Marquette Basketball: 10 Games That Will Define 2012 Season
Last season was one of the strongest seasons in Marquette's history. The Golden Eagles went 27-8 including a 14-4 record in the Big East. Marquette finished second in the Big East behind Syracuse, but they were defeated by Florida in the Sweet 16.
The Golden Eagles will be a very different team next season. Out goes leading scorer Darius Johnson-Odom and Big East Player of the Year, Jae Crowder. In comes Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett and recruits Steve Taylor and Jamal Ferguson.
Marquette is playing a pretty difficult non-conference schedule, which includes an invitation to play in the Maui Invitational in November. This will be the last year that the Big East is truly the Big East, with Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving the conference after this season and Notre Dame leaving in two seasons. West Virginia already left the conference for the Big 12.
A college basketball season has its peaks and valleys over the 30-40 game stretch, but here are 10 games, depending on the results, that could determine Marquette's season.
Ohio State November 9th in the Carrier Classic
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Marquette's first game of the season will be one of their biggest. They will battle Ohio State on the U.S.S. Yorktown in the second-ever Carrier Classic. This will be an enormous opportunity for Marquette to gain some national exposure and show that last year wasn't an accident.
Ohio State went 31-8 last season and made a Final Four run, which was ended by a two-point loss to Kansas. Ohio State no longer has Jared Sullinger, but will have top players Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas.
It's only the first game of the season, but it would be a big game to win. Ohio State will be a pretty good team, and a win against them on the national stage would show that Marquette is a contender.
Butler November 19th in the Maui Invitational
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
After a couple of non-conference home games, Marquette heads out to paradise on Thanksgiving weekend. The Golden Eagles' first test in Maui will be against the Butler Bulldogs. Brad Stevens's Bulldogs have been a Cinderella in the NCAA Tournament in the past, but last season Butler didn't even make the tournament.
Butler struggled to score last season. Their leading scorer, Andrew Smith, averaged only 10.9 points per contest. The big man will be relied on to carry the offense as Butler adjusts to its first season as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Although Butler might not be Marquette's toughest opponent this season, a win against them in Maui could lead to an appearance in the championship and a potential showdown with North Carolina.
Florida November 29th
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Golden Eagles will be looking for revenge against the Florida Gators. Florida ended Marquette's season with a 68-58 victory in the Sweet 16. This year the Gators will be without guard Bradley Beal, but Florida is returning leading scorer Kenny Boynton, who had 11 points in the win last March.
Florida will be one of Marquette's toughest opponents of the season. They are even tougher to play in Gainesville. This game will be another nice early season test for the Golden Eagles.
Wisconsin December 8th
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
The biggest basketball rivalry in Wisconsin will be renewed in Milwaukee this season. Last season, Marquette upset the then-seventh-ranked Badgers at the Kohl Center. The Badgers lost in the Sweet 16 by one point to Syracuse after another strong season.
Bo Ryan's squad will be led by last season's second-leading scorer Ryan Evans. Marquette will have to make the most of their possessions against the methodical Badger offense. Marquette will have a big home court advantage and this will be one of their final non-conference tests before Big East play begins.
LSU December 22nd
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
I know this may not be one of the notable matchups on the schedule, but this is a grudge match. Last season the Golden Eagles came into Baton Rouge with an undefeated record of 10-0. They left Louisiana with their first of only eight losses on the season. Marquette will be seeking revenge this time as the Tigers come to Milwaukee in one of Marquette's final non-conference games.
LSU's victory over Marquette was one of their strongest of the season. The Tigers struggled in SEC play and finished the season 18-15. LSU returns three of their top five scorers a season ago and guard Andre Stringer will be the player to watch out for. Stringer averaged 10 points last season despite shooting just 35 percent during the year.
This will not be a game that Marquette looks past because of the result from last season. The Golden Eagles will come focused and try to send a message going into conference play.
Georgetown January 5th
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Last season, the Hoyas split two games with the Golden Eagles. Each team won the game on their home floor. This will be a very important early season conference game for Marquette.
The Hoyas went 24-9 (12-6 in Big East play) and were upset by North Carolina State in the third round of the NCAA tournament. Georgetown will be a different team in 2012 without their top three scorers from last season. Otto Porter and Markel Starks return to the squad but the two combined for only an average of 16 points last season.
Marquette will have a tough test to start their conference season, but an early win against Georgetown would be valuable in the standings.
Cincinnati January 19th
Cincinnati was another that handed Marquette one of their four losses in the Big East. After Marquette pummelled them in a 95-78 victory at the Bradley Center, the Bearcats dominated Marquette in Cincinnati two and a half weeks later.
The Bearcats had an up-and-down regular season but caught fire in the Big East Championship. They lost to Louisville in the final but carried the momentum into the Sweet 16. The Bearcats return two of their top four scorers from last season. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright will be two of the best players in the Big East.
Cincinnati could be one of the toughest teams in the Big East this season, and this home game will be a big sign of where the Golden Eagles are as a team.
Louisville February 3rd
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Last season Marquette and Louisville split two games against each other. The first game Marquette won at home, the second Louisville dominated at Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament.
Louisville only went 10-8 in Big East play, but the Cardinals became one of the hottest teams in the country during March. They won the Big East tournament convincingly and then went all the way to the Final Four. They were defeated by the eventual champions, Kentucky, the the Cardinals still managed to win 30 games and brought home some hardware.
Louisville will be a very scary opponent for the Golden Eagles this season. They return Russ Smith, Peyton Siva, Chane Behanan and Gorgui Dieng. Dieng could kill the Golden Eagles in the paint.
This year Marquette will play at Louisville. This will be one of Marquette's toughest games of the season, but if they could come out of the KFC Yum Center with a win, it could propel them into a late-season run.
Syracuse February 25th
Marquette and Syracuse only faced each other once during the 2011-2012 season. In their only meeting, Syracuse defeated Marquette at home to improve their record to 17-0.
Syracuse was an excellent team last season and went 34-3 (17-1 in Big East play). They were defeated by Ohio State in the Elite Eight. Syracuse lost Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph, but will have Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair returning this season. Syracuse continues to reload talent and will be a contender once again in the conference.
A big factor in this matchup could be the home-court advantage for Marquette. The Golden Eagles only lost one game at home last season, and this game against Syracuse could be very important for seeding in the Big East tournament.
Notre Dame March 2nd
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
The Fighting Irish beat Marquette at the Joyce Center handily last season. This season the game will be played in Milwaukee and will also be Marquette's final home game of the season.
Notre Dame was in big trouble at the halfway point of last season. They were 11-8 and 3-3 in Big East play. What happened? The Irish went on a tear. They won their next nine games and finished the season 13-5 in the conference. Notre Dame will be returning their two best players from last season, Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant.
If the Golden Eagles plan on winning their final Big East home game, they will need to shut down Cooley. This game will be one of Marquette's final opportunities to gain some momentum for the Big East tournament.