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 (24-5, #5)
Thursday, March 2: at Wisconsin (16-12, #72), 8pm Central, FS1
Sunday, March 5: vs Illinois (19-10, #34), 11:30am Central, Fox
Purdue’s skid continued on Saturday, as they took an eight point loss to Indiana and thus have now lost four of their last six. This still makes them Big Ten champs, because they have a two game lead and can only be tied, but it’s also not great for them. It’s fine for Marquette because it’s basically impossible for this road loss to dip outside of the top 10 at this point.... but also it would be neat if they could shore things up a little bit. Then again, maybe one more loss would be helpful, but more on that in a second.
Baylor Bears (21-8, #12)
The OSU game is the Quadrant 1 version of that meeting this season, as it’s on the road, so that’s two Q1 games for them this week. That’s the state of the Big 12, after all. Baylor is still alive for the Big 12 regular season title, but they help to get Kansas two more losses.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (19-10, #39)
Tuesday, February 28: vs South Carolina (10-19, #238), 8pm Central, SEC Network
Saturday, March 4: at Vanderbilt (16-13, #87), 7:30pm Central, SEC Network
The Bulldogs did themselves a huge favor by beating Texas A&M on Saturday, as the victory jumped them from 43 to 40 in the NET and Sunday’s contests nudged them to #39. That’s great news for their NCAA tournament future, and pretty much guarantees that they’ll stay top 50 and thus as a Quadrant 1 loss for Marquette. With that said, they should probably makes sure that they beat the Gamecocks in a Q4 game on Tuesday.
Wisconsin Badgers (16-12, #72)
Thursday, March 2: vs Purdue (24-5, #5), 8pm Central, FS1
Sunday, March 5: at Minnesota (7-20, #237), 6:30pm Central, FS1
Hell yeah, Wisconsin managed to finagle themselves back into Quadrant 2 last week with a win over Iowa, and their Sunday loss to Michigan didn’t knock them back down. Since the cutoff for home games between Q2 and Q3 is #75, I think it is in Marquette’s best interest for the Badgers to beat Purdue here. It won’t damage the Boilermakers all that much, and it should pretty decisively keep the Badgers in the top 75..... as long as they don’t lose a Q3 game at Minnesota in their regular season finale. I don’t say that idly, as they only beat the Gophers by three in Madison.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-19, #190)
Wednesday, March 1: vs Pittsburgh (21-8, #53), 6pm Central, ESPNU
Saturday, March 4: at Clemson (21-8, #60), 7pm Central, ACC Network
Notre Dame continues to be absolutely useless for Marquette’s non-conference schedule profile as the Irish have lost seven straight and have only beat Louisville since mid-January. This is a Quadrant 2 and a Quadrant 1 game for them, so big opportunities to boost their numbers, but we really shouldn’t be expecting too much here, even in Mike Brey’s final home game as ND’s head coach on Wednesday.
Radford Highlanders (18-13, #180)
Friday, March 3: vs Winthrop (15-16, #244), 7pm Central, ESPN+
This is a Big South conference tournament quarterfinal game for the Highlanders. If they win this neutral site Quadrant 4 game, they’ll advance to the semifinals on Saturday, and if they catch a heater, they’ll be in the title game on Sunday.
North Carolina Central Eagles (15-11, #185)
Monday, February 27: vs Norfolk State (20-8, #168), 6:30pm Central, NCCU SN
Thursday, March 2: at South Carolina State (5-23, #340), 6:30pm Central
Because it’s a home game, the NSU game is just eight spots short of being a Quadrant 3 game for NCCU. That’s not as important as merely beating the Spartans is, as the Eagles (8-4) are just one game behind Norfolk State (9-3) in the MEAC standings going into the week. Even if North Carolina Central gets the W there, getting to a conference title is out of their control, as Howard is also 9-3. Still, it would be neat for them to figure out a way to get there.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (12-17, #205)
Tuesday, February 28: at Syracuse (16-13, #112), 6pm Central, ACC Network Extra
Saturday, March 4: at Boston College (14-15, #165), 1:30pm Central, ESPNU
Look, I’m not going to tell you that I’m expecting Georgia Tech to figure out how to beat either of these teams on the road. KenPom.com has them sub-40% chance in both. But the cutoff between Quadrant 3 and Quadrant 4 is #200 for neutral site games like the Jackets are for Marquette. It would be really great if they could push it over the line before the selection committee starts meeting.
Chicago State Cougars (11-18, 282)
Remember, Chicago State is an independent. That’s why they’ve got these two weird-o-rama West Coast games this week. They’re Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 3 respectively, and maybe that bumps the Cougars up a little bit. Marquette’a already top 15 in the NET so it’s not like they need the underlying math to improve all that much, though.
Central Michigan Chippewas (10-19, #318)
With three straight losses and an upcoming top 100 game, it seems like our dream of a top 300 CMU team is officially over. Ah well. It’s really too bad that they couldn’t live up to the peak of their win over Michigan in late December when they were in the 250s for a while. The Chippewas were never going to be a Q3 game for Marquette, but it’s best to have your opponents above that very bad #300 cutoff.
LIU Sharks (3-25, #363)
Wednesday, March 1: at Merrimack (15-16, #310), 6pm Central, NEC Front Row
“Congrats” to Long Island for finding away to getting back to being the worst team in the country. Because Stonehill is ineligible for the postseason in their Division 1 debut season, LIU gets to play in the NEC conference tournament, and this one at regular season champion Merrimack is in the quarterfinals. If they pull off the upset — the Sharks lost by 17 and 21 to Merrimack with the second one coming on Saturday in the regular season finale — they’ll return to action on Saturday in the semifinals.