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 as of Monday morning....
Illinois Fighting Illini (18-6, #13)
Two big games for the Illini this week. They have to go to the RAC first, and we know RAC Attacks are real, and Rutgers is on a three game winning streak where they have beaten Michigan State and Ohio State at home and Wisconsin on the road. After that, they have to go to East Lansing and square off with the Spartans and both of those squads are part of the group of five in the Big Ten that have either three or four losses in league play to be jumbled up at the top of the standings.
UCLA Bruins (17-5, #14)
A Quadrant 2 and a Quadrant 3 game, in that order, are on the board for the Bruins this week. Sounds like nothing but stumbling blocks for Mick Cronin and friends, and they’ve already lost three of their last four games including a 67-64 road loss to crosstown rival USC on Saturday. If you’re already stumbling, you can’t trip and fall to the ground, and it would really be nice for Marquette if they did not.
Wisconsin Badgers (19-5, #23)
The Badgers are just 4-3 in their last seven games and up until losing to Rutgers on Saturday, you could just shrug at the losses to Michigan State and Illinois. The Indiana game is a Quadrant 1 game for UW, which can keep them in the running for the most Q1 wins in the country. After that, they have a Q2 game against Michigan on Sunday, and the Wolverines are desperately in need of wins to get to the NCAA tourney this year.
Kansas State Wildcats (13-11, #64)
I’m feeling like the Wildcats are safely in the Quadrant 1 department for Marquette. The cutoff for away games is #75 and they’re now 11 spots clear of that. With that said, every single game in the Big 12 is a loss waiting to happen, and who knows how far you could drop if you start dropping too many games. WVU is a Q2 game for them here, while OSU is firmly in Q1. The Wildcats have won three of their last four, including a big road overtime win over Iowa State on Saturday.
West Virginia Mountaineers (14-10, #70)
Monday, February 14: at Kansas State (13-11, #64), 6pm Central, ESPN2
Saturday, February 19: vs Kansas (20-4, #8), 7pm Central, ESPN
I don’t know what’s more beneficial for Marquette when it comes to this WVU/KSU game. I feel like the Mountaineers getting a road win, especially since they’re 3-8 in the league, would be a bigger deal for MU’s rankings and ratings. Heck, T-Rank doesn’t even list this game as relevant to Marquette’s standings, so maybe it just does not matter. That’s wild. I feel pretty comfortable guessing that Kansas is going to beat WVU on Saturday, so maybe a win at all is good for MU here. This game is pretty much locked in as a Q2 game for the Golden Eagles since it was a neutral site game, and that’s 51-100 in the rankings.
St. Bonaventure (14-7, #90)
Monday, February 14: vs Saint Louis (16-7, #60), 4pm Central, CBS Sports Network
Wednesday, February 16: vs UMass (11-12, #174), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 19: vs Duquesne (6-16, #256), 5pm Central, ESPN2 or ESPNU
Marquette’s worst NET loss of the year is on an upswing right now and is sitting in Quadrant 2 with three games coming up this week. They get to host a SLU team that they just beat on Friday on Monday night, and then they get two more home games where they are heavily favored. Both UMass and Duquesne are Q4 games for the Bonnies, so it would be highly advisable, from a MU perspective, that they not blow either one of those.
Ole Miss Rebels (12-13, #108)
The Rebels have lost three straight right now, and the third one — at Missouri — is the most unfortunate one. This week gives them a pair of Quadrant 3 games, and they are favored to win both. Before the three game losing streak, Ole Miss was trending towards moving into the top 100 and thus into Quadrant 2 for Marquette’s record. I don’t know if just beating the Gamecocks and the Bulldogs is enough to push them up and over the line, but I think they should do it just to see if it works.
New Hampshire (9-10, #249)
Monday, February 14: vs UMBC (11-11, #239), 3pm Central, ESPN3
Wednesday, February 16: vs Vermont (19-4, #66), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 19: at Albany (10-15, #277), 3pm Central, ESPN3
The Wildcats have not done the same thing in two straight games since early December. They’ve been alternating wins and losses ever since then, and if that trend continues, they would go 1-2 this week. Weirdly, that would give them their best win of the season because it’s a home game against Vermont, the only top 200 team in the America East. That’s not going to bump them up into Quadrant 3 territory for Marquette, though. I’d rather they go 2-1 with the loss coming against the Catamounts. 3-0 would be even better, but that’s wishcasting.
Jackson State (7-16, #285)
Who likes three game winning streaks? That’s what Jackson State has right now. This week gives them their second best (according to the NET) remaining game on the calendar in the road game at Alcorn State, so that’s something, even if it is still a Quadrant 4 game.
SIU Edwardsville (7-17, #288)
Can the Cougars make it three in a row against OVC rivals with the state of Tennessee in their name? They’ve won two straight with home victories over UT Martin and Tennessee Tech, and on Thursday, they get Tennessee State on the road. Their big game of the week is Saturday’s visit to Belmont, because that is a Quadrant 1 game for them. That feels like it will be beneficial to Marquette, and if SIUE gets the win? Woooooo, nellie.
Northern Illinois (6-16, #306)
Tuesday, February 15: at Ball State (10-13, #251), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Thursday, February 17: at Akron (14-7, #142), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 19: vs Miami (OH) (8-13, #250), 3:30pm Central, ESPN3
Marquette’s only sub-300 opponent has lost three straight and eight of the last nine. Their three opponents this week? Each of them are one of those eight losses, and now, for two of them, they have to go on the road to face them. Not great for the ol’ winning percentage, that’s for sure. The good news for their impact on Marquette is that the Akron game is a Quadrant 3 game, while the other two are Q4.