Marquette men’s basketball caught a little bit of a break on Wednesday afternoon when Purdue big man Caleb Swanigan announced that he would stay in the NBA Draft instead of returning for his senior season. Earlier in the day, the Big East and the Big Ten had made it official and announced that Marquette would be hosting Purdue on November 14th as a part of the 2017 Gavitt Tipoff Games.
Swanigan would have made Purdue a national title contender in 2017-18. He was a national player of the year candidate last season, averaging 18.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while shooting 45% from three to power the Boilermakers to a Big Ten regular season title and the Sweet 16. While Purdue won’t be a top 10 team to start off the 2017-18 season, the fact that Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas had already announced that they would withdraw from the draft and return to West Lafayette should make them a top 25 team in the first week of the season for the Gavitt Games.
While Swanigan’s departure should make the Marquette/Purdue game a bit more competitive than MU’s Gavitt encounter with Iowa back in 2015, the rest of the Golden Eagles’ schedule got a bit harder over the past few days. With the withdrawal deadline for those who declared without signing with an agent looming on Wednesday, Seton Hall’s Angel Delgado, Xavier’s Trevon Bluiett, and Georgia’s Yante Maten all announced they would return to school for another season.
That’s just a big bag of no fun for Marquette.
Delgado has evolved into a double-double machine in South Orange, just barely missing the double digit marks in each of his first two seasons before recording 15.2 points and 13.1 rebounds as a junior last year. In his eight games against Marquette, Delgado is averaging 12.6 points and 12.6 rebounds and has only not recorded a double-double twice. He only missed on double digit rebounds once.
While Marquette got two wins over the Musketeers last season, the home win was without Bluiett in the lineup after an ankle injury. After that, Xavier went on a tear in the NCAA tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight, largely being carried by Bluiett. He averaged 21.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in the tournament before XU got bounced by Gonzaga. That included a come from behind victory over Arizona where they had to rally from down seven with under three minutes left to play.
Marquette may have left Athens with a win over Georgia last December, but the Golden Eagles struggled to defend Maten in that game. The big man scored 24 points and hauled down six rebounds in the game. In his free time, he also dished two assists. Considering the fact that he was 10-of-13 from the floor and one of his misses was from long range, it’s as if Marquette’s defenders were just a bunch of annoying gnats in the general vicinity of Maten.
That’s a lot of really great talent that Marquette is going to go up against next season, and that’s going to lead to a lot of really difficult games to win.
That’s the “half-empty” view of it, though. The “half-full” side is that all of these guys coming back for one more go-round will help boost Marquette’s post-season profile merely by making their teams quality opponents when it comes to the ol’ RPI. Of course, this means that head coach Steve Wojciechowski and his squad are going to have to swipe wins against some of these teams in order to qualify for a second straight NCAA tournament, but that’s a discussion for down the road.....