"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

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Be That Mistake Marquette!

It's another week of aghast filled Marquette basketball and so another Scrambled Eggs podcast. The podcast starts with a walk through of the Creighton game and how disappointed the fan base. We also discuss Phil's story of Creighton fan's getting kicked out the Bradley Center. We next move on to the almost DeBacle at DePaul. The All State arena is always an MU house of horrors, this time it almost exceeded all previous instances. In fact, we debate two plays that might just be Marquette's season in microcosm. We then move on to the oft-discussed NCAA tournament and Marquette's chances. That's were Joe coins a phrase that we will ride into the ground and the genesis of this post's title. Lastly we discuss the next two games on the schedule (Georgetown and Villanova) to determine what Marquette needs to do to end the season. If you are going to make a mistake listening to any podcast, we want to be that mistake! Download this episode (right click and save)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Why I believe winning three of four gives MU a bid - but why that is so uphill

At the midpoint of the season, I said Marquette could sneak into the tournament with a 7-2 second half. Since then MU has gone 4-1, meaning three more wins in four (tough) games could be enough. See the post just below on which players should be on the court more according to Value Add, but here are the combination of factors I see.

First and foremost, I believe it would be quite a feat for Marquette to win three of the last four. Obviously visiting Villanova would seem almost impossible, and winning at Providence or against a St. John's team that so thoroughly destroyed us seems tough. The only game in which MU looks like a (slight) favorite is at home against Georgetown, so the chance of winning that and pulling upsets in at least two of the other three seems daunting. So the premise of this piece is whether or not MU should expect a bid IF they win 3 of these 4.

1. HOT TEAM. I believe Marquette would benefit subjectively from the last three years, and from the fact that in this first symetrical Big East season, MU could claim to have gone 4-5 the first half and then 7-2 in the second half. The consideration for how good a team is at the time of the tournament gives us a big edge.

2. WINS OVER TOP 25 TEAMS. If MU beats everyone but Villanova to finish up the season, the biggest obstacle is that MU likely would have ZERO wins over RPI Top 25 teams. The last chance to pick up another top 25 win by the end of the regular season ended tonight when George Washington missed two potential game-tying three-pointers in the last minute at No. 10 St. Louis. If GW had won, they had three pretty easy games to close out the season that could have left them in the RPI Top 25 and thus given MU another Top 25 win in addition to the one shot at Villanova. GW could still get into the Top 25 with a good showing in the Atlantic 10, so MU has an outside shot at up to two RPI Top 25 wins, but most likely end up with ZERO.  Based on RPI Forecast, 79 teams should end with at least one win over an RPI Top 25, so not being in the top 79 in that category would hurt. Even one win would put MU in with most bubble teams. Here is the expected breakdown:

a. Teams expected to have 6 wins over RPI Top 25 - 1 Wisconsin
b. 4+ wins over top 25 - 6 total teams (counting Wisconsin)
c. 3+ wins over top 25 - only 13 total
d. 2+ wins over top 25 - only 36 total (theoretically possible with win over Nova AND a GW run in A10 to put them in Top 25)
e. 1+ wins over top 25 - 79 teams - so at least 10 teams will get at-large bids with only 1 win over RPI top 25

3. WINS OVER TOP 50 TEAMS. Marquette could theoretically end with anywhere between 1 and 8 wins over the RPI Top 50.

a. Only 37 teams end up with 4+ wins over RPI top 50 teams, so logically if MU can get to four that is a huge RPI Top 50 wins.
b. Another 20 teams have exactly 3 wins over RPI Top 50 teams - so basically 3 wins is a strong bubble team as it would include the 38th to 57th team and just over half of those would make the tournament so three helps MUs case.
c. Anoother 21 teams are forecast to have exactly 2 wins over the RPI Top 50, so if MU ends up there as they are now then that would be a little shaky - that puts them in with the 58th through 78th best teams in that category, so a slight negative.
d. It is possible MU could end up with only the George Washington win, if Xavier (currently projected to finish 45th before the loss to Georgetown today), Georgetown (67th before win over Xavier), Providence (64th) and even potential victim St. John's (55th) could all end up missing the Top 50 to leave MU with only the one win over GW, which would likely kill any hope since that would leave 78 teams in front of us with at least two Top 25 wins.

However, keep in mind that some combination of those teams could end up in the Top 50, so MU could also pick up two Top 50 wins against Georgetown or Providence to double up, so if MU does win three of the last four then there is a good chance MU could end with three, four or even five Top 50 wins - at which point I believe MU is in the tournament.

4. MU is projected to finish in the Top 50 in strength of schedule - 48th is the actual projection. So keep rooting for MU's opponents in their other games to assure MU could go in as a hot team (7-2 second half) with a Top 50 SOS, and if some combination of Georgetown, Xavier, Providence and St. John's win their other games MU could easily finish with 3-5 wins over Top 25 teams by the end of the regular season.

I believe all of this adds up to a bid IF MU wins three of the last four to complete a 7-2 second half.

Now the hard part. The odds at www.kenpom.com give MU a 12% chance of beating Georgetown, Providence AND St. John's. So if MU loses at Nova, those are the odds.

Yes, I believe MU gets into the tournament winning three of the last four - but the team would have earned it.

Otherwise, we go into the Big East Tournament having to win out at Madison Square Garden to make the tournament.

Value Add: What Combo Gives MU Best Shot?

Marquette survived to keep a March Madness pulse alive with a 96-94 overtime win at DePaul, meaning winning three of the last four might be enough. Who should be on the court to give MU the best chance with so little margin of error?

Derrick Wilson has vastly improved, so assume he is the point guard. Based on www.valueaddbasketball.com I would go with Todd Mayo and Davante Gardner to combine with Jamil Wilson to give us enough offense to beat elite teams (those three are adding 6-7 points a game over what we would expect from replacements, so more minutes for Gardner and Mayo would be key).

But the defensive rankings in Value Add convince me Buzz should continue to start Juan Anderson, who is taking 1.26 points off the board for opponents even playing only a little better than 1/3rd of the minutes.

Value Add calculates that if Anderson played about 28 minutes a game and could maintain the same defensive pace, he would be one of only 12 players in the country to take away more than 2.5 points per game. If he had just a few more minutes played, he would rank 17th in the country in steals at www.kenpom.com (4.5% of all opponents trips) - which is 7th among players in a High Major conference. He is also just behind Jamil for tops on the team in defensive rebounds (17.8% of missed shots).

I realize it is not that simple. Marquette could not have won today without Jake Thomas' three treys in the first half, and Chris Otule's 6 of 7 game from the floor and 12 second half points. He has moved into the top 2% of all offensive rebounders in the country.

Ironically Marquette is one of 47 teams with five players in the Top 750, but three of the first four do not start.

114. Davante Gardner (could be threatening top 100 after today's outing)
497. Jamil Wilson (started season out of top 1000)
576. Todd Mayo
685. Deonte Burton
724. Juan Anderson

A tough call with everyone on the roster showing the ability to contribute, but that would be my statistical advice for maximizing the points added by Jamil, Davante and Todd and maximizing the points taken away from opponents by Juan and Derrick to pull out the close wins we will likely need in three of the next four games to hope for a tournament bid.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Marquette has won three in a row, great, but lets not go buying March Madness tickets just yet

Saturday against Xavier was probably Marquette's best win of the season. It was a solid performance from start to finish with the MU backcourt performing the best it has all season. It also represents the third win in a row for MU and puts them into a tie for 3rd in the Big East. So hooray. Having said all that, the fact is that Marquette is still on the outside looking in. So we talk about the 3 game winning streak, and whether it is or will ever be safe to pull out your Jake Thomas jersey. We also talk about the big tournament and where Marquette stands in it's pursuit of a bid. A quick hint, it looks better than a week ago but not that great. Lastly we talk about the upcoming Creighton game, if MU can win, and what the final 6 games means for Marquette. It's good to be a little more positive in this podcast, we were starting to sound like Eeyore. Download this episode (right click and save)

Marquette and the Bubble

Today, Joe Lunardi from ESPN, the most well-renowned (though not necessarily most accurate) bracketologist tweeted out that Marquette had moved into the "Next Four Out" category with their win over Xavier yesterday. This has been a season of falling skies for Marquette fans, with many writing off the season before the New Year and most others (this writer included) feeling that this team was virtually DOA a month later after the February 1 loss at St. John's.

Clearly the current three-game winning streak has changed things, so I decided to take a look at some resumes to see where Marquette really stands and what they need to do to get into the tournament. I have assembled the resumes of 15 teams. Included are the current "Last Four In", "First Four Out", "Next Four Out", as well as the other Big East bubble teams that are currently all projected as in the field -- Xavier, Georgetown, and Providence. I compiled the relevant numbers for all the teams and randomized them. For the records by ranking, I used the Pomeroy numbers as I feel they are a better reflection of team quality. Here is the blind resume table:

That's a lot of data. But on average, these teams have a record of 16.6-8.6 (6.6-5.3), a RPI of 53.3, a SOS of 53.3, and a KenPom rating of 52.4. For the first reveal, Marquette is Team 7. Their record is right in line with the other bubble teams, their conference record is better than most, their RPI and SOS are lagging behind the others, and their Pomeroy rating is a bit better than average. While this hasn't been the season most expected, these numbers at least tell us that despite many claims otherwise over the past 2 months, the season is not yet over. Marquette is still on the outside looking in, but they absolutely belong in the discussion. Here is the full reveal, as well as listing where teams currently stand:

1) Southern Miss (First Four OUT)
2) Baylor (Next Four OUT)
3) Tennessee (Last Four IN)
4) Providence (IN)
5) West Virginia (First Four OUT)
6) Georgetown (IN)
7) Marquette (Next Four OUT)
8) Richmond (Last Four IN)
9) BYU (First Four OUT)
10) St. John's (First Four OUT)
11) Dayton (Next Four OUT)
12) Xavier (IN)
13) Clemson (Next Four OUT)
14) St. Joseph's (Last Four IN)
15) Missouri (Last Four IN)

There are two main questions for Marquette fans. The first is how MU compares to the other teams in the field. The most disturbing numbers are RPI and SOS, where we are clearly outside.Marquette's 75 RPI is the worst on the bubble, and their 75 SOS is third-worst. The Pomeroy number is okay, with 50 being just ahead of the average.

The rest of the numbers are okay. Not including the Big East teams that are in, only West Virginia, Dayton, and Baylor have more top-50 wins than Marquette, and no team on the bubble has more top-100 wins than Marquette's 6. While the Butler loss is a blemish, the only two teams without a sub-100 loss on the table are Baylor and Providence. One bad loss is not at all damning.

So what does Marquette need to do? I feel the number to guarantee an at-large berth at this point is 5 wins. I do not think it matters who those wins are against. If Marquette wins 5 regular season games, no matter the opponent, their RPI will finish 44-45 and their SOS will finish 49-50. Even a first game loss at MSG shouldn't drop them too far because a 5-1 finish would virtually lock up the 3-seed, meaning they would be playing another top-60 RPI team on a neutral court. If Marquette wins 4 regular season games, they will probably have to win one in MSG to guarantee a bid. And again, who they beat doesn't make much difference. 4 regular season wins would mean at worst Marquette finishes with 3 top-50 and 9 top-100 wins.

If Marquette wins 3 or fewer regular season games, they would likely need to win the tourney. While that could go against my 5-win theory, part of that is based on the committee usually weighing recent play a bit more heavily. If Marquette has won at least 7 of their last 10 going into Selection Sunday, that will reflect well on the team. But if they are coming in with a 3-3 record in their last 6 games, especially if they don't have another top-50 win on the resume -- possible if they beat DePaul, Georgetown, and Providence and get an "easy road" to the final, the "hot team" argument goes right out the window.

A few additional thoughts. If Marquette beats Creighton Wednesday, I expect they will move into quite a few bracketologists' fields. That would be a significant RPI and SOS boost while also giving them more top-100 wins than anyone on the bubble and leaving only 3 bubble team with more top-50 wins, 2 of which are currently projected as being in.

As far as Big East bids, this league could still finish with as many as 7 bids. It's unlikely, but if Marquette wins 5 of their last 6 and all the other bubble teams are able to sweep DePaul, Seton Hall, and Butler while winning all their non-Marquette games at home, that will give the league 6 top-50 teams with St. John's just outside the top-50. Will it happen? Probably not. But I do think that 5 bids this year is very realistic with 6 not at all out of the realm of possibility. And the better Marquette plays, the more likely this league finishes with more bids rather than less.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

If you don't listen to this podcast AND like it, we're sending someone over to your house to boo

In the latest edition of Scrambled Eggs, we dive right into the age old question, can you have too much good Mayo? We cover the Butler result which overshadows the dumpster fire that was the St John's loss which totally eliminated the good feeling from the Providence game which....well you get the idea. We talk consistency or the lack thereof and how everyone should stop talking March Madness for Marquette until certain conditions are met. We also predict the Seton Hall game. Lastly, we spend some time discussing booing and if it's ok. I'll give away the ending, Joe is definitely against it. Enjoy Download this episode (right click and save)