"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Analyzing Murray State's Elite eFG%

The most important of the Four Factors in predicting outcomes is effective field goal percent, or eFG%. That statistic combines a player's two & three point field goal shooting into one number. The calculation is: (FGM + (0.5 x 3PFGM))/FGA. What this does is effectively adds the additional 50% of points scored for a three to a two. To show how it works, here is Markus Howard's current eFG% calculation:

Field Goals Made: 243
Three Point Field Goals Made: 116
Field Goal Attempts: 573

So the calculation is (243 + (0.5 x 116)) / 573 = 52.5 eFG%

The reason I bring this up is because two numbers on Murray State's team page on kenpom really stand out. Those numbers were 55.2 Offensive eFG% & 46.4 Defensive eFG%, both top-25 nationally. While the other three factors can influence outcomes (turnovers have significantly impacted Marquette's results) there is no single factor more important in predicting a winner than eFG%, which immediately gave me concerns about Murray State's chances of pulling off an upset.

I decided to dig in a bit deeper to determine how valid those numbers were. Their respective eFG% are elite for diametrically different reasons. Offensively, they are only average on three-point attempts but rank 5th in the nation at 57.2% on two-point attempts. Defensively, they are elite on three-point attempts, ranked 4th at 28.5%, but only slightly above average on two-point attempts. We'll start with the offense.

2PFG% Offensive Breakdown


As their shooting inside the arc is the primary factor propping up their lofty offensive eFG%, I was interested in looking at the quality of 2PFG% defenses the Racers were facing. I divided their opponents into three categories: those that finished top-100, bottom-100, & anywhere in between in 2PFG% defense. Over the course of the season, they played 6 games against teams in the top-100, 10 games against teams from 101-250, & 13 games against teams that were sub-250. Here is the breakdown:


Rank Games 2PFGM 2PFGA 2PFG%
Top-100 6 117 221 52.9
101-250 10 197 372 53.0
Sub-250 13 319 513 62.2
Total 29 633 1,106 57.2

Against the top-250, the Racers were consistent. Their overall 2PFG% in the top two categories combined was 52.95%. That number would rank 66th in the nation, but playing 44.8% of their games against sub-250 2PFG% defenses allowed them reach that top-5 ranking. The Racers dominanted weak opposition to inflate their offensive 2PFG% & thus their overall eFG%.

What does that mean against Marquette? First of all, Marquette is ranked 19th in 2PFG% defense, which is far better than the best ranked team in that category the Racers have faced all year. Theo John is also a more prolific rim protector than any player they have faced this year. At a glance, Murray State's greatest offensive strength will be tested in a fashion unlike any game they have played this season.

Further, Murray State lost just 4 games all season. 2 were against teams in the top-100 category & 2 were against teams in the 101-250 category. Against the 7 best 2PFG% defenses they played, Murray State was just 4-3. This certainly doesn't guarantee victory, but that record is certainly less daunting than their 25-4 overall mark in D1 games.

3PFG% Defense

As I think about how Murray State hasn't faced a defensive team like Marquette, I wondered if they have faced a lineup of shooters as prolific as Marquette has. My initial thought was no. Not only is Marquette ranked 9th in the nation, but they boast four three-point shooters that connect on over 40% of their attempts beyond the arc. Comparably, the Ohio Valley Conference also has four three-point shooters that connect on over 40% beyond the arc. That's four on all 12 teams.

Naturally, it's not as simple as that. The league may not have shooters as prolific as Marquette's quartet of Markus Howard, Joey Hauser, Sacar Anim, & Sam Hauser, but they do have teams that have multiple high-level three-point shooters. Austin Peay has three players that shoot 38.6% or better. Belmont has 5 players that shoot over 35.6% from deep. In non-conference play, they played Auburn & Southern Illinois, both of whom have four shooters hitting on 37% or better beyond the arc. So let's take a look at the numbers:


Rank Games 3PFGM 3PFGA 3PFG%
Top-100 10 82 243 33.7
101-250 9 49 193 25.4
Sub-250 10 46 184 25.0
Totals 29 177 620 28.5

The consistency was more evident in the lower two quadrants for defensive 3PFG%. Murray State definitely allowed the top teams they played to shoot the three better. That said, they did have two losses in the first category & one in each of the lower categories, so these numbers feel less significant as half their losses came to lesser three-point shooting teams.

In the Racers' four losses, the only team that did not qualify in the top-100 of either category was Alabama, who beat Murray State by outscoring them by 14 at the free throw line on 18 more attempts. The other three teams to beat them was top-100 in at least one of the other categories, & in Belmont's case, both.

Now admittedly, every team in the country plays teams that have deficiencies. Just like Murray State, Marquette is able to pad some stats against teams that simply aren't as good. This isn't meant to be indictment of the OVC. If you only look at how Murray State's offense did against top-100 2PFG% defenses, their 52.9% 2PFG% would still be 68th in the country, in the 81st percentile. If you only look at how Murray State's defense did against top-100 3PFG% offenses, their 33.7% would be 135th, in the 62nd percentile. So even when only Murray State's play against the best of their opposition is factored in & compared to how the rest of the country played against full schedules, the Racers are still well above average at both 2PFG% offense & 3PFG% defense. There is no disputing that Murray State is good at scoring inside the arc, good at defending the three, & their eFG% numbers have a basis in reality.

That said, Marquette will be the first team to play Murray State who is top-20 in both categories & is the only team below a 2-seed that can claim that. This doesn't guarantee a result, but Murray State has yet to play any team that has shown the ability to match them strength for strength as decisively as Marquette has this season. If you're looking for a 5/12 upset pick, the West may not be the best region to pick. Murray State's offense & defense are both built on eFG% numbers that have been benefited greatly from how effectively the Racers have handled the bottom of their schedule. It will be interesting to see how they handle a team that can challenge their greatest attributes from a position of strength.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Now that we're dancing, lets talk about that and less about the tire fire that was the BET

We've got a lot of ground to cover this podcast so we have to hit the ground running. First we highlight the bracket reveals and where MU stands before we turn to dissecting the Big East Tournament. We talk about exercising the St John's demons and then turn to the $hitshow that was the Seton Hall game. We talk about officiating travashamockeries, finding a new hated rival in the Big East, and how MU recovers from the result. We then talk about Markus Howard's performance in the Big East Tournament and whether we think he is more injured then they are letting on or if he is tired. We then get to the topic on everyone's mind, is MU going to win an NCAA Tournament game (would be first in Wojo's tenure)? So we talk match ups with Murray State, and can MU stop Ja Morant. We also talk about what happens if MU advances and the MU bracket generally, with the idea that we're generally pretty satisfied with the draw and we just have to hope MU can play up to it's potential. We close out the pod with some general bracket analysis, become both Oregon and Wofford fans, look forward to a great tournament. Enjoy! https://scrambledeggs.podbean.com/mf/play/4sa8nq/scrambledeggs_editted_031719.mp3

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Selection Sunday, Afternoon

I expect when the final bracket comes out, I will end up looking really right or really wrong. I have focused my research this year heavily on the basis of the makeup of the Selection Committee. The reason for that is I am projecting a 3-bid SoCon. I evaluated 18 teams for the last 7 spots of the field. Those teams were (in NET order) Florida, NC State, Clemson, Texas, Furman, Washington, Belmont, Lipscomb, Belmont, Creighton, Indiana, Ohio State, Temple, Alabama, UNC Greensboro, Arizona State, Xavier, & St. John's. Here is the thought process I went through:

Too Many Losses (Texas, Indiana, Alabama, Xavier OUT) No team has ever made the field with 15 losses that did not also have at least 19 wins. I can't see a SC with a slant toward smaller conferences rewarding high-major programs with unprecedented bids.

Sub-60 NET (Arizona State, St. John's OUT) This is the first place where I differ from most other brackets. As of this writing, 81.1% of brackets on bracketmatrix.com have ASU in while 70.5% have St. John's in. However at the top-16 reveal, the SC mentioned 20 teams & none were ranked lower than 21 in the NET. I think 60 is an absolute cutoff, especially for teams that have more losses.

Show Me Something (Clemson OUT) No team had so many chances at good wins and came up short so often. I know they lost close games, which inflates their computer metrics, but ultimate resume has to count & the Tigers don't have enough on theirs to make the field.

So now we have 11 teams for those same 7 spots. The remaining teams are Florida, NC State, Furman, Washington, Belmont, Lipscomb, TCU, Creighton, Ohio State, Temple, & UNC Greensboro.

Quadrants 1 & 2 Performance (Washington, Belmont IN) Washington was 10-7 vs Q1/2 while Belmont was 5-3. Those were the only two teams with winning records vs the top two quadrants. While each team had struggles related to their league, they were more likely to win games than not against higher level competition.

Quadrant 1A Performance (TCU & Florida IN, Creighton & Ohio State OUT) Both teams had 2 Q1A wins. The only teams to equal or exceed that were Texas & Indiana, both eliminated off the bat. TCU was the easier decision with no losses outside the top two Quadrants. I know most have Florida comfortably in (96.2% of brackets) but I have them in Dayton. They would equal the worst record to ever make the field & every 19-15 at-large team in NCAA history has played in Dayton. Conversely, Creighton & Ohio State had every chance to get elite wins & came up short most of the time. Considering their pedestrian records, there isn't enough at the top of their resumes to overcome 14 losses & less than 20 wins.

We're now down to 5 teams for 3 spots: NC State, Furman, Lipscomb, Temple, & UNC Greensboro.

Show Me Something, Take 2 (NC State OUT) Similar to Clemson, NC State had chances & just didn't do enough with it. Their NCSOS of 353 is absolutely terrible & there just isn't enough at the top to offset the complete lack of any effort to schedule well.

The Final Three (Furman, Temple, & UNC Greensboro IN, Lipscomb OUT) Temple's record, along with the win over Houston, had the right mix of quality & quantity. That left a decision between three mid majors. Furman had a winning record in every Quadrant except 1 & the best overall win over Villanova. UNCG has their ridiculous average NET loss of 16 (better than any team in the country not on the 1 or 2 line) & were perfect outside Q1. That left Lipscomb out, who just had too many blemishes & not enough merits to offset that.

With the new committee makeup in place, that would give the at large bus outside the top-7 leagues since 2015. It's not as many as pre-2014 but the numerous bid thieves this week shrank the at large field by 4 spots. Here's the last S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-Virginia, 3-North Carolina, 4-Gonzaga
2-Seeds: 8-MICHIGAN, 7-Michigan State, 6-Kentucky, 5-Tennessee
3-Seeds: 9-Houston, 10-Texas Tech, 11-Lsu, 12-Florida State
4-Seeds: 16-Kansas State, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Purdue, 13-Kansas
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Marquette, 19-Mississippi State, 20-VILLANOVA
6-Seeds: 24-AUBURN, 23-IOWA STATE, 22-BUFFALO, 21-WOFFORD
7-Seeds: 25-Maryland, 26-CINCINNATI, 27-Nevada, 28-Louisville
8-Seeds: 32-UTAH STATE, 31-Iowa, 30-Ucf, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-Syracuse, 34-Baylor, 35-Seton Hall, 36-Minnesota
10-Seeds: 40-Belmont, 39-Washington, 38-Vcu, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Tcu, 42-Florida/43-Furman, 44-Temple/45-Unc Greensboro, 46-OREGON
12-Seeds: 50-LIBERTY, 49-NEW MEXICO STATE, 48-ST. MARY'S, 47-MURRAY STATE
13-Seeds: 51-UC IRVINE, 52-VERMONT, 53-NORTHEASTERN, 54-OLD DOMINION
14-Seeds: 58-MONTANA, 57-YALE, 56-GEORGIA STATE, 55-ST. LOUIS
15-Seeds: 59-NORTHERN KENTUCKY, 60-COLGATE, 61-BRADLEY, 62-GARDNER WEBB
16-Seeds: 68-NC CENTRAL/67-IONA, 66-NORTH DAKOTA STATE/65-FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 64-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M, 63-ABILENE CHRISTIAN

NIT 1-Seeds: Lipscomb, NC State, Creighton, Ohio State
NIT 2-Seeds: Clemson, St. John's, Arizona State, Indiana

Selection Sunday

We are just hours from Selection Sunday & it seems Marquette is sandwiched squarely between the 5 & 6 lines depending on the source. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a look the teams on the 12 line that could show up in the bracket later tonight & the quick reaction I'll have if they are the matchup. I also included a couple of 11-seeds, just in case we fall.

New Mexico State (12-Seed) No one Aggie player will strike fear into anyone, but they are incredibly deep & their entire roster plays. Terrell Brown is the only player with a double-digit scoring average 5 others score 7+ ppg & 13 players that average 10+ mpg. Further, all of them have played in 24+ games, so it's not an anomaly. The number that really stands out is the are the best team in the country at limiting assists. Defensively, they lack size & a rim protector, but play great team defense & close down passing lanes. It will likely be great individual performances that beat them. Coach Chris Jans said "we do a decent job taking away the first & second options, but then it becomes an isolation system & we are not very big out front. When teams go one-on-one against us, they are bigger & sometimes can just shoot over us & that's frustrating." This Aggies team really gets after rebounds on both ends, but with Marquette having multiple tall shooters & an individual talent like Markus Howard, this looks like a promising matchup.

St. Mary's (12-Seed) The Gaels are basically the "first round upset" prototype. They play at a grinding pace & shoot 37.8% from three. They are also elite at chasing opponents off the three-point line, limiting opponents to 31.4% three point attempts out of total field goal attempts. That's more than 10% points lower than Marquette's average. They played Mississippi State & LSU very close (single possession games with less than a minute in both games) & are a metrics darling, which means they will almost certainly be better than their seed. Expect this team to slow the pace, make threes at the end of the shot clock, & limit opponent opportunities in the half-court.


Murray State (12-Seed) Am I the only one thinking of 2012? Possible first weekend meeting with Murray State? Check. Low-major with a gaudy record? Check. Future NBA star leading the way? Check. The difference is that this Murray State team isn't as good as the 2012 team. They don't shoot it as well & don't defend remotely as well. If you don't know the name, get familiar with Ja Morant. He's projected as a top-5 NBA pick & leads the nation in assists & assist rate. The Racers are an up-tempo team that runs everything through Morant. They rely on attacking the interior, but haven't faced an interior defense like Marquette's all year long. The key to beating Murray State is to attack them inside. In their 4 losses, they allowed opponents to shoot 62.8% inside the arc.


Liberty (12-Seed) Teams that slow the pace & shoot the three can be dangerous in March, and that matches Liberty to a tee. That said, they have an undersized backcourt & marginal defense, while allowing opponents to score a high quantity from beyond the arc. Their trend against high majors this year was to play close & fade in the last 10 minutes. The key to beating Liberty is shooting the three. They allowed opponents to shoot 47.2% from beyond the arc in losses. Turn it into a three-point shooting contest & watch Liberty flame out.

Ohio State (11-Seed) The Buckeyes got everyone's attention when they went on the road to beat Cincinnati & Creighton just 8 days apart in November. Since they, the only wins they have over projected tournament teams are Minnesota & Iowa at home & have gone 7-13 since the start of the New Year. Chris Holtmann is a heck of a coach, but this looks like a team that overachieved just to get this far. Typically, his teams limit turnovers & clean up on the glass, but this team doesn't really excel at either of those things.

Belmont (11-Seed) The Bruins are one of the best shooting teams in the country (#3 eFG%) & are led by a likely NBA player in Dylan Windler. They barely play a lick of defense, but Rick Byrd is a brilliant offensive mind who has been at Belmont for over 30 years & is creeping up on 700 career wins. They excel at changing the point of attack to create open looks & running backdoor cuts & out of bounds plays that create easy scoring opportunities at the rim. I know Byrd hasn't made it out of the opening round yet as a coach, but this team has shock Sweet 16 written all over them.

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-Virginia, 3-TENNESSEE, 4-Gonzaga
2-Seeds: 8-MICHIGAN STATE, 7-HOUSTON, 6-North Carolina, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Michigan, 10-Texas Tech, 11-Lsu, 12-Florida State
4-Seeds: 16-Kansas State, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Purdue, 13-Kansas
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Marquette, 19-Mississippi State, 20-VILLANOVA
6-Seeds: 24-IOWA STATE, 23-BUFFALO, 22-WOFFORD, 21-Maryland
7-Seeds: 25-Auburn, 26-Cincinnati, 27-Nevada, 28-Louisville
8-Seeds: 32-UTAH STATE, 31-Iowa, 30-Ucf, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-Syracuse, 34-Baylor, 35-Seton Hall, 36-Minnesota
10-Seeds: 40-Tcu, 39-Vcu, 38-Washington, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Ohio State, 42-Belmont/43-Unc Greensboro, 44-Temple/45-Furman, 46-OREGON
12-Seeds: 50-LIBERTY, 49-NEW MEXICO STATE, 48-ST. MARY'S, 47-MURRAY STATE
13-Seeds: 51-UC IRVINE, 52-VERMONT, 53-NORTHEASTERN, 54-OLD DOMINION

14-Seeds: 58-HARVARD, 57-MONTANA, 56-GEORGIA STATE, 55-ST. LOUIS
15-Seeds: 59-NORTHERN KENTUCKY, 60-COLGATE, 61-BRADLEY, 62-GARDNER WEBB
16-Seeds: 68-NC CENTRAL/67-IONA, 66-NORTH DAKOTA STATE/65-FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 64-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M, 63-ABILENE CHRISTIAN

Last Four Byes: Washington, VCU, TCU, Ohio State
Last Four In: Belmont, UNC Greensboro, Temple, Furman
First Four Out: Lipscomb, Florida, Arizona State, Indiana
Next Four Out: Creighton, St. John's, Alabama, NC State

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Building a Bracket

There's a reason I generally stick to S-Curves. If you are going to build a full bracket, there are a lot of rules to be followed. You need to balance the seeds evenly across the four regions. You need to keep conference opponents away from each other as long as possible. You want to avoid rematches both from the regular season & the last tournament. You should make sure protected seeds are protected geographically. If you're going to do it right, it's a lot of work, and even when you think you have it right, there will still be conflicts & complaints. Nonetheless, I tried to put a bracket together today based on the tournament starting now and the remaining favorites winning their conference tournaments. Here's the bracket, with comments below on why teams are where they are, and the full S-Curve at the bottom of the article.








Balancing the Bracket: I broke the bracket down into 4 sections. The most important to balance was the Top-16. The strongest Top-16 region is the South, with 32 points given while the West is the weakest with 36 total points (both the East & Midwest have 34). I then evaluated the 5-8, 9-12, & 13-16 lines in the same fashion. Each of those categories is separated by no more than 4 total points of seeding in any region. The total disparity in seed power has the Midwest as the strongest region with 529 points & the South as the weakest with 534. This is an incredibly small imbalance that would have been smaller had Minnesota & TCU not been switched (see below).


The Top-16: I moved Gonzaga back to the 1-line. While I do think Houston has the better resume, I don't expect the Committee to acknowledge that. The metrics favor Gonzaga & I feel the makeup of the Committee will benefit the Zags. My expectation is that the winner of Tennessee & Kentucky will be on the top line. They are basically interchangeable


Early rematches: There is no set rule on teams from different conferences meeting the first weekend, but Purdue & Virginia Tech did play in the regular season but had to be placed across from each other to maintain the Top-16 balance. No other regular season non-conference opponents can play earlier than the Sweet 16 (there are 6 such instances where that could happen). There is one instance where conference teams could meet in the second round; Michigan State & Minnesota. The Gophers had to be moved from the South to avoid Michigan & there was no better option. I looked at moving them to every spot within one seed line & none made a better fit without disrupting the overall balance or creating another conflict. No other conference teams can meet before the Sweet 16 & all of those potential meetings are within the Committee Guidelines.

Location: The Top-16 were placed in order. The top ten teams were all assigned to the closest available site to their campus. Kansas was sent to Jacksonville instead of Salt Lake City due to not wanting to give first round opponent Montana a geographical advantage. Below them, LSU, Purdue, & Kansas State received their closest location while Florida State & Wisconsin were sent to San Jose to avoid creating similar first weekend disadvantages to Kansas.

Ultimate, this was a pain & a reminder why I feel that people putting brackets together more often than not don't put due diligence in. I almost always find errors with a cursory glance, & despite spending a lot of time on this it would not surprise me if other errors were found by people digging into it.

As far as Marquette, I wouldn't love this road, but it's the road that came out of balancing the bracket. A potential Florida State matchup would be difficult while Tennessee would be a tough Sweet 16 draw. Here's the S-Curve as it currently stands:

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-Virginia, 3-TENNESSEE, 4-Gonzaga
2-Seeds: 8-MICHIGAN STATE, 7-HOUSTON, 6-North Carolina, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Michigan, 10-Texas Tech, 11-KANSAS, 12-Lsu
4-Seeds: 16-Kansas State, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Purdue, 13-Florida State
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Marquette, 19-Mississippi State, 20-Maryland
6-Seeds: 24-Iowa State, 23-BUFFALO, 22-WOFFORD, 21-VILLANOVA
7-Seeds: 25-Auburn, 26-Cincinnati, 27-Nevada, 28-Louisville
8-Seeds: 32-UTAH STATE, 31-Iowa, 30-Ucf, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-WASHINGTON, 34-Syracuse, 35-Baylor, 36-Seton Hall
10-Seeds: 40-Tcu, 39-Vcu, 38-Minnesota, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Ohio State, 42-Belmont, 43-Unc Greensboro/44-Temple, 45-Florida/46-Furman
12-Seeds: 50-LIBERTY, 49-NEW MEXICO STATE, 48-ST. MARY'S, 47-MURRAY STATE
13-Seeds: 51-DAVIDSON, 52-UC IRVINE, 53-VERMONT, 54-NORTHEASTERN
14-Seeds: 58-HARVARD, 57-MONTANA, 56-GEORGIA STATE, 55-OLD DOMINION
15-Seeds: 59-NORTHERN KENTUCKY, 60-COLGATE, 61-BRADLEY, 62-GARDNER WEBB
16-Seeds: 68-NC CENTRAL/67-IONA, 66-NORTH DAKOTA STATE/65-FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 64-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M, 63-ABILENE CHRISTIAN

Last Four Byes: VCU, TCU, Ohio State, Belmont
Last Four In: UNC Greensboro, Temple, Florida, Furman
First Four Out: Lipscomb, Arizona State, Creighton, Indiana
Next Four Out: St. John's, Alabama, NC State, Clemson

Updated S-Curve, March 16

Planning to do some more work later today, but for now, here's an updated S-Curve after Friday's games.

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-Virginia, 3-TENNESSEE, 4-Gonzaga
2-Seeds: 8-MICHIGAN STATE, 7-HOUSTON, 6-North Carolina, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Michigan, 10-Texas Tech, 11-KANSAS, 12-Lsu
4-Seeds: 16-Kansas State, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Purdue, 13-Florida State
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Marquette, 19-Mississippi State, 20-Maryland
6-Seeds: 24-Iowa State, 23-BUFFALO, 22-WOFFORD, 21-VILLANOVA
7-Seeds: 25-Auburn, 26-Cincinnati, 27-Nevada, 28-Louisville
8-Seeds: 32-UTAH STATE, 31-Iowa, 30-Ucf, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-WASHINGTON, 34-Syracuse, 35-Baylor, 36-Seton Hall
10-Seeds: 40-Tcu, 39-Vcu, 38-Minnesota, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Ohio State, 42-Belmont, 43-Unc Greensboro/44-Temple, 45-Florida/46-Furman
12-Seeds: 50-LIBERTY, 49-NEW MEXICO STATE, 48-ST. MARY'S, 47-MURRAY STATE
13-Seeds: 51-DAVIDSON, 52-UC IRVINE, 53-VERMONT, 54-NORTHEASTERN
14-Seeds: 58-HARVARD, 57-MONTANA, 56-GEORGIA STATE, 55-OLD DOMINION
15-Seeds: 59-NORTHERN KENTUCKY, 60-COLGATE, 61-BRADLEY, 62-GARDNER WEBB
16-Seeds: 68-NORFOLK STATE/67-IONA, 66-NORTH DAKOTA STATE/65-FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 64-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M, 63-ABILENE CHRISTIAN



Last Four Byes: VCU, TCU, Ohio State, Belmont
Last Four In: UNC Greensboro, Temple, Florida, Furman
First Four Out: Lipscomb, Arizona State, Creighton, Indiana
Next Four Out: St. John's, Alabama, NC State, Clemson

Friday, March 15, 2019

Marquette Rooting Guide: March 15

Marquette fans everywhere breathed a massive sigh of relief as the 4-game losing streak was snapped against St. John's last night. It wasn't just that win that went in Marquette's favor, however. Two other 5-seeds, Virginia Tech & Maryland, also lost. That leaves Marquette with the best chance to move back up to the 4-line if things break right. And while they've been a 3-seed most of the year, the Selection Committee chair said they've seeded the top three lines already, so I'm going to assume that dream is over. Here are games to watch today:

Seton Hall vs Marquette, 8:00 pm, FS1: We'll start with the obvious one. Marquette likely needs to win the Big East Tournament to move up, but at the minimum needs to play on Saturday. Powell vs Howard at MSG on a Friday night should be epic.

Florida vs LSU, 12:00 pm, ESPN: I don't think Marquette can catch LSU in the S-Curve, but LSU could drop behind Wisconsin & Buffalo in the NET, which would help stick both of those wins in Q1A.

Nebraska vs Wisconsin, 1:55 pm, BTN: This should be easy for MU fans. Bucky has the edge in metrics, but MU would have more Q1A wins, more Q1 total wins, a better Q1 record, a better overall record, & if it comes down to it, the head-to-head win. Ideally this should be a close win for Nebraska so UW doesn't fall out of the top-15 of NET.

Auburn vs South Carolina, 2:00 pm: Some brackets have Auburn ahead of Marquette, though I don't buy it. More important, if Auburn loses it insures they stay behind Wisconsin & Buffalo in the NET.

Central Michigan vs Buffalo, 5:30 pm, CBSSN: A Buffalo win will give them a chance to get to or stay in the NET top-15. Another blowout like yesterday would all but guarantee it.

Xavier vs Villanova, 5:30 pm, FS1: If Marquette is going to win this thing & move up, their resume will benefit more from a win over Villanova than Xavier, & it's better for the Wojo revenge tour.

Florida State vs Virginia, 6:00 pm, ESPN: The Seminoles are ahead of Marquette on the S-Curve. I'm not sure MU can catch them, but better for them to just stop winning right now.

Minnesota vs Purdue, 6:00 pm, BTN: This is (almost) all about the NET. A big Minnesota win could drop Purdue back a few spots, helping Wisconsin & Buffalo. And if there's any slight hope of a 3-seed, Purdue is the only team on that line MU could possibly catch (but I don't expect that).

Iowa State vs Kansas State, 6:00 pm, ESPN2: The Wildcats are one spot ahead of Marquette on the S-Curve. Hopefully the lack of Dean Wade ends KSU's run. They've done great work for Marquette's resume, but they can stop now.

West Virginia vs Kansas, 8:00 pm, ESPN2: With Kansas at the top of the 4-line, I doubt MU gets that high, but better for them to lose now. MU winning tomorrow while the Jayhawks are idle coming off a bad loss would be a positive.

Mississippi State vs Tennessee, 8:00 pm, SECN: There is zero chance MU catches the Vols, but Mississippi State could end up with as many as three massive resume opportunities: Tennessee, Kentucky, & LSU. Even if they only got 1-2 of them, they could pass Marquette & grab a 4-seed themselves.

San Diego State vs Nevada, 8:00 pm, CBSSN: I don't think the Wolfpack could pass Marquette, but some brackets have them ahead of us. Better for the Aztecs to end their tourney run now.

1-Seeds: 1-VIRGINIA, 2-North Carolina, 3-Duke, 4-Tennessee
2-Seeds: 8-MICHIGAN STATE, 7-Gonzaga, 6-HOUSTON, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Michigan, 10-LSU, 11-Texas Tech, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-KANSAS STATE, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Florida State, 13-Kansas
5-Seeds: 17-Marquette, 18-Virginia Tech, 19-Mississippi State, 20-Maryland
6-Seeds: 24-Auburn, 23-BUFFALO, 22-WOFFORD, 21-VILLANOVA
7-Seeds: 25-NEVADA, 26-Iowa State, 27-Cincinnati, 28-Louisville
8-Seeds: 32-VCU, 31-Iowa, 30-Ucf, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-WASHINGTON, 34-Syracuse, 35-Baylor, 36-Utah State
10-Seeds: 40-Temple, 39-Ohio State, 38-Tcu, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Seton Hall, 42-Belmont, 43-Unc Greensboro, 44-Minnesota/45-Lipscomb
12-Seeds: 50-NEW MEXICO STATE, 49-ST. MARY'S, 48-MURRAY STATE, 47-Arizona State/46-Furman
13-Seeds: 51-LIBERTY, 42-UC IRVINE, 53-VERMONT, 54-NORTHEASTERN
14-Seeds: 58-HARVARD, 57-MONTANA, 56-GEORGIA STATE, 55-OLD DOMINION
15-Seeds: 59-NORTHERN KENTUCKY, 60-COLGATE, 61-BRADLEY, 62-GARDNER WEBB
16-Seeds: 68-NORFOLK STATE/67-IONA, 66-NORTH DAKOTA STATE/65-FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 64-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M, 63-SAM HOUSTON STATE

First Four Out: Creighton, Alabama, St. John's, Indiana
Next Four Out: Florida, NC State, Clemson, Texas

Thursday, March 14, 2019

The Best* Team in the Big East

Listening to Big East Tournament previews this week, I was surprised by some of what I heard, or rather didn't hear. It sounds like the safe money is on either regular season champs Villanova or host St. John's to cut down the nets at MSG on Saturday. The trendy outsider pick was Seton Hall, with Xavier considered a dark horse because they've been hot of late. Yet virtually no one is talking about the best* team in the Big East!

The asterisk refers to recent play going back to February 18, so basically about the past month. I'm talking about the best team in recent weeks that also has the best defense in recent weeks. So who is it? It isn't St. John's or Seton Hall, who are both in the bottom 3 & it isn't Villanova, who's right around the middle. It isn't even Xavier, winners of 6 of 7.

The best team in the league recently is Creighton. The Jays have rattled off 5 straight wins by turning their early season struggles on their head. The Jays were being compared to last year's Marquette teams because of their excellent offense & atrocious defense. That changed starting with their February 20 win over DePaul. Why? Let's take a look at the Big East efficiency numbers since the start of their streak from barttorvik.com:


Team Record Adj OE Off Rank Adj DE Def Rank Power Rating Power Rank
Creighton 5-0 112.9 46 90.8 24 .9252 21
Xavier 4-1 117.3 17 95.8 63 .9115 28
Providence 3-2 107.9 113 90.9 28 .8775 38
Marquette 2-4 109.5 89 95.2 58 .8333 47
Villanova 2-3 112.6 51 101.4 138 .7682 69
DePaul 2-3 115.7 24 104.9 194 .7548 72
Georgetown 4-2 107.8 116 98.7 95 .7318 80
Seton Hall 2-3 104.1 182 95.6 59 .7272 82
St. John's 1-4 112.1 57 108.8 248 .5851 139
Butler 1-4 103.2 196 102.4 154 .5248 163

While Creighton's offense has dropped a bit, their defense has been the best in the league which has translated to playing like a borderline top-20 team. It is this play that has lifted them into my bracket & likely this trend is the reason they are getting the third best odds of any Big East team to win the conference tournament behind Villanova & Marquette.

The downside is they open play against the second hottest team & 4 of the top 5 hottest teams over that stretch are on their side of the bracket, making for a daunting run to the final. Creighton is favored against Xavier & if they win, get a crack at a Villanova team the Jays took to overtime at the Finn just over a month ago. Considering how well they are playing, it might shockingly be Creighton who proves that defense wins championships if they can keep it up for 3 more games.

Here's the updated S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-VIRGINIA, 2-North Carolina, 3-Duke, 4-Gonzaga
2-Seeds: 8-Michigan, 7-MICHIGAN STATE, 6-Tennessee, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-HOUSTON, 10-Texas Tech, 11-LSU, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-KANSAS STATE, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Florida State, 13-Kansas
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Marquette, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Maryland
6-Seeds: 24-NEVADA, 23-BUFFALO, 22-Misissippi State, 21-WOFFORD
7-Seeds: 25-Iowa State, 26-Auburn, 27-Utah State, 28-VCU
8-Seeds: 32-Iowa, 31-Louisville, 30-Cincinnati, 29-WASHINGTON
9-Seeds: 33-Mississippi, 34-Baylor, 35-Syracuse, 36-Ucf
10-Seeds: 40-Oklahoma, 39-Minnesota, 38-Seton Hall, 37-Temple
11-Seeds: 41-Belmont, 42-Tcu, 43-Ohio State, 44-Unc Greensboro/45-Creighton
12-Seeds: 50-ST. MARY'S (CA) 49-Indiana/48-Lipscomb 47-LIBERTY, 46-MURRAY STATE
13-Seeds: 51-NEW MEXICO STATE, 52-NORTHEASTERN, 53-OLD DOMINION, 52-UC IRVINE
14-Seeds: 58-MONTANA, 57-GEORGIA STATE, 56-HARVARD, 55-VERMONT
15-Seeds: 59-COLGATE, 60-NORTHERN KENTUCKY, 61-BRADLEY, 62-GARDNER WEBB
16-Seeds: 68-IONA/67-FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 66-NORFOLK STATE/65-SAM HOUSTON STATE, 64-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M, 63-NORTH DAKOTA STATE

Last Four Byes: Minnesota, Belmont, TCU, Ohio State
Last Four In: UNC Greensboro, Creighton, Lipscomb
First Four Out: St. John's, Furman, NC State, Florida
Next Four Out: Alabama, Texas, Arizona State, Clemson

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

In the Year 2000...

After two losses to St. John's, Marquette fans are justifiably nervous about the prospects of playing the Johnnies at Madison Square Garden in the Big East Tournament. As I thought about that daunting possibility, I thought back to all the great BET runs St. John's has made at MSG in our years in the Big East...and drew a complete blank.

There's a good reason for that: St. John's hasn't won more than a single Big East Tournament game in a season since the year 2000. So what was going on the last time the Johnnies strung together two straight in the BET & what's happened since?


  • Mike Jarvis was the coach of St. John's. Since then, 6 different coaches (including Jarvis) have tried to replicate the feat, but Kevin Clark, Norm Roberts, Steve Lavin, Mike Dunlap, & Chris Mullin all failed.
  • Tom Crean was just finishing his first season at Marquette.
  • Markus Howard had just celebrated his first birthday a week before. Joey Hauser was only 8 months old while St. John's forward Marcellus Earlington had not yet been born.
  • Current St. John's coach Chris Mullin was still playing in the NBA for the Indiana Pacers.
  • Current Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski had just returned from Poland & was in his first year as an assistant coach at Duke.
  • Marquette legend Dwyane Wade was still in high school, averaging 27 ppg/11 rpg as a senior.
  • The legend of Mark Few was just getting started. He coached his first year at Gonzaga, highlighted by beating St. John's in the NCAA Tournament to advance to the Sweet 16.
  • Soon after, Tom Izzo & Michigan State won the NCAA title. No Big 10 team has cut down the nets since.
  • Since then, St. John's is 7-14 in the Big East Tournament. That includes an 0-4 record against Marquette.
  • The Twin Towers were still standing in Manhattan.
  • None of the Marquette podcasts existed because the RSS feed concept that makes podcasting possible wouldn't exist for another 7 months.
  • Facebook & Twitter didn't exist.
  • The most popular television show was the first season of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?"
  • NBA MVP Shaquille O'Neal was leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA title.

None of this is to say St. John's can't win two games or even the entire tournament. But for St. John's to beat DePaul & Marquette on successive nights, it would require them to do something they haven't done since the calendar first turned the millennium. Here's the updated S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-VIRGINIA, 2-North Carolina, 3-Gonzaga, 4-Duke
2-Seeds: 8-Michigan, 7-MICHIGAN STATE, 6-Tennessee, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Texas Tech, 10-HOUSTON, 11-LSU, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-KANSAS STATE, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Florida State, 13-Kansas
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Marquette, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Maryland
6-Seeds: 24-NEVADA, 23-BUFFALO, 22-Misissippi State, 21-WOFFORD
7-Seeds: 25-Iowa State, 26-Auburn, 27-Utah State, 28-VCU
8-Seeds: 32-Iowa, 31-Louisville, 30-Cincinnati, 29-WASHINGTON
9-Seeds: 33-Mississippi, 34-Baylor, 35-Syracuse, 36-Ucf
10-Seeds: 40-Minnesota, 39-Seton Hall, 38-Temple, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Belmont, 42-Tcu, 43-Ohio State, 44-Unc Greensboro/45-Creighton
12-Seeds: 50-ST. MARY'S (CA) 49-Lipscomb/48-Clemson 47-LIBERTY, 46-MURRAY STATE
13-Seeds: 51-NEW MEXICO STATE, 52-HOFSTRA, 53-OLD DOMINION, 52-UC IRVINE
14-Seeds: 58-MONTANA, 57-GEORGIA STATE, 56-HARVARD, 55-VERMONT
15-Seeds: 59-COLGATE, 60-NORTHERN KENTUCKY, 61-BRADLEY, 62-GARDNER WEBB
16-Seeds: 68-IONA/67-FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON, 66-NORFOLK STATE/65-SAM HOUSTON STATE, 64-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M, 63-NORTH DAKOTA STATE

Last Four Byes: Oklahoma, Belmont, TCU, Ohio State
Last Four In: UNC Greensboro, Creighton, Clemson, Lipscomb
First Four Out: St. John's, Indiana, NC State, Florida
Next Four Out: Texas, Furman, Arizona State, Alabama