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Marquette To Face Illinois In 2021 Gavitt Tipoff Games

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The eight year series between the Big East and the Big Ten returns after a COVID-related pause.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Illinois at Iowa Getty Images

Hey, remember the Gavitt Tipoff Games?

It was the yearly eight game series between the Big East and the Big Ten in men’s basketball. The two leagues agreed to skip the series a year ago to simplify non-conference scheduling on both sides due to the pandemic and also because the season started by NCAA rule after the games would have been scheduled to be played.

But it’s BACK, baby, and YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles have drawn Illinois in this year’s event.

Television arrangements will be officially announced at a later date, but Marquette will host the Illini at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee on Monday, November 15, 2021. It will be one-half of a doubleheader with Providence visiting Wisconsin. While FS1 and Big Ten Network will be making the decisions on when these games are played, I’d guess that MU’s game will be the later game as the TV programmers accommodate the audience out in Rhode Island with the earlier start.

This is a fun option for the Golden Eagles. While Illinois holds the all-time series lead with nine wins against five for Marquette, the two teams have not met since December 7, 1993. It seems weird that two teams so close together haven’t played in that long, but you’ll notice that the series died out not long after Marquette finally joined a conference for the 1989-90 campaign. Heck, technically, this is the first time that the Illini will be playing the Golden Eagles, as the nickname change didn’t happen until the summer of 1994.

Illinois has won more often overall dating back to 1940, but Marquette has held the advantage as of late. MU won the last two meetings in 1992 and 1993 and they have won five of the last seven as well. Two of Marquette’s wins have come when the Illini have been ranked in the AP poll, which seems kind of relevant right now. According to the T-Rank preseason projections, Illinois is a top 25 team heading into next season, so there’s a real chance that the Illini will be ranked for the second straight match up with MU.

The Fighting Illini wrapped up last year with a 24-7 record overall and a 16-4 mark in Big Ten games. They earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament after winning their conference tournament with an OT victory over Ohio State.... and then very unfairly drew Loyola Chicago as their #8 seed in the second round and got bounced, 71-58. That Illinois team was led by the talented tandem of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, and neither man will return for head coach Brad Underwood next season.

That would make senior guard Trent Frazier Illinois’ leading returning scorer at 10.2 points per game. 6’3” guard Da’Monte Williams was #3 on the team in rebounding behind Cockburn and Dosunmu at 5.3 caroms per contest, and he has elected to return for his COVID-bonus season and will be the leading returning rebounder. Electrifying guard Andre Curbelo is the leading returning assist man on the squad, averaging 4.2 per game behind Dosunmu’s 5.3/game a year ago.

Underwood doesn’t have a recruiting class coming in that will knock your socks off, although two top 100 prospects according to 247 Sports and one just barrrrrrrrely outside the top 100 means Illinois does have a top 25 class. In fact, the just barely outside the top 100 guy is the most notable one for the purposes of playing a game in Milwaukee, as Brandin Podziemski (#103) attended St. John’s/Northwestern Academy in Delafield after growing up in Muskego.

Here’s the full rundown on the Gavitt Tipoff Games schedule for this November.

Monday, Nov. 15

Providence at Wisconsin
Illinois at Marquette

Tuesday, Nov. 16

Seton Hall at Michigan
Creighton at Nebraska

Wednesday, Nov. 17

Michigan State at Butler
St. John’s at Indiana

Thursday, Nov. 18

Ohio State at Xavier
Rutgers at DePaul

I’ll just say it: Slapping together Creighton/Nebraska as one of the eight games this season is super weak on the part of both leagues. With that said, that should be an easy W for the Big East in this year’s series, so I’ll take it. At a glance, with a generalized idea of what to expect from both leagues this coming year, I don’t think there’s a clear marquee matchup here. No Villanova and no Connecticut on the Big East side explains a lot of that. Xavier/Ohio State is a neat in-state meeting, although I don’t know if I believe in the Musketeers as much as T-Rank does where they project as the #3 team in the league. Seton Hall/Michigan is a rematch of the 1989 NCAA championship game, but that’s a Big Ten title contender facing off with a team that I don’t trust as much as T-Rank (4th in the Big East) does at this point of the calendar.

Scheduling the game on the 15th makes for a busy week for Marquette, but it’s also pretty much the only time that MU could fit into the schedule. The Golden Eagles will be on the court in South Carolina at some point on Thursday, November 18th, for the start of the Charleston Classic. Without a set schedule for that event yet, that makes the 17th unplayable for transportation reasons, and I’m sure that head coach Shaka Smart would prefer to not have to play a night game on the 16th and be on a plane first thing in the morning on the 17th. No matter what, Marquette will play four games in a seven day period, including back-to-backs on the 18th and the 19th, and there’s a real chance that all four games will be against NCAA tournament caliber opponents.

Here’s what the schedule looks like in calendar form.