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 (21-1, #3)
Wednesday, February 1: vs Penn State (14-7, #52), 5:30pm Central, Big Ten Network
Saturday, February 4: at Indiana (15-6, #20), 3pm Central, ESPN
I’m writing this on Monday morning before the AP poll refreshes, but I presume the Boilermakers will be the unanimous #1 team in the country when it happens. Their hold on the top spot comes under fire this week as a very frisky Penn State team comes to Mackey and they have to make the short road trip to Bloomington on Saturday. That PU/IU game might just be the game of the day on Saturday, as the Hoosiers should be ranked in the new top 25 with five straight wins.
Baylor Bears (16-5, #13)
Monday, January 30: at Texas (17-4, #9), 8pm Central, ESPN
Saturday, February 4: vs Texas Tech (11-10, #69), 12pm Central, CBS
Hey, Baylor gets a nice break this week as they finally get to play a Quadrant 2 game, one of just three in Big 12 play this year. That’s the TTU game obviously, as the Monday night game against the Longhorns is clearly a Quadrant 1 game. The Bears have won six straight after starting Big 12 play with three straight losses, which is very helpful to Marquette’s strength of schedule.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (13-8, #54)
Tuesday, January 31: at South Carolina (8-13, #272), 5:30pm Central, SEC Network
Saturday, February 4: vs Missouri (16-5, #44), 5pm Central, SEC Network
The Bulldogs beat TCU at home in overtime on Saturday for just their second win in their last 10 games. With that in mind, neither of these two contests this week are anything close to a guarantee, and yes that includes a Quadrant 4 game against a very not good South Carolina team that has just one win — on the road against Kentucky of all teams and places — since the calendar flipped to 2023. With that said, MSU’s NET ranking is trending towards #50 over the last week or so, and if they could at least get the win against the Gamecocks to try to push themselves back into being a neutral Quadrant 1 game for Marquette, that would be great.
Wisconsin Badgers (12-8, #74)
Thursday, February 2: at Ohio State (11-10, #29), 6pm Central, FS1
Sunday, February 5: vs Northwestern (15-5, #40), 5:30pm Central, Big Ten Network
Wisconsin has lost six of their last seven and watched their NET move from #50 to #74 in the meantime. For Marquette’s purposes, that is very bad since 1) that is a home loss and 2) the cutoff on Quadrant 2 for home games is #75. Neither of their games look particularly fun relative to MU trying to keep away from having a Quadrant 3 loss as the visit to Columbus is a Q1 game and the Wildcats coming to Madison is Q2.
Radford Highlanders (14-9, #157)
Wednesday, February 1: at Presbyterian (5-18, #347), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 4: vs Winthrop (10-13, #262), 1pm Central, ESPN+
The team that MU brought in as a buy game for the season opener now has the 9th longest winning streak in the country and they’re a game back of first place in the Big South. Keeping that running through these two Quadrant 4 games would be very good for Marquette, as the Highlanders are just three spots clear of the cutoff between Q3 and Q4 and accidentally getting a Q3 game out of your buy game opener is very fun.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-12, #184)
Saturday, February 4: vs Wake Forest (14-8, #72), 12pm Central, ACC Network Extra
Louisville is so bad that a 14 point home win over the Cardinals cost the Irish one rankings spot in the NET. And yes, they are ranked below Radford as the win over UL moved Notre Dame to 2-9 in ACC play this season. For MU’s purposes here, I suspect that ND pulling off a win against Wake would actually knock the Demon Deacons down to a Quadrant 3 game and that’s less than helpful.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-13, #218)
Wednesday, February 1: at Louisville (2-19, #337), 6pm Central, ACC Network Extra
Saturday, February 4: at NC State (17-5, #39), 12pm Central, ACC Network
Speaking of less than helpful, we have Georgia Tech 1) dipping into Q4 and 2) visiting Louisville. The Jackets have lost seven straight ACC contests since stunning Miami back on January 4th, and that has moved them from #127 in the NET to their current spot nearly 100 places lower. Yay. Lord knows where they’ll end up if they lose to the Cardinals, and visiting NC State will probably only help by being a Q1 game as opposed to having a chance at being a win. WARNING: GT has a home game against Louisville left to go after this week, too.
North Carolina Central Eagles (10-10, #224)
Monday, January 30: at Norfolk State (14-7, #185), 6pm Central, ESPNU
Only one game for NCCU this week, but it’s a pretty big one relative to their schedule’s impact on Marquette. NSU is a Quadrant 3 game for them and will probably stay there for the rest of the season. NC Central lost their last two games to drop to 3-3 in the league and both games were to the two teams currently tied for first place in the MEAC.
Chicago State Cougars (6-17, #280)
Monday, January 30: at The Citadel (9-13, #306), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 4: at Hartford (5-17, #362), 1pm Central, HartfordHawks.com
Hey, look at the Cougs going out to South Carolina and pulling the upset on Coastal Carolina! That yanked them pretty heavily away from that dreaded #300 line in the NET, so that’s pretty neat. They have a chance for two more road wins this week as they’re a narrow underdog against The Citadel and favored to beat Hartford out in Connecticut. Both are Q4 games since both teams are sub-300 in the NET, but wins by your opponents are always helpful.
Central Michigan Chippewas (8-13, #312)
Tuesday, January 31: at Kent State (17-4, #60), 6pm Central, ESPN+
Saturday, February 4: at Toledo (15-6, #103), 2:30pm Central, ESPN3
BIG TIME WEEK FOR THE CHIPS HERE! The Kent State game is a Quadrant 1 opportunity for them, and Toledo is Q2. These are the top two teams in the MAC standings, so it’s obviously not going to be easy. CMU is coming off something of a miracle win against Western Michigan on Saturday as they went on a late 12-2 run to rally from down 66-55 to win 70-69.
LIU Sharks (3-19, #363)
Thursday, February 2: at Merrimack (7-16, #335), 4pm Central, CBS Sports Network
The worst team in America actually won a game last week, beating Sacred Heart in Fairfield for not only their first NEC win of the season, but their first Division 1 victory of the season. Shouts to CJ Delancy for his game high 18 points in the win.