Up until now, Marquette’s schedule was only partially completed. Amidst a string of non-conference tournament bracket announcements, we were expecting the Preseason NIT matchups to be announced about two weeks ago. We knew that Marquette was set to play two of Kansas, Tennessee and Louisville, but the first round games, or semifinals if you prefer, were still unknown. Those in charge of the event had trouble scheduling for whatever reason, so we had to wait until today, when Jon Rothstein blessed us with the first game announcements. YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles will face off against everyone’s historically-based mascot, the Kansas Jayhawks, and will face the winner/loser of Tennessee and Louisville’s game.
Kansas will face Marquette and Tennessee will play Louisville in the first round of the Preseason NIT at the Barclays Center, per a source.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) August 9, 2018
It is no secret at this point that I have been a Kansas fan since birth. I hadn’t even heard of Marquette until they got skinned alive by the Jayhawks in the 2003 Final Four game. [Editor’s note: Too soon.] Because you care deeply about my allegiances, they will remain with Marquette but I, as well as the lovely residents of Marquette, Kansas are very excited to see this happen. For everyone else, this is probably a nightmare scenario.
Kansas is probably going to be the #1 team in the country to start off the year. I even think this year’s team has the chance to give the 2008 and 2011 teams a run for their money as the best teams in the Bill Self era. Marquette’s chances of winning are Really Not Good. Assuming the curators of this bracket ultimately desired a Kansas/Tennessee final round, it would have behooved the Golden Eagles much more to play Tennessee in the first round. The Vols are still going to be a top 10ish team next year, maybe even top five to kick things off, but Marquette would at least have a fair shot at beating them, which would make the next round a lot less stressful.
As it appears now, the likely second matchup would be Marquette against Louisville. In order to tread water in the national respect conversation going into Big East play, there would be a lot of pressure to win that game against a scattered, but still decent, Louisville program.
To give a quick preview for Kansas, they return noted dunking addict Udoka Azubuike, Silvio De Sousa, a 6-9 forward who broke out in the Big 12 Tournament, and add an elite duo of Memphis transfers Dedric and KJ Lawson. They’re going to be huge and Self will likely be running his offense around his bigs in a way that he was known for in the first part of his tenure.
The one area where they could have trouble is at the guard spots. Self almost always has a senior guard leading his team with a younger guard ready to take over once he leaves. This year, his main options will be freshmen guards Devon Dotson and former Marquette considerer Quentin Grimes. I can see Wojo releasing Joseph Chartouny on the inexperienced guards to take the load off of Matt Heldt and Co. as much as possible.
Assuming Kansas wins, the most likely matchup is Louisville. I don’t know what to make of them. On one hand, they lose Quentin Snider, a noted Correct Last Name Speller, Ray Spalding, Deng Adel and Anas Mahmoud from an already “meh” team. On the other, there was a cloud over their head the whole year with NCAA investigations and a first year coach in David Padgett not getting a chance with Rick Pitino refusing to stay out of the spotlight. With all that mostly over (Rick’s got a book coming out in September!) and a legitimate coach in Chris Mack at the helm they could muster up a decent year with VJ King and Richmond grad transfer Khwan Fore leading the charge.
Given the probable outcomes from the semifinal games, it seems unlikely that Marquette ends up playing Tennessee on the second day of the event. Still, weirder things have happened. The Vols are returning almost everyone from a team that earned a 3 seed last year. They are suffocating on defense, Grant Williams is undersized but a beast down low, Admiral Schofield (can’t believe he’s not at Vanderbilt) can light up the scoreboard, and their offense was limited by taking too many two point jumpers.
So that’s the bracket, and those are the teams. The schedule is all but set. Around Labor Day we should see the Big East schedule rolled out.