"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, February 28, 2019

Should Sub-.500 Teams Get At-Large Bids?

Seth Davis stirred up controversy this week when he asserted teams with conference records below .500 should not be eligible for the NCAA Tournament. If you aren't a subscriber to The Athletic, first of all, you should be. It's a great site. But the gist was if you have a losing conference record, including conference tournament games, you don't go to the tourney. This would eliminate virtually all teams that go below .500 in league play & half of the teams that reach .500.

My initial reaction was disagreement. Consider 2011 UConn that went 9-9 in the Big East; they would've been one single-elimination slip from losing an opportunity to win the National Championship, a feat they actually accomplished. The more I thought about it, the more I considered this year's bubble. Teams like Oklahoma, Seton Hall, Ohio State, & others would likely be eliminated from at-large consideration by this. All of these teams have multiple wins over teams projected to be in the field. They deserve a chance, right?

I looked back at 10 years of Tournaments to see how teams that would've been rendered ineligible performed. Last year 7 high-majors with losing conference records got in after 16 in the previous 9 years combined (never more than 2 in a single season until 2018). Those teams went a combined 16-23 in the Tournament. 60.9% of the teams (14/23) failed to win their Thursday/Friday games. Only 4 reached the Sweet 16 & only 2 went further than that; Florida State made the Elite Eight in 2018 while Syracuse reached a Final Four in 2016. Is it really worth giving bids to the same tired teams when 82.6% of them will be gone before the first weekend is over?

The reason teams in high-major leagues have those multiple wins over projected tourney teams is simply a product of opportunity. Teams like Penn State, South Carolina, Illinois, Oklahoma State, & Pittsburgh all have multiple wins over projected tournament teams but aren't in the bubble mix because their overall record simply isn't good enough. So at what point do we draw the line? Yes, high-major bubble teams have quality wins the smaller leagues can't match, but so do high-major doormats. Simply being in that type of league will afford you opportunities, both in & out of conference play, that smaller schools are incredibly hard pressed to match.

Consider Murray State in 2015. They were 27-4 with a 25-game winning streak & lost the conference title game by 1-point to a Belmont team playing on its home court. Instead of seeing that team, basketball fans got to watch an Oklahoma State & Texas, both teams that finished below .500 in conference play, lose their opening games.

The first weekend of the tournament is about David versus Goliath. People get excited for the schools like Loyola-Chicago, FGCU Dunk City, UMBC, & other small schools that have etched their names in the history books. Granted, in the second & third weekends fans do generally want to see the elite players & programs, but would leaving out the dregs of the high-major leagues prevent that when the vast majority of those teams are gone by the first Sunday? I decided to do a blind resume with 8 teams, but instead of showing record by quadrant, I'm going to use winning percentages in Q1/2 & total "bad" losses in Q3. All of these teams are undefeated in Q4.

Team NET Pom Record Q1 WP Q2 WP Q3 Ls Reveal
A 33 39 22-6 0.333 0.400 1 Utah State
B 37 27 15-13 0.333 0.571 2 Texas
C 43 31 17-11 0.111 0.500 0 Clemson
D 46 47 22-6 0.400 0.333 1 Lipscomb
E 47 57 22-6 0.167 1.000 2 Furman
F 49 33 18-10 0.364 0.667 1 Ohio State
G 50 58 22-4 0.667 0.750 2 Belmont
H 64 62 16-11 0.333 0.778 3 Seton Hall

What I feel this reveals is that given opportunities, all of these teams can win Quadrant 1 & 2 games. All of them are vulnerable to bad losses (some more than others). If you highlight the "Reveal" column the team names are there. I'm sure it's obvious which teams are from high-majors & mid-majors by the record, but the computer rankings, the ability to win games given opportunities, & minimizing bad losses.

I'm not sure how far this should be extended. The Screen the Screener podcast suggested this go to dominant teams in their leagues with 0-2 losses. Would that include sub-200 NET teams like Norfolk State & Prairie View A&M? I feel like that's a bit too close to giving leagues two autobids each, so perhaps a NET cutoff of 100 should also be incorporated. I do think this is worth serious consideration. Honestly, I would much rather see Murray State (currently not in the Next 8 Out on BracketMatrix.com) in the field than an Oklahoma team that looks secure (currently a 9-seed despite a 5-10 league record).

One last note before the S-Curve...I don't expect to have as many updates next week. I will try for one mid-week but beyond that should be back with regular updates leading into and through the conference tournaments.

1-Seeds: 1-VIRGINIA, 2-GONZAGA, 3-Duke, 4-Kentucky
2-Seeds: 8-Tennessee, 7-Michigan, 6-MICHIGAN STATE, 5-North Carolina
3-Seeds: 9-HOUSTON, 10-Kansas, 11-MARQUETTE, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-NEVADA, 15-Iowa State, 14-Texas Tech, 13-LSU
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Wisconsin, 19-Florida State, 20-Mississippi State
6-Seeds: 24-BUFFALO, 23-Villanova, 22-KANSAS STATE, 21-Maryland
7-Seeds: 25-WOFFORD, 26-Iowa, 27-Cincinnati, 28-Louisville
8-Seeds: 32-Mississippi, 31-St. John's, 30-Baylor, 29-WASHINGTON
9-Seeds: 33-BELMONT, 34-VCU, 35-Auburn, 36-Utah State
10-Seeds: 40-Texas, 39-Florida, 38-Ohio State, 37-Syracuse
11-Seeds: 41-Oklahoma, 42-Tcu, 43-LIPSCOMB, 44-Alabama
12-Seeds: 50-Ucf/49-UNC Greensboro, 48-NC State/47-Arizona State, 46-Minnesota, 45-Seton Hall

Last Four Byes: TCU, Alabama, Seton Hall, Minnesota
Last Four In: Arizona State, NC State, UNC Greensboro, UCF
First Four Out: Clemson, Temple, Furman, Murray State
Next Four Out: Nebraska, Creighton, St. Mary's, Georgetown

Monday, February 25, 2019

If you thought Scrambled Eggs was cocky before

It's a bit jarring if you think about it, but from the jump we're talking about hanging banners. The background, Nova lost again over the weekend giving MU the chance to win a share of the Big East title on Wednesday night against Villanova. So we spend a while talking about what that feels like and what happens if MU can go into a dangerous environment and beat the current kings of the Big East. We then talk about the game itself and whether we are finally starting to feel confident enough that a road win against Villanova is now more likely than not. We then talk about the Creighton game and whether it is a trap game or just another game we should all be vigilant but relaxed about. We also spend some time talking about what kind of monster wants a Big East Tournament title versus a regular season title. All in all, we are pretty stoked for the closing days of the regular season and the possibility that next week we are talking about your Big East champions, Marquette. Enjoy! https://scrambledeggs.podbean.com/mf/play/zfucib/scrambledeggs_editted_022419.mp3

Mid-Major Madness?

In recent years there has been a decline in the number of at-large bids given to mid & low-major programs. To figure out why, I dug into the makeup of the Selection Committee since the field expanded to 68 in 2011. There was a significant reduction in the number of bids earned by smaller conference starting in 2014. So what happened to cause this change? Quite simply, the Big East.

Prior to 2014, the Selection Committee's 10 members included 4 representatives from high-major conferences & 6 members from mid & low-major conferences. When then Xavier Athletic Director Doug Bobinski stepped down after chairing the 2013 Selection Committee, he was replaced by Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen. In the pre-realignment world, this would have been a shift from an A-10 representative to a Missouri Valley representative. While the conference affiliation was different, the representation was a like-for-like mid-major change. But because Creighton joined the Big East in 2014, it changed the makeup of the Selection Committee, resulting in 5 high-major representatives & 5 mid/low-major representatives.

For purposes of this article, high-major refers to the American, ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, & SEC. Those leagues were built on a foundation of programs considered high-major when conference realignment began

The following table shows by year the number of high-major representatives, the number of low/mid-major representatives, the affiliation of the Selection Committee Chairman, & the number of bids given to teams outside the 7 leagues listed above.

Year High-Major
Mid/Low Major

2011 4 6 Ohio State (High Major) 7
2012 4 6 Connecticut (High Major) 11
2013 4 6 Xavier (Mid-Major) 11
2014 5 5 Wake Forest (High Major) 6
2015 5 5 Utah State (Mid-Major) 6
2016 5 5 Oklahoma (High Major) 3
2017 5 5 Michigan State (High Major) 3
2018 5 5 Creighton (High Major) 2
2019 4 6 Stanford (High Major) ?

From 2011-2013, mid & low-major leagues averaged 9.7 at-large bids per year. That coincided with a Committee makeup that included 6/10 representatives from outside those high-major leagues. That changed in 2014 with an even split of 5 high and 5 mid/low-major representatives. For two years, the Committee placed just 6 teams from outside the high-major ranks in at-large positions, though one of those years featured a mid-major Committee Chairman. The past three years, the average has been just 3.3 bids from outside high-major leagues.

What does that mean? The high-major leagues were voting as a bloc which allowed them to dominate the bids. The most egregious year was likely 2017. While the Selection Committee gave 4 bids to mid-major schools, they placed all four in two games, 7/10 matchups that resulted in all four teams being eliminated on the first weekend in defeats to 2-seeds.

In the years when the lower leagues had a majority, we saw some great mid-major stories. VCU's 2011 run to the Final Four, La Salle's Sweet 16 in 2013, & the Wichita State team that knocked off La Salle on their way to their own Final Four run in 2013. Mid-majors were given chances & made the most of them, despite arguments that they didn't have the caliber of resume the high-major schools did.

Bruce Rasmussen stepped down from the Selection Committee after chairing it last year & the old balance of power between conferences has been restored. The 2019 Selection Committee will return to 4 high-major & 6 mid/low-major representatives. So who will that benefit? My expectation is we likely won't have a good sense until the conference tournaments. If teams like Buffalo, Belmont, Lipscomb, & New Mexico State will be in better shape if they don't get automatic bids, while at least a few of the MAC, A-10, SoCon, Ohio Valley, & Mountain West will likely be multi-bid leagues. And if the last spots in the field come down to schools like UNC-Greensboro, Murray State, Butler, & Nebraska, don't be surprised if it's the traditional one-bid leagues placing at-large bids in Dayton. After all, that's exactly what happened to the VCU team that went from Dayton to the Final Four in 2011.

Here's the updated S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-Virginia, 3-GONZAGA, 4-Kentucky
2-Seeds: 8-Tennessee, 7-Michigan, 6-MICHIGAN STATE, 5-North Carolina
3-Seeds: 9-HOUSTON, 10-MARQUETTE, 11-Kansas, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-Maryland, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Texas Tech, 13-LSU
5-Seeds: 17-Iowa State, 18-KANSAS STATE, 19-NEVADA, 20-Virginia Tech
6-Seeds: 24-Mississippi State, 23-Louisville, 22-Iowa, 21-Florida State
7-Seeds: 25-BUFFALO, 26-Villanova, 27-WOFFORD, 28-Cincinnati
8-Seeds: 32-St. John's, 31-Baylor, 30-Mississippi, 29-WASHINGTON
9-Seeds: 33-BELMONT, 34-Texas, 35-VCU, 36-Syracuse
10-Seeds: 40-Auburn, 39-Tcu, 38-Utah State, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Ohio State, 42-Florida, 43-LIPSCOMB, 44-Temple
12-Seeds: 50-UNC Greensboro/49-NC State, 48-Arizona State/47-Alabama, 46-Minnesota, 45-Seton Hall

Last Four Byes: Florida, Temple, Seton Hall, Minnesota
Last Four In: Alabama, Arizona State, NC State, UNC Greensboro
First Four Out: Furman, UCF, Clemson, Butler
Next Four Out: Murray State, Nebraska, Creighton, St. Mary's

Friday, February 22, 2019

Marquette 2-Seed Rooting Guide

Since the NCAA released their top-16, Marquette has solidified their hold on a 3-seed. The Golden Eagles haven't lost a game, while the teams behind them on the 4/5 lines have gone 14-14 with every team except Texas Tech taking a loss. With that in mind, it's a good time to look back at Marquette's chances to get a 2-seed. Currently in the mix for the 2-line with Marquette are Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan State, Kansas, Houston, & Purdue. So which teams can MU most likely get ahead of? Here's who we will be watching closely:

Purdue: We moved Marquette ahead of the Boilermakers after Purdue lost to Maryland. One more loss would solidify that decision, especially as Purdue was likely a bit overseeded in the Top-16 release. They host Ohio State & travel to Minnesota, their only remaining games against teams projected in the field. Marquette just needs Purdue to lose one of those.

Houston: The good news is that with Houston's schedule, it won't take much to move ahead of them. The bad news is that with Houston's schedule, there aren't many opportunities for a loss. The one to watch is their season finale at Cincinnati. Expect the Cougars to stay ahead until that point, but for at least one day, we need to root for the Bearcats.

Kansas: This is the time of year Kansas rolls to another Big 12 title, so I'm not sure they can be passed. They have a tough finish, with 3/5 on the road & 2 games in 3 days at Texas Tech & against K-State. Hope for the Jayhawks to finish at least a game back in the Big 12 & drop at least 2 games for Marquette to pass them.

Michigan State: Just as Sparty adjusted to the loss of Joshua Langford, they also lost Nick Ward. With two games against Michigan & a road rematch at Indiana, there are chances for losses. Root for a Michigan sweep as the sheer volume of losses will drop MSU a seed line.

Tennessee: A week ago, UT was second in our S-Curve, but they were largely getting by on only having one loss. Tennessee only has 4 Q1 wins, with 5 Q1 games remaining (3 on the road). They likely need to drop 3 games for MU to move ahead of them, but with their schedule it's entirely possible, starting with a road game at LSU on Saturday.

Providence & Georgetown: Two Big East teams can help Marquette by improving their NET. Their wins against St. John's & Villanova this week moved both of these teams into the top-75, but barely. Both are now Quadrant 1 road wins & Quadrant 2 home wins. A Marquette win at Providence on Saturday would not only clinch no worse than the 2-seed in the Big East Tournament, but also give them another potential Q1 victory. The rest of the league is pretty well entrenched in their position, so pull for those two teams to win more than they lose after Saturday.

Here's the S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-Virginia, 3-GONZAGA, 4-Kentucky
2-Seeds: 8-Michigan State, 7-TENNESSEE, 6-North Carolina, 5-MICHIGAN
3-Seeds: 9-Kansas, 10-HOUSTON, 11-MARQUETTE, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-Wisconsin, 15-Iowa State, 14-Lsu, 13-Texas Tech
5-Seeds: 17-Maryland, 18-Louisville, 19-Florida State, 20-Villanova
6-Seeds: 24-Iowa, 23-Virginia Tech, 22-KANSAS STATE, 21-NEVADA
7-Seeds: 25-Mississippi State, 26-BUFFALO, 27-Cincinnati, 28-WASHINGTON
8-Seeds: 32-Baylor, 31-Texas, 30-Mississippi, 29-WOFFORD
9-Seeds: 33-St. John's, 34-Syracuse, 35-BELMONT, 36-VCU
10-Seeds: 40-Utah State, 39-Auburn, 38-Ohio State, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Minnesota, 42-Seton Hall, 43-Lipscomb, 44-Florida
12-Seeds: 50-LIBERTY, 49-Arizona State/48-Alabama, 47-Furman/46-Temple, 45-Tcu

Last Four Byes: Seton Hall, Lipscomb, Florida, TCU
Last Four In: Temple, Furman, Alabama, Arizona State
First Four Out: NC State, UNC Greensboro, Georgetown, Clemson
Next Four Out: UCF, Nebraska, San Francisco, Indiana

Monday, February 18, 2019

Marquette's NCAA Dream Scenarios

Last week we covered some teams that present significant matchup problems for Marquette. This week we're looking at teams Marquette offers similar challenges to. If Marquette sees these teams in the bracket on the opening weekend, hopes should be high for a Sweet 16 run.

Before digging into the teams, a few S-Curve notes. Kentucky jumped up onto the 1-line while Tennessee fell from the overall 2 to 6. The primary reasons are Kentucky's 6 Q1A wins overshadow their losses while Tennesse simply lack a quantity of quality wins while playing the weakest SOS of any team on the top three lines. Also, when looking down to the bubble, the margins are razor thin. Not only do individual results lead to significant shifts, but so do results when a bubble team opponents move up or down a quadrant. Blind resumes on the bubble are very ugly right now.

Anyway...on with the Marquette Scenarios:

UC Irvine (14-Seed): The Anteaters are exactly what Marquette wants to see. They start a small three-guard lineup, so Markus Howard would rarely see a defender taller than 6'2". Defensively, they are excellent in eFG%, but that due to 2PFG% defense. A team that shoots as well as Marquette would likely shred UC Irvine from outside. The Anteaters don't force many turnovers, so they would have trouble taking advantage of Marquette's offensive Achilles' Heel. They are also not a particularly good shooting team so it seems unlikely they could keep up with MU's scoring. In every sense, this is the ideal team for Marquette to open the NCAA Tournament with.

TCU (11-Seed): Since Jaylen Fisher left the program, TCU went from an 11-1 start to 6-7 without arguably their best player. The Horned Frogs are now shorter at the guard positions & have seen their top-25 defensive efficiency tumble to 40th. TCU is still relatively capable on both ends, but are clearly not the same team they were. With a soft bubble, there's every chance they could stay on the 11-line & provide a tantalizing second-round matchup for Marquette.

Virginia Tech (6-Seed): The easy answer is Kansas State, but that would be a rehash of the past. There are no easy draws on the 6-line, but the Hokies are the kind of team Marquette could take advantage of. While Va Tech does have some length & success in generating turnovers, they also have played a lot of zone this year. As a result MU could take advantage on the glass. In terms of point distribution, Hokie opponents score a higher percentage of points from three than any other team in the nation. The zone would also allow MU to work their shooters around the perimeter to find the best matchup. Finally, the Hokies are just 1-4 in games against top-30 kenpom teams with the lone win against Purdue in mid-November. This is a team that looks better on paper than they actually are due to 6 wins of 25+ points against sub-100 Kenpom teams.

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-Virginia, 3-GONZAGA, 4-Kentucky
2-Seeds: 8-Michigan State, 7-North Carolina, 6-Tennessee, 5-MICHIGAN
3-Seeds: 9-Kansas, 10-HOUSTON, 11-Marquette, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-LSU, 15-Texas Tech, 14-Iowa State, 13-NEVADA
5-Seeds: 17-Louisville, 18-Wisconsin, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Iowa
6-Seeds: 24-Maryland, 23-Florida State, 22-KANSAS STATE, 21-Virginia Tech
7-Seeds: 25-BUFFALO, 26-Mississippi State, 27-Cincinnati, 28-Mississippi
8-Seeds: 32-Auburn, 31-WOFFORD, 30-WASHINGTON, 29-St. John's
9-Seeds: 33-Texas, 34-Ohio State, 35-Oklahoma, 36-LIPSCOMB
10-Seeds: 40-Syracuse, 39-Minnesota, 38-Baylor, 37-BELMONT
11-Seeds: 41-Tcu, 42-Vcu, 43-Alabama, 44-Seton Hall
12-Seeds: 50-DAVIDSON, 49-Furman/48-Nc State, 47-Temple/46-Indiana, 45-Utah State

Last Four Byes: VCU, Alabama, Seton Hall, Utah State
Last Four In: Indiana, Temple, NC State, Furman
First Four Out: Clemson, Florida, UNC Greensboro, Liberty
Next Four Out: Nebraska, Arizona State, UCF, Butler

Well that was kind of an easy week.

It was an oddly anti-climatic week with no real anxiety to be found, but we'll take it. We start the discussion out with the fact that thanks to St John's off all people, Marquette controls it's own destiny in the race to the regular season title against Villanova. We talk through the scenario's and how we think MU will do down the stretch. We then talk the success of Operation Don't Lose to DePaul and how it was kind of a cakewalk which is....unusual. Next we check in on the Markus tracker to predict if he will become Marquette's all-time leading scorer this season. We then turn to the week ahead and forecast how MU will do following the buy week with two must win games if they want to keep the championship dreams alive. We close out the pod by revisiting the Henry Ellenson decision now that he has been cut by Detroit and his NBA career to be on life support. Enjoy! https://scrambledeggs.podbean.com/mf/play/w5tuab/scrambledeggs_editted_021719.mp3

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Marquette's NCAA Nightmare Scenarios

Now that Marquette is locked into a NCAA bid & could lose every game from now until Selection Sunday & still have a bid, we have the luxury of being able to look forward a bit & think about the tournament itself. Where Marquette is seeded now, they would potentially face a 14-seed in the first round, followed by either a 6-seed or 11-seed to get to the Sweet 16. Let's take a look at one team off each seed line.

South Dakota State (14-Seed): The Jackrabbits are led by Mike Daum, a 6'9" senior center that is already one of the 15 most prolific scorers in NCAA history. He can score out to the arc, which allows the Jacks to spread the floor with five three-point shooters. Daum also excels at drawing fouls. His abilities to both drag centers to the arc & get them in foul trouble would only be the beginning of Marquette's troubles though. The Jacks have two other players that are high-major quality in David Jenkins & Skyler Flatten. Both average 15+ ppg & shoot well over 40% from the arc. As a team, no one in their rotation is shorter than 6'2", which would allow them to rotate longer defenders onto Markus Howard. They are one of the best shooting teams in the country (#2 eFG%, top-10 in both 2PFG% & 3PFG%) & don't beat themselves by turning it over.

VCU (11-Seed): The Rams are still one of those pesky teams that will give teams fits. They have length & athleticism all over the floor with everyone in the rotation between 6'2" and 6'8". They are an elite defensive team that is #1 in the country at defending the three but also excel at limiting the number of threes opponents take. Defensively, they simply do not allow teams to score at the arc. VCU also forces a ton of turnovers. Offensively they are not great, but do have a handful of guys that can get hot by attacking inside & getting to the line. My main concern with them is on the defensive end, where everything they do plays to Marquette's weaknesses.

Florida State (6-Seed): This is the definition of a nightmare. Their primary rotation is all guys from 6'5" to 6'10", with a 7'4" center they can bring off the bench as a rim protector. They use that length to turn teams over & get out in transition. Their big man, Mfiondu Kabengele, is a high efficiency player that can score inside & out, get to the line, block shots, & basically do everything. This is the team that could apply a lot of pressure to Markus Howard, eat up our bigs inside, & disrupt everything in the Marquette gameplan. Hopefully come Selection Sunday, the 'Noles & Marquette won't be anywhere close to the same region.

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-TENNESSEE, 3-Virginia, 4-GONZAGA
2-Seeds: 8-Michigan State, 7-MICHIGAN, 6-North Carolina, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Kansas, 10-HOUSTON, 11-Marquette, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-Lsu, 15-Texas Tech, 14-Iowa State, 13-NEVADA
5-Seeds: 17-VILLANOVA, 18-Louisville, 19-Wisconsin, 20-Iowa
6-Seeds: 24-Florida State, 23-Maryland, 22-Virginia Tech, 21-KANSAS STATE
7-Seeds: 25-Mississippi State, 26-Cincinnati, 27-BUFFALO, 28-Mississippi
8-Seeds: 32-WOFFORD, 31-WASHINGTON, 30-Baylor, 29-Texas
9-Seeds: 33-LIPSCOMB, 34-St. John's, 35-Auburn, 36-Syracuse
10-Seeds: 40-Oklahoma, 39-BELMONT, 38-Seton Hall, 37-Ohio State
11-Seeds: 41-Indiana, 42-Nebraska, 43-NC State, 44-VCU
12-Seeds: 50-DAVIDSON, 49-Temple/48-Clemson, 47-Alabama/46-TCU, 45-Minnesota

Last Four Byes: Nebraska, NC State, Minnesota, VCU
Last Four In: TCU, Alabama, Clemson, Temple
First Four Out: Butler, Utah State, UCF, Furman
Next Four Out:  Arizona State, Florida, UNC Greensboro, San Francisco

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Selection Committee Confirms Marquette's Seeding

Since our first S-Curve on Christmas Day, we've had Marquette as a 3-seed. Despite the St. John's loss, the Selection Committee affirmed that Saturday when they revealed their early Top-16 with Marquette seeded 12th overall on the 3-line.

We had 14/16 picks correct. Iowa State made the top-16 & was our 17th team while Nevada was given a 4-seed that was more in line with their computer numbers than what their resume warrants. The first 12 teams on the Selection Committee's board were all on the correct seed line, with the most notable misplacement being Purdue; they were 12th on our board & 9th for the Committee. That, along with Nevada seemed to indicate the Selection Committee put a lot of stock in the aggregate computer numbers as well as Strength of Schedule.

The SOS numbers hurt some teams, most notably Virginia Tech (259 NCSOS) & Texas Tech (178 NCSOS), the only top-16 NET teams to not appear in the NCAA Top-16. The Selection Committee again put an emphasis on proving you can beat good teams, as Kansas & Marquette were both on the 3-line likely thanks to their Quadrant 1 wins despite being outside the top-16 of NET.

With the emphasis on computer numbers & (not surprisingly) proof of the ability to beat Q1 teams in mind, we reassessed our own S-Curve, with adjustments made based on what we learned from the Committee & results since Saturday.

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-TENNESSEE, 3-Virginia, 4-GONZAGA
2-Seeds: 8-Michigan State, 7-North Carolina, 6-MICHIGAN, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Kansas, 10-Purdue, 11-Houston, 12-Marquette
4-Seeds: 16-Texas Tech, 15-Louisville, 14-Iowa State, 13-NEVADA
5-Seeds: 17-Wisconsin, 18-Lsu, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Iowa
6-Seeds: 24-Maryland, 23-Florida State, 22-KANSAS STATE, 21-Virginia Tech
7-Seeds: 25-Texas, 26-Mississippi State, 27-Cincinnati, 28-BUFFALO
8-Seeds: 32-Auburn, 31-WASHINGTON, 30-Baylor, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-Ohio State, 34-WOFFORD, 35-Syracuse, 36-LIPSCOMB
10-Seeds: 40-Minnesota, 39-St. John's, 38-Indiana, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Seton Hall, 42-BELMONT, 43-Clemson, 44-Nebraska
12-Seeds: 50-DAVIDSON, 49-Vcu/48-Nc State, 47-Butler/46-TCU, 45-Alabama

Last Four Byes: Seton Hall, Clemson, Nebraska, Alabama
Last Four In: TCU, Butler, NC State, VCU
First Four Out: Creighton, Temple, Arizona State, Florida
Next Four Out: Georgetown, Utah State, UCF, Arkansas

Multiple Bid Leagues
Big 10: 10
ACC: 9
Big 12: 8
SEC: 7
Big East: 5
American: 2
Atlantic 10: 2

Monday, February 11, 2019

Big win on National Marquette Day and almost nothing else matters to us

After a week hiatus because one of us decided to go skiing and drinking Colorado craft brews (but not at the same time), we come back to largely very good news. We jump right into breaking down the exciting win of Villanova on what feels like the first time in a long time that MU won on National Marquette Day. We analyze the game, how it finished, and what level of concern we had in the closing minutes. We also spend a little time talking about the St John's result which spoiled an otherwise amazing Big East run for Marquette. We then talk NCAA tournament, initial seeding, NET rankings, and how exciting it is to not be team bubble watch. We turn to the week ahead which features only one game, but it's at DePaul which has always been a house of horrors for MU, albeit at the Rosemont but still. The goal is to just not lose to a {high pitched squeaky voice} competent DePaul team. We close out the pod talking about recruits who were at the Nova game and the need to always be recruiting. Enjoy! #DLTD https://scrambledeggs.podbean.com/mf/play/j2dk98/scrambledeggs_editted_021019.mp3

Friday, February 08, 2019

Top-16 Seed Prediction

On Saturday, Feb. 9 the NCAA will release their Top-16 Seeds. Let's dig into what we expect to see when CBS gives us that Selection Sunday preview by taking a quick look at why each team is on the line they are & the region they are in.

East: Virginia This is the top team in the S-Curve. A clear #1 seed that gets the regional closest to home. 
Midwest: Tennessee The Vols are a clear #1. They go to the Midwest because they lag slightly behind Duke in overall resume & the computers. 
South: Duke Coach K gets another #1 seed but as the East is already taken, they get sent to the South. Quality of wins & computer numbers moves them to 2 in the S-Curve. 
West: Gonzaga Losses by the Michigan schools make the Zags the fourth 1-seed. Easy choice going out West.

1-Seed Notes: For the moment, this is the easiest line with the placement of Duke & Tennessee the only question. The team most likely to play themselves onto the 1-line seems to be Kentucky if they can move past the Vols in the SEC. Gonzaga is the fourth 1-seed, but they seem unlikely to lose before Selection Sunday & I doubt they drop without a loss.

East: Kentucky Kentucky has a legitimate shot at a #1 seed. For now, they get put in the East as Duke shouldn't face a road environment in Louisville & the Wildcats can't be seeded with Tennessee.
Midwest: Michigan State Sparty was placed last. I didn't want the weakest 2 with the weakest 1, so they go to the Midwest.
South: Michigan The Wolverines go to the South because it's the closest region to Ann Arbor. Despite surges by Kentucky & UNC, they have the best overall 2-seed resume.
West:  North Carolina The Heels can't go to the East or South, so they go out West to balance the bracket as I don't want to put the last 1-seed (Gonzaga) opposite the last 2-seed (MSU).

2-Seed Notes: Kansas has a 2-seed resume but has clearly fallen off without Udoka Azubuike. Marquette, Villanova, Purdue, & Wisconsin could also push up to the 2-line with strong finishes.

East: Marquette I looked at 4 teams for the last 2 spots on this line. Wojo's team led the way over Purdue, Wisconsin, & Louisville in Q1 wins, the best losses, & overall record which keeps them from having to go West.
Midwest: Houston Kelvin Sampson's squad is the top 3-seed, which keeps them close to home. Their 11-1 Q1/2 record stacks up with anyone despite only 3 Q1 wins. Critics point to NCSOS, but it's not the Cougars' fault that games at BYU, Oklahoma State, & against Oregon aren't as impressive now as when they were scheduled. 
South: Kansas The Jayhawks remain the second 3-seed thanks to being tied for the lead or leading the nation in Q1A wins, Q1 wins, & Q1+2 wins. They go to the South because I didn't want to give a 3-seed a veritable home regional. 
West: Purdue Purdue gets the last 3-seed due to having the best SOS, NET, & kenpom rankings of the teams straddling the 3/4 line. They get sent West because it's all that's left.

3-Seed Notes: Wisconsin & Louisville got serious consideration here. I could easily see either of them here in place of Marquette or Purdue.

East: Wisconsin Bucky has some great Q1 wins & computer rankings, but it's not enough to offset their Q2 losses so they go to the 4-line. They go to the East because there are no other Big 10 teams in the region.
Midwest: Louisville The Cards have great top-tier wins, no really bad losses, & solid computer numbers. They can't go to the East or South due to seeding rules. There are 2 ACC teams on this line which puts Louisville in the Midwest since they played West 2-seed UNC twice in the regular season.
South: Iowa It was a really tough call for the last 4-seed. The computers liked Iowa State, but the Hawkeyes had the best win, better Q1/2 record, & won the head-to-head. But the biggest factor was losses; 4/5 losses for Iowa come to teams in the top-16, while ISU has 4/5 losses outside the top-16. Just 5/105 brackets on Bracket Matrix have Iowa on the 4-line, but if the Selection Committee truly values resume, Iowa should be the pick. That gives the Big 10 5 teams, so they go to the South because they only play Michigan once in the regular season. 
West: Virginia Tech Virginia Tech's computer numbers, 8-4 record v Q1/2 teams, & 2 wins over Q1A opponents jump off the page compared to other teams vying for a 4-seed. They go out West with UNC because they only played once in the regular season.

4-Seed Notes: I took a look at everyone in the top-30 of NET for these spots. The teams that were closest to making the cut were Iowa State, Nevada, & Villanova. ISU had a great resume, but just not good enough to overcome Iowa. Nevada's complete lack of Q1 wins is a killer, especially with a 27-point Q3 loss on there. Villanova has surged of late, but has no Q1A wins & 2 Q2 losses. There's just not enough quality in the wins to offset the lack thereof in some of their losses. One last note, aside from the 21-1, #7 NET ranked Houston Cougars, every team in my top-16 has a victory against another team in the top-16. If you wanna be among the best, you have to beat the best. The 16 teams I list above have done that.

This leaves us with the following Top-16 region seedings as follows:

East: 1-Virginia, 2-Kentucky, 3-Marquette, 4-Wisconsin
Midwest: 1-Tennessee, 2-Michigan State, 3-Houston, 4-Louisville
South: 1-Duke, 2-Michigan, 3-Kansas, 4-Iowa
West: 1-Gonzaga, 2-North Carolina, 3-Purdue, 4-Virginia Tech

Here's the complete S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-Virginia, 2-DUKE, 3-TENNESSEE, 4-GONZAGA
2-Seeds: 8-Michigan State, 7-Kentucky, 6-North Carolina, 5-MICHIGAN
3-Seeds: 9-Kansas, 10-HOUSTON, 11-Marquette, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-Iowa, 15-Virginia Tech, 14-Louisville, 13-Wisconsin
5-Seeds: 17-Iowa State, 18-Lsu, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Texas Tech
6-Seeds: 24-Florida State, 23-NEVADA, 22-Maryland, 21-KANSAS STATE
7-Seeds: 25-BUFFALO, 26-Auburn, 27-Cincinnati, 28-Ohio State
8-Seeds: 32-Minnesota, 31-Oklahoma, 30-Texas, 29-Mississippi State
9-Seeds: 33-Baylor, 34-St. John's, 35-WASHINGTON, 36-Indiana 
10-Seeds: 40-Temple, 39-Syracuse, 38-Tcu, 37-Mississippi 
11-Seeds: 41-Alabama, 42-NC State, 43-LIPSCOMB, 44-WOFFORD
12-Seeds: 50-DAVIDSON, 49-BELMONT, 48-Seton Hall/47-Utah State, 46-Creighton/45-Arizona State

Last Four Byes: Syracuse, Temple, Alabama, NC State
Last Four In: Arizona State, Creighton, Utah State, Seton Hall
First Four Out: Nebraska, Georgetown, Butler, VCU
Next Four Out: Florida, Arizona, Arkansas, UCF

Monday, February 04, 2019

Big East Bubble Trouble

This past weekend was chaos for the Big East bubble teams. Marquette & Villanova remain in safe positions. At the other end, DePaul & Xavier are auto-bid or bust. In the middle are 6 teams straddling the bubble. Let's look at the bubble resumes of teams competing for the last few bids, then follow up with some thoughts.

NET TEAM Record Q1 W/L Q2 W/L Q3 W/L Q4 W/L Kenpom SOS NCSOS
43 St. John's 16-6 2-4 5-0 1-2 8-0 48 83 262
54 Butler 13-10 1-6 5-3 4-1 3-0 56 21 40
61 Creighton 13-9 1-7 4-2 4-0 3-0 49 5 17
66 Seton Hall 13-9 2-6 5-1 3-2 3-0 65 23 43
72 Providence 13-9 1-4 3-3 3-1 6-1 86 77 181
82 Georgetown 14-8 2-3 4-3 1-2 7-0 87 105 251

St. John's
The Good: A 7-5 record vs Q1/2 teams & a win over Marquette. 5 of their last 9 are at home & they're favored in 3/4 road games on Pomeroy.
The Bad: The 12-1 NC record was built on a pile of lies. Terrible NCSOS with the only likely tourney opponent a Duke team that beat them by 30. That home loss to DePaul is ugly.
Bottom Line: T-Rank has St. John's at 0.8 wins above bubble. Any other year, this team would need an 11-7 league record, but this year going 6-3 the rest of the way for a league record of 10-8 may be enough. Anything less & they'll be caught between Dayton & the NIT.

The Good: Wins over Florida & Mississippi aged relatively well & they don't have any truly terrible losses.
The Bad: Florida returned the favor in brutal fashion at the O-Dome. 5 of their remaining 8 are on the road. If Butler wants to dance, it'll be Hotel Magic instead of Hinkle Magic that they need.
Bottom Line: T-Rank has Butler -2.5 Wins Above Bubble, which means they have a lot of work to do. Frankly, they need to get a win either at Marquette or Villanova. You have to show the committee you can beat someone. Get one of those, finish 6-2 for a 10-8 league record, & they get in. If they go 6-2 but lose both those games, they'll need to make noise in the BET.

The Good: No bad losses & have a great SOS which means any respectable record should look favorable to the Selection Committee.
The Bad: They Jays don't really have any good wins either. Missed opportunities against Ohio State & Gonzaga really stand out. Oh...and their defense
Bottom Line: T-Rank has Creighton at -1.1 Wins Above Bubble. They really look like Marquette 2017-18 reincarnated. 10-8 would probably be enough with that SOS, which means a 6-3 finish. Like Butler, they could really use a win at Marquette or Villanova.

Seton Hall
The Good: The Kentucky & Maryland wins are both Q1A, & the 7-6 record vs Q1/2 teams is respectable.
The Bad: They lost to DePaul. Twice.
Bottom Line: Seton Hall is sitting at -0.6 Wins Above Bubble on T-Rank. Those two marquee wins mean that 9-9 in league will get the Pirates in, though that still requires a 5-3 finish for a team only favored 3 times. That's a tough road for a team that ends the season hosting Marquette & Villanova.

The Good: The Texas & (maybe) South Carolina wins are aging decent. 5/9 remaining games are at home.
The Bad: Losses in both Q3 & Q4 as well as a loss to DePaul. The Friars are only favored by Pomeroy in 3/9 remaining games.
Bottom Line: The Friars are -2.2 on T-Rank's Wins Above Bubble & would be our first NIT 3-Seed. PC's bad losses & lack of quality win depth gives them little leeway. They might get to the bubble at 10-8 but really need to be 11-7 to have any confidence, which means an 8-1 finish. They are a couple bad nights from Xavier/DePaul territory.

The Good: Just being mentioned here. Road wins at St. John's & Butler headline a 6-6 record in Q1/2 games.
The Bad: Losses to Loyola-Marymount & SMU stand out, as does the SOS.
Bottom Line: The Hoyas are -1.7 on Wins Above Bubble. T-Rank's Teamcast says they need to go 7-2 to get to the bubble, but I think 6-3 is enough provided they beat either Villanova or Marquette once. That would give them a 10-8 league record & show they can beat a legit locked in team. If they lose both of those, they better win every other game.

Right now, I have St. John's, Seton Hall, & Butler in the field, though come Selection Sunday Creighton looks more likely than Butler to join the first two. The Johnnies & Jays have the most favorable schedules, while Seton Hall has the big wins the Committee likes to see. While the Big East will likely only have 4-5 teams in the NCAA Tournament, I expect them to go to 8 deep when you add in the NIT bids. Not bad for a down year.

The toughest part of the whole thing is that these teams are going to beat up on each other repeatedly from here on out, and every win for one is a loss for another. There are 6 teams that can only take 1-3 more losses. It's entirely possible that only 1 team gets to their threshold number, especially if DePaul keeps playing spoiler. A 3-bid league is possible, though with teams from the Big 10, Pac-12, & SEC nearly in freefall, it's important to remember they do have to take 68 teams & there's only so many Belmont/VCU/Utah State types that can snag bids from the big boys.

Here's the updated S-Curve:

2-Seeds: 8-Kentucky, 7-Michigan State, 6-North Carolina, 5-MICHIGAN
3-Seeds: 9-Marquette, 10-Kansas, 11-HOUSTON, 12-Virginia Tech
4-Seeds: 16-Louisville, 15-Iowa, 14-Wisconsin, 13-Purdue
5-Seeds: 17-Lsu, 18-Texas Tech, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Iowa State
6-Seeds: 24-BUFFALO, 23-KANSAS STATE, 22-NEVADA, 21-Maryland
7-Seeds: 25-Mississippi State, 26-Florida State, 27-Auburn, 28-Cincinnati
8-Seeds: 32-Baylor, 31-Minnesota, 30-Ohio State, 29-Oklahoma
9-Seeds: 33-Syracuse, 34-Indiana, 35-Tcu, 36-Nebraska
10-Seeds: 40-WASHINGTON, 39-Texas, 38-Mississippi, 37-NC State
11-Seeds: 41-Arizona State, 42-St. John's, 43-LIPSCOMB, 44-WOFFORD
12-Seeds: 50-HOFSTRA, 49-DAVIDSON, 48-Butler/47-Temple, 46-Seton Hall/45-Alabama

Last Four Byes: Mississippi, Texas, Arizona State, St. John's
Last Four In: Alabama, Seton Hall, Temple, Butler
NIT 1-Seeds: Creighton, Florida, Arizona, Belmont
NIT 2-Seeds: VCU, Georgetown, Utah State, UCF

Friday, February 01, 2019

Marquette's Path to a 2-Seed

I spent some time looking at odds of advancing in the NCAA Tournament by seed from March 2018, as Marquette is very close to playing for nothing but seeding. Even going 1-8 from here on out would put them at 20-12 (9-9) with 10+ Q1/2 wins & at most 1 Q3/4 loss. That's in.

On Bracket Matrix, Marquette is projected on the 3-line, where I also have them below. Being a 2-seed significantly improves a team's odds of March success. In the first round, 2-seeds were 124-8 and 3-seeds were 111-21. 62.9% of 2-seeds get to the Sweet 16, while for 3-seeds it's basically a coin flip at 50.8%. The goal for Marquette should be a 2-seed because it significantly improves their chances of making a run in March.

At this point, I feel there are 6 teams penciled on the first two lines. Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan, Duke, Michigan State, & Gonzaga seem certain to be up there. That leaves I believe 10 teams fighting for those two spots. However, those spots will not go to teams from the same league. Of the 10 teams in the mix, I will assume two will overachieve by 2 wins on Pomeroy to get to a 2-seed. The table below looks at current NET ranking, the Pomeroy regular season projection with two wins added, & records by Quadrant assuming teams get those wins in the easiest quadrants.

Team NET Rank Kenpom Projection +2 Wins Q1 Record Q2 Record Q3/4 Losses
Kentucky 7 26-5 10-2 7-1 0
Houston 8 30-1 5-1 10-0 0
North Carolina 9 25-6 9-6 9-0 0
Purdue 11 24-7 10-6 6-1 0
Louisville 12 23-8 8-8 6-0 0
Iowa State 14 25-6 9-4 5-2 0
Texas Tech 15 25-6 8-5 9-0 0
Marquette 18 27-4 8-4 9-0 0
Kansas 20 24-7 11-6 8-1 0
Villanova 21 26-5 7-3 12-1 1

First of all, these projections all look at teams overachieving. Of the 10 teams listed, it's safe to say a couple will overachieve significantly (2+ wins), a couple will underachieve significantly (4 fewer wins than above), & the rest will be within 1 win of projection (-1 to -3 wins). So statistically, I looked at the scenario that made Marquette the clear favorite in the event that everyone overachieved. To be assured a 2-seed, Marquette likely needs to go 8-1 the rest of the way, though 7-2 will have them solidly in the discussion.

They definitely need to win their lower quadrant games, vs Georgetown, St. John's, Butler, Creighton, and at DePaul. That insures they would be no worse than tied for the best Q2 Record & Q3/4 Loss totals. That leaves their 4 Quadrant 1 games. They play at Seton Hall, at Providence, & both Villanova games. Go 3-1 or even 2-2 in those games & Marquette will likely have the record to be on the 2-line. Some teams will have more Q1 wins, but few will have a better Q1 winning percentage & only Houston would have both a better Q1 winning percentage with no Q2 or worse losses.

There has been some worry about Marquette's losses looking worse of late. While that's true, Kansas is still top-20 in the NET (top-50 neutral are Q1) & St. John's & Indiana are both top-50 (top-75 road are Q1). It seems unlikely any of them will fall out of the top Quadrant.

Bottom line for Marquette, 7-2 will get them strongly into the mix for a 2-seed, 8-1 will all but guarantee it. Pomeroy projects them to go 6-3 from here on out, so they will need to overachieve a bit, but that's nothing new for a team that's been overachieving all season.

Here's the updated S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-VIRGINIA, 2-TENNESSEE, 3-Michigan, 4-Duke
2-Seeds: 8-Kentucky, 7-North Carolina, 6-GONZAGA, 5-MICHIGAN STATE
3-Seeds: 9-Marquette, 10-HOUSTON, 11-Kansas, 12-Louisville
4-Seeds: 16-Wisconsin, 15-Lsu, 14-Texas Tech, 13-Virginia Tech
5-Seeds: 17-Maryland, 18-Iowa, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Purdue
6-Seeds: 24-Oklahoma, 23-Iowa State, 22-NEVADA, 21-BUFFALO
7-Seeds: 25-KANSAS STATE, 26-Florida State, 27-Nebraska, 28-Mississippi State
8-Seeds: 32-NC State, 31-Texas, 30-Minnesota, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-Auburn, 34-Cincinnati, 35-Tcu, 36-Ohio State
10-Seeds: 40-St. John's, 39-Seton Hall, 38-Syracuse, 37-Baylor
11-Seeds: 41-Alabama, 42-WASHINGTON, 43-LIPSCOMB, 44-WOFFORD
12-Seeds: 50-RADFORD, 49-HOFSTRA, 48-Florida/47-Indiana, 46-Temple/45-Arizona State

Last Four Byes: Syracuse, Seton Hall, St. John's, Alabama

Last Four In: Arizona State, Temple, Indiana, Florida
NIT 1-Seeds: Utah State, UCF, Arizona, Butler
NIT 2-Seeds: Creighton, UNC Greensboro, VCU, Belmont