After an inaugural 5-8 campaign in 2013, Marquette went on to a 6-10 effort last spring as a full member of the Big East Conference, earning the league's two-seed in the conference's postseason tournament. More important than any of that, though, is that the Golden Eagles were -- according to LaxPower -- one of the most improved teams in the nation between the two seasons, rising 12 positions between their final 2013 and 2014 power rating ranks. Joe Amplo has a program on the move and Marquette has responded to that fact with a schedule that swapped out dates with Rutgers and Marist for meetings with Richmond and Mercer, maintaining the core of the team's 2014 schedule (a slate that that saw Marquette finish with the 19th hardest schedule in the nation according to LaxPower.)
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
Must Fight Lacrosse Deathbots
February 7: at Lehigh; February 14: at Hofstra; March 1: v. Ohio State; March 28: at Villanova; April 7: at Notre Dame; April 18: Duke; April 25: Denver
Marquette will play seven teams this coming spring that finished 2014 ranked in the top 25 of LaxPower's final ratings. The average final position of those teams in that site's ratings system was 13th nationally, with three teams -- Duke, Denver, and Notre Dame -- finishing in the top five in the regime. Now, teams change from season to season (no doink!), but the Eagles will need to overcome some demons against these opponents in 2015: Marquette went 1-6 against these foes in the 2014 regular season, playing to a -34 goal margin with an average margin of defeat of almost five goals.
These teams were anathema to the Eagles last season -- their second ever -- and they're all going to provide issues for Marquette to deal with -- in varying degrees -- this coming spring.
Everything Else is Noise
March 21: at Georgetown; March 28: at Villanova; April 4: St. John's; April 11: at Providence; April 25: Denver
Three wins league wins -- that's likely the feel-good threshold to push Marquette toward a second trip to the Big East Tournament and a shot at an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Two Big East victories could get the Eagles through (depending on table variables), but three is likely the baseline number that allows for comfort and relative assurance. Providence and Georgetown both finished the 2014 season below Marquette in LaxPower's ratings, but neither are guaranteed victories for the Eagles in 2015 (the Eagles earned dual one-goal victories against the Friars and Hoyas last season). Villanova and St. John's are always tough outs in the Big East, even though those programs are in different stages and characterizations of transition. And Denver is likely going to enter the year as the nation's preseason favorite, a team loaded with talent all over the field.
Program momentum turns heavily on maintaining league relevance. Getting into the conference's postseason tournament is the biggest hurdle the Eagle's face to keep its engine running.
The Good Land
April 4: St. John's; April 18: Duke; April 25: Denver
Marquette will get three games at Valley Fields this spring, a dearth of home dates for a program still finding its place in the national landscape. On the bright side, it shouldn't be hard to sell tickets for games against three incredibly saleable opponents (including two title contenders).