With every known non-conference game already announced, it was pretty much a given that Marquette was going to announce two final games that weren’t going to knock our socks off. That’s fine, of course, and it came true on Friday morning.
Monday, December 19: vs St. Francis (PA)
2015-16 Record: 13-17, 9-9 in the NEC
Returning Points Leader: Isaiah Blackmon, 9.9 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Josh Nebo, 5.1 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Malik Harmon, 3.0 apg
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #293
Not mentioned above: Greg Brown, Ronnie Drinnon, and Ben Millaud-Meunier, all of whom were seniors last year. All three averaged more than 10 points a game, Drinnon led the team in scoring and rebounding, Brown led the team in assists, and Millaud-Meunier shot over 40% on just short of 200 three point attempts. But they’re all gone now.
Making things worse for the Red Flash is the fact that Blackmon tore his ACL in early February. The injury happened in a home game against Bryant, which St. Francis eventually won. They won their next two games against Central Connecticut, the worst team in the country last year according to KenPom, and Robert Morris, a sub-300 KenPom team. They were 13-11 overall and 9-4 in the NEC that point.... and then they lost their next six games to end the season. Is it entirely because they lost Blackmon, a guy who won NEC Player and Rookie of the Week at one point last season? Probably not. But that’s not a good sign for a team loses their top three scorers and that might not have Blackmon back by the time this game rolls around in December.
If you’re looking for a note of sunshine as far as a non-conference schedule goes, St. Francis is on an upswing under head coach Rob Krimmel. Since 2006, the Red Flash has mostly been shuffling around the bottom of the NEC, but 2015-16 marked the second straight 9-9 season under Krimmel, and odds are that they should have been better than that. In the previous two seasons, they had posted an improvement on their KenPom ranking from the year before, but we probably shouldn’t hold dropping backwards from #222 in 2014-15 against them.
This will be the third meeting between the two squads, with both previous encounters coming back in the 1950s. Marquette won the first one, 76-64, at a neutral site in March of 1952, while St. Francis took the second meeting, 79-72, in Milwaukee in December of 1956.