Marquette has now announced nine games in the men's basketball schedule. Three of them, including the freshly announced games against Maine and San Jose State, are against the seven worst teams from the 2014-15 KenPom rankings.
This is, in a word, bad.
Let's presume, just for entertainment value, that Marquette will go 9-0 in these games. and that each of the teams hits Selection Sunday with their final KenPom ranking from last season. For the purposes of this experiment, we'll pretend that MU lucked into the two best KenPom rankings from the three possible opponents in the Legends Classic.
Here's what MU's NCAA tournament profile will look like with 1/3 of the season gone:
That is likely a best case scenario, and is absolutely no good as far as trying to impress anyone that you've accomplished something. With more than half of the first nine games clocking in as sub-200 opponents, the other four games turn into CAN NOT LOSE, because you know that Marquette is going to take on losses in the Big East schedule.
At least one of the remaining three or so non-conference games to be "announced" is the game at Wisconsin. That will help, regardless of whether or not Marquette wins the game.
Saturday, December 5: vs Maine
2014-15 Record: 3-27
Returning Points Leader: Kevin Little, 12.5 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Till Gloger, 4.8 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Aaron Calixte, 3.4 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: #345
Tuesday, December 8: vs San Jose State
2014-15 Record: 2-28
Returning Points Leader: Jalen James, 6.9 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Brandon Mitchell, 5.0 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Isaac Thornton, 2.3 apg
Final 2014-15 KenPom Ranking: #349
Here's the deal with San Jose State: They lost the top five scorers off last year's team that didn't win a game against a D1 opponent, and leading returning scorer Jalen James only played in the first eight games of the season before being lost for the year to an ankle injury. Isaac Thornton is the returning player that saw action all season that had the highest scoring average... at 4.7 ppg. Eeeep. The explanation for SJSU's lousy season can be found in this article from the San Jose Mercury News. Two players were dismissed from the team in January after being suspended in December, another left the program mid-year, and three more players were lost for the year due to injury. While there's a solid answer for last year, that doesn't really explain the three previous seasons of being bad.
Maine, though, was just bad last year. Well, no, that's not entirely true. 6'7" sophomore Marko Pirovic suffered a heel injury in their eighth game and then didn't play again the rest of the year. Pirovic finished with the same rebounding average that Gloger did, so you have to figure he could have been kind of helpful. It's hard to really be critical of Maine's 1-7 record with Pirovic as it included five top 200 KenPom teams. From the looks of things, they're bringing back all of their key contributors, plus plugging Pirovic back into the lineup. Perhaps MU will catch a break and a year of playing together will improve them as a team.
This will be the first time that Marquette has played Maine since a loss to the Black Bears on February 5, 1997. This loss was incredibly odd, as the Golden Eagles had just beaten #4 Iowa State a month earlier. In any case, it's the only time that Maine has beaten Marquette, as MU has a 3-1 series lead. As for the Spartans, Marquette is 1-0 all time against them, with the lone win coming on December 28, 1954. If anyone can explain why MU played SJSU in 1954, I'll be happy to hear the story.