"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, January 06, 2016

Will Marquette or Kentucky Make the Title Game? They are the only 2 teams matching 4 title game teams in the past 5 years

Four of the past five NCAA Championship games featured a roster averaging less than one year experience AND a top 10 NBA Pick. It is a rare combination, with only 15 rosters in all of D1 averaging less than one year of experience and only two of those teams ALSO featuring a projected top 10 pick at NBA Draft Express.

Marquette and projected No. 7 pick Henry Ellenson pulled off an almost unheard of road win against a Top 10 team Tuesday night. Meanwhile, an LSU team that Marquette already defeated blew out the other team to meet both criteria - Kentucky and projected No. 4 pick Skal Labissiere. Here are the other four teams to accomplish the feat in the past five seasons.

less than 1 yr experience, seedSeasonNCAA WinsYrsExperienceTop 10 NBA Pick
Marquette ?2016?0.86344Henry Ellenson 7 proj
Kentucky ?2016?0.95341Skal Labissiere 4 proj
Kentucky 82014Runner-up0.31351Julius Randle 7
Michigan 42013Runner-up0.73342Trey Burke 9
Kentucky 12012Champion0.77340Anthony Davis 1
Connecticut 32011Champion0.94332Kemba Walker 9

For one night at least the talent and ceiling was evident - even if the odds of making the tournament are still low. The 15% chance Marquette was given of winning at Providence (www.kenpom.com) let fans see a team with enough talent to possibly go into the Big East tournament and win three in a row - a much easier feat than when UConn started at 49th at www.kenpom.com, lost at home to Jimmy Butler and Marquette late in the season, and then had to win SIX straight games to win the Big East title.

That team had 0.94 years of experience yet the freshmen were turning into sophomores by the end of the year and became one of only four 3-seeds to win the title in the last 28 years. Kentucky was expected to win the title in 2012 with only 0.77 years of experience. However, Trey Burke led one of the youngest teams in the land in Michigan to the title despite them only being a 4-seed, and then an 8th seeded Kentucky (0.31 years experience is the second youngest team since www.kenpom.com started tracking in 2007) went to the title game in 2014.

Ellenson is an inconsistent freshman to date, but he has also shown he can take over and dominate in many ways. If Marquette's freshmen gain confidence and experience and can just find a way to sneak into the tournament they have that rare combination.

The fantastic 65-64 win at Providence - a team with upset wins at Rhode Island and Butler, and neutral court wins over Evansville and Arizona before battling Michigan State even until the final few minutes - shows on a given night the team can beat anyone. MU has now beaten two of the leading candidates for National Player of the Year in Ben Simmons (LSU) and Kris Dunn.

In looking at all teams that have made the NCAA tournament despite having a roster averaging less than one year experience - the overall tournament record is 45-23, better than expected based on seeding. Having the consistency to win enough games to make the tournament will still be difficult - but if MU finds a way to sneak in they have a magical combination that could make for a high ceiling based on recent history.

Other less than 1 yrSeasonNCAA WinsYrsExperience
UAB 14201510.84345
Kentucky 1201540.73346
Indiana 10201500.98336
Kansas 2201510.97338
Texas 7201410.8346
Colorado 8201400.9343
Kansas 2201410.72348
Western Kentucky 16201210.84335
Texas 11201200.97326
Michigan 8201110.93335
Memphis 12201100.75344
Kentucky 1201030.83341
Kansas 3200920.88333
Butler 9200900.67341
San Diego 13200810.94325
Villanova 12200820.95324
Purdue 6200810.84330
Duke 2200811.22295
USC 6200800.66338
Duke 6200700.79331
North Carolina 1200730.87329
45-23 four games > ave.

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