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Marquette Inexplicably Schedules North Carolina

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I have zero explanation as to why this game is happening.

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - North Carolina v Temple Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

On February 17th, Marquette men’s basketball played their 22nd game of the 2020-21 college basketball season. They defeated Butler, to move to 10-12 on the year and 6-10 in Big East play. Marquette has won just two of their past eight games, including a season breaking home loss to DePaul on January 23rd. After that game, Marquette was sitting at #99 in the NET rankings or, to simplify the point, a very long way off from even pretending that they are in consideration for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament. 13 games is the minimum requirement to be eligible for the 68 team field, but that ship sailed a long time ago.

At the time of the end of the Butler game, Marquette’s next game was scheduled for February 27th on the road against Connecticut. That’s not the case any more. The Golden Eagles will be heading to Chapel Hill on Wednesday as they have, for some reason that escapes me, added a non-conference game against North Carolina.

I don’t know why Marquette scheduled this game. It doesn’t matter to Marquette. They’re not getting into the NCAA tournament on an at-large bid if they win this game and then run the table on the rest of the regular season and that’s been true probably since the first game against Butler. Following the Butler game this past week, Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski told the media that MU was looking into a non-conference game (again, why), but the team’s health would play a role in figuring out if that was the best move for the squad.

To review the team’s health status:

  • Theo John has not been practicing with the team for a long while now due to a nagging knee injury.
  • Justin Lewis has played seven minutes in the last six games due to an ankle injury and looked notably hobbled in those seven minutes. He hasn’t played at all in the three games since then.
  • Oso Ighodaro played 10 minutes on February 2nd, his first action at all since December 23rd... and he has not played since due to a leg injury.
  • Tommy Gardiner is out for the year with a torn ACL.

Four of the team’s 12 scholarship players have something notably wrong with them and three of them are unlikely at best to play in this game..... but health is a notable factor in deciding whether playing this game makes sense. Uh huh. Sure it is.

Meanwhile, I have no idea why North Carolina wants this game. With Marquette solidly below #76 in the NET, that makes this a Quadrant 3 game for the Tar Heels. That’s not anything that helps their resume other than the possible notch in the win column, which they actually do need. Bracket Matrix has the Tar Heels a little closer to the cut line than any UNC fan would like to see, so merely adding a win would be good.... but a Q3 loss to Marquette (why are you laughing) could ultimately end UNC’s chances of getting into the tournament.

It’s all very weird and, by the way, I haven’t even bothered to mention the aspect of we’re still in the dumbest pandemic of my entire lifetime. Why both sides are hurrying up for a little extra exposure to COVID-19 is completely mystifying to me, especially on the Marquette side.

Marquette is 1-4 all time against North Carolina. The series started with a 67-59 Marquette victory on March 28th, 1977 (hey, I know that game), but it’s been all Tar Heels since. This will be the first time that the two sides have met when North Carolina is not ranked in the top 10 in the Associated Press poll. The most recent meeting came in the 2011 NCAA tournament, and UNC took the 81-63 victory in the Sweet 16.