UConn’s sixth loss Monday and West Virginia’s sixth loss tonight gives MU a three-game lead over them in the loss column as MU gets closer and closer to its first ever Top 4 finish. That leaves three teams at 7-4 and tied in 5th place, but with MU already having the tie-breaker due to beating two of them (Louisville and South Florida), that just leaves Cincinnati.
The most important thing that can happen the rest of the season is that Marquette finishes ahead of Cincinnati, because if we do there is a very good chance we will be somewhere in the Top 4. A win Saturday and MU has the tie-breaker and lead or a three game lead over every team who could knock them out of the top 4. A loss and Cincinnati has the inside track – pulling within a half game of MU with the tie-breaker and a game left against MU in Cincinnati.
The following is a breakdown of the Big East standings with current records, and which remaining games a team is favored in (66% of better chance of winning), as well as which are toss-ups (33% to 66% chance).
|Team||Current||Favored/if win all||Toss-up/if win all||Underdog/if win all||MU have tie-breaker?|
|Syracuse||11-1||Con,atRut,SF,Lou (15)||atLou,atCon (17)||None (17)||No|
|Marquette||9-3||Cin,Rut (11)||atCon,atWV,atCin,Geo (15)||None (15)||N/A|
|Notre Dame||8-3||DeP,Rut,Pro (11)||atVil,WV,atStJ (14)||atGeo (15)||No|
|Georgetown||8-4||StJ,atPro,Vil,ND (12)||atSH,atMar (14)||None (14)||No?|
|Louisville||7-4||atDeP,SF (9)||atWV,Syr,atCin,Pit (13)||AtSyr (14)||Yes|
|S. Florida||7-4||(7)||atPro,Vil,Cin,WV (11)||atPit,atSyr,atLou (14)||Yes|
|Cincinnati||7-4||Pro (7)||SH,Lou,atSF,Mar,atVil (12)||atMar (13)||?|
|West Virginia||6-6||DeP (7)||Lou,atPit,atND,Mar,atSF (12)||None (12)||?|
|UConn||5-6||DeP (6)||Mar,atVil,Syr,atPro,Pit (11)||atSyr (12)||?|
So if every team won only the games they are favored in, then MU finishes fourth (Syracuse 15 wins, Georgetown 12, Notre Dame 11 and head-to-head over MU, MU 11, then Louisville in 5th with 9.
If every team won all of their toss-ups (can't actually all do it since they play each other, but just to give an idea), then MU would finish 2nd place (Syracuse 17 wins, MU 15, ND and Georgetown 14 and Louisville 13.
Both sound great. But if Yancy Gates plays like he did tonight (6 of 8 field goals and 5 offensive rebounds in only 21 minutes for the 76-54 blowout at St. John’s) and Gardner is still out, the Bearcats could pull the upset and alter the entire forecast for the season.
Cincy is solid, and Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright have actually been their best two players, but Yancy is always the guy with the potential to breakout and give them a deadly three players. Three other players give them a very solid 6-man rotation in Dion Dixon, Jaquon Parker and 6-foot-8 Justin Jackson.
When I picked Georgetown and Cincinnati as my two surprise teams in the Big East during the preseason, my logic was that Yancy Gates was finally showing signs of dominating.
Theoretically MU could finish as low as 11th in the Big East, but that would entail being passed by Seton Hall (Magic number is 2 – meaning any two MU wins or Seton Hall losses mean the Pirates can no longer catch us), and a win by MU Saturday would eliminante St. John’s , Pitt, Rutgers, and Nova from having even a mathematical chance of catching us. DePaul and Providence cannot catch us mathematically.
I get much more nervous about games like this when we have a lot to lose against a team we are favored against but that certainly has the ability for the upset. When we play at Syracuse or Georgetown, I believe we are playing with house money. This is a game Marquette has to win – it could determine if we finish in the Top 4 or not.