Marquette basketball expectations are through the roof following an Elite appearance in 2013 before bowing out to former Big East foe, Syracuse. Despite losing three starting backcourt members, the Golden Eagles should be just as good in 2013-14.
Buzz Williams has once again compiled a nonconference schedule that will challenge the Golden Eagles for a slate in the new Big East Conference. Those some names in this Big East will be familiar to MU fans. They will now face Creighton, Xavier and Butler twice per conference season.
Marquette's nonconference schedule offers a little bit of everything and there will be plenty of opportunities to boost their RPI and strength of schedule. Marquette also hopes to continue their lengthy home winning streak, though it won't be easy.
The first real test of the season comes on November 16 when The Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Milwaukee. Just a year ago, these two teams were scheduled to play on an aircraft carrier before precipitation on the court caused the game to be cancelled.
Aaron Craft will cause point guards Derrick and Duane Wilson to turn the ball over, while LaQuinton Ross will be a challenge for whichever MU forward defends him. Marquette's bevy of bigs should be able to shut down Amir Williams, a frustrating player when mentioned to Buckeye fans.
Three weeks later, Marquette travels to Madison to face another Big Ten contender in the Wisconsin Badgers. These two play every season, with the Golden Eagles winning the last two battles including a win at the Kohl Center in 2011.
Marquette will own the Badger's frontcourt which really only contains Franky Kaminsky and Sam Dekker. The Badger guards, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust and Traevon Jackson, however, will have a slight advantage over the MU backcourt players.
On November 25th, Marquette faces a true road test at the Pac-12's Arizona State. Former Marquette player and now Sacramento King, Trent Lockett, played at ASU for three seasons before transferring closer to home as a senior and playing for Buzz Williams.
Arizona State also has a nice backcourt duo in the form of Jahii Carson and former Penn State Nittany Lion Jermaine Marshall. This contest marks Marquette's first and only true road game during the pre-conference campaign.
On December 21, Marquette travels west again. This time Las Vegas is the destination as Marquette will face New Mexico in a neutral site game, though the crowd figures to be predominantly in New Mexico's favor.
New Mexico returns Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk from last year's squad, though Tony Snell is now a member of the Chicago Bulls. New Mexico should figure to be one of the best teams out west again, despite Steve Alford bolting for UCLA.
From November 28-December 1, Marquette will have an opportunity to notch three wins while playing in Fullerton, California. The Wooden Legacy field contains the Golden Eagles, Miami, George Washington, Fullerton, College of Charleston, San Diego State, Creighton and Arizona State.
Marquette opens with Fullerton, the home team who finished with a 14-18 record in 2012-13. The game will air at 4:30 ET on 11/28 on ESPN2. The Golden Eagles should figure to win this game with relative ease.
In the semifinals, Marquette will face the winner of Miami and George Washington. Miami won 29 games a year ago before ending their season to Marquette in the Sweet Sixteen. A rematch here is likely with the same result, as Miami lost nearly everyone from last year's ACC Champion squad.
If all goes well, Marquette will be playing in the championship December 1. The bottom of the bracket is much more up for grabs, though San Diego State or Creighton are the most likely matchups for MU. San Diego State plays physical, while Creighton could be an early season Big East preview game.
The remaining games not already highlighted in this article come at home for Marquette. Those matchups include Southern, Grambling State, New Hampshire, IUPUI, Ball State and Samford, all making the trip to Milwaukee.
None should be games that Marquette loses, or really even comes close to losing. Rather, they should allow Williams to play his already deep and talented bench and use lineups that he may not get the chance to use once Big East play rolls around.
Marquette isn't unlike other teams by playing six cupcakes at home during their nonconference season. In fact, the Golden Eagles' nonconference schedule is rather difficult compared to some other major BCS schools.
vs. Southern: W
vs. Grambling State: W
vs. Ohio State: W
vs. New Hampshire: W
at Arizona State: W
vs. Fullerton: W
vs. Miami: W
vs. Creighton: W
at Wisconsin: L
vs. IUPUI: W
vs. Ball State: W
vs. New Mexico: L
vs. Samford: W
My preseason prediction is that Marquette goes 11-2 during their 13 game nonconference season, with their two losses coming away from home.
It is never easy to win at the Kohl Center and though Williams and crew did it two years ago, I'm not sure Bo Ryan could stand losing a third straight game to an in-state rival.
The other loss comes in the "neutral site" game in Vegas against an experienced New Mexico team that has been dominant during regular seasons the past few years before some early upsets in the NCAA Tournament.
Though Marquette is certainly capable of beating both Wisconsin and New Mexico, I can't see them going unscathed at a perfect 13-0 before Big East play. You could make arguments that Ohio State will beat them as a preseason top-10 team.
Winning at Arizona State will be no cakewalk, while winning three straight days in California will be a huge challenge no matter whom the Golden Eagles actually get the chance to play.