Somewhat lost in the excitement of Marquette Madness was the news that Marquette would be playing Northwestern in a closed door scrimmage at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee on Saturday, October 28th. This is one of those “secret” scrimmages that everyone finds out about through sources and the schools aren’t officially allowed to publicize or release stats.
The closed scrimmage for #mubb will be against Northwestern on Oct. 28 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, according to sources.— Ben Steele (@BenSteeleMJS) October 7, 2017
(Aside: You’re following Ben Steele on Twitter already, right? He’s the new Journal Sentinel Marquette beat reporter, as Matt Velasquez has moved on to the Milwaukee Bucks beat.)
The secret scrimmage was mentioned in passing in our recap of Madness, but it’s a pretty important part of the preseason for Marquette men’s basketball, so we’ll give it some space to breathe here.
Teaming up with the Wildcats for some preseason prep work makes a lot of sense for both teams. First, the proximity, as the campuses in Evanston and Milwaukee are less than 80 miles apart. It simplifies travel for both squads when neither team has to spend a night away from campus in order to pull off one of these scrimmages.
Second, it provides both clubs with a quality preseason test of their respective abilities. As we all know, Marquette is coming off a 19-13 season that featured the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance under the guidance of Steve Wojciechowski. Northwestern went 24-12 last season, giving them two straight 20-win seasons under Chris Collins and the first NCAA tournament appearance in program history. The Wildcats advanced to the second round and gave eventual national runner up Gonzaga the business for 39 minutes before falling 79-73.
If you read that last paragraph carefully enough, you figured out the third reason why this pairing makes sense. Both head coaches are former Duke Blue Devils assistants, overlapping during Collins’ tenure from 2000-2013, and they were teammates in Durham as well.
Northwestern brings back their top five scorers from last year’s tournament team, so there’s no reason to think that they’ll experience any kind of a drop off from last season. Regardless of the format that Collins and Wojciechowski elect to play with (the NCAA imposes no rules on what the coaches can and can not do as a part of the scrimmages), this will be an excellent test for Marquette as they head into the season and have to tangle with Purdue, another tip-top Big Ten team in the second game of the season.