The last eight seasons in the Big East gave Marquette new rivalries and dozens of classic games that are now etched in history of the Golden Eagles’ program. But realignment forced the likes of Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Cincinnati, South Florida, Rutgers, West Virginia and Notre Dame out of the conference. Of those, Notre Dame, Louisville and Connecticut stood out as rivals, where the games meant more than just a simple tally in the win-loss column of the Big East standings.
Some of those rivalries may continue on a yearly basis–it wouldn’t be a stretch if Marquette were to play the Irish on the same rotation as Wisconsin–but the truth is that a brand-new conference will bring brand-new rivals. Wisconsin always will be the in-state rival–despite Badgers fans claiming otherwise–but we’re here to look at how the new Big East will shake out in terms of who becomes Marquette’s most heated conference opponent.
Louisville created fun and close battles and Notre Dame has the obvious tradition. Even Syracuse and Connecticut seemed like more than just games. But those are now gone; here are some new opponents who could become rivalries over the coming years in the new Big East:
Given their similar histories and current situations, Marquette and Georgetown make the most sense as the biggest rivalry of the new Big East. The top two programs in the conference will be near the top of the standings each year, and their head-to-head matchups have been closely contested (three of the last seven games were decided by three points or less). Like most opponents, Marquette’s proximity to the Hoyas hurts the rivalry, but the two true powerhouses in the conference will make for one or more stellar games each year.
This is a bit of a personal want for me, as this matchup should be a much bigger deal than it seems each year. The rosters are almost identical in terms of make-up, Jay Wright likes his teams to play gritty while speeding up the tempo when it helps and games have been tightly contested the last four seasons. Consider this: Villanova is 4-3 in its last seven meetings against Marquette and none of the games have been decided by more than five points (the differences have been 4, 4, 4, 5, 2, 2 and 4, for an average of 3.6 points). That’s nuts. Hopefully this rivalry becomes something, because the teams’ matchups have been great.
One of the new-new (?) members of the Big East has near-.500 history against Marquette and last year played a pair of thrillers against the Golden Eagles. Marquette holds a narrow 15-14 all-time record against the Bulldogs, and last year’s Rotnei Clarke buzzer-beater in Maui and third round NCAA Tournament game helped boost this budding rivalry as the two teams become conference foes. Helping this rivalry is Brad Stevens vs. Buzz Williams, two of the top young coaches in the game. This matchup has serious potential, as long as Stevens (and Williams) stay put.
The second of the three newcomers (Creighton being the third) arrives as one of the top mid-major performers over the last decade. As the cream of the crop in the A-10, it’s time for the Musketeers to prove what they can do on a larger stage against more consistent talent. Marquette has owned the all-time series (46-15), most recently in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Chris Mack has built his team similarly to what Williams has done at Marquette, and there’s optimism that this jump to the Big East will improve recruiting. With the campuses just six hours away this could become a classic rivalry if the Musketeers continue to improve in their new conference.
The Blue Demons need some serious retooling, and hopefully Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young’s senior season can vault their program into some sort of relevance by the time the impressive duo graduates. A nice incoming recruiting class, headed by top-100 point guard Billy Garrett Jr., will help, and if the Blue Demons can somehow turn things around in the next five seasons the I-94 rivalry could be renewed. It’s a stretch, but something to consider.
The Friars don’t have much of a past with Marquette and the games aren’t much of a challenge–the Golden Eagles are 12-4 all-time and have won the last nine matchups–but Ed Cooley has the program on the rise. This is a real sleeper pick that could bud into a rivalry because of the competition if the transformation continues.