The Marquette basketball offseason means it’s time for offseason news, and we’re getting kind of an early start on that.
On Friday, 920AM’s Drew Olson reported on his radio show that head coach Nate Oats and Buffalo will be coming to Milwaukee to tangle with Steve Wojciechowski’s Golden Eagles team. According to Olson, the game will be “just before” Christmas. The news was also reported by Jack Goods, noted Marquette graduate and reporter for The Buffalo News.
Under Oats, Buffalo has gone 64-39 in three seasons, including a record of 36-18 in Mid-American Conference games. Oates has gotten the Bulls to the NCAA tournament in two of his three seasons, both by way of winning the MAC tournament title, and you may remember them from their absolute shelling of Arizona in the round of 64 this past season.
While this is Oats’ first Division 1 head coaching job, he’s done a heck of a job building on the momentum of his former boss at Buffalo, Bobby Hurley. Buffalo has been a top 140 KenPom team in each of Oats’ seasons at the helm, maxing out at #67 this season. Oats also has Wisconsin ties, graduating from Maranatha Baptist College in Watertown and serving as an assistant coach at UW-Whitewater for two seasons.
Buffalo will be expecting to return their top two scorers from 2017-18, CJ Massinburg and Nick Perkins, both of whom averaged over 16 points a game. They will have to find a way to replace senior Wes Clark, who averaged 16 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists for Buffalo in the Bulls’ final 26 games of the season, but he’s their only notable loss.
By adding the Bulls to the slate, Marquette is showing a determination to create challenges for the team in the non-conference slate. First it was Fresno State in 2016-17, and then Vermont this past season. Buffalo will likely be the favorite to win the MAC next season, so that’s a very high quality game on the schedule. This one gets added to the pile that already includes a home game against Wisconsin, two of the trio of Kansas, Louisville, and Tennessee in the NIT Tip-Off, and most likely MU’s third appearance in the Gavitt Tip-Off Games. Marquette has played in two of the first three iterations of the Gavitt event, and both have been at home, which leads me to believe that we’ll see the Golden Eagles visiting a Big Ten squad in the first week of the 2018-19 season. Along with two NIT Tip-Off home games, that’s at least six and probably seven games of Marquette’s non-conference schedule squared away already. Based on this past season, we should only be expecting to get a home-and-home series announcement and a bunch of buy games from here on out.