"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

Monday, May 02, 2011

Snacking on Cupcakes

After Marquette's Sweet 16 run ended to UNC, and once UConn cut down the nets, there's little to look forward to for college basketball fans until autumn rolls around. But as the days pass, we seem to be quickly learning more and more about Marquette's 2011-12 non-conference schedule. I thought I'd look at the current known (and likely) opponents and try to pick some good cupcakes as the Athletic Department tries to fill out Marquette's non-conference schedule.

Known Opponents
Home: UW-Milwaukee, UW-Green Bay, Vanderbilt
Away: Wisconsin, LSU
Neutral: Paradise Jam (3 of Drake, Drexel, Mississippi, Norfolk State, TCU, Virginia, Winthrop)

That gives us Marquette's first 8 games, leaving five unknowns. However, some recent articles have shed light on two possible opponents for Marquette next year. Florida Atlantic has reported they are in the works for a game with Marquette in 2011, which would most likely be a buy game at the BC. In addition, Todd Rosiak has reported that Marquette is close to finalizing a made-for-TV neutral site game against a BCS conference opponent.

If all this is true, the schedule is lining up great. Vanderbilt and Wisconsin should both be top-25 RPI opponents. The Paradise Jam and Florida Atlantic should provide three more top-100 opponents. If we get TCU as our opening Paradise Jam team (seems likely, 2012-13 Big East preview game), along with LSU, UW-M, and UW-GB that gives us four more teams that should be in the top 200. And if the BCS opponent is a Big Ten team, which seems likely from a geographic standpoint, it's a virtual lock for a top-200 opponent, and more likely a top-100. Regardless, if that's ten opponents in the top-200, it would be Marquette's best schedule in recent memory.

That leaves us with three games, and the real point of this article. So far, we will have nine home Big East games and three known non-conference home games. If Florida Atlantic is a home game, that leaves us with three games available, all of which would most likely be home games to get us to a 16-game package for season ticket holders. Here's a look at ten teams that Marquette should try to schedule to beef up the annual "Parade of Cupcakes" to give us a dynamite non-conference strength of schedule and RPI for the Selection Committee to consider come March.

1) Loyola-Maryland: A fellow Jesuit school, they have a three-year RPI average of 198.7, peaking at 181 last year. They finished 5th in the MAAC, but while the four teams ahead of them all lose significant contributors, ULM doesn't. This could be a dark horse NCAA-bid contender as well as a top-150 RPI team next year.

2) Presbyterian: The Blue Hose have a three-year RPI average of 250.3, but peaked with a 207 last year and with only one graduating senior will almost certainly be top-200 next year. We've played them two of the past three years, so we have history with them, both on the court and in terms of negotiations.

3) Tennessee Tech: It's one last chance to see Liam McMorrow play, but that's not why I want to play these Golden Eagles. They have a three-year RPI average of 221, peaking with a 193 in 2011. They also return all but one player after finishing fourth in the Ohio Valley. Murray State and Morehead State lose significant contributors and will almost certainly drop off, while Austin Peay will simply be too expensive a buy after finishing in the top-160 RPI each of the past three years. TTU will give similar bang for a smaller buck.

4) UC-Santa Barbara: These guys might be too expensive, especially after earning an NCAA bid last year. They have a three-year RPI average of 142.3, buoyed largely by a 97 in 2010. But after getting the 2011 bid, this team returns enough to be likely Big West favorites, and their 154 RPI in 2011 could easily jump back into the top-100 in 2012.

5) North Florida: Their three-year RPI average of 237.7 isn't that great, but it has improved each year, peaking at 152 last year. They only graduate one player and while they may not be atop the Atlantic Sun next year, they should improve their RPI for a fourth straight year.

6) Bethune-Cookman: Their three-year RPI average of 233 doesn't jump out, but finishing 194 last year and returning 6 of their top 7 players does. This would be a reasonably-priced buy game that could pay off with a possible NCAA bid and a likely top-175 RPI.

7) Northeastern: After a dropoff in 2010-11, the Huskies should be back in 2011-12. They have a three-year RPI average of 112.7, but bottomed out with a 177 last year. While they lose their best player in Chaisson Allen, they had a ton of freshman and sophs that got major minutes. If not Northeastern, you really can't go wrong with many Colonial teams. Only three have finished outside the top-250 RPI in the past three years, and none have finished below 300.

8) Mississippi Valley State: Granted, their three-year RPI average of 302 sucks, but it peaked at 249 last year and they return four of their top five scorers. This team could win the SWAC, so if you're going to go to that conference, reach for the top. They'd be a cheap buy, but could finish an RPI around 200.

9) Morgan State: Another team that dropped off in 2010-11, they have a three-year RPI average of 146.3 but only had a 208 last year. Todd Bozeman's Bears return their top-six players in terms of minutes and will probably be back atop the MEAC. They may be pricey due to two top-130 RPI finishes the past three years.

10) South Dakota: 2011-12 will be their third year in DI, and they only have a two-year RPI average of 264.5. But as we played them in both seasons, why not make it three-for-three? They return all but one player, including NBA prospect Charlie Westbrook. While they won't go to the NCAA because the Great West doesn't get an auto-bid, they should easily get back into the top-250 RPI, and possibly up into the top-200. They'll be a cheap buy that could pay off nicely.

So there you go, ten teams that would look good on Marquette's resume next year and are all realistic. I'll admit, I gave a bit of favor to teams we've played recently, as well to a fellow Jesuit school and Liam McMorrow's new home. But regardless, all of these schools should be top-250 RPI, and most of them shouldn't have much trouble cracking the top-200, despite not necessarily being high profile. Add any three of these to Marquette's existing non-conference schedule, and along with the Big East remaining the toughest gauntlet in college basketball, we will likely have a top-10 in the nation schedule when March rolls around.


Matt J said...

I like this, but what does this mean for the likes of Gabe York and Kris Dunn?

Alan Bykowski said...

I'm guessing you're referring to the Taylor article...I'll post a response there.