"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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

1st Losing Season Since 1999 Possible Under Projection

Marquette projects to go 15-17 overall, 6-12 in the Big East, and be eliminated in the first round of the CIT (that's the tournament below the NIT, but better than the CBI). This would give MU its first losing season since Mike Deane went 14-15 in 1999 after fMU has six straight 20-win seasons.

If that happens, MU fans should remember the losing season before that - when many fans booed a young MU team that went 11-18 in 1991 in another coach's first season (Kevin O'Neill). That team went onto go to the Sweet 16 once the freshman had become seniors.

This may come as a shock to many of our fans - as we were all thankfully spoiled as one of less than a half dozen teams to go to the Sweet 16 three years in a row. I ran into a number of Marquette fans in the lobby of my hotel the morning after MU was eliminated from the Big East tournament, and was stunned the main discussion was who MU would host in the first round of the NIT. It was very evident to me that MU was NOT good enough to make the 32-team NIT field, and this year could be even worse.

The fact is I expect MU to exceed the projected value with a realistic shot at the NIT and an outside shot at the NCAA.

Going purely be the Value Add of the top five players for MU and all of the opponents and adjusting for home court, MU has five narrow wins and five narrow losses in a 15-17 season - meaning that if Steve Taylor is fully recovered, John Dawson plays anywhere close to how he played in three great performances last year, and Derrick Wilson can just add marginal offense to his great defense, MU's Value Add would improve enough to turn those five close losses into wins to go 20-13 including an NIT bid.

I believe an NCAA bid is really a reach this year even with players stepping up, but I thought 2010 would be even tougher and Lazar Hayward and Jimmy Butler went to new heights to get what of our most stunning bids - so let's hope for more of the same. Hopefully Buzz's mind was just elsewhere last year, and Wojo is taking the kids to new heights on the court. Here is how the season plays out by pure Value Add:

If MU somehow wins in Ohio State or even stays within single digits, then Wojo has this team ready to far exceed the Value Add projections. More likely that is a bad loss, while Tennessee Martin, Nebraska Omaha and the country's only remaining independent (NJIT) are easy wins to make MU 3-1.

It looks very likely that Marquette goes 1-2 over the Thanksgiving weekend. MU has a slight edge over Georgia Tech in the opener, so a win there would be important. MU likely is 1-1 after two games, because a win over Georgia Tech would likely lead to getting beaten badly by Michigan State the next night, while a loss to Georgia Tech likely gives MU an easy win over Rider the next night to even it up.

The big game will likely be on Sunday. MU projects a little lower than potential opponents Rhode Island, Santa Clara and Tennessee, and if some combination of Taylor, Dawson and Derrick Wilson are playing above projections, then MU will have it's first realistic chance for a big win away from home to leave the tournament 2-1. If MU wins the first two games, then the likely opponent is Kansas, which projects No. 1 in Value Add and would be very tough ask. So a 2-1 trip from Orlando - however we get it - could be a huge breakthrough pointing to a much better than projected season.

Rest of non-conference 4-1

An upset of Wisconsin would be very unlikely December 6, so a 4-4 mark would be "par" coming out of the rivalry game. The Bradley Center would give MU a slight edge against Arizona State, so that is a huge must-win - and could let MU get to the end of non-conference play with an 8-4 mark, since MU's easiest three opponents (Alabama A&M, North Dakota and Morgan State) close out the calendar year.

Conference regular season 6-12, one win in tourney

If MU is a few points better than projections, then they can flip projected narrow losses at Seton Hall and at home against Butler, Providence and St. John's to go 10-8 in Big East play.

With a 6-12 mark, MU would project to be the 8-seed in the Big East tournament and potentially beat projected 9-seed Creighton before losing to top-seeded Villanova.

Potential bids

If MU comes out of the Big East tournament with a 15-16 record, they would still merit a bid from the CIT tournament as their last selection - under the hypothetical scenario that each team's Value Add is right, the NCAA takes the best players they can after their automatic bids, the NIT does the same, then the CIT picks the next 16 and the CBI takes the final 16. Obviously all of this is unrealistic, but for arguments sake,:

a. that would leave MU facing the overall No. 1 seed in the CIT tournament - Oklahoma State - and MU would be projected to lose that game and finish 15-17

b. ironically if MU finished just lower, they would hypothetically be the best team in the CBI and have a better chance to add at least a couple of wins and have a winning record.

c. if Taylor, Dawson and Derrick Wilson are joining the others in contributing to turn those five close losses into projected wins, then MU could enter the Big East tournament 10-8, 19-11 and be in solid shape for an NIT bid with an outside shot at the NCAA. The only problem with that scenario is that it likely gets MU out of the opening round Big East tournament games, meaning they might have to beat a 3-seed (Providence) to claim a crucial 20th win for the resume to wrap up an NIT bid or even make the case for the NCAA.

The game-by-game schedule below gives MU a "W" for a likely win, a "W?" for a narrow win under the Value Add projections for each player, a (W) for a possible game against Rider that MU would play if they do not get Michigan State in the 2nd round in Orlando.

The same is true of all variations of "L," as these project as losses but the five "L?" are the key narrow loss projections that would be most likely to flip to wins if MU is a little better than projections.

For each team, we indicate the Value Add of their top five players as well as their overall team, their conference, and their likely post season bid if they also match their projections and all their opponents do the same.

We do not want these projections to be correct - but we want to establish "par" early so we can determine if Marquette is exceeding expectations as the games play out.

ResDateVenRnkTeamTop5 VAConfTot VATourneySeed
W11/14/2014247Tennessee Martin3.05OVC3.05no bid
L11/18/2014at29Ohio St.21.47B1028.74NCAA8-seed
W11/22/2014197Nebraska Omaha4.6Sum4.6no bid
W11/24/2014182NJIT5.15ind5.15no bid
Old Spicein Orlando
W?11/27/2014vs114Georgia Tech9.51ACC9.61no bid
L11/28/2014vs36Michigan St.19.2B1022.98NCAA9-seed
(W)11/28/2014vs175Rider5.34MAAC5.34no bid
(L?)11/30/201476Rhode Island13.45A1014.43CIT2-seed
(L?)11/30/2014vs67Santa Clara14.48WCC14.9NIT4-seed
W?12/16/201472Arizona St.13.85P1217.27CIT1-seed
W12/19/2014342Alabama A&M0.16SWAC0.16no bid
W12/22/2014345North Dakota0.02BSky0.02no bid
W12/28/2014290Morgan St.1.71MEAC1.71no bid
BE Season 6-12
W?1/1/2015at123Creighton8.84BE11.17no bid
W1/1/2015123Creighton8.84BE11.17no bid
W1/1/2015at195DePaul4.6BE6.07no bid
W1/1/2015195DePaul4.6BE6.07no bid
L?1/1/2015at84Seton Hall12.78BE15.44CIT4-seed
W?1/1/201584Seton Hall12.78BE15.44CIT4-seed
L1/1/2015at45St. John's18.33BE19.14NCAA12-seed
L?1/1/201545St. John's18.33BE19.14NCAA12-seed
BE Tourney
W3/11/20159123Creighton (9-seed)8.84BE11.17no bid
L3/12/2015113Villanova (1-seed)26.56BE31.26NCAA4-seed
CIT Tourney
L3/17/201568Oklahoma St.14.41B1216.01CIT1-seed

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