Marquette enters the last two games of the season in 9th place, or should I say in 4th place of the potential mini-conference of six teams with seven losses. The Big East tie-breaking procedure can be confusing, so here is a table that explains the various tie-breakers that will settle if MU gets a bye in the Big East tournament or not.
|Mini-conference team||Mini wins||Mini losses||Top win tiebreaker||Remain|
|Georgetown||MU Vil||Cin UCon WVU||2nd 3-Lville & 4-SJU||at CIN|
|Villanova||Cin MU WVU||Gtn Ucon||3rd 3-Lville||at ND at Pit|
|Connecticut||Cin MU Vil Gtn||MU||5th/6th None||at WV vND|
|Marquette||Ucon WVU||Gtn Ucon Vil||4th 5-Syr||vCIN atSH|
|Cincinnati||Gtn||Ucon Vil WVU||1st 3-Lville & 4-SJU||at MU vGTN|
|West Virginia||Cin Gtn||MU Vil||5th/6th None||vUCON vLOU|
Barring Syracuse blowing their final game when they host DePaul, these are the six teams that will finish between 6th and 11th place and the order they are in (Gtown 7th, then Nova, UConn, MU, Cincy and WVU) based on the tie-breakers:
1st tiebreaker mini-conference record - when more than one Big East team is tied for a spot, you start by breaking out the tied teams into a "mini-conference" and only consider games within this conference. Currently, Georgetown is not really in the "mini-conference" because they are 10-7 while the other five teams are tied for 7th through 11th at 9-7. If the season ended today, the Georgetown games listed would not count and Nova and UConn would be 7th and 8th based on a 3-1 mini-conference record for the final two byes, MU at 2-2 in 9th, WVU at 1-2 in 10th and Cincy at 0-3 in 11th. However, if the Hoyas fell into the mini-conference that would add a loss to MU and drop us to 10th at 2-3.
So on this count we want teams who have beaten MU to fall out of the conference, so a key is for MU to have a better record than Nova in the last two - a real possibility with Nova travelling to Notre Dame and Pitt while MU hosts Cincy and goes to Seton Hall.
2nd tie-breaker head-to-head - If MU ties another team within the mini-conference, then head-to-head determines who is ahead. MU wins a secondary tie-breaker with WVU, but loses one to Georgetown or Nova. If it ended today, UConn would then get 7th place based on beating Nova, who would thus drop to 8th.
On this count you can see how huge the Cincinnati game is, because the winner of that game will have a game-lead and the tie-breaker with one left, so would have the edge even if the teams had the opposite result in their respective finales. Therefore, if MU loses to Cincy they would have almost no chance for a bye even with a win over Seton Hall (WVU would have to beat UConn, Nova lose at ND and Pitt, and UConn would have to beat WV & ND for MU to finish 8th and get a bye after a loss to Cincy).
3rd tie-breaker win over team highest in BE standings - Who beat the highest ranked team in the entire conference? If the first two tie-breakers can't settle the seed, then the comparison goes to which team beat the highest ranked team. However, there is a strange caveat that 2-game splits against a team don't count either way, which really screws MU since the win over Notre Dame is offset by the loss against ND, so MUs biggest win is over 5th place Syracuse.
That means Cincinnati and Georgetown beat everyone else if it gets to this point since they both beat 3rd place Louisville AND 4th place St. Johns, while Nova beats anyone else because of their win over Louisville, but MU would win this tiebreaker over UConn or WVU since MU beat Syracuse and neither UConn or WVU has a win against any of the top 5 teams.
Confused yet? Well, I believe I have it, but I must confess if you see a mistake in this please reply. If you want a more simple list of which games are most important in getting MU the highest in the standings.
Who to root for
1. MU over Cincy
2. MU over Seton Hall
3. Pitt over Nova
4. ND over Nova
5. Cincy over Gtown
6. WVU over UConn
7. WVU over Lville
8. ND over UConn
9 (bonus) DePaul over Syracuse
If #1, #2, (#3 or 4), #5, #6 and #7 happen, then MU is 6th. If DePaul somehow wins, there is a great chance MU finishes 5th place with two wins.
Finishing in the top three in the mini-conference for the first round bye is very important because MU is solidly in the tournament right now, and a bye insures no shocking loss to one of the bottom teams in the conference to potentially get bounced out.