Marquette is one of the best teams in the country at getting to the hoop and scoring (5th in the country in field goal percentage) or drawing fouls, while Louisville freshman Gorgui Dieng leads one of the best teams at denying drives with blocked shots.
But with Dieng reportedly having been frustrated when being outplayed by Chris Otule while considering MU last year and playing only half of the past two games due to 7 fouls in 40 minutes, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler (averaging 9 of 12 from line last two games) could get him in foul trouble and leave Louisville very vulnerable. While Louisville is favored by everyone except Yahoo Sports Saturday at 10 a.m CT, if Dieng is on the bench with fouls and Jae Crowder is on the court, MU can pull out the win in the first of five remaining chances for a road win against an RPI top 25 team.
For all the bad defense against the No. 1 offense in the country last Saturday (Pitt), the fact is that MU only got blistered during the last 8 minutes of the first half with Jae Crowder sitting on the bench after being whistled for a 2nd foul when going for a blocked shot. MU won the other 32 minutes of the game 68-65.
I believe Buzz needs to leave Crowder on the floor even if he plays aggressively and gets two fouls in the 2nd half.
The fact is that MU has done much better than the projections during the past five games in a row with Darius Johnson-Odom, Jimmy Butler, Dwight Buycks and Crowder all averaging between 15 and 20 points a game on great shooting and combining for 20 rebounds, 12 assists, and all getting a steal a game. Leave Crowder on the court and continuing to get 70 points a game between those four means MU can certainly pull the upset of Louisville with some defense from Vander Blue, continued good point play by Junior Cadougan and a decent battle from Chris Otule underneath against Dieng.
The fact is that if MU can win just one of their remaining 5 road games against an RPI top 25 team then they should finish with a resume that includes at least a Top 60 RPI, 10-8 conference record and five wins over Top 50 teams.
- Saturday, Jan. 15, 10 a.m. at Louisville (projected 22 final RPI)
- Saturday Jan. 22, at Notre Dame (24)
- Wednesday, Feb. 2 at Villanova (11)
- Sunday, Feb. 13 at Georgetown (14)
- Thursday, Feb. 24 at UConn (17)
The three predictors I monitor (Real-time RPI, Sagarin and Pomeroy) now all project MU to finish 11-7 in the Big East, which Forecast RPI says should translate into a 7-seed and final RPI of 48.
Beat Louisville or any of the other four tough teams on the road and MU goes to at least 60th with the RPI, and do that and go 11-7 and the RPI should finish at 48, go 12-6 and MU improves to a final RPI of 40 and a great seed.
However, the three differ on how MU will do in five remaining road games against teams projected to finish in the Top 25 of the RPI – and it still seems MU needs at least one win in those games starting at Louisville Saturday. Real-time RPI projects MU will lose all five of these tough road games by double digits (note that MUs only double digit loss in the last two years was vs. Georgetown in their 3rd straight Big East tourney game in three nights) while both Pomeroy and Sagarin predict one or two MU upsets in the five games:
Should be at least 6-3 in other remaining games
The fact is all of the predictions assume MU will have at least one bad loss (non-top 100 RPI) and at least one home loss against a Top 50 RPI team.
Assume 1 bad loss. Beginning with Wade’s senior season, MU has had at least one bad loss every season except 2008: East Carolina, Southern Miss, St. Louis, Nebraska, North Dakota State, South Florida and DePaul (not to mention additional 0-4 against future Big East member TCU the last two years in Conference USA). As unlikely as a home loss to DePaul would be, the odds are there will be at least one bad night against Seton Hall (home and home), Providence, or at S. Florida. So pencil in 4-1 in those game.
Assume 2 or 3 more quality home wins. The predictors also all give MU 2 or 3 more home quality wins over Top 50 teams (Syracuse, UConn, St. John’s, Cincinnati), so let’s be a little pessimistic and assume 2-2 on those games, getting us to 9-4 in conference plus the results in the final 5 road games against RPI Top 25 teams.
So being a little pessimistic on the winnable games (home and/or not in Top 100), that would mean if MU doesn’t pull at least one upset in the five tough road games the resume would be 9-9 in conference with at least four quality wins over top 50 teams but none of them on the road and an RPI out of the top 60 – probably not quite enough without a win in the Big East Tourney. However a win at Louisville or one of the other four road games against Top 25 teams makes it at least 10-8 with a big road win as one of FIVE wins over Top 50 RPI teams. Pretty solid footing to not only go to the dance but get a good seed.
In the current five-game hot streak, below are the average performances throwing out Buycks’ injury limiting him to 11 minutes at Rutgers:
- Darius Johnson-Odom 19.4 ppg, 7 of 14 shooting, 3 of 6 treys, 3 of 5 line, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 turnovers, 1 steal
- Jimmy Butler 14.6, 4-8 FG, 0-1, 6-7, 6 reb, 3 ast, 1 TO, 1 steal
- Jae Crowder 16.0, 6-11, 2-5, 1-2, 8 reb, 2 ast, 1 TO, 1 steal
- Dwight Buycks 15.5, 6-9, 3-4, 2-2, 4 reb, 3 ast, 2 TO, 1 steal