August is a weird time to be getting brand new high major non-conference men’s basketball schedule news. Usually that stuff leaks out pretty quickly in April and May if it’s not games that were already known and announced.
Of course, this can be explained by the fact that the first game in the series will be in the 2020-21 season as opposed to the 2019-20 season which will start in a few months. On Saturday, December 12, 2020, the Golden Eagles will make their way out to California and Pauley Pavilion for their first game against the Bruins in over 55 years. Then, in either November or December of 2021, UCLA will come to Fiserv Forum.
The two teams have met just twice before, and as luck would have it, the December 2020 game will be MU’s first trip ever to Pauley Pavilion. Both of the first two meetings in the series were home games for Marquette.... and they were both losses. In 1949-50, MU suffered a 68-52 loss to UCLA, and then in 1964-65, Al McGuire’s first season as head coach, Marquette lost 61-52 to the #5 ranked Bruins.
This series will mark MU’s first regular season game against a Pac 12 opponent since a 78-73 overtime victory over Arizona State in head coach Steve Wojciechowski’s second season, and the first in a non-neutral site since a 78-71 win at the Bradley Center against those same Sun Devils in Wojciechowski’s first season at the helm.
For right now, it’s hard to say what kind of team Marquette will face in December 2020. UCLA just changed coaches, showing Steve Alford the door right at the end of the 2018 calendar year and eventually hiring Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin more than a week into April, 100 days later. Everyone’s least favorite thin skinned leprechaun went 296-146 in 13 seasons running the Bearcats. Cronin turned Cincinnati into a conference powerhouse once all of the good teams in the Big East shunted UC off into a conference of misfit toys and shiftless layabouts all while building up a history of struggling to win NCAA tournament games and taking complete and total offense to the smallest slight, whether real or imagined.
In other words, he appears to be a very bad fit for UCLA, the Pac-12, and the Bruins fan base in general, and it will be amazing to see what kind of temperament he has by the time the MU charter jet touches down in Los Angeles in 15 months.
Marquette went 4-3 against Cronin in his time coaching Cincinnati. Tom Crean picked up the win in the first ever encounter and Buzz Williams went 3-3 against the Bearcats during his tenure as head coach.
The game against UCLA is the first known date on the 2020-21 non-conference schedule, which will presumably be the first year of a 20 game Big East schedule, as that is the same season that Connecticut will join the Big East. There is also the Big East/Big 12 challenge series that will likely be on the slate, as well as the Gavitt Tipoff Games. However, UConn’s presence in the league throws a certain amount of doubt into the scheduling process, as at least one Big East team will have to be left out of the Big 12 challenge every year with the Huskies involved, and Marquette already has one more year to come where they will sit out of the Gavitt Games. There’s also the Hall Of Fame Tip-Off tournament at the Mohegan Sun Casino on the slate for 2020-21, but we don’t know who else will be in the field at this point.
Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker also confirmed on Twitter that while the 2020-21 UCLA game appears to be on the Saturday where Marquette has traditionally played Wisconsin over the past several seasons, the Golden Eagles are committed to continuing that series with the other high major college hoops team in the state. That does show a commitment on the part of Marquette to have a tough non-conference schedule going forward, as MU does have to give up two non-conference games in order to fit in a yearly home-and-home conference series with UConn.