If there’s one thing that we can trust, it’s that Jon Rothstein is going to break non-conference scheduling news.
If there’s two things that we can trust, it’s that Jon Rothstein is going to report the matchups for non-conference events as soon as possible, even if we were expecting the official announcement to be coming any day now.
If there’s three things that we can trust, it’s that the Big East and Big Ten brain trusts are going to give Marquette a repeat matchup in the Gavitt Tip-Off Games.
Combine it all together, and that’s how we get Monday’s report from Jon Rothstein that YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles will be taking the show on the road to visit Illinois in the 2023 Gavitt Tip-Off Games.
NEWS: Matchups are set for the 2023 Gavitt Games, according to multiple sources.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 22, 2023
Xavier at Purdue
Marquette at Illinois
Michigan at St. John's
Maryland at Villanova
Butler at Michigan St
Iowa at Creighton
Wisconsin at Providence
Georgetown at Rutgershttps://t.co/m8mcWHwukJ
This is the final year of the original Gavitt Games contract between the Big East and the Big Ten. Officially, there wasn’t supposed to be a 2023 Gavitt Games, but the COVID protocols of scheduling the early parts of the 2020-21 season led to the event being dumped that year and the series extended to this upcoming season.
With that in mind, I would like to go through a brief recap of what Marquette has seen as their games in the eight year event.
Seven games in eight events against a 13 team conference — Wisconsin doesn’t count for our bookkeeping purposes here since MU’s yearly game against the Badgers was protected from being part of the event — and we’re going to see a grand total of four different opponents. In theory, the fact that there were only eight games every season in the series and the Big Ten teams were only contractually guaranteed to appear four times should have made this harder to make happen.... and yet here we are. If the Gavitt Games contract between the two leagues gets renewed/extended/whatever, can I please ask someone in the league offices to act as a Director of Common Sense? We need someone to step into these conversations and say “hey, we can’t be having all of these repeat opponents all the time, it causes fans to not care because it’s not a new and exciting matchup for them.”
To accentuate my point, here’s the last time Marquette played the other nine teams in the Big Ten:
Maryland: December 2019
Michigan: November 2016
Michigan State: March 2023 (November 2014 before last year’s NCAA tourney)
Minnesota: December 2000
Nebraska: November 2005
Northwestern: December 1994
Ohio State: November 2014
Penn State: March 2018
Rutgers: March 2013
For the record: I expected Marquette to draw Maryland. Michigan State would have been the obvious pick as MU and MSU are preseason favorites in their respective leagues and it’s a rematch of an NCAA tournament game from this past March, easy headline generating for early season college hoops right there. However, Marquette Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker noted that it was unlikely between the scheduling required for the Spartans to play in the Champions Classic and the Golden Eagles traveling to Maui. Running down the T-Rank projections for 2023-24? Purdue? Happened last year. Indiana? Already happened in the Gavitt Games, yes, I know what I just said, stop laughing. Wisconsin? Protected from the series. Northwestern? All for it, but if we’re trying to generate headlines, moving a little further away from Milwaukee/Chicago helps spread the good news, and let’s be honest: No one actually trusts Northwestern to be an NCAA tournament team again next year. And next up is the Terrapins, ta-da.
In terms of the actual matchup that we’re getting, it’s not a surprise that we’re getting Marquette going on the road against the Fighting Illini. The Golden Eagles are already hosting Notre Dame as part of a home-and-home series as well as Texas in the Big East/Big 12 Battle. It just makes sense to create balance in the home/road alignment of the schedule, and thankfully, that worked out correctly even if the assignment of opponent didn’t.
Illinois is coming off a 20-13 season that earned them a #9 seed in the NCAA tournament after going 11-9 in Big Ten action. It was a wild season for the Illini, starting off the campaign at #33 in the KenPom.com rankings and then ascending as high as #12 and then falling as low as #40 in the span of less than a month in the middle of the schedule. A 7-1 stretch in league action had them pointing in a positive direction after Gary Parrish’s train conducting/engineering caused them to crash, but they closed out the regular season with five losses in their final nine games. Illinois lost four of their final games of the season, ending the year with a loss to Penn State in their only conference tournament game and then a loss to Arkansas in an 8/9 game in the NCAA tournament.
T-Rank has Illinois as a top 50 team heading into next season, so that has them as a tourney contender.... but also they’re exactly #50. They’re also slotted in to finish tied for 10th in the league with a record of 9-11. As you’d expect with a league with 11 top 51 teams — Rutgers is the other part of the tie for 10th, they’re at #51 — the Big Ten projects to be a mess in the middle of the standings, with the algorithm saying that seven teams will finish within one game of .500. That’s half the league somewhere between 11-9 and 9-11!
Barring some sort of change between now and November, Marcus Domask projects as Illinois’ best player. Given that he’s grad transferring over after four seasons at Southern Illinois, that’s probably not a great sign for Illinois head coach Brad Underwood in terms of building long term stability in Champaign. In fact, three of Illinois’ top four players in the T-Rank projection right now will be first year transfers into the program. There are definitely worse things to be doing with your schedule than catching a road game in the second week of the season against a team that’s still wearing nametags at practice so everyone gets to know each other.
Keep your eyes open for the official Gavitt Games schedule announcement, as that will likely give us the actual day this game will happen. With the Golden Eagles slated to be playing a Maui Invitational game on Monday, November 20th, expect the visit to Illinois to be in the early part of the week, between November 13th and November 15th.