The Maui Invitational announced the bracket for the 2017 edition of their tournament on Tuesday morning, and YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles will be playing VCU in the first round on November 20, 2017.
Here’s the full bracket:
Here’s our quick rundown on the Rams from our earlier article on the Maui Invitational.
2016-17 Record: 26-9 (14-4 Atlantic 10)
Returning Points Leader: Justin Tillman, 12.2 ppg
Returning Rebounds Leader: Justin Tillman, 8.7 rpg
Returning Assists Leader: Jonathan Williams, 3.1 apg
Final 2016-17 KenPom Ranking: #48
VCU is in a bit of tumult since the 2016-17 season ended. Will Wade left the Rams to take the head coaching job at LSU, and he’s since been replaced by Mike Rhoades. Rhoades got his first Division 1 coaching job in 2014 when he was hired by Rice, but he was an assistant to Shaka Smart at VCU from 2009-2014. It’s been long enough that all of the freshmen from that last season have now all departed, though, so while Rhoades might be familiar with the administration, the location, and the recruiting, he’s coming in to a totally different roster than he left behind. For what it’s worth: Rhoades’ Owls teams the past two seasons reaaaaaaaally liked to run up and down, so this might be a track meet of a game.
To that end, the Rams have lost three of their top four scorers from last season, but Tillman was one of just two players to average double digits and he was their leading rebounder last season. Williams was one of two guys to rack up at least 100 assists for VCU last season, so while losing JeQuan Lewis won’t be a picnic for them, Williams will should be able to step into the void there pretty well. If I had to guess, Marquette will probably be favored to win this game, but it will probably be pretty close to a toss-up on a neutral floor.
As for the rest of the bracket, I think this works out well for Marquette. Beat VCU and MU likely gets to benefit from the RPI boon of a Wichita State team that’s loaded to make a major national run this coming season, and then from there, it’s pretty much a guarantee to snag another quality matchup. Lose to the Rams, and the Golden Eagles will likely get a chance to smash a Cal team in disarray and then probably avoid Chaminade on the consolation side and get another quality game.
Marquette is 0-2 all time against VCU. Both games were played as part of a home-and-home series in January of 1986 and 1987 with the Rams getting a five point win in Richmond and a three point win in Milwaukee.