"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, January 31, 2023

Big East on the Bubble

 Creighton's recent resurgence is moving them away from the bubble
 Photo by Mark Hoffman | JSOnline.com

With about a month left in the regular season, the Big East has divided itself into three very clear tiers when it comes to NCAA Selection. Today we'll take a quick look at those tiers, with a special focus on the teams that are still fighting to get into the field.

Should Be In: Marquette, Xavier, Providence, Connecticut

None of them can lose out and get in, but all four are trending toward comfortable single-digit seeds and could finish with a protected seed with a strong finish.

MSG or Bust: Butler, DePaul, Georgetown

A dedicated Butler fan could argue the merits of wins over K-State and BYU, but they would have to win out and that simply doesn't look realistic. Dedicated DePaul or Georgetown fans couldn't even offer that much support to their at-large cases.

Strong Case: Creighton (13-8 / 7-3 Big East)

Six-game losing streaks tend to kill NCAA resumes, but Creighton has bounced back nicely. They are 7-2 since Ryan Kalkbrenner returned and 13-5 with him in the lineup. The only knock is their low resume average (44.5), but once they get selected their predictive average (10.0) and NET (18) push them far up the S-Curve. They are now featured in 76/77 brackets on bracketmatrix.com and they are in all 72 brackets updated since January 25th. This team is trending toward a single-digit seed and off the bubble. To feel safe, they need to go 7-3 in their last 10 games.

Fighting Chance: Seton Hall (13-9 / 6-5 Big East)

The real problem is the lack of depth at the top of the resume. Wins over UConn and Rutgers are great, but 4-8 in Quadrants 1+2 isn't. They need to get that mark closer to .500 but without losing any more stinkers like Siena. The good news, their only two banana peels left are at home against DePaul and Georgetown. Win those and go 4-3 in their other games and they might have enough to get in. Anything more and they are probably at least in Dayton. That's a tough task, but Seton Hall is the Big East's best shot at getting a sixth bid. To feel safe, they need to go 7-2 in their last 9 games.

On Life Support: Villanova (10-11 / 4-6 Big East)

The return of Justin Moore gives Villanova a bit of a new lease on life. If they can surge to an 8-2 finish they might have enough to argue they are a different team with Moore in the lineup. Especially considering they already went from 2-5 without Cam Whitmore to 8-5 from the freshman's return until Moore joined him on the court. It's also notable that seven of their ten remaining games are Quadrant 1. Finish strong and they would present a complicated case at the minimum. While off the bubble radar for now, if Villanova finishes 8-2 in their last 10, they'll be a talking point for the Selection Committee.

Pull the Plug: St. John's (14-8 / 4-7 Big East)

Cue the Monty Python "I'm not dead yet" scene. Their non-conference was a smoke and mirrors record built on nine of eleven games being Q3+4. They started 1-5 in the Big East and looked to be finished, but then beat UConn on the road, which is one of the best on-paper wins any team in the country has. But they followed that up with losses to Villanova and Creighton. They need to go 7-2 in their last 9 to get in the conversation, and even that might not be enough.

Let's take a look at the current S-Curve and bracket:

Multibid Leagues

Big 10: 8

Big 12: 8

ACC: 7

SEC: 6

Big East: 5

Mountain West: 4

Pac-12: 3

American: 2

West Coast: 2

Monday, January 30, 2023

Gold out of Wintrust

Yet another solid week for #mubb and another demon slayed. We talk about the result down in Chicago and how it pushes forward the narrative of MU being an elite offense that can play defense when it wants. We also talk about MU being tied for first in conference and the reality of MU being able to win the conference outright. We then turn to the week ahead where we should try to go 2-0 but we'll see how it goes given the shortening of the bench due to injuries. We close out by talking about National Marquette Day. Have some Blue & Gold Brewing and spend time with friends on NMD and enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/c7vccq/ScrambledEggs_Editted_012923.mp3

Saturday, January 28, 2023

We Don't Talk About Marquette...No, No, No!

Let's hope no one talks about Marquette until after NMD

Photo from Disney's Encanto

The Three Man Weave podcast has raved about the Marquette offense. The Athletic has had numerous features on the program's recent ascension. When you are ranked #16 in the AP Poll, it tends to draw attention. But for the next 10 days, let's all hope the national media forgets all about Marquette. Why? Because the next three games at DePaul, against Villanova, and against Butler for National Marquette Day are all games in which kenpom.com has Marquette favored by double-digits. What that means is that the only reason the national media would be talking about Marquette is if something goes wrong.

Since Marquette is a 4-seed and at 16 on our new S-Curve, let's see what's in store for the teams ahead of them on the 4-seed and 3-seed lines. Maybe the national focus for the next 10 days can instead shift to teams that can help Marquette by losing while hoping the Golden Eagles help themselves to a trio of wins.

#15 TCU: at Mississippi State (1/28), West Virginia (1/31), at Oklahoma State (2/4)

The Horned Frogs are favorites to win all of these, but none will be easy games. They already lost to West Virginia and face a pair of tough road environments where kenpom gives them just a 1-point advantage. Mississippi State getting the win would be a double-bonus as that would help Marquette as the Bulldogs are one of just two Q2 losses on the resume.

#14 Kansas State: Florida (1/28), at Kansas (1/31), Texas (2/4)

The Wildcats will be home favorites against the Gators, but the trip to Kansas is tough and Texas projects as a coin flip game. If they could drop two of three, that would be ideal, particularly as Kansas and Texas being on the 2-line are a bit far ahead to think about passing just yet.

#13 Gonzaga: at Portland (1/28), Santa Clara (2/2), at St. Mary's (2/4)

It's unlikely either of the first two will be losses, but if the Pilots or Broncos can keep these to single-digits, that's a help. St. Mary's actually projects as a favorite over Gonzaga and while it wouldn't be a bad loss, it's one of just two Quadrant 1 games left for Gonzaga so a loss there would not just give Marquette a shot at passing the Zags, but put them in a position where they don't have many big time opportunities to rise back up.

#12 Xavier: at Creighton (1/28), Providence (2/1), St. John's (2/4)

In addition to hoping Xavier falls back on the S-Curve, a loss or two would go a long way toward helping Marquette gain control over their Big East Championship destiny. If Xavier dropped those next two and Marquette won the games they are supposed to, the Golden Eagles would be alone in first place in the Big East by the end of National Marquette Day.

#11-Virginia: Boston College (1/28), at Syracuse (1/30), at Virginia Tech (2/4)

The Cavs won't be losing to BC, but might face some difficulty on the road. While they'll likely be favored in both, their only losses in ACC play have come away from John Paul Jones, so keep an eye on how they perform in the short turnaround to Syracuse and their road rivalry game.

#10 Baylor: Arkansas (1/28), at Texas (1/30), Texas Tech (2/4)

While the Texas trip is tough, it would be surprising if Baylor dropped either of the home games. And despite the head-to-head victory, Baylor's quality of wins is stronger than Marquette's right now. This stretch might bring them back a bit, but it's unlikely Marquette will get past them in the next week.

#9 UCLA: Washington (2/2), Washington State (2/4)

UCLA's metrics look unsurpassable, but their actual resume isn't as impressive as the numbers indicate. Their only wins against at-large competition are against 9-seed Maryland and a pair of 11-seed play-in teams in Arizona State and Kentucky. They haven't taken any bad losses yet, but they struggled with Wazzu in December and if they did drop a game, their resume would be subject to more scrutiny. It might take more than one slip-up to bring them back to Marquette, but the Pac-12 is full of banana peels.

Now let's dig into the S-Curve and latest bracket:

Multibid Leagues

Big 10: 9

ACC: 7

Big 12: 6

SEC: 6

Big East: 5

Mountain West:4

Pac-12: 4

American: 2

WCC: 2

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

2-0 like we planned now let's win the bye and DLTD

Another good week for #mubb and we're excited to talk about it. First up we discuss the absolute dunking (literal and figurative) that MU put on Seton Hall. We then turn to the big win and big audience for the victory against Providence. We spend some time recapping the return of the 2003 FF team and get a little ranty about Tom Crean. We then talk about the rest of the season and compare the performance against the first half of the BE compared to what we see for the 2nd half. We then talk about demons and DLTD. As always, enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/msjbda/ScrambledEggs_Editted_012523.mp3

Saturday, January 21, 2023


Shaka Smart has Marquette moving up the S-Curve
Photo by Morry Gash | AP Photo

Starting at Christmas, I publish bracketology article here 1-2 times per week. When I do, I always try to include something more than just a seed list, whether it's focusing on Marquette's outlook (this is an MU blog, after all), the state of the Big East, or something further flung like the Big 12's chase to 8 bids. This week, I decided to focus on the step-by-step process I use in building out these articles. If you just want the results, scroll down. If you're wondering how we got there, this text is for you.

1) NET & the Automatic Bids

Most bracketologists use the current conference standings for the autobid. I used to do that, but ran into debates when teams were tied at the top or a weak 1-0 team went ahead of a metrically stronger 1-1 team. To pick my Automatic bids, I take the highest conference NET rank. Over the years, we have seen through results that NET is largely a predictive metric like kenpom or Sagarin. While conference records determine conference tournament seeding, a predictive metric is better designed to identify that conference tournament winner. Since the NET is the NCAA's official evaluation tool, I feel it's a better metric than conference record to determine who the auto-bid should be ahead of conference tournament time.

2) Build the Spreadsheet

Ultimately, my goal is to sort teams into groups, then order those groups. To do that, I build a spreadsheet. The first spreadsheet has space for all of the 32 Automatic bids on the far right, the bottom 22 Automatic bid resume lines on the far left, room for all considered at-large resumes and the top 10 Automatic bid resumes in the middle, then 36 at-large selection boxes and the eventual seed list at the bottom. I use a stock template and fill it in manually every time. The information assigned to each team includes their NET ranking, overall Record, the average of their Resume metrics (KPI & SOR), the average of their Predictive metrics (BPI, Kenpom, Sagarin), the Average of those Averages (which is the best seed line predictor), and records against each of the Quadrants. Here's what it looks like as it's being built:

3) Select the At-Large Teams

On Selection Sunday, selecting the 68 teams and seeding them are separate steps for the Committee. Typically, Selection is based more on NET and the Resume Metrics. Generally, any high-major team in the top-20 of NET automatically goes into the field. After that, I focus more on the Resume Metric Average and compare resumes. Most teams in the top-35 are pretty safe. I'm also focusing heavily on Q1 wins and Q1+2 records. The reason for this is the Selection Committee has shown they value who you beat far more than who you lose to (see: 2016 Tulsa, 2019 Arizona State, 2022 Rutgers, etc). This is pretty straight forward down to the 32nd at-large.

4) Select the Bubble

The first 32 at-large teams will be seeded with the 10 highest placed auto-bids, but the last four teams I select remain in the First Four 11-seed games. Because of how seeding works, teams can jump somewhat dramatically (by a line or two) when they get out of the First Four. We'll look at that with Indiana and Creighton later. Our last four in were Northwestern, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Maryland. Typically teams that are below 52.5 in the Resume Average get left out. Rutgers was an exception last year, but none of our selections today are. Teams like Seton Hall and Mississippi State were knocked out because of that. Quadrant 1 wins matter. Our "Last Four" all have multiple Quadrant 1 wins, something teams like Kentucky, USC, and UCF cannot claim. Our last team in was Maryland. Why the Terps? It came down to them or Wake Forest, and Maryland is better in the NET, better in 4/5 Team Sheet metrics, and has done that against a tougher SOS. Now we move to seeding.

5) Seed Lines 12-16

Traditionally, the 12-16 seed lines feature the bottom 22 automatic bids. On occasion there might be a play-in game in this range (2012 BYU/Iona, 2022 Indiana/Wyoming) but that's a rare occurrence. As mentioned before the average of the Resume and Predictive (RAP Score) metrics is the best seeding predictor. In this case, I start at the bottom and seed my way up to the top. Only a few rules apply. First, I never seed the HBCU conferences (MEAC & SWAC) into the same First Four game. As I go, I batch teams together. Four teams with sub-190 RAP scores? There's the First Four. Three teams from 144-148? That requires a bit more subjective evaluation. At the top of these 22 teams, we have Charleston. There's been some Charleston/FAU discussion nationally, but they aren't close when it comes to seeding. FAU is 32 spots ahead in NET, has better Resume and Predictive (by 29.4!) averages, and 2 Q1 wins to zero. FAU has the vastly superior resume in every possible way. Here's the 12-16 field as I was selecting the last 16-seed, which went to Longwood after also considering UMass-Lowell and Montana State:

6) Seed Lines 1-11

I do this in the opposite order, starting with the 1-seeds and working my way down. The same process follows, with RAP score and Quadrant records the main focus, though here I tend to dig closer into actual results. This is especially true when it comes to teams that are close. So for instance, at the end of the 4-line, I had to decide between Marquette and Auburn. I knew two of the teams would be 4-seeds and the last would be a 5. Metrically, Auburn is the "best" at a 15.15 RAP score, but Marquette (18.25) was close. In addition, while Auburn has the better overall record (15-3 vs 15-5) and Q1+2 record (8-3 to 7-5), Marquette has three Quadrant 1 wins including one in Q1A (elite opposition) while Auburn has just one in Q1B. As a result, Marquette took the 4-seed.

Recency bias should also not play a factor. The Selection Committee takes the season as a whole, so when a team like UConn starts losing, there's a limit to how far they should fall. The Huskies have lost five of six, but when you compare their best wins (#3 Alabama & #9 Iowa State, both on a neutral) no one else can match that. They do have a Q3 loss, but so do Gonzaga and Xavier in the protected seeds. The four teams on the 3-line (Gonzaga, Texas, Arizona, K-State) have just one combined top-9 win away from home. As good as their overall resumes are, and as hot as K-State is at the moment, the overall resume still isn't as good as UConn.

Finally, it's important to ignore your own recency bias. Indiana and Creighton were among the last teams I selected that weren't in the First Four, coming in with a batch that included Arkansas and Pittsburgh. But when it comes to seeding, you start over. Despite being in the 38-41 range of overall selection (behind 28 at-large teams and 9 auto-bids) their RAP scores come in at #27 and #28 in terms of the final field. This leads to Indiana being on the 7-line and Creighton on the 8-line as opposed to the 10/11 lines where their initial selection might indicate.

7) Place Seeds Into the Bracket

The first teams that get seeded are the protected seeds, in order. So each of the 1-seeds is placed in the closest region to their campus, and the closest first weekend site. Generally, I try to keep teams in column order (so the strongest 1-seed, Houston, gets the weakest 2-seed, Iowa State) but this can get difficult when teams have to be kept apart due to league affiliation. No protected seeds from the same conference are supposed to fall in the same region, but this becomes impossible when you have 5 Big 12 teams in the top-16 and four regions. As a result, Baylor and Kansas State both went to the East.

After seeding these, I draw their opponents, avoiding rematches from the current season and the most recent NCAA Tournament. I also try to avoid giving a geographic disadvantage to any of the top-16 teams. The Top-16 line up easily with the 13-16 lines so there are rarely conflicts that can't be easily fixed.

It gets trickier in the 5 through 12 lines. There is more potential for conference foes to be drawn close. By and large, the rule is conference opponents don't meet in the first round, teams that have played each other once in the regular season can't play until the second round, teams that played each other twice can't meet until the Sweet 16, and teams that played three times can't play until the Elite 8. This is where you sometimes have to get creative and might even have to move a team up or down a line to avoid such situations. That was not the case with this bracket.

Here is our updated S-Curve and bracket:

Last Four Byes: Wisconsin, Clemson, Pittsburgh, Nevada

Last Four In: Northwestern, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Maryland

NIT 1-Seeds/First Four Out: Wake Forest, Penn State, Kentucky, USC

NIT 2-Seeds/Next Four Out: UCF, Seton Hall, Mississippi State, Texas A&M

Multibid Leagues

Big 10: 9

Big 12: 8

ACC: 7

Big East: 5

SEC: 5

MWC: 4

Pac-12: 3

American: 2

WCC: 2

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Ranking Marquette’s three other underrated Big East teams

The Marquette Golden Eagles are proving a ninth-place preseason prediction in the Big East was an incorrect projection.

The forecast at the time was fair. Justin Lewis had just departed the team for a pro career. Darryl Morsell and Kur Kuath had run out of eligibility. Greg Elliott left to finish his final year of eligibility at Pitt.

Losing Lewis and Morsell meant a majority of the scoring had to be replaced with players that had the potential but not a lot of production to back it up.

Maybe those making predictions should have taken into account the potential this roster had to be good. Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro, David Joplin, and Oliver-Maxence Prosper all showed promise last season that they could be even better this season.

They are showing off the improvement as Marquette is sitting near the top of the Big East standings. They are currently in KenPom’s Top 25.

It would not be the first time Marquette has been undervalued in the Big East only to beat projections. 

Marquette’s first year in the Big East was supposed to be a struggle. The Golden Eagles entered the 2005-2006 season with the expectation that they would be lucky to win three Big East games.

Steve Novak had a spectacular senior season. Joe Chapman contributed some big shots to keep the Golden Eagles in games. A talented freshman trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wesley Matthews burst onto the scene to help Marquette break into the Big East in a loud “we have arrived” manner.

https://twitter.com/joechap32/status/1613623690054275086?s=20&t=VIrtyuMGQc78JwBThat is probably the best Marquette team to outdo expectations. They throttled No. 2 UConn in the school’s first Big East game ever. They swept Notre Dame. That team beat Georgetown when they were in the Top 25 and Pittsburgh when they were in the Top 10.

Instead of winning three Big East games, Marquette won 10 and finished in fourth place.

Another Marquette team that blew past low expectations was the 2009-10 squad. James, Matthews, and McNeal had run out of eligibility. This team lacked size. They were projected to finish 12th.

Yet, led by Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler, the Golden Eagles finished 11-7 in the Big East. 

They started Big East play 1-3 with all three of the losses decided by a bucket or less. The group rallied thanks to some outstanding shooting to finish 11-7 in the conference and make the NCAA Tournament.

This is probably the second-best group to blow by bad expectations. They were also gritty as they won three games in a row in overtime. 

Then last season, the Golden Eagles were not projected to do much. Marquette was projected to finish 9th or 10th depending on what preseason forecast you looked at. 

They had nine new players and had to learn a new system with Shaka Smart’s arrival. We all remember how that team defied expectations and made the NCAA Tournament and won 11 Big East games.

Last year’s team did not have the shooting like the ‘09-‘10 team or the collection of talent of ‘05-‘06 group.

It will be interesting to see how far this year’s group of overachievers can go. They got the talent to become one of the best teams in program history that blew low expectations out of the water.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Not to go all Fall Out Boy, but Thanks for the Memories 2003

It was a good week and almost a great week for #mubb. Not even a loss can dampen the optimism in this podcast, so we talk the week that was and the week that will be. First, we talk the satisfying win against UConn despite one of the Space Jam aliens playing for the other team. We then talk about the near miss in Cincinnati versus a very good Xavier team. Through the conversation we highlight some key contributions from players including Tyler Kolek. We then turn to this week's agenda, go 2-0. First up is the rematch against Providence, and we are still a little bitter about the first match up but try not to let it color the analysis. We then stroll down memory lane as we discuss MU honoring the 2003 Final Four team during Wednesday's game. We quickly close out with Seton Hall analysis. Hope you've got some time, but we think you'll enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/ur2wfj/ScrambledEggs_Editted_011723.mp3