Well, Marquette made an announcement about a game on Thursday morning. That’s definitely a thing that happened. However, because it’s the first of the two 2K Classic games that will be played at the BMO Harris Bradley Center and because the 2K Classic hasn’t announced the official matchups yet, here’s all that we got:
Well, it’s a nice picture of Traci Carter, at least.
This is a non-announcement announcement, because this home opener date was released in the season ticket holder renewal package that was sent out earlier this offseason. This also means that tomorrow’s announcement will be the 2K Classic main event at Madison Square Garden, because the semifinals are on November 17th.
I really hope that tomorrow’s announcement isn’t just the semifinals, because that would mean Saturday’s announcement is the 2K Classic championship/consolation game, and that would be painfully boring.
Anyway, since we don’t know which of the four teams that Marquette will be playing, we may as well talk about all of them. The really fun part is that we’ll probably just have to come back here again in a couple of days when Marquette announces the other 2K Classic home game.
2015-16 Record: 13-19, 9-7 in the Summit League
Returning Points Leader: Darell Combs, 16.3 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Matt O’Leary, 6.0 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Darell Combs & Matt O’Leary, 2.2 apg
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #203
You might remember IUPUI from such exciting games as last year’s overtime 75-71 over the Jaguars. Of course, by "remember," I really mean that you have that game etched into your brain permanently because OH MY GOD Marquette nearly lost to IUPUI after losing to Belmont in the opener.
If the name Darell Combs sticks in your head, it’s because the soon-to-be senior scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half in that game against Marquette. He also finished with seven rebounds and four assists in that game, but if you’re looking for an upside, Combs had 10 turnovers in that game.
Because Marquette played IUPUI last season as part of a Gazelle Group event, I’m generally speaking against playing them again as part of an event run by the same people. However, the Summit League is a middle of the road conference and and playing a team that has the potential to end up in the 150-250 range on KenPom by the end of the season isn’t terrible, unlike SOME teams that we’ll get to by the end of the page.
2015-16 Record: 18-15, 9-9 in the MAC
Returning Points Leader: Raven Lee, 15.1 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: James Thompson IV, 10.7 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Ty Toney, 2.9 apg
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #151
#151 last year? Please please please please please PLEASE assign Eastern Michigan to a game in Milwaukee please please please
It might not be a picnic, though. James Thompson, who measured in at 6’10" and 220 lbs. on last year’s roster, is the reigning MAC Freshman of the Year, tacking on 14.8 points and more than a block per game to his team leading rebounding. All three guys listed up top averaged double digits in scoring, actually, as did a fourth guy, Willie Mangum IV, who is also expected to be back. They did this through speed, mostly, posting the 58th average offensive possession length in the country last season. They shot just 31.5% from distance last year, although Lee and Mangum were both above average shooters on more than 120 attempts each.
With that kind of returning firepower at their disposal, EMU will probably be a pretty strong test for Marquette early in the season, and you’d have to imagine that they’d take a run at a MAC West Division title after finishing just one game off the pace a year ago.
2015-16 Record: 17-16, 10-9 in the Big South
Returning Points Leader: Tyrell Nelson, 14.2 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Tyrell Nelson, 7.6 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Laquincy Rideau, 2.5 apg
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #225
If we’re picking opponents just by last year’s KenPom rankings, then Gardner Webb would probably be my third choice. Because of IUPUI behaving like Marquette’s shadow in these events, the Runnin’ Bulldogs end up as my second favorite option. The fact of the matter is that MU is hunting for a postseason berth this season after three years away and getting assigned a drag down game by your multi-team event isn’t the best way to go through life.
While they’re bringing back some quality guys like Nelson and Rideau, Gardner Webb is losing a lot from a team that finished middle of the pack in the Big South before reaching the conference tournament semifinals. They had four seniors that played at least 59% of the available minutes, so that’s going to be a little difficult to fill in heading to next season.
Fun Fact: Current Gardner Webb head coach Tim Craft is the guy who took over at GWU after current Butler head coach Chris Holtmann left to become an assistant under Brandon Miller.
2015-16 Record: 12-20, 6-10 in the MEAC
Returning Points Leader: James Daniel, 27.1 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Marcel Boyd, 6.9 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: James Daniel, 2.8
Final 2015-16 KenPom Ranking: #332
First things first: Howard is in the MEAC. If "never schedule the SWAC" is rule #1 of non-conference scheduling, "never schedule the MEAC has to be rule #2. In fact, the MEAC ended up as the worst conference in the country according to KenPom last season, so you can make an argument that rule #1 should be "never schedule the SWAC or the MEAC."
WITH THAT SAID, it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever for Marquette to get assigned a game against Howard. The Bison played at a top 70 tempo last season, so odds are that the game would be fun to watch. They had the seventh shortest defensive possession length in the country, which doesn’t mean they were good on that end. They were #304 in offensive turnover rate, so when you’re giving away runouts constantly, you tend to end up with very short defensive possessions.
They had no seniors playing any significant minutes, so they’re probably bringing everyone important back. They can’t shoot (#345 in eFG%), but they do grab offensive rebounds like a squirrel grabs nuts (#74) and they’re constantly at the free throw line (#2). Daniel in particular would be an interesting test of Marquette’s defense. He was top five - FIVE - in the country in usage rate, % of team shots taken, and fouls drawn per 40 minutes.
It might end up being RPI murder by the end of the season, but it would probably be fun to watch and would provide Wojo and the coaching staff some interesting puzzles to solve on defense, which is never a bad thing.