"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

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Crowder 34th by Cavs then to Mavs; DJO 55th to Mavs then to Lakers; 2nd round pick-by-pick analysis (scroll down for explanation, photos, and all 1st round picks)

By Rob Lowe and John Pudner

Jae Crowder went 34th to a team that worked him out twice and seemed to think he was a part of their picture, but then went to the team that took the lead on statistical analysis - the Dallas Mavericks.  The Mavs then briefly united MUs great duo by selecting DJO 55th, but then traded him to the Lakers.  Congrats both!

We are starting a new table for the 2nd round - scroll below this post for the 1st round and explanation of these numbers.

DraftNameGradeMockOur ProjWin%Notes on 2nd round picks (1st round below)
31Jeffery TaylorC+243237.1%This is right where we had him - a solid pickup and at this stage teams are picking what they need. Very good physicals give him a chance at a rotation, though with the Bobcats he could certainly start eventually.
32Tomas SantoranskyNA507913.0%We don't yet crunch the European numbers, so can't pass judgement either way.
33Bernard JamesC614329.5%The doubts are about his age, but we actually had him just a few spots below this spot based PURELY on stats.  No consideration for patriotism, so good luck with the Mavs.
34Jae CrowderA571354.2%Forget the Marquette loyalties, all stat guys believed Crowder was a clear first rounder and our system shows the same, while others simply said two short to play front line in the NBA.  Glad for one night all Marquette fans are on the side of us stat guys - Crowder is a Steal (A). No guaranteed money this year, but a steal at 34th from a team that loved him and had him in twice.  Rather have him playing in Cleveland than on the bench at the end of the first round.
35Draymond GreenA281055.5%His great wingspan a much better predictor than his average height, and his agility, steals and rebounding say he is a strong NBA starter - way ahead of public perception.  We had him even higher than Jae, so back-to-back steals in the draft.
36Orlando JohnsonD414824.7%The first pick that we have as not even a reserve, but again the vertical and speed combo explains surprises.
37Quincy AcyC634130.4%Ahead of where the public drafts had him, but almost right where we suggested.  A solid pick.
38Quincy MillerB263038.1%We believe the better of the two Quincy's picked back to back, and could make a rotation.
39Khris MiddletonD405921.0%Our analytics do not project him to be a contributor at the next leve.
40Will BartonA291553.3%One of the best Value Adds of any prospect, and above average at steals, defensive rebounds and usage - even without great physicals, perhaps the biggest steal in the draft as a projected STARTER picked up with the 40th pick.
41Tyshawn TaylorD356120.8%We do not project Taylor to make an NBA rotation, but PG can be the hardest to analyze.
42Doron LambC+333832.2%Public had him higher, but we believe he is the 38th best, so a solid pick, but there were some better available.
43Mike ScottB443533.2%A very strong pick - one of the best few available who could make it into a rotation.  Strong Value Add, but not for a Senior.  Seniors really have to dominate in Value Add to project as an NBA contributor.
44Kim EnglishB523931.9%Has a shot at making it into the rotation, which is all you can hope for this late.
45Justin HamiltonFNotNot0.0%We do not project him to be a contributor, and very surprised the Heat would trade earlier and go with him.  He certainly looked great against MU though, so they saw something.
46Darius MillerF38976.6%I know the public had him higher, but we believe he is a longshot to contribute.  However, we need a "Kentucky clause," because it is so hard to get minutes with them.
47Kevin MurphyF437515.8%Just don't project him to contribute - would have thought this was a possible spot for DJO.
48Kostas PapanikolaouNA427117.0%A foreign player, so we don't have info.
49Kyle O'QuinnA362543.6%Who would have known two future NBA picks were squaring off in the early season championship.  O'Quinn is a strong player in a rotation, great wingspan more important than ok height - a steal in the second round.
50Izzet TurkyilmazNANote0.0%Foreign player - no stats.
51Kris JosephD565821.5%Probably never makes it at the NBA level, but not a terrible pick.
52Ognjen KuzmicNANotNone0.0%Foreign player - no stats.
53Furkan AldemirNA467715.0%Foreign player - no stats.
54Tornike ShengeliaNA548411.0%Foreign player - no stats.
55Darius Johnson-OdomC476418.8%Don't kill us!  We didn't have DJO quite this high, but we knowhe will be one of those handful of players to defy the stats each year and become a great NBA player.  We have to use the model for this table, and it says DJO was a just miss on the draft - but they don't measure DJOs heart and the video clip stats that shot him up the charts to be picked.  Teaming up with Jae, what a pair!
56Tomislav ZubcicNANotNA0.0%Foreign player - no stats.
57Ilkan KaramanNANotNA0.0%
58Robbie HummelCNot6319.6%We calculate him as the 63rd best player, and certainly a solid pick for a guy who could contribute if the knees are healed.
59Marcus DenmonA684229.5%The Spurs continue to be the smartest team in their selections year-after-year, and a great steal.  Might make the rotation in a few years, and great steals and above the 90th percentile in speed, vertical and agility.  There is a reason the Spurs keep winning despite not getting high picks.
60Robert SacreD647316.3%There were better picks available, and despite loving the strength, he is actually in the 1st percentile of all draft picks since 2006 and a longshot to contribute.

A post script from after the draft, there were only two undrafted players who we view as misses.  The only absolute miss was Drew Gordon of New Mexico, who the Dallas Mavericks stat gurus immediately picked up for camp.  There were only three players NOT picked in the first round who we project as NBA starters within a few years, and Dallas ended up with two of them by grabbing Jae Crowder as well. Ironically, both players dropped only because it was perceived their size would be an issue for both of them - and we have them almost even, so there should be some great battles in summer practice between them.

The only other non-drafted player who we believe could contribute is Kevin Jones, who does project as a borderline NBA rotation player, and was a good pick-up by the Cavs.  Therefore, we are treating them as the 61st and 62nd pick, and added boxes below:

DraftNameGradeMockOur ProjWin%Notes on 2nd round picks (1st round below)
61Drew GordonA391653.0%The only undrafted player we project to be a starter in the NBA within a few years.  Gordon was by far the best undrafted player with his 53.0% being above the 50.0% that typically projects and NBA starter, and well ahead of the 37.3% of the next best undrafted player, Kevin Jones.  
62Kevin JonesB483137.3%A great pickup as a his 37.3% projected winning percentage is right at the borderline of a player who projects to make an nba rotation (37.5%), so getting him into camp gives them a free shot at a rotation guy while they are rebuilding.  Besides Gordon, one of only two undrafted players who we project to contribute - both probably passed up because of size.

There are a few other players we project a little higher than a few of the last picks in the draft, but really at that point you are picking players who probably do not make a rotation, so we can not say Scott Machado, Hollis Thompson, Tu Holloway, Henry Sims, Ken Horton, JaMychal Green or any of the others are "misses" in the draft.  Maybe you see a couple of them on NBA rosters at some point, but we do not project any of them as draft "misses."  And as for the only team to not come out of the draft with an actual pick, we have to give the LA Clippers a "B" for basically getting Lamar Odom out of the draft:

DrNameGradeMockOur ProjWin%Note
53Lamar Odom (via Furkan)BNANANAThe Clippers drafted Furkan Aldemir 53rd as a way to get Lamar Odom on their roster.  Despite his woes last year, there is a much better chance of Odom being a major contributor or even starter than a 53rd pick, so this draft and trade has to get a "B" for the one team that finished the night without a draftee.  If we treat Odom as the draftee in the 53rd spot, that is a great move because the only available player to be better long-term would have been Drew Gordon, but in the short-term you want Odom to try to win NOW with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

NBA Draft pick-by-pick calculations of how many wins each player will get his team … updating throughout draft

By Rob Lowe and John Pudner

NEWARK, NJ - This table will be updated throughout the NBA Draft tonight as players are selected, but we are going to take the leap of faith that Anthony Davis is picked 1st and list him ahead of time.  We calculate that a team of players as good as Anthony Davis would win 91.3% of their games in the NBA within a few years, and a team of players as good as the 2nd best player available in this draft would win 68.3% of their games.  This table is followed by a key to the terms and then notes on why Rob and I are just revealing each projection AFTER the selection is made. (first round complete below)

DraftNameGradeMockOur ProjWin%Notes
1Anthony DavisA1191.30%While an easy choice, they get “A” for not only the best choice available, but one of the best choices going back through our 2006 calculations. His 91% is first, and 2nd is 68%.
2Michael Kidd-GilchristD4461.00%NBA GMs almost always draft NCAA champs too high, and while Davis is certainly No. 1, Kidd-Gilchrist is way behind the No. 2 and No. 3 pick.  Still a very strong player, but they gave away wins by going again with an NCAA title winner too early (Kemba last year).
3Bradley BealA3268.30%A huge drop from Davis, but stats show he should be the 2nd best player to come out of this draft, with dominance in every category that predicts NBA greatness.
4Dion WaitersC-81254.50%Numbers not quite there, but with his phenomenal steals and very good Value Add and Usage, you can see him as a 4th pick.
5Thomas RobinsonA2368.20%We project he will be 3rd best NBA player, but in a virtual tie for 2nd as his incredible defensive rebounding.  With the gap between the top 3 and the rest, he is a steal.
6Damian LillardD71950.60%A lot of teams liked him here, but the amount he handled the ball (too much) actually predicts AGAINST truly excelling in the NBA - but we do have him as a starter and his vertical was almost as good as DJO. If he had his numbers as a freshman this would be a good pick, but as a junior they are too low.
7Harrison BarnesD52841.20%All of his college stats are below NBA-level, projecting a solid reserve, BUT his physical combos were unreal.  So far we've found stats a better predictor than combine - but if he excels it could move the future model a little heavier on combine results.
8Terrence RossC-161453.50%We don't quite have him there, but the combo of rebounding, steals and an incredible vertical/speed combination make him a solid starter with upside (also hope that combo plays out for DJO).
9Andre DrummondC61155.10%His Value Add is about average for a freshman bound for the NBA, and physicals are great - just such a weak defensive rebounder and weak on the bench press project him outside the top 10. We advised strongly against him as a top 5 or 6, but 9 is reasonable.
10Austin RiversC-102939.30%I may lose my Marquette credentials, but we really have a lot of red flags on him.  But we assume Doc's lineage is more important than our stats, so best of luck.  
11Meyers LeonardA13856.90%Huge get.  Drummond a little better in most things, Leonard's huge edge in the bench and defensive rebounding predict better career.
12Jeremy LambC91751.80%Can't put this below a "C" because his physicals are SO good (wingspan, speed and agility) and running the model last year he looked like a top 10, so I have to attribute the dropoff to UConn's wacky year and say he is solid at 12.
13Kendall MarshallC-182345.30%Again, it appears owners are putting high stock on vertical/speed combos.  While we have him lower and outside of his incredible assists the stats aren't good, but point guards are the hardest to predict so I can only go C-.
14John HensonA11658.70%A fantastic pick-up for the guys who share the Bradley Center.  While Value Add is low for a junior who expects to play in the NBA, his defensive rebounding and reasonable usage more than offset them to point to a strong NBA starter.
15Moe HarklessC201851.40%Very solid pick.  He is better than average in 9 of the 10 biggest predictors of NBA talent - only a very poor bench dragged him down a few spots.
16Royce WhiteC-212050.10%Right there as a borderline NBA starter.  His Value add was only 10th percentile for draftees, but other than that his overpowering rebounding and good steals for a big man make this a solid pick if just a couple of spots high.
17Tyler ZellerA12757.60%Very similar to Henson - only negative is a senior bound for the NBA should have a higher Value Add, but Usage and Def. Rebounding predict strong starter.
18Terrence JonesAC-956.30%Almost sure strong starter within a few years.  His Value Add and defensive rebounding is average, but every other physical and statistical measure predicts a great NBA player.
19Andrew NicholsonC-222444.80%Can be a strong rebounder off the bench, but a senior playing against lower competition with his numbers is just a notch below and NBA starter, and they could have done a little better with the 19th choice.
20Evan FournierNA305423.00%We haven't calibrated European stats yet, so can't pass judgment either way.
21Jared SullingerA15559.80%Stats say he will be 5th best, so we hope the back is ok and he becomes a steal
22Fab MeloC252741.30%You can't draft size, but on every other indicator Melo looks like just a good NBA reserve.  So little data though with part of one season, he could surprise.
23John JenkinsD313632.80%Again high vertical seems to put someone ahead of where he projects - but otherwise really looks borderline to even be in a rotation.
24Jared CunninghamC-343334.10%Steals are so off the charts that you can't dismiss this pick, even though overall this looks a few spots too high.  Obviously teams are filling roles now, and Cavs may need some pressure defense.
25Tony WrotenD274526.80%Looks like a longshot overall, but again it's a verticle/speed guy with a ton of steals in this case, so those three seem to have been weighted the most heavily by teams this year.
26Miles PlumleeB372246.60%Vertical, strength, agility, great speed for a center, physically unreal and domaint rebounding - he is at least a very strong backup within a few years and they might even have a starter at the 26th pick - which doesn't usually happen.
27Arnett MoultrieA192149.10%Again, speed and vertical (87th percentile and 88th percentile), but in this case he is a dominant rebounder with wingspan who is a borderline starter.  Clearly the best available - surprised they traded him to 76ers.
28Perry JonesC172641.40%He was viewed as slipping from what the public thought, but this is only one spot behind where we project him.  Speed and vertical at 92nd percentile for a big guy and 90th percentage in steals.
29Marquis TeagueC234031.10%Again, picked higher than how well we project he will perform, but with 98th percentile in vertical and 93rd percentile in speed you can see the appeal.  With that potential for a freshman on a team with 6 NBA guys, hard to say a PG pick here isn't solid.
30Festus EzeliC324427.10%A little high - doesn't project to be in a rotation, but as strong and long as he is and being out injured this year common sense says a decent pick.

Key to Column Headers:

Grade – this is the Grade the TEAM gets for the pick, not the player.  If the 30th best player is picked 5th, the team will get an “F” because they had much better options.  If that same player were picked 55th, the team would get an “A” because they identified a steal who will likely produce many more wins than a normal 55th pick.  If the Hornets picked someone else they would obviously get an “F” for the pick since Davis projects as competing for the top draft option since our system tracks back to 2006.

Mock – we averaged 11 mock drafts together, and this was where the public thought the pick would go.

Our projection – Keep in mind we have built a model that projects how GOOD a player is going to be in the NBA, not where we believe a team will draft him.  If we were calculating that, we would base it more on points per game and players on NCAA champions, since things like that lead teams to draft players too high.  If we project a player as #9, that means he projects to be the 9th best NBA player of this group within a few years – not that we actually expect him to go 9th in the draft.

Win% - this is the percent of games a team would win if all of their players were as good as this player will be within the next few years. A 50% player projects to start within a few years for a sub-.500 team and be a strong reserve for a team over .500.  A 50% is equal to a .100 Position Adjusted Wins for those of you used to that figure.


The last couple of months have been tough for us, because we love to calculate and write.  We have built a statistical model that has been accurate at predicting how many wins a player will create for his NBA team based on his college stats, what year he was in school, and his physical combines.

However, we realize statistical projections will always be only PART of the evaluation process. In addition, we have to maintain confidentiality for groups that provided feedback about the evaluation process.  Therefore, it is only fair to reveal the projections tonight AFTER the picks are made – and remember we are predicting how good the players will be, not when they will be picked, so you can judge us on the players performance over the next four years. (John's post script - by "we" I mean 65% Rob and 35% me - my colleague is a genius!)

Hopefully seeing a young DJO fan is a good omen for the second round.  If you don't believe Cracked Sidewalks has clout with the NBA, look at the view from my seats (taken an hour before the draft, the seats did fill in later.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DJO passes eye test, national stat source says Crowder 2nd best in draft, but will names be called tomorrow?

As I travel to Newark for tomorrow night’s NBA draft, there are still doubters that Marquette will leave tomorrow night as one of only 15 colleges with seven or more NBA players or draftees (see complete table at end of post of all teams).

The average of 11 mock drafts had DJO as a somewhat shaky 47th pick, and Crowder as a very borderline 57th of 60 picks.  Many in public drafts simply believe both are too short to make it in the NBA, and even MU fans don’t hold out much hope for a third straight year of a surprise first round pick (Hayward, Butler) after the disappointment of the Three Amigos being passed over, as shown by this poll on MU Scoop:

MU FansCrowderDJO
1st round15%10%
Top 45 picks51%46%
46-60th pick25%33%

If Crowder or DJO are called 30th, they are locked into contracts close to $1,020,960 for this coming season and $1,066,920 for 2013-14.  If they are picked 31st through 60th, as most MU fans expect, then they are basically trying out for a team.  If not at all, their odds of making a team go down, but they can pick between offers and try the Wesley Matthews route, which resulted in a $9 million second year contract, the biggest ever for a second year player, precisely because he was NOT locked into a 2nd year deal.

Those who rely more on the eye test believe DJO’s 41.5 inch vertical, tops of all prospects, vaulted him to a higher level.

While I never write about my calculations of NBA potential, a respected expert who has caught many GM draft day mistakes in the past just projected that Jae Crowder will turn out to be the 2nd best NBA player of any prospect in this draft behind only Anthony Davis.

If all the hard work pays off, then Marquette would close out the night as one of only 15 teams with seven former players in the NBA.   The Wall Street Journal did a nice piece ranking colleges base on NBA minutes played by this year.

I took the projected Draft Order from Draft Express, which was the most accurate in projecting the players invited to the NBA combine, and matched them with the minutes played by the rookies this year and added them into last year’s total.  (Normally that would make the overall minutes too high, but because of the strike, it works out about right.)

Brandon Knight played the most minutes of any rookie this year (2128 for Detroit), so I gave Anthony Davis and Kentucky 2128 minutes for him as the No. 1 pick in Draft Express.  Going down the list, that gives Draft Express 43rd pick Crowder a projected 331 minutes (same as E’Twaun Moore put in for Boston for 43rd among rookies), and DJO projects at 243 minutes as the 49th pick in Draft Express (same as Malcolm Lee got for Minnesota).

If that played out, Marquette would actually DROP to 17th in NBA minutes next year even with the additions of DJO and Crowder, being passed by Syracuse (Dion Waiters, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph add 2630 minutes to get them to 7769), but other than that only behind UConn in the Big East.

The closest competition MU would have within the conference would be from future member Memphis (4843 minutes to be 4 spots behind MU at 21st overall), Georgetown (4363, 23rd) and Villanova (4316, 24th).  There would still be a nice drop from there to the rest of the conference, with Moe Harkless likely adding a lot of minutes to what is already being put up by Crowder’s favorite player, the former Ron Artest/Metta World Peace and a few from DJ Kennedy.

The minutes by conference are followed by the Big East teams (only teams with 2000 or more minutes included), followed by the new projected national leaders.  Intresting that the trio of MU, Georgetown and Villanova are the top three NBA producers except for UConn.

  1. ACC - 77405 NBA Minutes projected next season
  2. SEC - 59930
  3. Pac 12 - 57769
  4. Big East - 48166
  5. Big 12 - 36832
  6. Others - 33631
  7. Big Ten – 28031 (great teams, but the style does not lend itself)

And here is the table of the Big East teams who should have at least 2000 minutes:

RnkTeam20122012 MinProjected 2012 PicksDraft MinProj Min
5Connecticut1211656Andre Drummond  C, Jeremy Lamb SG298914645
14Syracuse65139Dion Waiters  SG, Fab Melo C, Kris Joseph SF26307769
17Marquette55373Jae Crowder  SF/PF, Darius Johnson-Odom PG/SG5745947
23Georgetown34228Henry Sims  PF/C1354363
24Villanova34316None this year04316
36St. John's21722Moe Harkless  SF12272949
37Cincinnati32848None this year02848
39Louisville52778None this year02778
45Pittsburgh32551None this year02551
 Total Big East Min4240611not counted 654 WVU, etc.755548166

And Kentucky would overtake Duke and UCLA for the top spot, with Missouri and Baylor breaking into the Top 50 overall.  Interesting that the top 6 teams hardly play football, except for an occasional team for UNC:

RnkTeamPls2012 minProjected 2012 PicksNew MinProj
1Kentucky1617159Anthony Davis  PF, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist SF, Terrence Jones PF, Marquis Teague PG, Doron Lamb SG, Darius Miller SF675723916
2Duke1621609Austin Rivers  SG, Miles Plumlee C212523734
3North Carolina1216904Harrison Barnes  SF, John Henson PF, Tyler Zeller C, Kendall Marshall PG559622500
4UCLA1618029None this year018029
5Connecticut1211656Andre Drummond  C, Jeremy Lamb SG298914645
6Kansas1112152Thomas Robinson  PF, Tyshawn Taylor PG234314495
7Florida1012652Bradley Beal  SG179214444
8Arizona1112730None this year012730
9Texas1311539J'Covan Brown  PG/SG12511664
10Georgia Tech710523None this year010523
11Wake Forest710261None this year010261
12Ohio State67903Jared Sullinger  C, William Buford SG12469149
13Southern California67924None this year07924
14Syracuse65139Dion Waiters  SG, Fab Melo C, Kris Joseph SF26307769
15Washington65100Terrence Ross  SG/SF, Tony Wroten PG/SG20467146
16LSU66780None this year06780
17Marquette55373Jae Crowder  SF/PF, Darius Johnson-Odom PG/SG5745947
18Alabama35375JaMychal Green  PF/C1795554
19Xavier35121Tu Holloway  PG1185239
20Michigan State44187Draymond Green  PF7794966
21Memphis54209Will Barton  SF6344843
22Arkansas44528None this year04528
23Georgetown34228Henry Sims  PF/C1354363
24Villanova34316None this year04316
25Maryland44059None this year04059
26UNLV34021None this year04021
27Nevada43903None this year03903
28Stanford53724None this year03724
29Illinois22275Meyers Leonard  C14033678
30California33359None this year03359
31Florida State52695Bernard James  C5413236
32Oklahoma State43172None this year03172
33Fresno State33154None this year03154
34Boston College43092None this year03092
35Wisconsin33062None this year03062
36St. John's21722Moe Harkless  SF12272949
37Cincinnati32848None this year02848
38Butler22794None this year02794
39Louisville52778None this year02778
40Saint Joseph's22766None this year02766
41Texas A&M22467Khris Middleton  SF2522719
42Oregon22684None this year02684
43Oklahoma22662None this year02662
44Minnesota22611None this year02611
45Pittsburgh32551None this year02551
46Missouri32069Kim English  SG/SF4242493
47New Mexico22101Drew Gordon  PF3592460
48Michigan42428None this year02428
49Creighton22351None this year02351
50Baylor1462Perry Jones  PF, Quincy Miller SF18842346

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Answer to any critics: Wade is family - congrats on title and passing Lucas for most NBA points by an MU player

On October 14, Lazar Hayward feigned a heart attack in excitement upon seeing Dwyane Wade come on the court for Marquette’s Midnight Madness.  On January 31, Wade brought Lebron to cheer MU past Seton Hall.  On April 1 in Boston, Wade finally found a seam in Doc Rivers’ defense to hit a layup for his 14,859th NBA point with 6:35 to go in the second quarter to pass Mo Lucas as the top NBA scorer to ever come out of Marquette (see table of all players below).  And Thursday, Wade was able to celebrate his second title after Hayward grabbed the last rebound and scored the final basket of the 2012 season.
“I was so blessed at 24 to be able to win a championship, but I didn’t go through enough … (Now) after 6 years, going through a 15-win season, going through a lot of stuff in my personal life … this right here … I know how hard it was to get back to the mountaintop … because nothing is guaranteed.” – Dwyane Wade response to the difference between his two titles
Wade continued to make his Marquette family proud with his humility throughout the playoff interviews this year.  I was sorry to see a few MU fans buy into the “Wade flops,” or “Wade whines,” bandwagon on a couple of occasions.  Maybe I am sensitive to it because I run polls every week on how quickly people turn when someone is "spinning" them like coaches do when they hope to turn sentiment against a tough opponent to get a few calls to go the other way.

I love James Hardin, but in the final game only his beard was injured twice and he sat on Wade once to get three fouls called on the Heat.  Wade has drawn 9,000 fouls in the NBA, and with the software now used to draw up EVERY one of them in video, it wasn’t hard to put together 30 or so really bad calls in his favor when he clearly wasn’t fouled (well under 1% of all fouls he’d drawn) to try swing the pendulum the other way with him NOT getting calls he should have on drives.  Anyone who has ever referred basketball at half the speed of the NBA knows it’s amazing how many calls NBA refs get right.

So don’t buy into the critics.  Wade has been such a class act these playoffs as he has  complimented Doc Rivers’ defense, Russell Westbrook’s incredible play, and showed the humility of someone who realizes he became perceived as a bad guy last year because of the Celebration, but really seems to have his life in perspective.  Even though I don’t know Dwyane or Siovaughn even casually, I was devastated when word of the divorce ended the story book  that had played out with the elementary school sweethearts celebrating the 2006 NBA title. 

I always pray that married couples end up back together even though I realize in so many cases like this it would appear to be impossible.  But in a tough situation, Wade's interview with Parenting and his interview shortly after the latest championship should certainly make all of the MU family proud to call him one of our own:

“I was so blessed at 24 to be able to win a championship, but I didn’t go through enough … (Now) after 6 years, going through a 15-win season, going through a lot of stuff in my personal life … this right here … I know how hard it was to get back to the mountaintop … because nothing is guaranteed.” 

I’m not saying the MU family should all have rose colored glasses.  I shocked an ESPN radio host this week when he said, “You have the best player in the league with one of the top 10 players in the league in Wade,” and I responded by saying Wade may have just been top 15 this season.  Wade is 30, and while people talk about leaving it all on the floor in a game, Wade is going to leave it all on the floor for his career.  He is playing more beat up than he was for the first title, he is not a huge guy like Lebron who can take as many hits without eventual impact on the high flying act that was still evident on the late alley-oop lay-up in the clincher.  Who knows how long he will continue to be truly elite – though he certainly was again for most of the playoffs.

When I wrote my book on Marquette basketball a few years back, the two pictures on the cover were of McGuire and Wade for a reason - Wade may always be the second most important figure in the history of Marquette basketball for the rest of history.

McGuire took MU to the Final Four twice and created enough buzz along the way that in 1979 and 1980 MU had eight players in the NBA for the only time in history (Whitehead, Lee, Ellis, Tatum, Walton, Lucas, Chones along with McNeill for his last year in 1979 and Toone for his only year in 1980).

Wade’s 2003 season resulted in the other Final Four, and many a great guard coming to MU to follow in his footsteps through a Big East conference MU likely never could have joined without Wade's 2003 run.  There is even a chance that next year there could be seven MU players in the NBA for only the fourth year in NBA history if DJO and Crowder make it and Hayward stays, since Novak, Matthews, Butler and Wade seem like locks.

Even during and after the McGuire years, the only other year that MU had seven NBA players was very briefly during the 1974 season when Allie McGuire played a few games to join McNeill, Chones, Lackey, Meminger, Thompson and Kojis. In fact, this year was the first season since 1981 that MU had five players in the NBA.

If we rate players by the NBA Efficiency Rating (the five positive things you can do for a team minus the three negative things you can do) then Mo Lucas is actually still the greatest MU/NBA player with his 9306 rebounds, but Wade could catch him in just two more years.  Wesley Matthews is already the 10th greatest MU player ever to play in the NBA by this measure, and he could pass McNeill, Meminger, Whitehead and Thompson to be 6th all-time if he plays just five more years at the same level as his first few.

Maybe Jim Chones will be calling Jae Crowder’s number during his Cleveland Cavaliers broadcasts next year, and DJO will be impersonated some of Wade’s moves around the NBA.

Let’s not be fair-weather fans of Wade though – whether he is still competing for titles or winding down his career as a role player one day, he will always live through the current and future greats who would have never come to MU without him lifting MU back to the top again and then staying loyal to the school when frankly he does not need us any more but appears to want us as family.

Here are the career NBA Efficiency Ratings for all MU players, with a “+” indicating a player who could still add to his total.

1Maurice Lucas14857930624988036592316665291918236
2Dwyane Wade1499030203697105561121155607121914432+
3Doc Rivers93772625488915633511651412166712366
4Jim Chones9821642712923917741165459066012290
5Don Kojis9948455511128916490679910015
6George Thompson8114145715611833095433956576339
7Jerome Whitehead4423326837425120069618323155673
8Dean Meminger2552108610462422811083233523
9Larry McNeill25331440225183787110481993141
10Wesley Matthews29736734012623930412801062658+
11Tony Smith25047358813197944213451572574
12Earl Tatum25086825073191012891306982424
13Jim McIlvaine107212431051366912315251832308
14Lloyd Walton1442370124326428422720992106
15Chris Crawford165454715410180232784781442
16Steve Novak13723517351245857991225+
17Travis Diener85424343276999470171028
18Bo Ellis613482113698414531252852
19Butch Lee77313730787116436257722
20Sam Worthen2391161185769310015328
21Bob Lackey4131641371012120168325
22Amal McCaskill2042133624365213427300
23Lazar Hayward19786321582812414172+
24Jimmy Butler1095614115144713121+
25Michael Wilson1083645155285010121
26Tom Copa4836326818960
27Bernard Toone553412451641251
28Joe Thomas554317631141
29Brian Brunkhorst2513355427
30Allie McGuire42100205
31Jae Crowder0+
32Darius Johnson-Odom0+
33Bill Downey00200
34Gene Berce1001150

Thursday, June 14, 2012

DJO one of only four to vertical 41"; the other 3 now play for the Bengals, Texans and NY Giants

When Murray State Coach Steve Prohm took the court in Louisville and looked across the court at Marquette warming up, the first words out of his mouth were reportedly, “Aren’t those guys missing spring practice somewhere?”

In 14 days, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder hope to hear their names called at the NBA Draft despite reservations about their height, and my guess is one of the thank yous will go to Marquette Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Todd Smith.

Jae Crowder was not only the strongest guy at the NBA combine with 20 reps of 185-pounds on the bench, but that total was just less than the average of all NFL combine players (21).

Darius Johnson-Odom was one of only four prospects with a vertical of at least 41 inches this year – the other three have already signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans and New York Giants.  Of the 300 prospects to participate in either the NFL or NBA combine, here are the only seven to top 40 inches.

PlayerTop verticalsWill play for …
Kashif Moore43.5Cincinnati Bengals
Darius Johnson-Odom41.5Portland Trail Blazers?
Jerrell Jackson41Houston Texas
David Wilson41New York Giants
Chris Owusu40.5San Francisco 49ers
Marquis Teague40.5 
Miles Plumlee40.5

Portland Trail Blazers invite DJO to join lottery picks

How high could DJOs stock be rising after such an impressive display?  He already went from not even being invited to Portsmouth to being invited to the combine itself, and has been the fastest rising player even in www.nbadraft.net, which has left Crowder and DJO out of the draft until recently adding the latter.

We are now in the phase of the final weeks where GMs and Scouts don’t want any other team to know who is rising through their ranks.  We now know that more than one team was hoping that Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler would stop looking so good so that they wouldn’t be gone by their choice.  We have no way of knowing whether that is happening to DJO, Crowder or neither this year.

However, one very encouraging sign for DJO was a surprise invite from Wesley Matthews Portland Trail Blazers.  Portland has the wonderful fortune of having 6th, 11th, 40th and 41st picks in what is a very deep draft.  They chose to invite two groups of 6 players each to a team tryout to look at players for these spots.   One group was reportedly of potential lottery picks, while the other was reportedly of long-shots that seemed more likely heading for camp as undrafted players, but who they apparently saw something about that intrigued them.  The interesting thing is that when word leaked out about the two groups, DJO was in the group with potential lottery picks, while Kevin Murphy of Tennessee Tech, expected to go higher than DJO, was in the B-group.

It would seem a stretch to believe that DJO is being considered for the 11th pick, BUT with the potential of teams trading up, you can’t help but looking at the two groups and where www.draftexpress.com ranks each player, and conclude it is almost as hard to believe that the teams still have DJO as low as the public draft boards do.

Trail Blazers Group BTrail Blazers Group A
Kevin Murphy, Tenn Tech 40thJared Sullinger, OSU 7th
John Shurna, NW 73rdPerry Jones, Bay 8th
Mitchell Watt, Buffalo 74thTerrence Jones, Kentucky 9th
Quincy Acy, Baylor 80thJohn Henson, UNC 11th
Reggie Hamilton, Oak 95thMarquis Teague, Kent 22nd
Bradford Burgess, VCU NRDarius Johnson-Odom, MU 47th

Could Marquette possibly have a third straight year with a stunning first round pick?  Not that Wesley Matthews was crying over not getting picked when he cashed $9 million in checks his second year out of Marquette, but it’s quite possible the strong combine performances of Crowder and DJO could have some teams considering them earlier.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

DJO goes into combine near top of physical charts, Crowder not far behind

This has to the greatest day of Marquette basketball on TV since the season ended.  All three remaining NBA teams have a former NBA player, with Doc Rivers' Celtics about to try to put away Dwyane Wade's Heat to play Lazar Hayward's Thunder.  And while waiting for that, watch the ESPNUcoverage of DJO and Jae on the opening day of the NBA Combine in Chicago, as they make their case for joining the league.

While the prospects have been a roller coaster for both, each took a nice step with excellent physical showings as indicated on the table below.  Prior to the combine, both benched 185-pounds 17 times, tying for 2nd behind Stanford Josh Owen's, who is not expected to be drafted, to place in the 98th percentile.  In the agility drill Crowder was in the 91st percentile, just ahead of DJO's 88th percentile.  In speed, DJO was 86th percentile and he was in the 99th percentile in his verticle, while Crowder was just below 50th percentile of all players.

I've given personnel with all 30 NBA teams the table below that shows the percentages in the six key measurements for the 61 players who tested out BEFORE today's combine.  Despite both players being hurt by height and wingspan, overall DJO is the 4th best across the table and Crowder is 11th.

The only guys ahead of him is the dominant Division II star Travis Hyman and Stanford's Josh Owens, and Alabama's JaMychal Green.  Keep in mind, the players who believe they are going in the first round do NOT participate prior to today's combine, so we will see how Crowder and DJO stack up against those players once tested.  Only the few likely top picks like Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond,Harrison Barnes, Anthony Davis and Dion Waiters will not participate at the combine, so this weekend will show if both Marquette players are still near the top of the physical measurements.

1Travis HymanBowie StateC91868588457478
2Josh OwensStanfordPF7981100100405776
3JaMychal GreenAlabamaPF76917050895973
4Darius Johnson-OdomMarquetteSG23329998888671
5Kent BazemoreOld DominionSF48737150869671
6Rakim SandersFairfieldSF43617688538968
7Cameron MooreUABPF87857440496867
8Terrance HenryMississippi  SF84748250743667
9Alex YoungIUPUISF59696240856563
10Casper WareLong Beach StatePG549178999862
11Jae CrowderMarquetteSF49494498914362
12Marcus DenmonMissouriPG26248745939762
13Orlando JohnsonUC Santa BarbaraSG36679866663762
14Tony MitchellAlabamaSF56559754565161
15Chris JohnsonSt. BonaventureSF44689350258861
16Kim EnglishMissouriSG47417714978260
17Robert SacreGonzagaC98821698293259
18Drew GordonNew MexicoPF78756878163558
19Eric GriffinCampbellSF67796050187358
20Herb PopeSeton HallPF71764650683157
21Kyle KuricLouisvilleSG37236750719157
22Mike GloverIonaSF63528459216057
23Kyle WeemsMissouri StateSF60589450354156
24Charlie WestbrookSouth DakotaSG34348050795555
25Chace StanbackUNLVSF72402350826455
26Gerald RobinsonGeorgiaPG15146950968755
27Yancy GatesCincinnatiPF83933250422755
28Maalik WaynsVillanovaPG14117588756354
29Wesley WitherspoonMemphisSF7363726674254
30Ricardo RatliffeMissouriSF69803378124954
31Mitchell WattBuffaloPF80775321444653
32Carlon BrownColoradoSG41367950733853
33Zack RosenPennsylvaniaPG13654667810053
34Jordan TaylorWisconsinPG20136550927152
35Gus GilchristSouth FloridaPF9092850472051
36Kyle O'QuinnNorfolk StatePF861001545481251
37Jason ClarkGeorgetownPG25451850986751
38Dee BostMississippi StSG28168333469250
39Garrett StutzWichita StateC99941032748
40Jarrod JonesBall StatePF816051203048
41Scott MachadoIonaPG16125998237948
42Jorge GutierrezCaliforniaSG30274028778548
43Devoe JosephOregon  PF333328549047
44Ken HortonCentral Connecticut StateSF617047361846
45Xavier GibsonFlorida StatePF9495628154046
46Julian MavungaMiamiPF708436311146
47Eli HolmanDetroitPF77981433242946
48Bradford BurgessVirginia CommonwealthSF572626605345
49Henry SimsGeorgetownC9697381343
50Reggie HamiltonOaklandPG102139954742
51Greg ManganoYalePF89665371442
52Kevin MurphyTennessee TechSG644237194842
53Jesse SandersLibertySG311063624442
54J'Covan BrownTexasPG17221328649540
55Wendell McKinesNew Mexico StateSF51506192138
56Dominique MorrisonOral RobertsSF545429331036
57Juan FernandezTempleSG381719652232
58Jordan TheodoreSeton HallPG81830702530
59Ashton GibbsPittsburghSG18312221434530
60Tu HollowayXavierPG7204140381527
61Darryl BryantWest VirginiaPG12259343323

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Jameel McKay makes Marquette a 2014 Final Four team in Value Add (and an apology to Creighton for exclusion)

As excited as I am about the start of Deonte Burton's CAREER at Marquette for the 2013-14 season, as far as the SEASON itself the commitment of 6-foot-8 power forward Jameel McKay is what makes MU a potential Final Four team.  In fact, plugging in his projected Value Add takes Marquette from 7th to 3rd in the "Way Too Early Top 50 Teams for 2014" that I first ran a couple of weeks ago.

McKay coming in as a junior after two years of JUCO play will put him way ahead of where Burton should be coming in as one of the top freshman to come to Marquette - the same point I made before the 2010-11 season when predicting that Jae Crowder would likely be a much more valuable player than Vander Blue that first year.  In the www.valueaddbasketball.com database you can pull it up and type "Marquette" in the search box on top and then "2014" under year to see the entire projected roster in 2014 and their projected Value Add.

Thanks to Brad Winton for his incredible work in updating the top 100 JUCOs in the country, which enabled me to update the estimated values of JUCOs in the database.  While he won't list a top 100 of this year's freshman JUCOs until next year, based on his comments on several key players I had penciled McKay in as No. 1 on the list based on his comments on several JUCO freshman stars - at the time assuming McKay would end up at Indiana or maybe Florida.  Even if we assume McKay turns out to be only the 5th or 10th best JUCO next year, MU would only slip one spot to behind Kentucky to still project as a Final Four team.

While freshman ranked as high as Burton average producing 2.88% Value Add (their impact on their teams score each night), the top incoming JUCO typically has a Value Add of about 6.0%.  Two years ago Jae Crowder was the top JUCO transfer with a 5.95%, then this year Pierre Jackson was even better with a 6.09% for Baylor.  So Value Add estimates that this year Geron Johnson will produce about 6% for Memphis and next year McKay will produce about 6% for Marquette.  As you can see from the table below, that gives Marquette a potential 49.04% Value Add (every teams will be a bit lower than the projections that far off), which puts them in a theoretical Final Four with Kentucky, Arizona and Texas.

Some of the big "IFs"

Obviously there will be many changes between now and then, but McKay's commitment at this stage makes MU a team with the potential to make a Final Four run.

What would make MU drop?  Obviously transfers, injuries, etc., but the other factor to understand this far off is that these projections assume that players projected to go in the 2013 draft do leave their teams.  MU is almost in a perfect position because the roster is so loaded and yet right now noone is projected to be taken early in the draft (sorrowful memory of Jim Chones inserted here).

See the "Assume gone to NBA" column below, and you can see the players that are assumed to go to the  NBA for 2014.  Even if the roster stays in tact at MU and noone rises to the NBA-level before their senior year, there are 10 teams who would project ahead of Marquette if all of their players stuck around for 2014 to win a title rather than get the big bucks - Texas, Arizona (both already ahead), Kentucky, Memphis, UNC, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana, UCLA and Michigan.

Sorry to Creighton for not explaining why I didn't show them ranked

Also want to apologize to Creighton fans for missing a question that was posed after my May 20 post about how they could not be ranked since Doug McDermott would be a senior in 2014.  For some reason I've always received a following from Creighton on my work, so I hate to slight them, but if you pull up www.valueaddbasketball.com and search for "Creighton"and under year "2013," you will see that I rank them 21st in 2013.

They were listed in 2014 simply under the assumption that McDermott would go to the pros as projected, but I have inserted them "with McDermott" on the table below to show that they would be projected to be 26th place in 2014 if he stays.

Rnk2014 TeamProj VAAve. FrTotalAssume gone to NBA
1Texas45.259.354.55Kabongo, Myck 6.43
2Arizona47.03552.03No projected 2013 draftees
3Marquette45.643.449.04No projected 2013 draftees
4Kentucky36.7412.148.84Noel, Nerlens 10/Goodwin, Archie 7.34
5Maryland42.663.446.06Len, Alex 2.11
6Memphis39.355.344.65Thomas, Adonis 5.37
7North Carolina36.537.443.93McAdoo, James 6.44/Hairston, PJ 5.86
8Providence39.773.743.47No projected 2013 draftees
9Iowa39.183.642.78No projected 2013 draftees
10Connecticut36.396.342.69No projected 2013 draftees
11Michigan St.37.373.841.17Dawson, Branden 8.48
12Ohio St.32.058.440.45Thomas, Deshaun 9.56
13Indiana34.95.440.3Zeller, Cody 14.5/Oladipo, Victor 6.65
14UCLA34.165.239.36Muhammad, Shabazz 10.5
15California34.83.538.3No projected 2013 draftees
16Kansas31.245.136.34No projected 2013 draftees
17Georgetown30.5535.5Porter, Otto 12.08
18Michigan30.714.435.11Burke, Trey 10.72/Hardaway, Tim 5.1
19Alabama30.724.134.82No projected 2013 draftees
20Stanford34.68034.68No projected 2013 draftees
21Arkansas30.723.934.62Young, BJ 11.67
22Notre Dame33.9033.9No projected 2013 draftees
23Duke25.247.432.64No projected 2013 draftees
24Baylor28.563.932.46Austin, Isaiah 9.08
25Virginia32.09032.09No projected 2013 draftees
26Creighton (w/ McDermott)25.746.332.04McDermott, Doug 11.56
26Nevada Las Vegas31.74031.74Moser, Mike 7.39
27Florida26.68531.68Young, Patric 6.53
28Houston31.48031.48No projected 2013 draftees
29Louisville25.425.130.52Dieng, Gorgui 9/Blackshear, Wayne 4.1
30Pittsburgh26.533.530.03Adams, Steven 9.28
31Colorado26.713.129.81Roberson, Andre 9.77
32Villanova25.363.729.06No projected 2013 draftees
33North Carolina St.25.163.828.96Brown, Lorenzo 7.48/Leslie CJ 5.33
34Syracuse23.595.228.79Carter-Williams, Michael 4.31
35St. John's28.69028.69No projected 2013 draftees
36Texas Tech28.52028.52No projected 2013 draftees
37Oklahoma St.27.95027.95Nash, Le'Bryan 6.93
38Mississippi24.413.127.51No projected 2013 draftees
39New Mexico27.1027.1No projected 2013 draftees
40Rutgers22.494.326.79No projected 2013 draftees
41Tennessee26.56026.56No projected 2013 draftees
42West Virginia26.52026.52No projected 2013 draftees
43Xavier26.44026.44No projected 2013 draftees
44Texas A&M26.03026.03No projected 2013 draftees
45Oregon State25.52025.52No projected 2013 draftees
46Iowa State21.663.825.46No projected 2013 draftees
47Seton Hall24.6024.6No projected 2013 draftees
48Harvard24.59024.59No projected 2013 draftees
49South Florida20.81020.81No projected 2013 draftees
50Virginia Tech20.24020.24No projected 2013 draftees

Saturday, June 02, 2012

RPI: Why Cupcakes Matter, Part II

Now that we know how to calculate RPI, the next question is what difference levels of opponents makes. First of all, we're going to look at what are considered Marquette's "cupcake games". To qualify as a cupcake, the game is generally going to be a one-time meeting played at Marquette, with Marquette paying a set fee to the opponent to travel to Milwaukee for the game.

For sake of comparison, the games I'm going to use as examples of cupcakes for the 2011-12 season are Mount St. Mary's, Norfolk State, Jacksonville, and Northern Colorado. While NSU was technically part of the Paradise Jam, they were the one of only four non-series home games we played. The comparison teams from the past I will use are the four lowest RPI home wins from 2010-11, Centenary, Prairie View A&M, Longwood, and South Dakota. If Marquette had played teams with identical profiles to the 2010-11 teams in 2011-12, here is how it would have impacted their RPI:

First Factor: Marquette won all eight games at home, so there is no difference to the first 25%. Marquette's record still would have counted as 21.4 - 5.4, good for a 0.7985 winning percentage.

Second Factor: The combined record of the 2011-12 teams was 50-66 for Marquette's RPI purposes. The combined record of the 2010-11 teams was 41-81. This changes Marquette's opponents' record to 583-409, good for a 0.5877 winning percentage.

Third Factor: The combined opponents' opponents' winning percentage for the 2011-12 teams was 0.4943, which led to the 0.5327 score Marquette received in the first article. The combined opponents' opponents' winning percentage for the 2010-11 teams was 0.4242. When replacing the value, it gives Marquette a new score of 0.5239.

To calculate Marquette's new RPI, we simply add the three factors together using the second factor twice (50% weight) then divide the number by 4. This gives us a final RPI of 0.6244, which would have dropped Marquette from 9th to 11th in the RPI rankings.

I also calculated Marquette's RPI for the 2010-11 season when Marquette finished on the bubble. I was interested in this because the difference in RPI scores for teams lower down the food chain tends to be narrower, meaning that the change of a handful of opponents could make a significant difference. The first factor was 0.5555, the second was 0.5890, and the third was 0.5397, resulting in an RPI of 0.5683. Adjusting the cupcakes to 2011-12 levels, the second factor goes to 0.6012 and the third goes to 0.5407. This would have given Marquette a 0.5647 RPI score. That difference would have taken Marquette from the 64th best RPI in the country to the 54th best, which likely would have taken them off the bubble.

When you have a successful regular season, like Marquette did in 2011-12, the difference of a few cupcakes may only make the difference of 2-3 positions in the RPI, but that could also be the difference between a 4-seed and a 3-seed, or a 3-seed and a 2-seed, which increases your likelihood of an easier path to the Final Four and games closer to home. When a team has a regular season that leaves them on the bubble, like Marquette did in 2010-11, the difference of a few cupcakes can make the difference of 8-12 positions in the RPI, which in the 50s-60s has a very good chance of being the difference between being in the tournament and out of it.

RPI: Why Cupcakes Matter, Part I

On the MUScoop.com website, I've had a running discussion going as the schedule developed. One of the questions that came up was how much of an impact playing tougher cupcakes had as opposed to some of the weaker teams we've seen in years past. In order to do this, first it's important to understand how the RPI works. The RPI that matters is the one calculated going into Selection Sunday, so I include all regular season games as well as conference tournaments. When analyzing a team's RPI, there are three factors involved:

25% - Their weighted record. To calculate this, you need to break down the team's record for home, neutral, and road games. For example, Marquette was 15-1 at home, 4-1 on neutral courts, and 6-5 on the road. Home wins are weighted by a multiple of 0.6 (0.6 x 15 = 9) and road wins are weighted by a multiple of 1.4 (1.4 x 6 = 8.4), while home losses are weighted by a multiple of 1.4 (1.4 x 1 = 1.4) and road losses are weighted by a multiple of 0.6 (0.6 x 5 = 3). That gives us the following formulas for Marquette:

Wins: (0.6 x 15) + (1.0 x 4) + (1.4 x 6) = 21.4
Losses: (1.4 x 1) + (1.0 x 1) + (0.6 x 5) = 5.4

So Marquette's weighted record was 21.4 - 5.4, a winning percentage of 0.7985.

50% -  Their opponents' record. This does NOT use the weighted formula. It also ignores the game against the team being calculated. The record of all of Marquette's opponents combined, discounting postseason tournaments and games against Marquette, was 592-394, a winning percentage of 0.6004.

25% - Their opponents' opponents' record. This also does not include the weighted formula, simply the record for every team the teams you played played. The combined winning percentage of all of those teams for Marquette was 0.5327.

In order to now determine Marquette's RPI rank (and thus value as an opponent), it is approximately as follows:

(0.7985 + 0.6004 + 0.6004 + 0.5327) / 4 = 0.6330.

This number is then compared against all the other teams in the country to determine the RPI ranking. Last year, this ranking was good enough for 8th in the country. In the next two parts of this, I will be looking at what the difference is when Marquette plays higher-quality cupcakes as opposed to lower-quality cupcakes, followed by a look at what benefit there is to playing road games against mid-major teams like Green Bay and Milwaukee.