The Big East released its full schedule earlier this week. The dog days of summer are finally coming to an end and we now have a full picture of what our Golden Eagles will face during the 2016-17 season. It also means that is time for the professional armchair quarterbacks of Paint Touches to log our early predictions for the season.
11/11: vs. Vanderbilt* (at Navy Alumni Hall in Annapolis, MD)
Hot Take: Vanderbilt loses two 1st round NBA talents in Wade Baldwin IV and Damian Jones. They return no double digit scores and bring in a recruiting class with upside but no immediate impact players. They are a solid three point shooting team (.382 3P%) and will start five players with range. Matthew Fisher Davis is especially dangerous with 79 3PM and .446 3P% last season. Point guard is a question mark with Wisconsin native Riley LaChance likely getting the starting nod. Struggled to run the offense when Baldwin IV was on the bench and struggles to score from anywhere inside the arc.
11/14: vs. Howard
Hot Take: Don’t let the MEAC affiliation fool you, Howard is a dangerous low major. The Bison managed 12 wins last season and that was without starting SG James Miller who averaged 15 ppg before going down with a fractured hand. The Bison had THE #1 scorer in Division 1 last season, James Daniel who scored a blistering 27.1 ppg. Milller’s return should allow Daniel to be even more efficient, lowering his overall scoring but making him much more dangerous. Along with their duo of high scoring guards the Bison also feature 6”10 Marcel Boyd who averaged a double double this past season. Even so, this is still a MEAC team and Marquette should win handily.
11/17: vs. Michigan* (at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY)
Hot Take: Michigan is one of the toughest games on the schedule to predict. They have elite level guards but no guard depth. They have terrible bigs but a ton of depth in the post. They are led by Derrick Walton Jr, possibly the best PG that Marquette will face all season. He is an excellent distributor, an aggressive defender, and rebounds amazingly well (5.4 rpg) for his size. He has a great outside shot but struggles at scoring inside the arc. Michigan will start three point shooters at all five positions. They were in top 20 teams in all of Division for 3PMs. The most elite shooter is Duncan Robinson who made 95 treys on 45% shooting. Unfortunately for Michigan, Robinson is near useless on the other side of the ball. Michigan lacks any quality interior defenders or rebounders. It will be close and will depend on how well Michigan is shooting but Marquette’s depth at guard should be the deciding factor.
11/18 vs. Pittsburgh/SMU* (at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY)
Hot Take: Both of Marquette’s potential 2K Classic second round opponents are helmed by coaches in their first year. SMU was the last undefeated to fall a season ago, winning their first 18 before finishing 7-5. The Mustangs lose All-World PG Nic Moore and replacing his 16.1 ppg and 5.2 apg will not be an easy task. Shake Milton who played off the ball last season will move to PG and should adjust easily. SMU has one of the better starting lineups that Marquette will see but is extremely lacking in depth. Pittsburgh is a bruising team filled with large bodies and great athletes. Jamel Artis and Michael Young are a dynamic duo that combined for over 30 ppg last season. The biggest question mark for the panthers will be the PG postion. James Robinson handled the point in Pitt for the last four years and there are no obvious heirs apparent. If Marquette makes it past Michigan, Pitt would be the likely opponent. Marquette doesn’t have the size or physicality to stop Young and Artis.
11/22 vs. IUPUI
Hot Take: Marquette fans won’t soon forget the heart attack they suffered when IUPUI forced Marquette into overtime last season before finally running out of gas. IUPUI returns a lot of last year’s squad and will be even better than before. Darell Combs returns as a high scoring combo guard. Last season he spent all 45 minutes blowing past Marquette defenders on the way to 21 points…though he also gave up the ball 10 times. Marquette is a year older and stronger and shouldn’t fall into the same trap as last year. Golden Eagles cruise.
11/26 vs. Houston Baptist
Hot Take: Houston Baptist was a surprise contender in the awful Southland conference a season ago. They lose Southland stud Anthony Odunsi to graduation but keep most everybody else. Alaska native Colter Lasher looks likely to lead the Huskies next season and will provide a challenge for Marquette who is undersized at his position, PF. Houston Baptist also welcomes graduate transfer Atif Russell, who was a starter for Pepperdine before an injury sidelined him. This duo will be enough to make the competitive in the Southland but not against Marquette.
11/30 vs. Western Carolina
Hot Take: If this was last season, Western Carolina would have been a decent buy game. The Catamounts competed well in the Southern conference and amassed an impressive 16 wins before being bounced in the CBI. Unfortunately, graduation hit Western Carolina like a ton of bricks and four starters are now gone. Western Carolina will need to rely heavily on unheralded freshmen just to avoid being a sub 300 RPI team. Marquette in a blowout.
12/04 at Georgia
Hot Take: Georgia was what you would call a four headed monster. They had four starters who dominated all the available minutes and were responsible for a vast majority of the production. The fifth starter on the team, Kenny Paul Geno, managed an embarrassing 2.6 points in 19 minutes of action. Two heads of the monster have since graduated, leaving Georgia looking for production. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the two more dominant of the four, PG JJ Frazier and C Yante Maten return. With the 1 and 5 position locked down, and promising newcomers such as sharpshooting Tyree Crum and physical JUCO Pape Diatta in the fold, Georgia looks to be an NCAA hopeful. Marquette has the talent but their recent history of road games against the SEC doesn’t give me confidence. Marquette falls on the road in Athens.
12/06 vs. Fresno State
Hot Take: Easily the most impressive buy game on Marquette’s schedule, Fresno State will be a real challenge. They have an impressive amount of size and rebounding talent…though they won’t have as much if Karchai Edo remains on suspension. What they don’t have is a backcourt. The Bulldogs lost four of their top five assistmen, including MWC leading scorer Marvelle Harris. They bring in a couple of guards via transfer who should make an immediate impact. Unfortunately, neither of them have played PG before which is a glaring position of need. Without a true PG and limited ability to guard the perimeter, Marquette’s guards will run all over Fresno State.
12/10 vs. Wisconsin
Hot Take: Oh the Rodents. The dirty dirty rodents. As much as it pains me to say, the Badgers are going to be very good this season. They finished tied for third in the B1G and they return every player on their roster. Their freshmen class is nothing special but they bring two players off redshirt including former top 100 SG Brevin Pritzl. Final Four starters Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig return for their senior seasons and will start alongside fellow seniors Zak Showalter and Vitto Brown. Throw in double double machine Ethan Happ and you have a deep, balanced and dangerous roster. Its Marquette vs. Wisconsin at the Bradley Center, so anything can happen, but the Badgers are the better team on paper.
12/19 vs. St. Francis (PA)
Hot Take: A middle of the pack team from a solid low major conference. They were looking like conference champions until injuries derailed their season. They ended the season on a six game losing streak. The Red Flash lose their top three scorers from last season, including center Ronnie Drinnon who averaged a double double. St. Francis will be very undersized and might need major minutes out of Latvian freshman, Deivydas Kuzavas. Fischer should feast and Marquette will roll.
12/21 vs. SIU-Edwardsville
Hot Take: The cupcake with the highest fat content. The Cougars are coached by former Marquette Golden Eagle Jon Harris. Coach Harris used some family ties to attract his nephew Tre Harris to transfer from Kansas State. The younger Harris is a legitimate high major prospect. Unfortunately for the Cougars, the rest of their roster doesn’t even qualify as legitimate mid major prospects.
12/28 vs. Georgetown
Hot Take: No Big East team was more disappointing last season than Georgetown. The Hoyas had the look of a top 25 program but ended up finishing below .500. The Hoyas lose the multi-talented DSR but bring in Rodney Pryor, a very talented grad transfer from Robert Morris to replace him. The other Hoya starters all return and should make the Hoyas one of the most improved teams in the conference. They have a ton of size which will spell trouble for the undersized Golden Eagles. PG is the area of question for the Hoyas. Tre Campbell is not a high major point and Jonathan Mulmore is very talented but will still have an adjustment coming to division 1. Marquette comes out shooting hot in the conference home opener and bests the Hoyas.
01/01 at Seton Hall
Hot Take: Isaiah Whitehead may be gone to the NBA but the Pirates are still a very dangerous team. The other four starters return a pair of PG transfers, Madison Jones and Jevon Thomas will help fill the distribution void left by Whitehead. Marquette’s veterans still have the bruises that they received from their last matchups with Seton Hall. The Pirate abused Marquette inside and outrebounded them by 25 over the two games. With bruisers like Angel Delgado and Ish Sanogo returning, the trend is unfortunately likely to continue. Seton Hall wins at home and its not close.
01/07 at Villanova
Hot Take: Sometimes teams who win the national championship take a big step back because of lots of players graduating or having too much pressure on them to succeed. Villanova is not example of this. The Wildcats lose starting center Daniel Ochefu and team leader Ryan Arcidiacano, but they retain and bring in more than enough firepower to be final four contenders once again. Mr. Big Shot himself, Kris Jenkins will look to team up with Big East Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart to form one of the most deadly duos in the country. Fordham transfer Eric Paschall and five star freshman center Omari Spellman will fortify the frontcourt. Marquette could win but Villanova would beat them 9 games out of every 10 at least.
01/11 vs. Seton Hall
Hot Take: Even at home, the bigs of Seton Hall are too much. Pirates win though it is tighter than the first contest.
01/14 vs. Depaul
Hot Take: Oh Depaul. We keep hoping that you’ll get better and you never fail to disappoint. With St. John’s set to improve drastically, look for the Blue Demons to return to their natural habitat in the cellar of the Big East. Senior PG Billy Garrett Jr will return and is likely to put up some monster numbers, but his supporting cast is lacking. Depaul loses three starters including forwards Myke Henry and Tommy Hamilton IV. They bring in a talented grad transfer from Western Kentucky in Chris Harrison-Docks. Leitao’s 2nd…err…5th Depaul recruiting class features a lot of upside but little in the way of immediate impact…and those freshmen are going to be seeing significant minutes. Marquette should return to its dominance of Depaul and win easily.
1/16 at Butler
Hot Take: Besides Providence losing their dynamic duo of Dunn and Bentil, no one in the BEast loses more than the Bulldogs. Offensive force Kellen Dunham and the do it all Roosevelt Jones are gone, leaving huge voids in Butler’s production. Butler turned to the transfer market to replace them, bringing in SGs Kethan Savage from George Washington and Avery Woodson from Memphis. Savage is a slashing guard while Woodson is an elite level sniper. They are joined by top 100 Center Joey Brunk who adds some needed size to the roster. Butler will take a small step back this season but will still be tough to beat at Hinkle.
01/21 at Creighton
Hot Take: Creighton was an extremely underrated squad last season that was a lot better than their high RPI suggested. They retain most of their talent including All Big East 2nd Team PG Mo Watson Jr. The Philadelphia native was involved in just about every Blue Jay offensive possession, leading the team in both scoring and assists. He will have a new weapon in Marcus Foster, a high scoring transfer from Kansas State. They also welcome Justin Patton, a top 100 player from the 2015 class who is coming off of redshirt. He will be one of several options that the Jays have to replace starting center Geoffrey Groeselle. Creighton has the depth and talent to compete for the best team not named Villanova in the Big East. Creighton should take the game in Omaha.
01/24 vs. Villanova
Hot Take: Marquette is improved but Villanova is on another level. The Wildcats hand the Golden Eagles their 3rd straight loss.
01/28 vs. Providence
Hot Take: No team in the Big East loses more than Providence. 5th overall NBA draft pick Kris Dunn is now with the Timberwolves and Ben Bentil is trying to earn a spot with the Celtics. Add in the loss of 5th starter Junior Lomomba and you have a team with no seniors and huge holes to fill. George Mason transfer Isaiah Jackson should bring some scoring but he’ll need to work on his efficiency. Providence has some question marks at center. JUCO transfer Emmitt Holt will likely get the start but he’ll have an adjustment period, not to mention the fact that he’s 6”7. Since joining the Big East, Marquette has gone 14-3 against the Friars, including winning every game at the Bradley Center. Marquette should continue that streak.
02/01 at St. John’s
Hot Take: St. John’s is going to make tremendous strides this season. They really only have one way to go after last year’s 1-17 performance. Mullins brings in a fantastic recruiting class that includes Shamorie Ponds, the 2nd most highly touted freshmen in the Big East this season. He is joined by JUCO All American Bashir Ahmed. Both should earn starting jobs immediately. Starting alongside them will be the swat team, sophomores Kassoum Yakwe and Yankuba Sima. The pair combined for almost 5 blocks a game last season. Marquette guards are still having nightmares about Yakwe who blocked 13 shots in their two regular season matchups. The Red Storm are no longer an automatic W, but they still need a season before they are competitive. Marquette wins on the road.
02/04 at Depaul
Hot Take: Depaul is worse this season and Marquette is better. Marquette wins easily.
02/07 vs. Butler
Hot Take: Home cooking and hot shooting lead Marquette over the talented Bulldogs for a series split.
02/11 at Georgetown
Hot Take: Georgetown’s depth in the post overwhelms Fischer and gets him on the bench early. Hoyas win handily.
02/18 vs. Xavier
Hot Take: Xavier had somewhat of a tumultuous offseason. First, JP Macura couldn’t keep his pants on. Then Myles Davis got himself put on indefinite suspension. Macura is back with the team and will look to build on last season’s Sixth Man of the Year earning performance. Davis is more of a mystery. He has been accused by an ex-girlfriend of multiple charges. How the investigation pans out and how Xavier responds will be a story to keep an eye. It is doubtful however that Davis would still be suspend at this point. Even if he were, the Musketeers are a deep team that are the favorite to take the title of second best team in the BEast. Xavier loses both of their big men but Norfolk State transfer Rashid Gaston averaged near a double double two seasons ago and should close that void. Florida A&M grad transfer Malcolm Bernard also joins the Musketeers after stuffing the stat sheet in Tallahassee. He will likely be a key contributor off the bench. Xavier has the better team but the magic of National Marquette Day prevails and helps the Golden Eagles get their biggest win of the season.
02/21 vs. St. John’s
Hot Take: Marquette roll the Red Storm. Only appropriate on Al’s Night.
02/25 at Providence
Hot Take: Marquette continues their domination of the Friars by winning at the Dunk. The Friars keep it interesting but ultimately fall. No bat is sighted.
03/01 at Xavier
Hot Take: The Musketeers get their revenge for the upset on National Marquette Day. Could be a one sided affair.
03/04 vs. Creighton
Hot Take: Fischer, JJJ, and Reinhardt celebrate senior night by dismantling the Blue Jays. The win keeps Marquette’s NCAA hope alive.
19 wins might sound disappointing to Marquette fans. Last season, Marquette finished the regular season with 19 wins and ended missing the NCAAs and the NIT. Make no mistake though, this schedule is vastly superior to the train wreck that was put together last season. Putting up 19 wins against these opponents should get an RPI somewhere in the 40-70 range, which would put Marquette squarely on the bubble. Lose in the first round of the BET and they are likely NIT bound. Win two in NYC and they are dancing. Win one and they are sweating bullets on selection Sunday.
All in all, it should be a much more entertaining season. The basketball will be better, there will be more hope, and we might even see the postseason. It is important to note, Marquette’s Big East schedule is fairly front loaded. The world might seem like a dark place to Marquette fans on January 25. If PT’s predictions are right, MU will be 12-9 with 2-6 conference record. The remaining games are all very winnable (except maybe @Xavier) and an 8-2 finish would be a great thing to put on a tournament resume. Of course, basketball is not played on paper. Marquette will win some and lose some that they shouldn’t, especially with how shooting dependent they will be. While this exercise has been fun, its much better to just sit back and enjoy the season.