North Dakota State has been rolling out their non-conference schedule over the past week or so. On Wednesday morning, they announced that they’ll be coming to Milwaukee on Friday, December 20th to face off with YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles.
The Bison will take on Marquette — a potential preseason Top 25 team — on Dec. 20 this season. pic.twitter.com/059QQiyL3m— NDSU Basketball (@NDSUmbb) June 26, 2019
This is an well executed bit of scheduling by Steve Wojciechowski and his staff.
If we take a global view of NDSU’s history since joining Division 1 in 2006, the lowest they’ve ever finished in the KenPom rankings is #242. They’ve only been below #200 twice, and to be clear, one of those times was last season.
While they racked up a record of 17-16 against Division 1 opponents and 9-7 in the Summit League, Dave Richman’s squad ended up winning the conference tournament and thus earned the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. They beat North Carolina Central in Dayton and then got buzzsawed by Duke as a #16 seed. That happens.
The key here is that NDSU did all of that without a single senior contributing to the team. They lost their #3 scorer to transfer, but you’d like to think that they can replace 9.6 points per game fairly easily. Other than that, everyone from that NCAA tournament team returns in 2019-20. T-Rank already has preseason projections put together, and it has North Dakota State at #141 in the country and the favorite in the Summit League. They’re the only top 150 team in the Summit League and one of three top 200 squads.
In short: North Dakota State looks like a team that brings back almost all of their experience from a slightly surprising conference title and NCAA Tournament run and as such, are favored to win the league. If you can find a way to identify a clear projected favorite in a conference like the Summit League and put them on your schedule, you do it every single time and twice on Sunday.
As you probably guessed from their #3 scorer averaging 9.6 points, Dave Richman’s squads aren’t exactly in a hurry. He’s never had a team in the top 250 in tempo per KenPom and has been sub-300 three times in his five years, including last season. Generally speaking, they don’t turn the ball over much and they avoid gathering offensive rebounds. Over the past two years, NDSU’s offense has resembled Marquette’s a bit, as they’ve ranked in the top 90 in three -point shooting percentage and top 50 in three-point attempt rate.
On defense, the Bison aren’t going to turn you over. They were literally the third worst Division 1 team in defensive turnover rate last year, which is on track in terms of how Richman generally coaches his team. They clean the defensive glass very well and they don’t let you get to the free throw line, either.
After the North Dakota State news got out, Marquette announced that they would be making the full 2019-20 non-conference schedule public on Thursday. We already know the dates and opponents for four of Marquette’s games: home dates against Purdue, Central Arkansas, and North Dakota State, and a road game against Wisconsin. We know MU will be in the Orlando Invitational over Thanksgiving weekend, but we don’t know the official bracket for that yet. We also know that a road trip to see Kansas State is on the schedule as both a return date on last year’s game at Fiserv Forum as well as Marquette’s first entry in the Big East/Big 12 series, but we don’t know when that game will be. With the Wisconsin game moving off of its traditional early December date, I have to presume that’s to create space for K-State, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
When the schedule is announced on Thursday, don’t expect any big name games. Anything big and major would have been reported on at this point.
Here’s what the calendar spacing for Marquette looks like right now. Green days are game days and red days are days that we can guarantee that MU won’t be playing either due to known games or finals week.