BIG EAST releases half of men’s basketball conference schedule

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Photo by Marquette Wire stock photo

Koby McEwen (25) shoots a 3-pointer in Marquette’s game against Purdue last season.

Marquette is not going to have the easiest start to the 2020-21 conference season. In order to prepare, the program has slated six nonconference matchups against Arkansas at Pine Bluff Nov. 25, Eastern Illinois University Nov. 27, Oklahoma State Dec. 1, University of Wisconsin-Madison Dec. 4, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Dec. 8 and at University of California-Los Angeles Dec. 11.

“It’s always important to challenge yourself in the nonconference because the beast that is the BIG EAST is always awaiting,” Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “You want to play teams of a high caliber that’s going to challenge your group and your program so you can see where you’re at. … We think we’ve done that in our nonconference scheduling.”

After facing those six nonconference teams, the Golden Eagles open up BIG EAST play at Creighton Dec. 14. Last season, the Bluejays finished with a 24-7 overall record and were in a three-way tie for first place with Villanova and Seton Hall with a 13-5 record in conference play. Creighton was the No. 1 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament, and it was during halftime of the Bluejays’ matchup against No. 9 St. John’s when the conference decided to cancel the tournament due to COVID-19.

Marquette’s first home game is against Seton Hall Dec. 17. Last season, Myles Powell beat out former Marquette guard Markus Howard for the 2020 BIG EAST Player of the Year honors. Powell led the Pirates to a 21-9 overall record. The team went 8-4 in away games last season, but in SHU’s most recent matchup at Marquette, the Pirates beat the Golden Eagles 88-79 on Senior Day. Before the Tournament was canceled, Seton Hall, the No. 3 seed, was supposed to face Marquette at Madison Square Garden on March 12 at 8:30 p.m. Central Time.

Three days later on Dec. 20, the team heads to Cintas Center to face Xavier. The Musketeers finished the season with a 19-13 overall record and were the No. 7 seed in the BIG EAST Tournament due to their 8-10 conference record. XU lost to No. 10 DePaul 71-67 back on March 11. In Xavier’s last game against Marquette on Jan. 29, the Golden Eagles edged out an 84-82 double overtime thriller in Cincinnati.

Two days before Christmas, MU faces Villanova at home. The Golden Eagles-Wildcats matchup is always the biggest game of the year, and Marquette has yet to lose to Villanova in Fiserv Forum. The last time these two teams met, the Wildcats beat the Golden Eagles 72-71 Feb. 12 in Finneran Pavilion.

“The BIG EAST has a chance to be as good as a league this year as it’s been since I’ve been head coach at Marquette,” Wojciechowski said.

Due to the season’s pushback date, BIG EAST Commissioner Val Ackerman said at the conference’s media day Wednesday that though the Big 12 Battle will not be affected, the 2020 Gavitt Tipoff Games have been officially canceled. This decision was made by both the BIG EAST and Big Ten.

“The games were scheduled to be played the week of November 16, so unfortunately they cannot be played as originally planned,” Ackerman said. “We felt that the spirit of the challenge would be best served by a one-year hiatus and so it is our plan to resume that competition, using the traditional concentrated Gavitt Games format, at the start of the 2021-22 basketball season.”

The conference did not release the remainder of the men’s basketball schedule, which resumes Dec. 30, due to the ongoing pandemic.

“It’s our intention to hold off a little bit longer in announcing that second part of the schedule just so we can continue to assess the landscape and get ourselves comfortable with the most appropriate scheduling format, which will hinge on the status of the virus and related factors,” Ackerman said. “We hope to release that portion of the schedule in the next month or so.”

As for fans, Marquette athletic director Bill Scholl sent an email to season ticket holders Wednesday afternoon.

“There are still many decisions and logistics to be worked through regarding the upcoming basketball season, as well as the rescheduling of our fall sports playing in the spring. We are working tirelessly to prepare and provide answers to you as quickly as possible,” Scholl said in the email. “Additionally, our focus continues to be on the well-being of our student-athletes and providing a safe environment for them to practice and compete, and when possible, compete in front of you.”

Scholl also said once there is more information specifically regarding the basketball season, ticket members and fans will be made aware of the plan for the season.

However, Ackerman said that there will be no conference regulations on spectators.

“It will be jurisdiction to jurisdiction because the rules about whether or not you can have fans will vary from state to state,” Ackerman said. “I don’t believe we are going to have a conference policy that would restrict a school from having fans if its local page would allow it to do so.”

This story was written by Zoe Comerford. She can be reached at isabel.comerford@marquette.edu or on Twitter @zoe_comerford