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....
Purdue Boilermakers (18-1, #4)
Thursday, January 26: at Michigan (10-8, #76), 8pm Central, FS1
Sunday, January 29: vs Michigan State (13-6, #37), 11:15am Central, CBS
A Quadrant 2 road game is never a gimme, not in a league like the Big Ten, and the same goes for a Q2 home game against Tom Izzo’s guys. Purdue goes into the week with a two game lead in the loss column of the league standings, and the Michigan schools are currently tied for second and in fourth in the conference night. Two wins would be a big separation step for the Boilermakers.
Baylor Bears (14-5, #14)
Monday, January 23: vs Kansas (16-3, #8), 8pm Central, ESPN
Saturday, January 28: vs Arkansas (13-6, #27), 3pm Central, ESPN
FUN FACT: The way things currently stand, Baylor has no Quadrant 3 opponents. Not “left to play,” as in “none of their games are Quadrant 3.” The Big 12 is an absolute meat grinder, and playing a suddenly scuffling Kansas team in Waco won’t be a walk in the park. Saturday is the annual Big 12/SEC challenge day, so that’s just another Quadrant 1 game for the Bears.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (12-7, #63)
Wednesday, January 25: at Alabama (17-2, #3), 8pm Central, SEC Network
Saturday, January 28: vs TCU (15-4, #17), 3pm Central, ESPN2
The Bulldogs are on a massive skid right now, with four straight losses and a seven out of eight slide. Visiting a national championship contender is probably not going to improve things for them and neither is hosting a Horned Frogs team that just went into Allen Fieldhouse and ripped Kansas’ heart out. Both games are Quadrant 1 opportunities for them, so that’s got a trickle down impact to Marquette’s strength of schedule even if MSU doesn’t get the wins.
Wisconsin Badgers (12-5, #64)
Wednesday, January 25: at Maryland (12-6, #46), 6pm Central, Big Ten Network
Saturday, January 28: vs Illinois (13-6, #31), 2pm Central, Fox
UW shook off a three game losing streak by squeaking out a home win over Penn State this past week. They don’t currently look like an NCAA tournament team, so figuring out a way to win in College Park (a Quadrant 1 game) and hold serve at home against the Illini (a Q2 game) would really do them a lot of good. It is crucially important that Wisconsin stays north of #75 in the NET, as that’s the cut off between Quadrant 2 and Quadrant 3 for Marquette’s purposes.
Radford Highlanders (12-9, #159)
Thursday, January 26: vs Longwood (15-6, #145), 6pm Central, ESPNU
Saturday, January 28: at USC Upstate (9-10, #275), 1pm Central, ESPN+
Yes, Radford is beating out Georgia Tech and Notre Dame in the NET rankings. They have ascended into Quadrant 3 win status for Marquette thanks to their current five game winning streak, which is pretty cool. They’re on the edge though, as the cutoff is #160. Longwood is a Q3 game for the Highlanders, as well as a chance for Radford to pull even with the Lancers at the top of the Big South standings. USC Upstate is a Q4 game for them, so no matter what happens with the Longwood game, they have to figure out a way to beat the Spartans on the road.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-11, #180)
Tuesday, January 24: at Clemson (16-4, #59), 8pm Central, ACC Network
Saturday, January 28: vs Duke (14-5, #29), 2pm Central, ACC Network
GT has won just one time since December 18th, and weirdly it was a home win over a very good Miami team. Their NET is currently 20 spots away from falling to Quadrant 4 for Marquette’s measurements, so it would helpful if they could figure out a way to get some wins here. They’re both Quadrant 1 games for the Yellow Jackets, so maybe the most that we can hope for is improvement by way of strength of schedule.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (9-11, #194)
Tuesday, January 24: at NC State (15-5, #36), 6pm Central, ACC Network
Saturday, January 28: vs Louisville (2-17, #334), 11am Central, ESPN2
There’s a reason why the Irish announced that head coach Mike Brey will be stepping down at the end of the season. 1-6 in their last seven, with the win coming in overtime at home over the previously mentioned not good Georgia Tech team. NC State won’t be fun for them, but they absolutely have to get that Louisville win. That is not a typo on the Cardinals’ NET, by the way. It’s a Quadrant 4 game with UL as one of the worst 40 teams in the country.
North Carolina Central Eagles (10-8, #202)
Monday, January 23: vs Maryland Eastern Shore (10-8, #251), 6:30pm Central, NCCUSN
Saturday, January 28: at Howard (11-10, #266), 5pm Central, ESPNU
And now we move into Marquette’s Quadrant 4 victories. Because NCCU plays in the MEAC, their NET is drifting lower and lower even though they’ve won three straight. The Eagles have a chance to establish themselves as the team to beat in the MEAC this week, as both UMES and Howard are 3-1, just like NC Central is right now.
Chicago State Cougars (4-16, #299)
Monday, January 23: at Coastal Carolina (10-9, #252), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Wednesday, January 25: at Stanford (7-12, #125), 9pm Central, Pac 12 Network
Saturday, January 28: vs Aurora, 2pm Central, FloHoops
CSU hasn’t won a Division 1 game since December 4th. Monday’s game against the Chanticleers is their first game at all since January 14th, as they are an independent this season. Coastal could drift into Quadrant 3 territory for them but it’s not like the Cougars are in the conversation for an NCAA bid or something. Stanford is a Quadrant 2 game, so hopefully MU gets a little strength of schedule benefit out of the scenario. Aurora is a non-D1 game for them, one of three remaining on the schedule this year.
Central Michigan Chippewas (7-12, #302)
Tuesday, January 24: vs Bowling Green (9-10, #256), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, January 28: vs Western Michigan (6-13, #292), 6pm Central, ESPN3
CMU has lost four of five after an 0-2 week and as a result, their NET has slipped into the 300s. Playing a pair of home Quadrant 4 games probably won’t improve their NET all that much even if they figure out a way to get the wins.
LIU Sharks (2-17, #363)
Thursday, January 26: at Sacred Heart (11-10, #318), 6pm Central, NEC Front Row
Saturday, January 28: at St. Francis (NY) (9-10, #352), 1pm Central, NEC Front Row
They are literally the worst team in the country now. The Sharks dug deep and found a way to drop one spot from last week to the very bottom spot in the rankings. These are both Quadrant 4 games, and they are not favored to win either one, not even with St. Francis being in the bottom 15 in the country.