In the process of confirming the news that Marquette would be playing Fresno State this upcoming season, Matt Velazquez from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also let us know that MU will start announcing the full non-conference schedule today.
The extra bonus to all of that is that we already know what Marquette’s first non-conference game is going to be, so we’re going to jump right on in to our mid-summer at-a-glance preview.
Friday, November 11: vs. Vanderbilt
2015-16 Record: 19-14 (11-7 SEC)
Returning Points Leader: Matthew Fisher-Davis, 9.7 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Luke Kornet, 7.3 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Riley LaChance, 2.5 apg
2015-16 Final KenPom Ranking: #31
This game will be a neutral site contest. It’ll take place at the United States Naval Academy as the front half of a doubleheader titled the Veterans Classic.
If you’re trying to figure out how the hell that team went 19-14 and finished with a top 40 KenPom ranking, well, don’t worry. The top two scorers on the team, Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones, were both selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Baldwin, a sophomore, was also the team’s leader in assists, while Jones, a junior, was second on the team in rebounds.
They’re not the only major components of the team that aren’t coming back in the fall. Head coach Kevin Stallings got out of Dodge after a clearly disappointing season. If you were bummed about Marquette not making any postseason with Henry Ellenson on the roster, how do you think Commodores fans feel about finishing tied for third in a crummy SEC, clanking their first conference tournament game, and then getting clapped by Wichita State in the First Four of the NCAA tournament with TWO first round draft picks on the roster? It was just the first NCAA tourney appearance for Stallings in the last four seasons, and just the 7th tournament appearance in Stallings’ 17 seasons in Nashville.
Stallings is at Pittsburgh now (and hoo boy, do I still have jokes about that), and he’s been replaced by Bryce Drew. Yes, THAT Bryce Drew.
And now he’s gonna coach every year AGAINST Ole Miss? Oh, that’s gonna suck for Mississippi fans on the regular.
Anyway, after a fairly respectable pro career, Drew was an assistant to his father at Valparaiso for a few years, then took over the main chair in 2011. In five seasons, Drew’s Valpo teams went 124-49 overall and 65-19 in Horizon League action. The Crusaders made a postseason tournament in every one of Drew’s five seasons, including two NCAA tournament appearances and an NIT runner-up performance this past season.
I don’t know how he’s going to be able to do in his first year in the SEC, but I can tell you that Drew has never coached a team that’s won fewer than 18 games in a season, and his Valpo teams have gone 20-17 against KenPom top 100 teams. I feel like I should point out that they were just 17-16 against those teams before the 2016 NIT started. It’s possible that by the time March 2017 rolls around that Vanderbilt could end up being a pretty decent team under Drew’s guidance, so it might be to Marquette’s advantage to get them early before they get used to how their new head coach wants to play.
Looking ahead to further announcements, we don’t know how much Marquette is going to announce at a time, but this is what we know about the schedule so far:
November 11: vs Vanderbilt
November 14: Home opener (2K Classic)
November 17-18: 2K Classic
December 4: at Georgia
December 10: Wisconsin
December 28: First Big East game
Those are the games and days that are locked into place. Marquette also has another home game in the 2K Classic to fit in, likely the Monday or Tuesday after the 2K Classic event at Madison Square Garden, as well as the home game against Fresno State. Given the layout of Thanksgiving, Finals Week, Christmas, and the start of Big East play, I would presume that the Fresno State game is coming after finals (which end on December 16th), but before Christmas.
The Fresno State game will also be the eighth known non-conference game on the schedule. Marquette played 13 non-con games last season, and without any other one-off buy games on the schedule, I wouldn’t expect to get any fun new opponent news over the next few days.