One thing that makes sports so special is the natural rivalries that form between teams, yet there’s no exact science to forming them. You’d think Marquette and DePaul would be bitter enemies being only 90 miles apart and having played 120 times, but that’s not really the case. Whether it’s the Blue Demon’s ineptitude on the floor or the lack of memorable games, there isn’t that animosity between fan bases or level of anticipation prior to games that is a must for any decent rivalry.
From a Marquette standpoint Louisville and Notre Dame were the two most prominent Big East rivalries since 2005. The Cardinals obviously have their own, bigger, thing with Kentucky, but the string of close games and fantastic finishes early in the 2000s (Reece Gaines and Francisco Garcia still aren’t allowed within 500 feet of the Bradley Center) made every matchup must see. And then there’s Notre Dame, which doesn’t need much elaboration. We’ll let Al take care of this one: “A Notre Dame grad will pick his nose so you’ll see his ring.”
Yet, those rivalries are a thing of the past now. Both teams are in the ACC now and aren’t on the schedule for this or any foreseeable season. Instead, Andy Katz revealed that the Big East will set aside the final weekend for a rivalry match:
“The Big East confirmed that its conference schedule will be released next week. The old Big East was always one of the last conferences to release its schedule because of so may pro arenas in the conference. That hasn’t changed with Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Marquette, DePaul, Villanova and Georgetown all dealing with other tenants. The three new schools — Butler, Creighton and Xavier — have the most control over dates in their arenas. The conference is hoping to build rivalries and will protect one rivalry for the final weekend of the regular season. But the conference wouldn’t say which one until the schedule is finalized. The teams haven’t been notified yet of which rivalry was protected for the final weekend of the regular season.”
Without blabbering on much longer, my question now becomes, who will that team be for Marquette? Which of the 9 members of the re-tooled Big East will lay a claim? Let’s break down the candidates and rate them from 1 to 9 with 9 being most likely.
Pros: Biggest name and reputation in the conference; consistently ranked in top-25; will battle for conference titles every year
Cons: Still stuck on Syracuse/see Marquette as inferior; pretty far away; might be better suited for an East Coast based rivalry
Pros: Two fantastic games last season; similar scrappy/tough style; relatively close in distance;
Cons: New kids on the block; Brad Stevens is gone will the magic be as well?; Rotnei Clarke is gone
Pros: National pedigree; Jay Wright v Buzz wardrobe challenge; should be yearly contenders, Paint Touches would be able to cover the game in Philly
Cons: No real history or fantastic finishes; in same boat as Georgetown re: east based rivals
Pros: Closest school in proximity; easy for fanbases to travel; long history of playing against each other with over 100 games played; basically two home games for Marquette as more students go to MU from Illinois than any other state, including Wisconsin; gives announcers plenty to work with (Al vs Meyer)
Cons: Inferior quality the past decade leading to lopsided results; no bad blood
Pros: Will battle for the Big East crown this season; relatively close; decent history of matchups; great fanbases that fill large stadiums
Cons: May take a step back after this season; lopsided history; little national interest
Pros: Location is relatively close; perennial tournament team; decent history; Jimmy Butler making Tu Holloway cry
Cons: Little recent history; not a big national draw
Pros: Buzzer beater to win a conference title is sure to make future games interesting; potential for growth; Al McGuire’s alma mater
Cons: Too far away; likely to stay on the east coast
Pros: Can relive bat-gate in all its glory; gives FS1 the opportunity to replay that strange incident where a player’s brother walked on the court as a free throw was being shot.
Cons: Lopsided results; no geographical ties; little history
Cons: Pick any of the above
Breaking it down like this, it would be surprising to see Marquette be paired up with anyone other than DePaul or Creighton. The long history and close proximity is too much to pass up. Georgetown would be the biggest national draw, but as stated above, they will more than likely be paired off with an East Coast school.
Here are my predictions as to how the rivalries may be set up:
Marquette v. DePaul
Georgetown v. Villanova
St. John’s v. Seton Hall
Xavier v. Butler
Creighton v. Providence
We’ll see next week how it all shakes out.