"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

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Selection Sunday

We are just hours from Selection Sunday & it seems Marquette is sandwiched squarely between the 5 & 6 lines depending on the source. With that in mind, I thought I'd take a look the teams on the 12 line that could show up in the bracket later tonight & the quick reaction I'll have if they are the matchup. I also included a couple of 11-seeds, just in case we fall.

New Mexico State (12-Seed) No one Aggie player will strike fear into anyone, but they are incredibly deep & their entire roster plays. Terrell Brown is the only player with a double-digit scoring average 5 others score 7+ ppg & 13 players that average 10+ mpg. Further, all of them have played in 24+ games, so it's not an anomaly. The number that really stands out is the are the best team in the country at limiting assists. Defensively, they lack size & a rim protector, but play great team defense & close down passing lanes. It will likely be great individual performances that beat them. Coach Chris Jans said "we do a decent job taking away the first & second options, but then it becomes an isolation system & we are not very big out front. When teams go one-on-one against us, they are bigger & sometimes can just shoot over us & that's frustrating." This Aggies team really gets after rebounds on both ends, but with Marquette having multiple tall shooters & an individual talent like Markus Howard, this looks like a promising matchup.

St. Mary's (12-Seed) The Gaels are basically the "first round upset" prototype. They play at a grinding pace & shoot 37.8% from three. They are also elite at chasing opponents off the three-point line, limiting opponents to 31.4% three point attempts out of total field goal attempts. That's more than 10% points lower than Marquette's average. They played Mississippi State & LSU very close (single possession games with less than a minute in both games) & are a metrics darling, which means they will almost certainly be better than their seed. Expect this team to slow the pace, make threes at the end of the shot clock, & limit opponent opportunities in the half-court.

Murray State (12-Seed) Am I the only one thinking of 2012? Possible first weekend meeting with Murray State? Check. Low-major with a gaudy record? Check. Future NBA star leading the way? Check. The difference is that this Murray State team isn't as good as the 2012 team. They don't shoot it as well & don't defend remotely as well. If you don't know the name, get familiar with Ja Morant. He's projected as a top-5 NBA pick & leads the nation in assists & assist rate. The Racers are an up-tempo team that runs everything through Morant. They rely on attacking the interior, but haven't faced an interior defense like Marquette's all year long. The key to beating Murray State is to attack them inside. In their 4 losses, they allowed opponents to shoot 62.8% inside the arc.

Liberty (12-Seed) Teams that slow the pace & shoot the three can be dangerous in March, and that matches Liberty to a tee. That said, they have an undersized backcourt & marginal defense, while allowing opponents to score a high quantity from beyond the arc. Their trend against high majors this year was to play close & fade in the last 10 minutes. The key to beating Liberty is shooting the three. They allowed opponents to shoot 47.2% from beyond the arc in losses. Turn it into a three-point shooting contest & watch Liberty flame out.

Ohio State (11-Seed) The Buckeyes got everyone's attention when they went on the road to beat Cincinnati & Creighton just 8 days apart in November. Since they, the only wins they have over projected tournament teams are Minnesota & Iowa at home & have gone 7-13 since the start of the New Year. Chris Holtmann is a heck of a coach, but this looks like a team that overachieved just to get this far. Typically, his teams limit turnovers & clean up on the glass, but this team doesn't really excel at either of those things.

Belmont (11-Seed) The Bruins are one of the best shooting teams in the country (#3 eFG%) & are led by a likely NBA player in Dylan Windler. They barely play a lick of defense, but Rick Byrd is a brilliant offensive mind who has been at Belmont for over 30 years & is creeping up on 700 career wins. They excel at changing the point of attack to create open looks & running backdoor cuts & out of bounds plays that create easy scoring opportunities at the rim. I know Byrd hasn't made it out of the opening round yet as a coach, but this team has shock Sweet 16 written all over them.

1-Seeds: 1-DUKE, 2-Virginia, 3-TENNESSEE, 4-Gonzaga
2-Seeds: 8-MICHIGAN STATE, 7-HOUSTON, 6-North Carolina, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Michigan, 10-Texas Tech, 11-Lsu, 12-Florida State
4-Seeds: 16-Kansas State, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Purdue, 13-Kansas
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Marquette, 19-Mississippi State, 20-VILLANOVA
6-Seeds: 24-IOWA STATE, 23-BUFFALO, 22-WOFFORD, 21-Maryland
7-Seeds: 25-Auburn, 26-Cincinnati, 27-Nevada, 28-Louisville
8-Seeds: 32-UTAH STATE, 31-Iowa, 30-Ucf, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-Syracuse, 34-Baylor, 35-Seton Hall, 36-Minnesota
10-Seeds: 40-Tcu, 39-Vcu, 38-Washington, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Ohio State, 42-Belmont/43-Unc Greensboro, 44-Temple/45-Furman, 46-OREGON


Last Four Byes: Washington, VCU, TCU, Ohio State
Last Four In: Belmont, UNC Greensboro, Temple, Furman
First Four Out: Lipscomb, Florida, Arizona State, Indiana
Next Four Out: Creighton, St. John's, Alabama, NC State

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