Photo courtesy of Grand Forks Herald
The Marquette Golden Eagles are looking to end their three year hiatus from the NCAA tournament this year and are looking for continued improvement under head coach Steve Wojciechowski. After going 4-14 (13-19 overall) in the Big East his first year Wojciechowski’s squad improved to 8-10 (20-13 overall) in the Big East last year. Wojo’s team beat three top 25 teams last year and managed to up end in-state rival Wisconsin in their annual non-conference clash. Marquette’s non-conference schedule this year while not overly challenging still presents some interesting matchups for fans of the Golden Eagles. Friday, November 11th Vanderbilt- Marquette tips off its non-conference slate against first year head coach Bryce Drew. Drew previously coached at Valparaiso where he starred as a player and also hit one of the more famous first round buzzer beaters in tournament history against fourth seeded Ole Miss. Drew takes over a Vanderbilt squad that went 11-7 in the SEC under coach Kevin Stallings but lost in the “First Four” as an 11 seed against fellow 11 seed Wichita State. Despite losing two players to the NBA the commodores will present a tough challenge for Marquette to start the season. Despite those departures Vanderbilt has talented returnees Luke Kornet, Matthew Fisher-Davis and Jeff Roberson. Prediction: Marquette loses a close game due to Vanderbilt’s dominance on the glass.
Monday, November 14th Howard- The Howard Bison come to the Bradley Center in what should be a tune up game for Marquette. Howard comes out of the MEAC and has not made the tournament since 1992. Howard will be Marquette’s first opponent in the 2K classic. Prediction: Marquette wins by a large double digit margin.
Thursday, November 17th Michigan– For their second opponent in the 2K classic Marquette travels to New York City and the mecca of basketball to play the Michigan Wolverines at Madison Square Garden. Marquette will be taking on a team that will have three key contributors returning to a team that lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Notre Dame. Derek Walton and Zak Irvin will head up the Michigan backcourt and will likely get solid minutes out of 4-star recruit Xavier Simpson. The Michigan front court will feature two returnees in Mark Donnal and Moritz Wagner. Donnal was a very prolific offensive rebounder last year while Mortitz has a higher ceiling in terms of talent. Both will play important minutes for the maize and blue this year. Prediction: Marquette wins a close early season battle in a familiar setting at Madison Square Garden.
Tuesday, November 22, IUPUI- Marquette returns from the big apple to the friendly confines of the BMO Harris Bradley Center to take on the IUPUI Jaguars. This should be another tune up game for the Golden Eagles as they take on a team that finished 9-7 in The Summit League conference and hasn’t made the tournament since 2003. Prediction: IUPUI hangs around for the first half but Marquette proves to be too much and pulls away for a double digit win.
Saturday, November 26, Houston Baptist University- The Golden Eagles stay at home to take on the Huskies from Houston Baptist University. The Huskies play in the Southland Conference and finished in fifth place. They advanced to the second round of the Southland Conference tournament before running into perennial tournament team Stephen F. Austin. Marquette really shouldn’t have much trouble with the Huskies. Prediction: Marquette can pretty much choose the score and will get the chance to play some of their guys on the back end of their roster.
Wednesday November 30th, Western Carolina University- Marquette ends its string of tomato cans at the BMO with the Western Carolina Catamounts. The Catamounts come out of the Southland conference and like the previous two teams mentioned they shouldn’t pose much of a challenge to Marquette. Hopefully the Golden Eagles aren’t looking towards their next opponent when they take on a team from a power five conference for the first time in over two weeks. Prediction: Marquette should win this game going away and again get some valuable playing time for young guys farther down on the depth chart.
Sunday, December 4th, Georgia- Marquette travels to Athens, Georgia to take on an improving Georgia Bulldogs team. This could be a difficult game for Marquette as Georgia returns three starters from a team that won two games in the SEC tournament and earned a spot in the NIT. The Marquette backcourt will have to deal with senior point guard J.J. Frazier who averaged 16.9 points per game last year and is joined in the back court by two talented freshman in Tyree Crump and Jordan Harris. Prediction: Marquette loses a close game to an improving SEC team after two weeks of playing sub-par competition.
Tuesday, December 6th, Fresno State- A short two day turn around has the Golden Eagles taking on another bulldogs team but this time from Fresno State. Marquette will face a rebuilding team that lost four starters from a team that got hot at the end of last season and lost in the first round of the tournament to a tough Utah team. The Bulldogs have to replace 20.7 points of production that they lost when Marvelle Harris graduated. Fresno State will look to fill that void with three transfers, guards Jacob Holland, Jaron Hopkins and Deshon Taylor will try and compensate for that major loss. The frontcourt returns two key contributors from last year in Karachi Edo (10.1 ppg 6.3 rpg) and Cullen Russo (7.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg). Prediction: Marquette bounces back against a rebuilding Fresno State team and wins relatively handily.
Saturday December 10th, Wisconsin- Marquette’s toughest non-conference game happens to be against in-state rival Wisconsin. Marquette was able to pull off an upset last year in beating Wisconsin 57-55 on the Badgers home court. The Badgers return their entire roster from a 2015-2016 team that lost in heartbreaking fashion in the sweet 16. The Badgers will bring a senior laden team into the BMO Harris Bradley Center and will likely be highly ranked unless they have some unexpected stumbles early in the season. This will be an excellent measuring stick game for the Golden Eagles and a great primer for their upcoming Big East slate. Prediction: Marquette plays its in-state rival tough but the size and talent of the Badgers will be too much for the Golden Eagles to overcome and the Badgers will pull away late.
Monday, December 19th, Saint Francis- After their huge tilt with the Badgers Marquette stays at home for a matchup against the St. Francis Red Flash. The Red Flash come from the Northeast conference and shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for the Golden Eagles. The Red Flash played in the Collegeinsider.com post season tournament and lost to Bowling Green. Prediction: Marquette comes back strong after losing to Wisconsin and takes it out on Saint Francis winning by a large margin.
Wednesday, December 21st, SIU-Edwardsville – The last of Marquette’s non-conference games is another tune up game from a team that joined Division I just ten years ago. The Cougars of Southern Illinois come from the Ohio Valley Conference and have never competed In the NCAA tournament. Prediction: Marquette may be looking ahead to its conference slate but that won’t matter and the Golden Eagles will head into the conference season on a high note beating SIU-Edwardsville like a drum.