t’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 (23-4, #5)
Saturday, February 25: vs Indiana (19-8, #18), 6:30pm Central, Fox
Peek behind the curtain time! I’m writing this on Sunday because there’s a Monday game elsewhere on the rundown, so it has to be done for first thing Monday morning. That means I don’t know what will happen to Purdue at home against Ohio State today, but hopefully it’s something good. The Boilermakers have lost three of four since running their record to 22-1 overall, and their Big Ten title hopes are frantically disappearing as a result. After Sunday, their lone game of the week is a home game against the Indiana squad that started this recently slide and that is in third place in the league right now, so that will be a very big deal for everyone involved.
Baylor Bears (20-7, #12)
Tuesday, February 21: at Kansas State (20-7, #20), 6pm Central, ESPN2
Saturday, February 25: vs Texas (21-6, #9), 1pm Central, ESPN Family
If you ever want an explanation of “it’s hard to win at Allen Fieldhouse” or need to explain it to anyone, just show them what happened to Baylor on Saturday against Kansas. The Bears were up 45-32 at the half and lost by 16. They lost the “third quarter” of the game 34-9. Anyway, it’s the Big 12, so everything’s hard to do, and this week’s set of two Quadrant 1 games are no different.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (18-9, #42)
Tuesday, February 21: at Missouri (19-8, #50), 6pm Central, SEC Network
Saturday, February 25: vs Texas A&M (20-7, #29), 2:30pm Central, SEC Network
As long as that NET stays top 50, that’s all that matters for Marquette. The Bulldogs get two Quadrant 1 chances this week, although beating the Aggies in Starkville might actually knock them to sub-30 and thus out of Quadrant 1. Both games are critical for Mississippi State, as they are very clearly fighting for an NCAA tournament berth due to their mid-season swoon when they started out 1-7 in SEC play.
Yep, once again, no Quadrant 2 games this week.....
Wisconsin Badgers (15-11, #76)
Wednesday, February 22: vs Iowa (17-9, #36), 8pm Central, Big Ten Network
Sunday, February 26: at Michigan (15-12, #65), 1pm Central, CBS
It is, at this point, a daily fight with the Badgers to keep them in Quadrant 2/out of Quadrant 3 — the cutoff for home games is #75 — as they have been alternating wins and losses all February long. As Marquette’s worst loss of the season, it would be very neat if Greg Gard could at least steer this thing in the direction of “not terrible,” but I’m not holding my breath here with KenPom projecting their next three games as losses.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-17, #194)
Wednesday, February 22: vs North Carolina (16-10, #44), 8pm Central, ESPN
Saturday, February 25: at Wake Forest (17-10, #75), 6pm Central, ACC Network
I just want to say that Notre Dame was a top 140 NET team when Marquette beat them back in December. That loss singlehandedly booted them into the 160s and pretty much ended any chance that the Irish would manage to sneak into Quadrant 2 status (the cutoff is #135 for away games) for the Golden Eagles, although the state of the ACC isn’t helping either. ND has lost five straight at this point, and these two aren’t looking great for them to break that up.
Radford Highlanders (17-12, #178)
This week will be the end of the regular season for Radford, and sadly for them, it has not been ending well. They have lost three of their last four, and their loss back on Thursday to UNC Asheville helped the Bulldogs clinch the Big South regular season title. With just two Quadrant 4 games left to go for the Highlanders, it seems like the dream of a Quadrant 3 win for Marquette here is officially over.
North Carolina Central Eagles (13-11, #201)
Monday, February 20: at Maryland Eastern Shore (15-10, #223), 6:30pm Central
Saturday, February 25: vs Howard (17-10, (#228), 4pm Central, NCCU SN
The visit to UMES is a Quadrant 3 game for the Eagles this week, while the visit from Howard, even with the Bison in first place in the MEAC, is a Quadrant 4 game. I don’t think that NCCU can push this over the line into a Q3 win for Marquette, but their current three game winning streak has them 20 spots better in the NET than they were before it.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (11-16, #209)
Tuesday, February 21: at Pittsburgh (19-8, #51), 6pm Central, ACC Network
Saturday, February 25: vs Louisville (4-23, #307), 1pm Central, ACC Network Extra
Shouts to Georgia Tech for snagging a win over Virginia Tech this week to yank their NET back towards #200. If they can figure out a way to get back into the top 200 by the end of the year, then this game turns into a Quadrant 3 win for Marquette. Winning at Pitt — a Quadrant 1 game — would definitely help in that regard, even if it’s unlikely, and it’s absolutely a requirement for the Jackets to beat Louisville at home if they want to be a top 200 team.
Chicago State Cougars (10-18, #285)
The Cougars have no games this week and won’t play again until March 1st when they visit Gonzaga.
Central Michigan Chippewas (10-17, #306)
CMU gets a chance at a Quadrant 3 win this week when they head up to Buffalo for a game. It took the Chips overtime to get the win at home earlier this season, so it might not be an easy time. These are the two teams directly in front of Central Michigan in the MAC standings, so it could be useful for them to get some wins relative to the conference tournament seedings.
LIU Sharks (3-24, #362)
Saturday, February 25: vs Merrimack (10-4, #319), 12pm Central, NEC Front Row
This game will be LIU’s regular season finale, and I don’t know about how the NEC is going to do their conference tournament, but there’s a real argument that they should just leave the Sharks out of it. They’re 1-14 in a league where the second worst team is 6-8, and it’s a nine team conference, so you could easily just run an eight team tournament and no one would really argue about it. Merrimack is a Quadrant 4 game for the Sharks, but the Warriors start the week with a half game lead on Stonehill for first place in the league.