Just as in its first season under head coach Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette won 19 regular-season games. However, the 2017-18 Golden Eagles didn't make the NCAA tournament as they had the previous season, having to settle for the NIT and an eventual 21-14 record. With a strong roster which includes guard Markus Howard, swingman Sam Hauser and forward Ed Morrow, a Nebraska transfer, Marquette looks to return to the NCAAs. Several tough opponents stand in the Golden Eagles' way. FOX Sports Wisconsin lists what we feel are the 10 toughest.
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10. Buffalo (home, Dec. 21)
Yes, your first thought is probably … Buffalo? In case you've forgotten (or didn't know), the Bulls went 27-9 last season, including a win over Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Buffalo returns its top-three leading scorers -- guard CJ Massinburg (16.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg), forward Nick Perkins (16.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and guard Jeremy Harris (15.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg). Don't overlook this Buffalo squad.
9. Providence (home, Jan. 20; away, Feb. 23)
The Friars were a bit inconsistent last season but did finish 21-14 and made the NCAA tournament. Marquette played two close games vs. Providence, splitting the games. The Friars lost some key contributors, but still have 6-foot-7 junior forward Alpha Diallo (13.2 ppg), who is one of the better players in the Big East and was named first-team all-conference in the league's preseason poll. Point guard David Duke Jr. was tabbed a co-preseason freshman of the year.
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8. Creighton (away, Jan. 9; home, March 3)
Gone are Kyri Thomas (15.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.7 spg) and Marcus Foster (19.8 ppg) as well as some complementary pieces. The Bluejays, which finished 21-12 with an NCAA tournament appearance last season, will look to reload behind junior Martin Krampelj (11.9 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and a younger cast, which will need to step up. It's a talented but unproven group.
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7. St. John's (away, Jan. 1; home, Feb. 5)
While Marquette has a stellar backcourt, so does the Red Storm. Shamorie Ponds (21.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.7 apg, 2.3 spg) led the Big East in scoring last year and was tabbed the conference's preseason player of the year while Justin Simon, a second-team preseason pick, averaged 12.2 points and 5.6 assists. St. John's finished just 16-17 last season -- splitting a pair of games against Marquette -- but are expected to be much improved, thanks in part to Marvin Clark (team-leading 65 3s at a 41.1 percent clip) and transfer Sedee Keita, even garnering a few votes in the preseason AP top-25 poll.
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6. Butler (away, Jan. 30; home, Feb. 20)
With leading scorer Kelan Martin (21.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) gone, some of his scoring load will fall on the shoulders of last season's No. 2 and 3 scorers, Kamar Baldwin (15.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.5 spg) and Paul Jorgensen (10.2 ppg). Like Creighton, the Bulldogs will be asking younger, inexperienced players to step up, although Butler will get a nice addition in the second half of 6-7 Jordan Tucker, a Duke transfer.
5. Wisconsin (home, Dec. 8)
The rival Badgers were decimated a bit by injuries last season (and have already suffered a blow this year with sophomore forward Aleem Ford needing surgery). Wisconsin figures to be healthier, and better, this season and led once again by center Ethan Happ (17.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.1 bpg), perhaps the best senior in the country. Wisconsin is filled with a lot of role players and will hope Brad Davison (12.1 ppg), Brevin Pritzl (8.9 ppg) and a healthy D'Mitrik Trice (9.4 ppg) can elevate their games, and the Badgers' play, this season. Doesn't hurt that this one will be played at Firserv Forum.
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4. Indiana (away, Nov. 14)
Archie Miller is in the process of turning things around at Indiana and is a good bet to get the Hoosiers back to the NCAA tournament (IU was 16-15 in his first season as head coach). Forward Juwan Morgan (16.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg) returns for his senior year and should be Indiana's standout, go-to player. His returning surrounding cast didn't offer too much help last season, but the good news for the Hoosiers is Miller signed a top-notch recruiting class, including Mr. Indiana, Romeo Langford, who figures to start. The fact this game is in Bloomington, Ind., makes this game a little tougher in our eyes.
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3. Kansas State (home, Dec. 1)
Wonder why the Wildcats are this high up on the list? Kansas State won 25 games and made the Elite Eight last year -- and returns its entire starting lineup. And the Wildcats did that without senior forward Dean Wade (16.2 ppg,, 6.2 rpg), who was injured in the first game of the Big 12 tournament and played in just one game -- all of eight minutes -- in the NCAA tournament. With fellow returnees like guard Barry Brown (15.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.2 apg) and forward Xavier Sneed (11.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), it’s little wonder K-State is ranked No. 12 in the preseason AP top 25.
2. Villanova (home, Feb. 9; away Feb. 27)
Restock and reload. The defending national champions lost four key players -- the four leading scorers from last year are all gone -- but return a couple of experienced (and two-time national champions) in Phil Booth (10.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.9 apg) and forward Eric Paschall (10.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg). Head coach Jay Wright brought in a stellar recruiting class, led by guard Jahvon Quinerly (co-Big East preseason freshman of the year), and also added graduate transfer guard Joe Cremo, who averaged double-digit scoring in his three seasons at Albany, including 17.8 last year. There's a reason why Nova is ranked No. 9 in the AP poll.
1. Kansas (preseason NIT in Brooklyn, Nov. 21)
Marquette gets to face both teams which were in last year's national championship game. Kansas is widely considered the best team in the nation -- on paper -- this season. The Jayhawks lost a trio of talented guards, but have a lot of firepower. Big 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike (13.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg) will be tough to handle and guard Lagerald Vick (12.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg) offers a tough matchup at 6-5. Swingman Dedric Lawson, a transfer, averaged 19.2 points at Memphis in 2016-17. Another 6-5 guard, freshman Quentin Grimes, could well be a one-and-done. This will be some test for the Golden Eagles just a few weeks into the season.