Marquette Basketball Non-Conference Schedule Breakdown
After starting the 2011 campaign with a 10-0 record, the Golden Eagles dropped two of their final three non-conference matchups but still finished with a very respectable 11-2 record. The success continued into Big East Conference play, where Marquette finished second in the 16-team conference.
The 2012 non-conference slate should pose a few more challenges than the 2011 schedule did, especially for a young team trying to learn how to play without Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom. However, I fully expect Buzz Williams will have his team ready to take the court each and every game.
Even if Marquette loses more non-conference games this year than it did last year, I think the tougher schedule will prepare them for Big East play, where I expect them to once again be in the top quarter of the conference. Here's a look at MU's first 13 games of the upcoming season.
vs. Ohio State-L
On November 9th, the Golden Eagles will meet up with the Buckeyes in the Carrier Classic, which takes place in Charleston, SC. Last year North Carolina defeated Michigan State in this same game, which truly is a sight for college basketball fans to see.
While Ohio State lost William Buford and Jared Sullinger, the combination of Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft will be too much for Marquette to handle. This will also be the first time MU fans will get to see Trent Lockett suit up.
November Home Games
vs. Southeastern Louisiana-W
The Colgate matchup takes place only two days after the Carrier Classic, but still should not be a problem for Marquette in their first home appearance of the season. This game acts as a tuneup for the Maui Invitational.
The Golden Eagles also face Southeastern Louisiana and UMBC and both ends of the Maui Invitational in November and can almost certainly be chalked up as wins already. Look for Buzz Williams to utilize a deep bench in these contests.
vs. North Carolina-L
Marquette will play three games in three days in Maui, ranging from the 19th through 21st of November. The Golden Eagles are definitely on the tougher side of the bracket, with Butler, North Carolina and Mississippi State on their side, while Illinois, Texas, Chaminade and USC make up the other half.
Any way you look at it, Marquette should expect at least two wins in their trip to Maui. I think the most likely path for them would be a win over Butler, loss to North Carolina and win over Illinois, giving the squad a third place finish at the invitational.
SEC-Big East Challenge
Marquette's 2011-12 season ended abruptly in the Sweet 16 last season at the hands of Florida, who defeated them by a score of 68-58. Both teams have lost their top players from a year ago, so this game could be very different from the one in March.
I do believe the result of this one will be the same as that of the NCAA Tournament matchup, with the Gators taking care of the Golden Eagles on their home court. This will be Marquette's first true road game of the season, despite multiple neutral site contests.
vs. Savannah State-W
@ Green Bay-W
vs. North Carolina Central-W
After over a week off after the Florida game, Marquette will host their in-state rival Wisconsin Badgers on December 8th. Marquette went into Madison a year ago and defeated the Badgers, which not many visiting teams can say. Despite Wisconsin being ranked higher at the time of this battle, I see the Golden Eagles getting the win at home and maintaining their bragging rights over Bo Ryan's squad.
Following the Wisconsin game, Marquette hosts Savannah Sate before traveling to Green Bay. Both of these games should be somewhat easy wins. MU then hosts LSU, a team that they fell to on the road in 2011. Beating the Tigers and North Carolina Central would ensure a five-game winning streak and provide positive momentum heading into league play.
Despite losing two First-Team All-Big-East players in Crowder and Johnson-Odom, I don't think Marquette will end up being much worse than they were in 2011-12. The addition of Trent Lockett is a huge one and he could end up being the team's best player as a senior.
Chris Otule's return from injury will help the team defensively, while a healthy Davante Gardner will be needed as a post presence on the offensive end. Jamil Wilson was a nice surprise as a sophomore and could be poised for a breakout season.
Junior Cadougan may need to take on a bigger role offensively as the team's point guard and Derrick Wilson will be there to back him up. Vander Blue is due for a big year after two mediocre seasons to start his collegiate career and Todd Mayo could provide a scoring spark off the bench.
Jake Thomas could also enter action as a pure shooter, while freshman Steve Taylor could be one of the league's top newcomers. All in all, expect Marquette to have another successful season behind Buzz Williams with the potential of another Sweet 16 berth.