Shoutout to Paint Touches for being the first person to notice that Marquette men’s basketball has officially added Southern to the 2018-19 non-conference schedule. The Jaguars will be coming to Milwaukee and the brand new Wisconsin Entertainment & Sports Complex on Friday, December 28th, 2018. This will likely be Marquette’s only game in between Christmas and the start of the Big East schedule, and fills in one of the four buy game dates that the athletic department had previously announced.
This is not a good game for the Golden Eagles to put on the schedule.
As far as I’m concerned, there are three rules when it comes to assembling a non-conference schedule for Marquette. #1) Don’t schedule teams in the SWAC. #2) Don’t schedule teams in the MEAC. #3) Don’t schedule home games against teams that finished last year ranked #300 or worse in either KenPom or the RPI.
Southern raises red flags on rule #1 and rule #3.
The Jaguars wrapped up the 2017-18 season with a record of 15-18, although that’s only 13-18 against Division 1 teams. It was their second straight 15-18 season, and first two seasons below .500 since going 4-26 in 2011. That record left them with their second straight sub-300 KenPom ranking, finishing at #326 just like they did the year before. Southern finished last season with an RPI ranking of #311, and things are probably not going to get better for them in 2018-19.
Two of their top three scorers last season were seniors, and and all of their top three rebounders were seniors. In addition to having to replace those guys on a middle-of-the-pack SWAC team, the Jaguars also changed coaches this offseason. That’s not a great mixture for success.
I want to make this clear, as I always do: I am not demanding that Marquette swap this game out for a road game against Kentucky. That’s nuts. I am, however, pointing out that the effect of “easy buy game to let everyone refresh after the Christmas break and before Big East play starts” is accomplished just as easily by signing up UMKC, the team that finished last season at #276 in KenPom, aka 50 spots better than Southern. Hell, the point stands for Idaho State, the team at #226, 100 spots better than Southern. Marquette should be a massive mismatch for all three of those teams. Why intentionally hand your NCAA tournament profile a kick in the pants like Southern when you can schedule up ever so slightly and get the same effect on the team’s performance without the bottom 50 RPI drag? For the purposes of the NCAA selection committee’s quadrant system, every opponent with an RPI ranked worse than #160 in your barn is automatically a Quadrant 4 game, so last season there was effectively no difference between playing Southern or playing — believe it or not — Georgetown.
The 2018-19 schedule was shaping up to be really good. By the time it’s fully released, it still might be pretty good. But Marquette intentionally saddled themselves with this game against a SWAC team, and it’s just not beneficial to the Golden Eagles in any fashion. Not on the court in terms of competition, not in the rankings in terms of RPI benefit, and definitely not in the bank account, as the Jaguars will do absolutely nothing to draw extra attention to Marquette in their first season in the new arena.