael Mache and the freshly eligible from transfer Wally Ellenson to be able to say "Marquette has six players with Division 1 experience available this season." But I was under the impression that the upcoming trip to Italy was going to be able provide this team with the bonding experience needed to get them ready to go once November rolled around. This schedule appears to be constructed under the thought process that the team desperately needs sparring partners to be able to figure out what the hell they're doing once Big East play starts.
Even adding Wisconsin to the schedule isn't going to be the boost that it's been over the last few years. No, the Badgers aren't going to tumble down a hole this season. But they're losing four of their starters from opening night last season and three of them from the national championship game, including NBA Draft lottery picks Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky. There's almost zero chance that they'll win 30 games for the third straight season, although it's hard to not see them finishing top 4 in the Big Ten again in what will be Bo Ryan's final season on the Badger sideline.
Saturday, December 12: at Wisconsin
2014-15 record: 36-4
Returning Points Leader: Nigel Hayes, 12.4 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Nigel Hayes, 6.2 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Bronson Koenig, 2.5 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: #3
Monday, December 21: vs Chicago State
2014-15 record: 8-24
Returning Points Leader: Trayvon Palmer, 7.7 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Trayvon Palmer, 4.8 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Joshua Batson, 0.9 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: #333
We mostly know the deal with Wisconsin and noted Guy Who Must Be Stopped Nigel Hayes. Here's Chicago State's deal: They currently have only six guys on their roster. The good news on that is all six guys are returning from last season. The bad news is the two best scorers were seniors and they had the two highest assists totals, as well.
Wisconsin is 8-6 under Bo Ryan against Marquette, and the Badgers hold the advantage in the all time series, 66-55. This will be the first time that Marquette has seen Chicago State since 2008, and MU has won all six games against the Cougars. All six have been played since 1989, and Marquette's average margin of victory has been 34.8 points. So we'll set the bar at 35, then.
Two final notes on the schedule: Marquette's announcement of these two games mentioned that the final non-conference opponents will be released tomorrow. That's opponentS, plural. Last season, Marquette played just 12 non-conference games, and by announcing two (or more?) games tomorrow, MU will pass that number. That's slightly interesting, although not as interesting as the timing. With Chicago State falling on the Tuesday before Christmas, I'd have to figure that there won't be another game before Christmas. The odds of a game on the 26th are low, which would leave just four days before December 31st, which is when the Big East has been opening up league play for the last two seasons. Either conference play isn't starting with the New Year's Eve marathon this season OR Marquette is playing at least one non-conference game during one of their "bye" weeks in the league schedule.