Coming off a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament last March, the 2011-12 Marquette men’s basketball team is poised, hyped, and ready for the start of a new season. Buzz Williams is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Golden Eagles and there is a lot of optimism from both players and fans that this squad has the potential to accomplish great things. With the season fast approaching, blue and gold shirts and basketball jerseys are being worn more then ever on campus. It’s only a matter of time before The Bradley Center reopens its doors to the Marquette faithful as the “We Are Marquette” cheers will echo the arena in hopes for another great Golden Eagles’ run to postseason glory.
My BOLD Season Predictions:
- Finish 5th in BIG EAST regular season standings
- Advance to 3rd round quarterfinal of BIG EAST Tournament
- Advance to Elite 8 round of NCAA Tournament
Regular Season Non-conference
11/11/11 vs. Mount St. Mary’s – 8:00 p.m.
- WIN: Marquette will tip-off the season and get off on the right foot with a blowout win over the Mountaineers. This should be a fun game to watch because the entire Golden Eagles’ squad should see plenty of minutes. The road begins tonight and will not end until the Elite 8 round in late March.
11/14/11 vs. Norfolk State – 6:00 p.m.
- WIN: The only challenge Marquette will face in this game is if they can draw enough fans to this Monday weeknight showdown against the Spartans to see yet another win in blowout fashion.
Paradise Jam (U.S. Virgin Islands)
11/18/11 vs. Winthrop – 7:30 p.m.
- WIN : The first game overseas and on a neutral court for the Golden Eagles but they adjust to the different arena and take care of business to win game one.
11/19/11 vs. Mississippi/Drake – TBA
- WIN: Marquette continues to roll in game two of the tournament and advances. By this game, we should begin to see which players Buzz consistently starts and the rotations that will be used most often.
- WIN: Marquette will likely match-up with Virginia in the championship game of Paradise Jam if the favorites can pull through. Virginia has received a few votes in the pre-season polls, but have no where near the potential that the Golden Eagles have.
Regular Season Non-conference
11/28/11 vs. Jacksonville – 7:00 p.m.
- WIN: Marquette returns home to The Bradley Center to beat up on the Dolphins before facing their two toughest non-conference opponents in a four day stretch.
12/03/11 @ Wisconsin – 3:30 p.m.
- LOSS: Simply put, the Badgers just do not lose at home in The Kohl Center where head coach Bo Ryan is 152-11 in his tenure. The Golden Eagles won’t go down without a fight and will be in the game right down to the wire. Good senior leadership from Jordan Taylor, who was named to the AP Pre-Season All-America Team, will be the difference maker as Marquette will suffer their first loss of the season.
Jimmy V Classic (New York)
12/06/11 vs. Washington 8:00 p.m.
- WIN: Washington eliminated Marquette from the 2010 NCAA Tournament after coming back and winning on a last second shot for the upset. Marquette this time around is the much better team and will bounce back from losing to in-state rival Wisconsin with an impressive victory over the Huskies, who begin the season as the 29th best team in college basketball.
Regular Season Non-conference
12/10/11 vs. Green Bay – 1:00 p.m.
- WIN: Last year, UWGB was the victim of a Darius Johnson-Odom dunk on SportsCenter that came in as the #1 top play. Luckily, that same domination will continue into this year too. Phoenix coach Brian Wardle returns to coach against his alma mater where he was the third-leading scorer in Marquette history.
12/17/11 vs. Northern Colorado – 1:00 p.m.
- WIN: Winners of the Big Sky regular-season and tournament titles last season, the Bears recent success may come to an end unless their underclassmen can step up. The 16 total players on Northern Colorado’s roster consist of eight freshmen, five sophomores, two juniors, and one lone senior. Look for Marquette to exploit the Bears’ youth and lack of height by dominating down low in the post.
12/19/11 @ LSU – 8:00 p.m.
- WIN: An interesting match-up against a SEC team in the Tigers doesn’t catch Marquette off guard as LSU is looking for a breakthrough season although they return their four leading scorers from a year ago. Marquette will have to play on their heels in this game and not take anything for granted.
12/22/11 vs. Milwaukee – 8:00 p.m.
- WIN: Marquette is a perfect 38-0 against UWM and remained undefeated last year in narrowly beating the Panthers by just three points. UWM shared last season’s regular-season Horizon League championship and lost in the championship game at home to the eventual runner up in the NCAA National Championship game, Butler. The Panthers’ Kaylon Williams was selected to the preseason all-league first team, but Marquette should still cruise to victory in their final tune up non-conference game before BIG EAST play.
12/29/11 vs. Vanderbilt – 8:00 p.m.
- LOSS: One point is all that separated these two teams last season as Marquette fell to the Commodores 77-76 at Vanderbilt. This year though, Marquette hosts the 7th ranked Commodores. I anticipate this game to come down to the wire with Vanderbilt pulling it out by hitting a buzzer-beating shot at the end of regulation, possibly overtime. This Vanderbilt team may be the best in school history as they return John Jenkins who led the SEC last year averaging 19.5 points-per-game.
BIG EAST Conference
01/01/12 vs. Villanova – 12:00 p.m.
- WIN: The Wildcats are one of Marquette’s three repeat opponents this year. Marquette will grab the New Year’s Day victory at home over Villanova to start the 2012 year 1-0 in the BIG EAST. The Wildcats don’t have a single senior on their roster so this will be a rebuilding year for head coach Jay Wright.
01/04/12 @ Georgetown – 6:00 p.m.
- WIN: The loss of Austin Freeman and Chris Wright from last year’s team will be too much for the Hoyas to overcome early on in BIG EAST play. Jason Clark will be the guard to lead Georgetown with an average of 12 points a game last season and is the focal point on defense for Marquette to defend against.
01/07/12 @ Syracuse – 3:00 p.m.
- LOSS: The Orange come into the season ranked 5th in the nation and coach Jim Boeheim has a plethora of talent returning on his team. Scoop Jardine’s 12.5 points and 5.9 assists per game at point guard along with big man Kris Joseph adding 14.3 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season will make Syracuse a likely Final Four and national championship contender along with UConn in the BIG EAST.
01/11/12 vs. St. John’s (Al’s Night) – 6:00 p.m.
- WIN: The St. John’s Red Storm will be one of the youngest teams in college basketball this season welcoming nine new players to their roster. Marquette will pounce on this inexperienced team and counter with their experience depth at all positions.
01/14/12 vs. Pittsburgh (95th Anniversary) – 1:00 p.m.
- WIN: Mark my words, Marquette will get their first quality BIG EAST win of the season over the Pittsburgh Panthers on the 95th anniversary of the program as many former basketball players are expected to be in attendance cheering on the Golden Eagles in The Bradley Center so Marquette should have that 6th Man advantage. Pitt is an exceptional team, but I’m feeling a Marquette upset on this particular day.
01/16/12 vs. Louisville (MLK Day) – 2:30 p.m.
- LOSS: The Golden Eagles still can’t get over the fact that they collapsed and allowed a 24-5 Louisville run over the final six minutes in last year’s devastating loss on the road. The Cardinals have a tough non-conference schedule so they will be more than ready to take center stage in Milwaukee and steal one from the blue and gold on the road. Head coach Rick Pitino will have his guys and exceptional back-court ready to play.
01/21/12 @ Providence – 6:00 p.m.
- WIN: ESPN’s latest recruiting rankings for the class of 2012 ranks Providence as the second highest team from the BIG EAST at 7th in the nation. Surprisingly, the Friars may have a bright future ahead of them even though they haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2004. But for now, it is Marquette’s game to win.
01/24/12 vs. USF – 7:00 p.m.
- WIN: The South Florida Bulls have some height on their roster that can both rebound and score, pondering the question, how much improvement will we see from Marquette’s Otule and Gardner as the season goes on. This could be a big test to see if our frontcourt can match up with the best of them and be effective come tournament time.
01/28/12 @ Villanova – 11:00 a.m.
- LOSS: Learning from their mistakes in their first matchup of the season will allow Villanova to upset Marquette as their younger players get experience and learn their roles on the team. The Wildcats’ frontcourt and 2-3 zone on defense will frustrate the Golden Eagles coming off easy wins over Providence and USF.
01/31/12 vs. Seton Hall – 7:00 p.m.
- WIN: Marquette should win this game versus Seton Hall with ease because in my opinion, the Pirates will most likely finish dead last in the conference this season. It’s always nice to play a cupcake opponent like Seton Hall in the middle of the season to boost team moral and try some new rotations and shuffle playing time options for the Marquette players.
02/04/12 @ Notre Dame – 12:00 p.m.
- WIN: Fanatics will be glad to know that one of our biggest rivals in the BIG EAST will be defeated this year as the Golden Eagles will take down the Fighting Irish for a big road W. Tim Abromaitis of Notre Dame will be asked to carry the load for his team this year and his 15.4 points and 6.1 rebounds along with a 42.9 percentage from beyond the arc will surely help. Notre Dame’s biggest downfall is that its bench lacks a lot of talent and depth.:
02/06/12 @ DePaul – 8:00 p.m.
- WIN: The DePaul Blue Devils were able to muster only one BIG EAST win last season as they went 1-17 in the conference. Although they return four starters, Marquette fans are bred in Illinois too and thus will travel well and will enjoy a Golden Eagles blowout on the road.
02/11/12 vs. Cincinnati (National Marquette Day) – 2:00 p.m.
- WIN: Last season, Cincinnati finally saw its program put together a very successful season with 26 wins and a trip to the NCAA Tournament where they even won a game. The Bearcats start the season narrowly cracking the top 25 in the polls and unfortunately for Marquette, the Golden Eagles will draw the Bearcats twice this upcoming year. Marquette prevails on National Marquette Day at home in game one.
02/18/12 @ Connecticut – 11:00 a.m.
- LOSS: The 2011 national champion UConn Huskies will begin their 2011-12 campaign as the top dog in the BIG EAST and ranked 4th nationally. The Huskies have four starters returning and will miss the clutch Kemba Walker dearly. Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond will lead the way for UConn and are both future NBA prospects. Head coach Jim Calhoun got into some big recruiting troubles this offseason causing him to be penalized by missing the first three BIG EAST games along with scholarship reductions.
02/22/12 vs. Rutgers – 7:00 p.m.
- WIN: The goal of second-year Rutgers’ head coach Mike Rice is to finish the season .500 and it will be very difficult to do so as six incoming freshmen join the Scarlet Knights’ roster. Rutgers will eventually reach that mark but for the time being, a Rutgers’ win sure won’t come against Marquette as they battle back at home and recover from the UConn defeat.
02/24/12 @ West Virginia – 8:00 p.m.
- WIN: The Mountaineers will also welcome six freshmen to their team as they look to rebuild with youth like many teams in the BIG EAST this season. Bob Huggins is a stellar head coach and will have his men ready to play at West Virginia where I think Marquette could be given a run for their money.
02/29/12 @ Cincinnati – 6:00 p.m.
- LOSS: Mick Cronin has done too good of a job as head coach at Louisville to not get a quality win and it will come at the expense of Marquette. Yancy Gates, a Preseason All-BIG EAST Second Team selection, led the Bearcats with 11.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks last year and he will be counted on to have another good season and game in the Louisville win over these two evenly matched teams.
03/03/12 vs. Georgetown (Senior Night) – TBA
- LOSS: Marquette has lost its past three Senior Night games dating back to the 2007-08 season and this loss to Georgetown will make it four. I have a feeling Marquette will be struggling and the fatigue will start to set in come the end of the regular season. The Hoyas youth surprises the Golden Eagles tonight.
BIG EAST Tournament
Finishing 5th in the BIG EAST would provide Marquette with a first round bye in the BIG EAST Tournament before drawing a No. 12 or 13 seed opponent in the second round which should make for an easy victory. I believe Marquette will also win their round three quarterfinal game against either Louisville or Pittsburgh before falling in the semifinal round of the BIG EAST Tournament to likely favorites Syracuse or UConn. That being said, the Golden Eagles will still carry with them a great deal of momentum heading into the grand daddy of them all, March Madness and the NCAA Tournament.
If the Golden Eagles can manage to stay healthy and have good productive senior seasons from Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, I expect Marquette to grab a 5-seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament and make it all the way to the Elite 8. Excellent recruiting classes year after year and the ability to win close games under Buzz Williams have been big factors in the rapid rise of the program that is ascending up there with the best of them in college basketball today. Marquette being ranked in the pre-season poll and having Darius Johnson-Odom being selected on the All-BIG EAST First Team gives this team some great national recognition in hopes that they can do some damage come tournament time. The 2011-12 Marquette men’s basketball team is Elite 8 bound and their hard-work, dedication, and determination endured during bootcamp will help them achieve that goal.
by Ryan Ellerbusch