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 Sunday morning....
UCLA Bruins (19-5, #13)
Monday, February 21: vs Arizona State (10-15, #118), 8pm Central, FS1
Thursday, February 24: at Oregon (16-10, #63), 8:30pm Central, ESPN
Saturday, February 26: at Oregon State (3-22, #251), 3pm Central, CBS
The Bruins secured two home wins over the Washingtons last week to help them shake off their recent 1-3 stretch. They get a chance to avenge their loss at ASU on Monday night with a home game against the Sun Devils, but then they have to go up to the Oregons over the weekend. The Ducks will be fighting to get into the NCAA tournament, but that will likely stay a Quadrant 1 game no matter what for the Bruins. Meanwhile, Saturday’s game is a Q4 road game, which is the worst kind of road game you could possibly want because almost nothing good is going to come from winning the game and losing in Corvallis would be a disaster.
Illinois Fighting Illini (19-7, #14)
It’s a pair of Quadrant 1 games on deck for the Illini this week, so it’s a pretty big deal across the board both for them and for Marquette. Illinois is 2-2 in their last four, so it’s not a great time for a week where going 1-1 will be a very good result. The Ohio State game has a chance to make a big impact on the Big Ten regular season title much less the seeding for the conference tournament. The roadie in Ann Arbor presents an intriguing puzzle for Illinois: Winning a Quadrant 1 road game is good, but the win will most likely bump Michigan out of the top 30, and thus cost them a Quadrant 1 home win, as they beat the Wolverines back on January 14th.
Wisconsin Badgers (20-5, #21)
Unfortunately, I have to go against the “hope your opponents win all their games” concept here. For entertainment purposes, I have to cheer for Rutgers to beat the Badgers at the RAC on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights are on absolute fire right now, and I think it would be a hoot if they come from essentially out of nowhere to win the Big Ten title. That’s going to require more work from them than just this one win, but I’m pulling for Rutgers all the way here. Sorry/not sorry.
Kansas State Wildcats (14-12, #60)
K-State had a “won four of five” string toppled over with an overtime loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday, but that’s fine. They’ve done enough work to be pretty much locked in as a Quadrant 1 road game for the Golden Eagles. I’m not holding out a lot of hope for a win at Phog Allen on Tuesday, but they have a winnable Quadrant 2 game against the Cyclones on Saturday.
West Virginia Mountaineers (14-12, #69)
The Mountaineers have won just one game since January 12th. I’m not holding out a lot of hope here for help in regards to Marquette’s NET from big wins here. Their NET is trending upwards with all of the losses, but I doubt they’re falling out of the top 100, which is the cutoff for neutral site Quadrant 2 games. That’s fine for MU’s purposes here, but if they could finagle a win out of something along the way here, that would be great.
St. Bonaventure (17-7, #86)
Tuesday, February 22: vs Rhode Island (12-12, #134), 6pm Central, CBS Sports Network
Saturday, February 26: at Saint Joseph’s (10-15, #172), 5pm Central, CBS Sports Network
After falling to 4-4 in the Atlantic 10 and 12-7 overall on February 4th, the Bonnies are on a hot streak. They have won five straight now and boosted their NET rank from #106 into the mid-80s. This is great for Marquette because it means the neutral site loss to SBU has a nice cushion from that Quadrant 2/Quadrant 3 cut off at #100. With that said, they have a pair of Quadrant 3 games on their board this week, and it would clearly be most beneficial to MU if St. Bonaventure didn’t throw their winning streak into the nearest sewer.
Ole Miss Rebels (13-14, #106)
Well, the good news is that Mississippi snapped their four game losing streak with a win over Georgia on Saturday. They’ve been trending towards the top 100 since late January, which would be great for Marquette if they can make it there and get into Quadrant 2 for the Golden Eagles. Merely playing the Auburn game will help out their NET a little bit, but holding serve at home over the Aggies would be much more important for helping MU out a little bit.
New Hampshire (10-12, #255)
Wednesday, February 23: at NJIT (10-13, #306), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 26: vs Binghamton (9-13, #287), 11am Central, ESPN3
As it turns out, losing to Vermont by 21 at home did not help UNH’s standings in the NET. They have a pair of winnable Quadrant 4 games here this week, although they will be battles to get both W’s. Saturday’s game will be Senior Day for them, as the regular season wraps up on the road next week Tuesday.
Jackson State (8-17, #278)
Saturday, February 26: at Texas Southern (12-11, #199), 7:30pm Central, TSU Athletics YouTube
Only one game this week for the Tigers after they had a four game winning streak broken by Alcorn State on Saturday. They get a whole week off to rest up before heading to Houston for a Quadrant 3 game, and the only non-Q4 game left on the board for them.
SIU Edwardsville (7-19, #291)
Monday, February 21: vs Eastern Illinois (3-23, #355), 7pm Central, ESPN+
Thursday, February 24: vs Austin Peay (8-16, #286), 7:30pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 26: vs Morehead State (17-9, #121), 3:30pm Central, ESPN+
SIUE’s big shot at a Q1 win at Belmont did not go well. Not “blowout” bad, but just a loss. Oh well. The Cougars get a chance to get back on the winning side of things with a Monday game against one of the literal worst teams in the country and then they close out the regular season with two more home games after that. They’ve favored by KenPom against AP, but not so much against MSU for Senior Day. That one is still a Quadrant 3 game for them, though.
Northern Illinois (8-17, #297)
Tuesday, February 22: at Eastern Michigan (8-18, #295), 6pm Central, ESPN3
Thursday, February 24: vs Buffalo (14-8, #108), 7pm Central, ESPN3
Saturday, February 26: at Buffalo (14-8, #108), 1pm Central, ESPN3
Well, the good news is that two wins last week pushed the Huskies out of the sub-300 department in the NET. It’s a small thing, but being able to say “Marquette didn’t play any sub-300 teams” is something. I’m not sure how the scheduling gods handed them back-to-back games against Buffalo this week, but it’s a big time opportunity for them. The home game on Thursday is one of the three Quadrant 3 games left on the schedule, while Saturday’s roadie is their only Quadrant 2 game left. If they can pull off the upset in at least one, NIU has a chance to affect the race for the MAC regular season championship.