"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

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

January Non-Conference Report

The time is drawing near when our non-conference opponents really matter. It's hard to believe the regular season is nearly 75% complete and that Selection Sunday is less than 6 weeks away, but that's just where we are. As Marquette moves into the final month before March Madness, let's take another look at what our non-con opponents have done in the past month, and where their RPI projects courtesy of RealTimeRPI.com.

Mount St. Mary's: The Mount went 3-5, by far their best month of the year. It was punctuated by a great win against Sacred Heart in which they fell behind, came back to take control of the game, fell behind again, came back to force overtime, fell behind, came back to force a second overtime, and fell behind again before finally winning 81-80 in double overtime. Let's hope the Mountaineers can carry that into February, where they will be favored in 4 of their 8 games. Their current RPI is 287, but their projected RPI is 272.

Norfolk State: The Spartans matched their January expectations with a 7-2 record. But losses in 2 of their last 3 has dropped them out of the top-100 RPI. There are a few upsides. First, there is virtually no chance NSU finishes outside the top-200 RPI. My preseason prediction was 275, so two wins over them, even if they aren't classed as "quality wins" will still be far more valuable than the RPI drag they were expected to be. Second, kenpom.com has NSU favored in all 8 of their remaining games this season. If they win those games, they should return to the top-100 RPI. Currently they are at 115 and projected to finish at 130. But if they win out, they'll be back in the top-100 and be a great boost for Marquette going into Selection Sunday, especially if they earn the MEAC's automatic bid.

Winthrop: The Eagles had more wins in January than they did in November and December combined. They tallied a 5-4 record and are in the middle of the Big South pack. They are only favored in 2 of 7 February games before the conference tournament kicks off. Right now Winthrop is at 276 in the RPI and projects to finish at 284.

Mississippi: The Rebels went 5-3 in January, but it could have been so much better. They dropped a double-overtime game at Auburn and squandered a double-digit halftime lead against Florida. That Ole Miss is still (barely) on the tournament bubble, however, is a good thing for Marquette. They will be underdogs in 5 of 7 in February, and probably need to win at least 4 of those (while tallying another quality win) if they want to be in the mix in March. But what's really important is that Ole Miss is currently ranked 42 in the RPI and projects to finish at 44. Ole Miss is potentially a very nice top-50 non-con win for the Warriors.

Jacksonville: After dropping all 6 games in December, the Dolphins lost their first 5 in January to extend their losing streak to 13. A short two-game winning streak was undone by losing their last 3 of the month to drop their record to 4-18. Looking ahead, however, the Dolphins will be favorites in 3 of 7 games in February. Their RPI is currently at 282 and projects to 288. What's nice is that if they (along with MSM and Winthrop) stay on course, Marquette will have zero sub-300 wins come Selection Sunday.

Wisconsin: The Badgers were much-maligned after dropping their first two of the month to drop their Big Ten record to 1-3, but have quietly won 6 straight to move into sole possession of second place in the Big Ten. Bucky is favored in 4 of 7 in February and faces some stern tests as they play Ohio State twice and Michigan State once. If they can manage to win 5 or 6 games this month, they stand a good chance of holding on for a second place league finish. This is also Marquette's best non-conference win as UW's RPI is 23 and they are projected to finish at 25.

Washington: The Huskies seem to have shaken off their early-season funk and managed to go 6-2 in January to move into a first-place tie in the Pac-12, and included a couple solid wins over Stanford and Arizona amongst their scalps. The Huskies are favored in 4 of 7 in February, but it wouldn't be unthinkable for them to win 5, 6, or even all 7 games. If they do, they can get back in the at-large picture. UW's RPI is currently 73 and projected to finish at 80. That won't be good enough, so their recent success will need to continue, or they'll need to win the Pac-12 Tournament if they want to be dancing.

Green Bay: The Phoenix went 3-4 on the month, and closed with 2 solid wins over Valpo and Butler, avenging earlier season defeats. Their RPI is currently at 160 but they'll need to keep getting some wins to keep from finishing at their projected 213. They are favored in 4 of 8 games in February, if they can manage those wins, they should remain as a top-200 team.

Northern Colorado: The Bears went 3-5 in January, which is a major disappointment for a team that was favored 7 times. The Bears are only favored twice in February, and with their RPI currently at 248 and projected at 259, MU fans will have to hope they win more than that to stay out of the sub-250 range that becomes a bit of a ding on the non-con resume.

LSU: The Tigers had a woeful January, going 2-6 while squandering chances at wins against likely tourney teams in Virginia and Mississippi State. LSU will be favored in 4 of 8 February games, though to have any chance at playing in the Big Dance they probably need to win 6 or 7 of those. They do still look like a solid NIT team, and with a current RPI of 78 that projects out to 81, shouldn't be a bad loss on the resume come Selection Sunday.

Milwaukee: On January 20, the Panthers woke up winners of 3 straight and alone atop the Horizon League. Since then, Rob Jeter's team has dropped 4 of 5 to fall to 4th place. They can turn it around as they are favored in 5 of 7 in February before the conference tournament. Even still, their RPI has fallen to 137 and is projected to drop to 144. It's highly unlikely, barring a perfect month and still probably needing a win or two in the conference tournament, that the Panthers get back into the top-100 RPI.

Vanderbilt: Vandy continued their solid close to 2011 by winning their first 5 games in 2012. They finished January with a 7-2 mark and look like they are back in the mix for the SEC crown. That will largely be determined in February. Vandy is favored in only 4 of 8 games, but the only teams they are underdogs against are Florida and Kentucky, twice each. Win 2 or more of those games and they'll be league title contenders. Regardless, their current RPI is 25 and predicted to finish at 23. No matter what, they are an acceptable loss when you're talking about the resume.

Jan. W-LTotal W-LRPIProj. RPISOSOOC SOSkenpom
Mt St Mary's3-55-16287272241167297
Norfolk St7-215-611513024891183
Norfolk St7-215-611513024891183
Green Bay3-47-12160213625193
N Colorado3-56-122482591908247

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