On Thursday, Marquette men’s basketball announced the dates for five of their 2019-20 non-conference games and opponents for four of those. The reason for the mismatch in numbers there is that we already knew that Marquette was going to visit Kansas State at some point as both a return bout to last year’s game in Milwaukee as well as part of the new scheduling agreement between the Big East and the Big 12. We just didn’t know when that game was going to be played.
Here’s the five dates and opponents that we found out on Thursday:
Tuesday, November 5: Loyola-Maryland
Saturday, November 23: Robert Morris
Wednesday, December 4: Jacksonville
Saturday, December 7: at Kansas State
Tuesday, December 17: Grambling State
Those five games join Purdue, Wisconsin, the Orlando Invitational, North Dakota State, and Central Arkansas on the MU schedule. The Orlando Invitational is the former Advocare Invitational or the former Old Spice Classic depending on how old you are. In either case, it’s the Thanksgiving weekend event at Walt Disney World. ESPN Events has yet to announce the bracket for this year’s tournament, so we don’t know who Marquette will open the event with, but we do know the other seven teams that will be there, including Texas A&M and their new head coach with whom Marquette fans are very familiar.
Let’s drop in what the schedule looks like so you can see it visually before we talk about the teams on the schedule and what we can expect from them in 2019-20.
The green spots are the game days on the Marquette schedule, with the red spots marking out Finals Week at Marquette as well as Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. What jumps out at me is that Marquette has a lot of time off in November. Days off between games before heading to Disney World: 7, 3, 5, 4. That seems pretty good for the team’s overall health, especially when they have to play three games in four days in Florida (Saturday’s an off day because of television time devoted to college football) and five games in 10 days capped off by the visit to K-State.
Let’s take a trip through Marquette’s five opponents that we haven’t talked about on this website yet. We’ll try to keep it moving a bit since there’s five teams to cover. There will be an opening info dump for each one and then whatever talking points seem important and relevant.
2018-19 Record: 11-21, 7-11 Patriot League
2018-19 Final KenPom Rank: #270
Head Coach: Tavares Hardy, entering his second season at Loyola & overall
2019-20 T-Rank Preseason Rank: #163, 4th in Patriot League
All-Time Series: First ever meeting
Since Jimmy Patsos left after the 2012-13 season and Loyola moved from the MAAC to the Patriot League, the Greyhounds have been on a bit of a slide in terms of basketball quality. G.G. Smith never had them in the top 250 in KenPom in his tenure nor over .500 in league play, and Tavares Hardy’s first season was more of the same.
However, as you can see from the T-Rank projection for Loyola for 2019-20, things are expected to go upwards this year. Their two seniors last seasons were bit players in the rotation, and Hardy has all seven guys who averaged at least five points per game back from last season. That includes returning Brett Holcombe, who only played in Loyola’s first 12 games, but ended up starting the last five he played and was averaging 11 points and a team high six rebounds at the time. Hardy will have three seniors leading the way, including 6’4” guard Andrew Kostecka, who led the team with 21.4 points per game last year while shooting 38% from long range.
2018-19 Record: 18-17, 11-7 NEC
2018-19 Final KenPom Rank: #269
Head Coach: Andy Toole, entering his 10th season (168-140)
Head Coach KenPom Average: RMU averages #207 under Toole
2019-20 T-Rank Preseason Rank: #237, #2 NEC
All-Time Series: First ever meeting
Alright, cool. This is a perfectly fine game to schedule. They generally speaking hover right around somewhere in the 200s in terms of national ranking, so that’s good. T-Rank expects them to finish 2nd in the Northeast Conference, which means by default that they’ll challenge for a conference title this coming season, which is also a good choice. Even better, just like Loyola-Maryland, Marquette has never played RMU before. I like playing teams that we’ve never seen before. That’s fun.
At a glance, Marquette shouldn’t have any difficulty beating Bobby Mo. However, if you look at one particular trend for the Colonials, they present an interesting test case for Steve Wojciechowski’s team. Somehow last year, Marquette was KenPom’s 32nd most efficient offense..... while finishing (just barely but still) in the bottom third in the country in offensive turnover rate. They were REALLY bad at keeping track of the ball..... and YEP, Andy Toole’s teams generally are really good at taking it away from you. Robert Morris has finished in the top 20 of defensive turnover rate each of the last four seasons, and under the tutelage of Toole, they’ve only been outside the top 40 once. They might not be ranked around there when they come to Milwaukee on 11/23 because it’ll be early, but it’s safe to say that they’ll be coached like a squad that will end up there.
2018-19 Record: 12-20, 5-11 ASun
2018-19 Final KenPom Rank: #247
Head Coach: Tony Jasick, entering his 6th season at JU & 9th overall (122-139, 70-92 at JU)
Head Coach KenPom Average: JU averages #290.6 under Jasick
2019-20 T-Rank Preseason Rank: #315, 9th and last in ASun
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 2-0
Last Meeting: November 28, 2011, with #16 Marquette winning 88-56
Ordinarily, I’d give the Jacksonville game a thumbs up in terms of quality and move on. They were (essentially) #250 in KenPom last year! Can’t beat mid-200s exactly! That’s fine!
However, we’ve got T-Rank’s preseason projections to peek at, and, uh, well, T-Rank hates hates the ‘Phins a bit. Like, sub-300 and DFL in the ASun hate. See, they’re losing their top two scorers, one to transfer and one to graduation. Their #5 scorer is out the door, too. That’s probably a bad combination relative to being better than 5-11 in league play with those guys.
Tony Jasick doesn’t appear to have any definitive year to year style to his teams, at least not in the category of “well, they always do this well.” They don’t even have a consistent tempo from year to year. I guess the good news is that Jasick will lean towards whatever he thinks the strength of his teams is in a particular season. For the purposes of an at-a-glance preview like this, that’s not helpful, but thankfully we don’t have to write a real preview of J’Ville until early December.
2018-19 Record: 25-9, 14-4 Big 12
2018-19 Final KenPom Rank: #20
Head Coach: Bruce Weber, entering his 8th season at KSU, 22nd season overall (150-89 at KSU, 463-244 overall)
Head Coach KenPom Average: KSU averages #42.9 under Weber
2019-20 T-Rank Preseason Rank: #42, 7th in the Big 12
All-Time Series: Kansas State leads, 7-4
Last Meeting: December 1, 2018, as Marquette defeated #12 Kansas State, 83-71
It seems that Marquette and Kansas State both made a coldly calculated move in scheduling this home-and-home series in this order. Marquette was the team with big questions heading into last season while K-State was the team that was on the verge of a Final Four appearance the year before with most of their dudes coming back, so it made sense for the 2018-19 game to be in Milwaukee from both ends.
This season was looking to be the season for Marquette, while it appears that the Wildcats are taking an expected step backwards from tying Texas Tech for the Big 12 title. Thus, it makes sense that the game will be in Manhattan this time around, even with MU not being quite the juggernaut that we might have been expecting, say, back on February 1.
Still, Marquette’s loaded up with experienced talent, while K-State is dealing with the loss of their top three scorers who doubled as their top three assist men. Included in that trio is Dean Wade, who led the team in rebounding. That’s a lot to deal with in one offseason, especially in a knife fight conference like the Big 12. Odds are against them being over .500 in league play, unless Bruce Weber suddenly becomes a much better coach than we thought last December. There’s a chance that Marquette actually isn’t favored heading into this game when early December rolls around purely because of home court advantage in The Octagon, but we’ll have to wait and see.
2018-19 Record: 17-17, 10-8 SWAC
2018-19 Final KenPom Rank: #268
Head Coach: Donte Jackson, entering his 3rd season at GSU, 10th overall (34-31, 160-94)
Head Coach KenPom Average: GSU averages #281.5 in Jackson’s 2 years
2019-20 T-Rank Preseason Rank: #189, 1st in SWAC
All-Time Series: Marquette leads, 5-0
Last Meeting: December 2, 2015, as Marquette won, 95-49
I’m not going to hide from this: I always always always will tell you that I never want to see Marquette schedule any team from the SWAC or the MEAC. They are, essentially, always the bottom two conferences in the country. By scheduling a team from one of those leagues, you’re 1) damaging your NET number, 2) not helping your team by even remotely challenging them, and 3) not selling any extra tickets.
This, however, appears to be an exception to the rule. Grambling is coming off a decent season after winning a regular season title the year before. The Tigers had no seniors last season, and as such, they’re the T-Rank favorite to win the SWAC. If you have to schedule a SWAC team — and while I doubt that you ever have to, I understand MU is in a weird position as far as dates go with renting Fiserv Forum — I suppose that scheduling the expected favorite to win the SWAC is the way to go. Not only are the Tigers the favorite to win the league, T-Rank projects them as the only SWAC team to be in the top 200 in the country. Heck, they’re the only one projected in the top 280, which tells you a thing or two about their ability to win the SWAC next season.
On top of that, GSU head coach (and Milwaukee native!) Donte Jackson seems to be coaching a very specific type of defense. Grambling may have only ranked #165 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency last season, but they were #10 in effective field goal percentage, and top 25 in both two-point and three-point shooting percentage. They’re essentially going to be running the same team out there this season, so they might be sneaky good on defense and an interesting test for Marquette coming out of finals week.