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....
Illinois Fighting Illini (17-5, #13)
Tuesday gives the Illini a chance for 1) their best possible win in Big Ten play and 2) revenge for that double OT home loss back on January 17th. That’s good stuff all the way around, and it could end up deciding the regular season conference title, too. The home date with the Wildcats is a “look, no matter what happens with Purdue, don’t screw this up” game. Northwestern might be going nowhere fast at 4-8 in Big Ten action, but it’s still a Quadrant 2 game for Illinois.
UCLA Bruins (16-4, #14)
Big week coming up for the Bruins after they got swept on the road by the Arizonas last week. The trip to Stanford is no joke as a Quadrant 2 game although they beat the Cardinal by 23 in Westwood. Then it’s a crosstown trip to see the Trojans who aren’t in desperate need of a big win but would be more than happy to get it.
Wisconsin Badgers (18-4, #20)
The Badgers get to take another crack at Michigan State after the Spartans won in the Kohl Center back on January 21, and won pretty convincingly after a 23-4 first half run. It’ll be the toughest road game left on their schedule, so it’s not the worst thing if it ends up being a loss as well. Their home game against Rutgers is waaaaay down in Quadrant 3 and probably stuck there since I doubt the Knights can get into the top 75, so UW really needs to take care of business there.
Kansas State Wildcats (12-10, #64)
There’s two big opportunities for wins on the calendar this week for the Wildcats, although they’re not favored in either one. With that said, K-State is on a two game winning streak right now and that’s pushed them 11 spots away from the Quadrant 1 away game cut line. As long as they stay north of 70 and help MU’s Quadrant 1 record, that’s all we really need them to do. Wins would definitely be helpful, but merely being competitive is enough.
West Virginia Mountaineers (13-9, #65)
Meanwhile, WVU has lost seven in a row, six in the Big 12 plus their SEC Challenge game. That’s not great. It’s also pretty much impossible for the ‘Eers to completely collapse out of the top 100 merely by the nature of the league that they play in, and since MU faced them in Charleston, they will stay Quadrant 2 at the absolute worst. Can they get some wins down the stretch and sneak into the top 50 and become a Q1 win? That’d be neat. Both games this week are winnable for them.
Ole Miss Rebels (12-11, #103)
There’s a Q1 and a Q3 game on the slate this week for Ole Miss, and they’re coming in that order. Can they beat the Tide at home? Mmmm, probably not, but the bump just for playing Bama might help Marquette. The Golden Eagles definitely need the Rebels to win in Columbia though. If Mississippi can just get back up over #100, this turns into a Quadrant 2 game for the Golden Eagles.
St. Bonaventure (12-7, #107)
Tuesday, February 8: vs Fordham (10-11, #181), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Friday, February 11: at Saint Louis (15-6, #54), 8pm Central, ESPN2
Things have been going sideways for the Bonnies pretty much from the second the Marquette game in Charleston ended. They lost at home to Northern Iowa, and they’ve lost four of six in A-10 play now, and for a team that started the year as the favorite in the league, their at-large hopes are now pretty much dead in the water even with the win over MU boosting them. This is a major problem for Marquette as they fall apart because they’re now a Quadrant 3 loss for the Golden Eagles. They should be able to beat Fordham, but the trip to Chaifetz on Friday to face a Bilikens team that’s inching towards an at-large bid is not looking very positive for SBU and thus also not for MU, either.
New Hampshire (7-9, #256)
Monday, February 7: at Stony Brook (12-9, #224), 6pm Central, ESPN3
Wednesday, February 9: vs NJIT (8-12, #309), 6pm Central, ESPN3
Saturday, February 12: at Binghamton (8-10, #283), 1pm Central, ESPN3
Hey, remember when Marquette struggled to beat the Wildcats by five points? Anyway, they’re 9-9 right now and have been alternating wins and losses since December 13th. In theory, that pattern should mean win/loss/win this week, but KenPom says the odds are leaning towards it going the other way for them each time. Then again, Stony Brook just got told that they’re ineligible for the America East tournament because they’re leaving the conference at the end of the year, and they immediately lost to — wait for it — Binghamton and NJIT. Can UNH swing a win against the Seawolves for what would be their first win of the year in the first three quadrants?
SIU Edwardsville (5-16, #275)
Monday, February 7: vs Southeast Missouri State (8-13, #297), 8pm Central, ESPN+
Thursday, February 10: vs UT Martin (6-16, #298), 7:30pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 12: vs Tennessee Tech (3-18, #266), 3:30pm Central, ESPN+
Eight straight losses for the Cougars now, including a double OT one at Austin Peay back on Monday. Oh, and now Ray’Sean Taylor is done for the year, and he was really doing a lot fot them. KenPom has them favored in each of these three games, but that would be with Taylor in the lineup. They’re all Quadrant 4 games for SIUE though, so the impact on their overall profile is negligible at best for Marquette’s purposes.
Jackson State (5-16, #292)
Monday, February 7: at Arkansas Pine Bluff (3-18, #353), 6:30pm Central
Saturday, February 12: vs Florida A&M (7-12, #310), 5:30pm Central, JSU SN
JSU snapped a four game losing skid with a win at Mississippi Valley State on Saturday, so that’s good. They’re favored in both of these games, too, although both of them are Quadrant 4 contests. Still, if they can string some wins together, that will help Marquette look a little bit better even if the Tigers really have no chance of moving north of #161 and into Q3 on MU’s board.
Northern Illinois (6-14, #300)
Tuesday, February 8: vs Akron (12-6, #145), 7pm Central, ESPN3
Saturday, February 12: vs Toledo (17-5, #75), 3:30pm Central, ESPN3
The Huskies came out of last week with a split, although it’s the “well, you’d better be able to beat the worst team in the league” kind of split. They’re not favored in another game for the entire rest of the season, although the Akron game is a Quadrant 3 game for them and Toledo is Q2. Sure would be neat if they could pilfer a win out here and stop MU from having even a single sub-300 team on the resume.