Andy Katz has a nice job writing for the NCAA’s business end, covering college basketball as he did for a number of years with ESPN. His latest article focuses on how UMBC will go forward after becoming the first #16 seed in NCAA history to upset a #1 seed.
Buried in the 45th paragraph of the article (hey, cool it with the one sentence paragraphs, Katz) is actual news, not just normal feature writing stuff. According to Katz, and I suppose according to UMBC head coach Ryan Odom and the NCAA as well, Marquette will open the 2018-19 season at home against the Retrievers. That game will take place on Tuesday, November 6th, 2018, and will be the very first Marquette game at the new Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center.
Here’s the exact wording from Katz:
The Retrievers are going to open Marquette’s new home (the Milwaukee Bucks new arena, the Wisconsin Entertainment and Sports Center) on Nov. 6. And they are looking for one more road, one-way (no return) high-profile game.
I have to say, that’s one hell of a decision on how to open up the new building by the MU administration. Well, at least it’s one hell of a decision if it was made over the past three weeks or so. In UMBC, Marquette gets a home game against an opponent that carries with it a notable headline and a very important storyline as the new season kicks off. Everyone will be wondering what the Retrievers will do for an encore in 2018-19, and this will be their first game of the year. Marquette gets all of that attention added on to the attention that will come with MU’s first game in the brand new downtown Milwaukee arena.
It’s a brilliant way to go about scheduling a notable opponent for that game.... as well as an opponent that Marquette should be favored to beat. While it’s quite impressive that UMBC beat the pants off of Virginia in the NCAA tournament, the fact of the matter is that Ryan Odom’s squad was hovering around #200 or so in the KenPom rankings all year until their back-to-back wins over Vermont and Virginia in the span of a week kicked them all the way up to #166 to close the season. Excise the part of the story where everyone recognizes the name of the team, and scheduling a 150-200 type team as a buy game is exactly the kind of thing that Marquette should be doing regularly. Quality team, decent test, but favored to win.
If head coach Steve Wojciechowski and the rest of the athletic department brain trust had this game locked in place before March Madness, well, then high fives all around for lucking into all of the free publicity for the game, everyone.
By the way? UMBC’s probably not going to be as good as they were in 2017-18, when they needed a buzzer beater to hand Vermont just their third America East loss in their last 46 games and win the AE’s automatic bid. Jairus Lyles and K.J. Maura, their top two scorers, were both seniors. Those two were the top two in assists as well, and the #3 guy, Jourdan Grant, was a senior as well. Lyles was also #2 on the team in rebounding, so that’s an awful lot of production headed out the door for Odom.
UMBC is the fifth known opponent for Marquette in 2018-19, along with the yearly game against Wisconsin, a home date against Buffalo, and two games against the trio of Kansas, Louisville, and Tennessee in the Preseason NIT in New York City. MU will also likely get a Gavitt Tipoff Games contest, probably on the road, as well as two home games as part of the Preseason NIT. That’s eight games on the docket total, which means that there’s likely just four holes left to fill. Hopefully one of them is occupied by a high quality home-and-home series, as that seems to be the only thing missing from the picture.