It’s always in the back of your mind that you want your non-conference opponents to win all of their games other than the one they play against you. That way, you look great for beating a great team, or on the off chance that you lose a non-conference game, then you lost to a great team. It doesn’t always work out that way, in fact it essentially never does, but the hope continues to live.
It’s that hope that has us turning to Marquette’s non-conference schedule at this point of the year to keep tabs on what MU’s opponents are up to. After all, the Golden Eagles appear to be pointed directly at the NCAA tournament right now. If that’s the case, then wins by all of MU’s non-Big East foes are going to be helpful to Marquette in one fashion or another.
That’s what we’re doing here: Letting you know when they’re all playing this week so you can tune in, or at the very least scoreboard watch. Why aren’t we paying attention to the Big East teams here? First, that’s what the What To Watch is for, and second, all the Big East teams playing each other is ultimately a zero-sum game for Marquette’s NET rating. If one conference team wins, the other one loses, so that’s not particularly helpful to MU, now is it?
If you’re curious about what results outside of MU’s non-conference opponents are the most beneficial to the Golden Eagles, may I point you towards BartTorvik.com and T-Rank’s Rooting Guide? That’s only going to be showing you things two or three days ahead, but it’s giving you the opponents of opponents of opponents benefits to Marquette.
We’ll start doing this weekly going forward, so here’s what it looks like for the rest of this week. We’ll go in order of the NET ratings at the moment....
UCLA Bruins (14-2, #13)
UCLA is heavily favored to win both games, both of which are currently Quadrant 3 contests for the Bruins. I’ll take wins in both, and blowout wins would be particularly nice.
Illinois Fighting Illini (14-5, #14)
Saturday, January 29: at Northwestern (8-8, #80), 3:30pm CT, Big Ten Network
Should this game count as semi-home for the Illini? There were an awful lot of Illinois fans at Fiserv for a weeknight game earlier this season, and this is a Saturday afternoon in the Chicago suburbs. Anyway, Illinois is favored here in what is shaping up to be a Quadrant 2 contest for them.
Wisconsin Badgers (15-3, #21)
Wisconsin had a seven game winning streak snapped on Friday night by Michigan State in their own building, so they’d clearly like to build themselves back up a bit. Big Ten play has been a boon for the Badgers’ NET ranking as the schedule and the wins have moved from the low 30s to the high teens before losing to the Spartans. The game against the Gophers is a Quadrant 2 game for them, while the visit to Pinnacle Bank Arena is a Q3 game.
West Virginia Mountaineers (13-5, #49)
One league game and one non-league game for the rest of the week for the ‘Eers as it’s SEC/Big 12 challenge week. They’re currently on a three game losing streak and have lost four of the last seven, so they need something to turn their postseason hopes around in a hurry right now. this might not be it as they’re barely favored over the Sooners and are the underdog against the Razorbacks. OU is a Quadrant 2 game, while the visit to Fayetteville is a Q1 game where WVU has a 2-5 record so far this season.
Kansas State Wildcats (10-9, #67)
Saturday, January 29: at Ole Miss (10-9, #119), 3pm Central, ESPNU
Because they play in the Big 12, I can’t officially say that K-State’s NCAA hopes are dead at this point, but it ain’t looking great after losing badly to Baylor on Tuesday night. They visit Ole Miss on Saturday for their SEC/Big 12 game, which is a coinflip on which way you want it to go for Marquette’s best interests. I think I’d lean towards Mississippi there just to boost them up, but whatever.
St. Bonaventure (11-4, #93)
Wednesday, January 26: at George Mason (9-7, #105), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, January 29: vs Saint Joseph’s (8-10, #169), 1pm Central, USA Network
When SBU debuted in the NET at #88 including their win over Marquette, it wasn’t a good sign for their at-large hopes, but that’s what you get for losing to Northern Iowa. Things have gotten worse for them since but they’ll be favored in both of these games, although just barely against the Patriots. The GMU game is Quadrant 2, so a win there is good stuff for Marquette, while the SJU game is just outside the Q4 cutoff and a win will keep it there. A loss might move it to Q3, but then you have a Q3 loss anyway.
Ole Miss Rebels (10-9, #119)
Wednesday, January 26: vs Arkansas (14-5, #52), 6pm Central, SEC Network
Saturday, January 29: vs Kansas State (10-9, #67), 3pm Central, ESPNU
Lots of cross-pollination here as Arkansas is playing two teams on MU’s schedule and Ole Miss clashes with the Wildcats. We’ve firmly moved past NCAA tournament at-large hope territory here, but the Rebels getting two Quadrant 2 games on the board here should be helpful to Marquette’s background numbers. We’ll cheer for them against Arkansas and probably against K-State although as mentioned above, that one is negligible in terms of impact.
New Hampshire (5-7, #240)
Wednesday, January 26: vs Maine (1-13, #354), 6pm Central, ESPN3
Saturday, January 29: vs Stony Brook (11-6, #200), Noon Central, ESPN3
The Wildcats are the third best NET team in the America East conference, so that’s something. They’re a heavy favorite against Maine and a narrow favorite against #2 NET team Stony Brook because it’s in their building. Both games are Quadrant 4 games, so if UNH could figure out how to avoid the losses here, that would really be great.
SIU Edwardsville (5-12, #256)
Thursday, January 27: vs Tennessee State (6-12, #301), 7:30pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, January 29: at Southeast Missouri State (6-11, #295), 4pm Central, ESPN+
Thursday night’s game is a big chance for the Cougars to snap a four game losing streak in Ohio Valley action as they’re a big favorite over the Tigers. Not so much on the road agains the Redhawks, but it is what it is. If you’d like some positive news about SIUE, they’ve gone from #314 in KenPom at the start of the season to #272 right now. Both of these games are Quadrant 4 games for them as they have just five games outside that group remaining on the schedule.
Jackson State (4-14, #271)
Saturday, January 29: vs Grambling State (5-12, #317), 5pm Central
The Tigers project out as a .500 team in SWAC play, so this home date with Grambling is a big spot for them to pick up a win. They have just one non-Quadrant 4 game left this season, and this one isn’t it.
Northern Illinois (5-11, #293)
Thursday, January 27: vs Ball State (7-10, #259), 7pm Central, ESPN3
Saturday, January 29: vs Central Michigan (2-13, #341), 3pm Central, ESPN3
The Huskies weren’t projected to be very good this season, and as it turns out, they’re not playing very well this season. With that said, this pair of home games are their two most likely victories for the rest of the season according to KenPom’s projections and they’re straight up favored over the Chippewas. These are both Quadrant 4 games for NIU, so it would be nice if they could get the wins to help keep their numbers afloat on the back end for the Golden Eagles.