No, I'm not being sarcastic. Obviously the guys had to fight hard to avoid a second embarrassing loss, and they now have to face a much tougher than expected Georgia Tech team tonight.
However, the keys to Marquette basketball long-term were the recruiting class and the success of the Big East. Doug McDermott single-handedly kept the Big East afloat as a major conference last year, and going into the season I had the conference ranked 6th and teetering on being classified as a "Mid-Major" with the Power Conferences consolidating power.
When I visited campus for the opener I told one person, "I hate to admit this, but it is much more important that the Big East has a good season than that Marquette has a good season this year."
A bad season and recruits go elsewhere to play in major match-ups. Yes, Fox Sports 1 is locked in for a long time, but a bad year and they start to wonder if they really should have broadcast more Big East games last year than ESPN broadcast NBA games. A bad year and we are battling the Atlantic 10 and others for conference bragging rights, and we lose any chance to strategically decide to lure in VCU or some other team if it makes sense.
With that in mind, I wrote the folowing last night (before the Thanksgiving games). I had ranked the Big East as the 6th best conference based on preseason www.valueaddbasketball.com, but the top 8 teams starting 35-0 has the conference up to 4th my ratings which are coming out on Breitbart Sports (but have not been posted as of this writing).
Big East (improves from 6th to 4th rank)
Thanksgiving came a day early for Fox Sports 1 when the Big East moved up to fourth in the ranking of conferences with a stunning trio of upsets. After Fox Sports 1 made a half-billion dollar investment in the Big East made up of the "Catholic 7," ESPN used a Catholic term to declare the conference dead by releasing Requiem for the Big East, but Wednesday's stunning upsets of Florida, Minnesota, and UNC have the Big East surging into the rankings for the top conferences (see below).
Except for Marquette and DePaul, the Big East is now 35-0 after St. John's upset Minnesota (Big Ten), Georgetown upset Florida (SEC), and Butler shocked UNC (ACC) Wednesday to move the conference ahead of conferences in which ESPN has invested billions.
The Fox Sports 1 play to break into the New York sports market included the purchase of the Big East and Yankees TV rights, while ESPN has gone after the Big East brand much as they have attacked the Redskins brand with a steady campaign.
The Big East was made up of the "Catholic 7" schools that broke away from football members of the conference last year and signed with the new Fox Sports 1, but struggled in its initial NCAA tournament and started this year ranked as the sixth best conference based on www.valueaddbasketball.com as reported by Breitbart. However, with every team except Marquette and DePaul undefeated entering the holiday weekend, the conference passed the Pac-12 and SEC in the rankings released below.
Wins to date have included tournament-bound teams with Butler stunning UNC, Georgetown over Florida, Creighton over Oklahoma, St. John’s over Minnesota, Providence over Notre Dame, and Villanova beating both VCU and Michigan to put Fox Sports 1’s station in the top four with the ACC, Big 12 and Big Ten.
Conference Rankings (4th through 1st)
The ratings below indicate which teams in each conference are substantially above or below their preseason Value Add ranking (see separate post in which each team's season to date is rated from a "10" for far exceeding expectations to a "0" for falling far short).
Kris Dunn's emergence at Providence gives the Big East seven teams that would make the NCAA tournament based on the www.kenpom.com ratings. Butler and Creighton have played well above expectations to join Georgetown, Villanova, Providence, St. John's and Xavier in the top 50 in those ratings. Seton Hall is a near miss, while DePaul and a disappointing Marquette are not in the top 100. Typically a team must be in the top 50 to make the NCAA tournament.
Above Expectations (4 teams): 42. Butler, 44. Creighton, 27. Georgetown, 7. Villanova.
Disappointments (1): 122. Marquette.
Other Tourney Teams (3): 34. Providence, 46. St. John's, 36. Xavier.