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....
Purdue Boilermakers (16-1, #4)
Monday, January 16: at Michigan State (12-5, #42), 1:30pm Central, Fox
Thursday, January 19: at Minnesota (7-8, #206), 6pm Central, ESPN2
Sunday, January 22: vs Maryland (11-6, #52), 11am Central, FS1
Purdue comes into the week with a three game winning streak and a half-game lead on Rutgers in the Big Ten standings and a full game on Michigan State, and the Scarlet Knights are the only team to defeat the Boilermakers this season. The trip to Michigan State is a Quadrant 1 game and will clearly go a long way towards dictating the top of the standings for the rest of the season. Maryland shapes up to be a Quadrant 2 game for them, and the trip to the Twin Cities to see the Gophers stands pretty steadily in the middle of the Quadrant 3 section.
Baylor Bears (12-5, #19)
Tuesday, January 17: at Texas Tech (10-7, #65), 8pm Central, ESPNU
Saturday, January 21: at Oklahoma (11-6, #44), 3pm Central, ESPN2
The Bears steered out of their 0-3 start to league play over the past week, but everything in the Big 12 is always a grind. Winning any games at all in their league is a challenge, especially on the road, and Baylor has two of them on deck this week. The good news is that because the league is so difficult, both contests are Quadrant 1 games for them and no matter what the result is, Marquette’s win over the Bears just keeps looking pretty good. The Texas Tech game is on the relative edge of the #75 cutoff for Quadrant 1, though.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-5, #54)
Tuesday, January 17: vs Tennessee (14-3, #2), 6pm Central, ESPN2
Saturday, January 21: vs Florida (10-7, #48), 7:30pm Central, SEC Network
The Bulldogs used to be one of the best stories of the year, and they were doing a lot of work to make Marquette’s NET look pretty neat. But they’ve just 1-5 in their last six games and as a result, their NET has jumped 40 spots from where it was when they were still undefeated this season. They’ve got a great chance to score a big win on Tuesday against the Vols in a game that will definitely stay Quadrant 1 all season, and if they could swing a Quadrant 2 win over the Gators at the very least, that would be very helpful for MU, not to mention for MSU’s NCAA hopes at this point.
Wisconsin Badgers (11-5, #67)
Tuesday, January 17: vs Penn State (12-5, #51), 7:30pm Central, Big Ten Network
Saturday, January 21: at Northwestern (12-5, #59), 11am Central, Big Ten Network
The Badgers used to be 11-2 on the year and 3-0 in Big Ten play, but they have lost their last three games: at Illinois and at Indiana, plus a home game against Michigan State. Those are far from bad losses, but they’ve got the Badgers headed towards a spot outside the NCAA tournament, too. They’re getting a pair of games against two of the other three 3-3 teams in the Big Ten standings this week, and both squads are roughly similar to them in the NET as well. If Tyler Wahl returns — he’s missed the last three games with an ankle injury — then they should be looking pretty good. If not.....
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-9, #155)
Well, the neat thing about GT is that they picked up a win over Miami back on January 4th, but they immediately threw the benefit to their NET ranking in the trash by losing on the road to an awful Florida State team in their very next game. The FSU game was the first of three straight losses for the Yellow Jackets, and these two games, even at home, aren’t looking good for them, either. NC State is a Quadrant 1 game, although just barely with the cutoff at #30, while the Syracuse game is down in Q3.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-9, #162)
Tuesday, January 17: vs Florida State (5-13, #228), 6pm Central, ESPNU
Saturday, January 21: vs Boston College (8-10, #226), 1pm Central, ACC Network Extra
Neither of Marquette’s ACC opponents are doing them any favors this season, as Notre Dame’s only win in their last five games was in overtime at home against Georgia Tech. In fact, that game is one of just two wins for the Irish since Marquette visited South Bend in December. Since these are both home games this week, they are both Quadrant 4 games for Notre Dame because these two opponents are not very good, and needless to say it would be very good for MU if Mike Brey’s guys didn’t flub these wins.
Radford Highlanders (10-9, #167)
Marquette’s first game of the season is also their best ranked buy game opponent right now. The Highlanders have won three in a row and four of their last five to sit in second place in the Big South behind a tie at 5-1 between Longwood and UNC Asheville. This week they’ve got two games against what appears be the bottom half of the league, so if they’re aiming to contend, they need to get both victories. Both games are Quadrant 4 games because that the nature of playing in the Big South.
North Carolina Central Eagles (9-8, #194)
Saturday, January 21: vs Delaware State (1-15, #357), 3pm Central, NCCUSN
Only one game for the Eagles this week as they’ve won four of their last five games and sit on a two game winning streak in MEAC play. Delaware State shapes up to be the worst team in their league, so while it’s a Quadrant 4 game for sure, it’s a game that NC Central needs to get if they’re trying to remain the favorite in the conference.
Central Michigan Chippewas (7-10, #279)
The Chips are 2-2 in MAC action, which happens to double as the entirety of their schedule since they beat in-state rival Directionless Michigan in Ann Arbor in late December. That win did their NET a huge favor, but losing on the road against Eastern Michigan pretty much handed all of their ground gained right back. Akron looks to be something of a contender in the MAC while Ohio is supposed to be a good team in the league but is currently struggling in league play at 1-3 so far. These will both be Quadrant 3 games for CMU, so both will be pretty notable wins for them if they can get them.
Chicago State Cougars (4-16, #294)
Apparently no one wanted to play Chicago State this week, so they’re off til next week Monday. Such is the life of an independent.
LIU Sharks (2-15, #362)
Hey, surprise, the team that changed their coach in the middle of the summer for no apparent reason other than they really wanted to hire Rod Strickland hasn’t won a game against a Division 1 opponent this summer. There’s currently a 4.3% chance that they go without a win the rest of the season according to KenPom.com, so yeah, they’re not favored to win any of these three Quadrant 4 games even though all three are at home.