"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, March 02, 2021

Big East Rooting Guide

Of the major leagues, perhaps none needs NCAA credits this year than the Big East. Last year, the Big East was in line for 7 bids, with three teams on the top three seed lines, meaning they would have been favored to reach the second weekend of play. Obviously all the money the league would've received went away with no tournament. The bigger problem is that most Big East schools are not state schools, which means they rely more heavily on that money than teams in the Big 10, Big 12, and other leagues that feature primarily state schools. It also means the Big East really needs every credit they can get this year. Which brings us to the bubble, where the Big East currently has 5 teams in, but 3 of them are still on the bubble. So what needs to happen to make sure Xavier, Connecticut, and Seton Hall all get in for the good of the entire league? Let's take a look:
 
Tuesday, March 2
Marquette at DePaul: The best thing for the league would be a big Marquette win. From a NET perspective, Marquette getting into the top-75 would insure they are a Q1 win on the road and Q2 win at home. Since just about everyone beat Marquette in Milwaukee and most that took losses did so at home, having MU in the top-75 would help the league.
 
Xavier at Georgetown: The Musketeers still haven't secured a bid. The win over Creighton really helped, but they can't afford to add bad losses, so cheer for them to beat Georgetown, who has no at-large hopes.
 
Wednesday, March 3
Connecticut at Seton Hall: The Hall is right on the cut line. I have a feeling UConn's 8-2 record with James Bouknight might give them a little more leeway, whereas Seton Hall really can't afford to lose before the Big East Tournament.
 
Providence at St. John's: A close game would probably be best for everyone involved. Neither team is in the at-large mix. Providence is #79 in the NET, St. John's is #73, so ideally for the league we want both to finish top-75 to get all their league games into Quadrant 2. 
 
Creighton at Villanova: Both teams are locked into the field. The best thing for the league is to get as high of seeding as possible. Villanova could still get to a 2-seed, and losing this wouldn't really hurt Creighton. Cheer for the Wildcats.
 
Saturday, March 6
Xavier at Marquette: While I don't urge any Marquette fans to cheer against their team (I won't), this is another game the Musketeers and Big East need to cement a bid. The best thing for the league is a Xavier win, though personally I want to see Theo, Jamal, and Koby go out with a win on Senior Night.
 
Georgetown at Connecticut: If UConn goes 1-1 this week, I think they're in. Beat the Hoyas, secure a bid, it's that simple.
 
Villanova at Providence: We should all want 'Nova to win because Providence has no real at-large hopes, but this being a 1-2 point game would be best so Providence moves up in the NET so Villanova gets not just the win, but also allows the win to move to Q1.

Butler at Creighton: A healthy victory would be best for Creighton. Butler is unlikely to move up or down in the Quadrants, so Creighton winning big and boosting their own computer profiles would be best.

Seton Hall at St. John's: Ideally, a 1-point Seton Hall win would be best. Get the needed win for the Pirates while hopefully keeping St. John's in the NET top-75.

Let's get on with the S-Curve:
 

Last Four Byes: Louisville, Connecticut, Boise State, VCU

Last Four In: Colorado State, Seton Hall, Georgia Tech, Drake

First Four Out: Stanford, Michigan State, Mississippi, Memphis, Utah State

Next Four Out: Duke, St. Louis, SMU, Minnesota 

Multi-bid Leagues

Big 10: 8

Big 12: 7

ACC: 7

SEC: 6

Big East: 5

Pac-12: 4

Mountain West: 3

American: 2

Atlantic-10: 2

MVC: 2

WCC: 2


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Some MU content and story time by Joe

Welcome back to Scrambled Eggs, it's been a bit. Joe has survived a devastating winter storm that kept us from podding and a random drunk(and other things) person camping out on his porch, so we start with story time by Joe. We finally turn to Marquette basketball which compressed it's usual peaks and valleys into one week. We celebrate the win against UNC and gloss over the typical bad loss to UConn. We talk roster make up, recruiting over current roster spots for next year, and needs and wants. It's Scrambled Eggs after dark so a little meandering, but we hope you enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/u69ff4/scrambledeggs_edit_022721.mp3

Thursday, February 25, 2021

...Versus the Field?

A regular discussion in college basketball circles this year is whether people would take Gonzaga and Baylor or the Field if they had to pick a National Champion. The logic behind it is that Gonzaga and Baylor are so much better than the other 339 teams still playing this season that it is more likely one of those teams will win than the rest of the teams still competing for the title.

Would you take Jalen Suggs & Gonzaga vs the Field?

Photo by Douglas DeFelice | Getty Images

Anyone that watched Baylor last night (thanks to Big 12 Network, not a lot of people) may be questioning the wisdom of such a wager as they slipped by Big 12 bottom feeder Iowa State by a 77-72 margin, but I decided to look into the numbers behind the champions. The following table shows all of the National Champs of the kenpom era, including their Adjusted Offensive Efficiency Rank, their Adjusted Defensive Efficiency Rank, the Adjusted Efficiency Margin Score and Rank, their Seed, and their Adjusted Efficiency Margin compared to Pomeroy's #1 Ranked Adjusted Efficiency Margin team that year.

In layman's terms, how good their offense is, how good their defense is, their overall ranking compared to other teams that season, their seed, and the disparity between them and the respective number one that year, which effectively tells us how far away from the #1 team a bracket picker can realistically go to find a potential National Champion. Also bear in mind this data is all pre-tournament data. We aren't looking at how teams ranked after they won six games, we are looking at where they were before they went on that run. First, here's the data from the past 18 National Champions:

Year Team AdjOE Rank AdjDE Rank AdjEM AdjEM Rank Seed AdjEM vs #1
2002 Maryland 4 12 26.8534 4 1 -7.1686
2003 Syracuse 18 31 19.9564 20 3 -9.8108
2004 Connecticut 11 10 25.8489 5 2 -5.879
2005 North Carolina 3 6 32.0028 2 1 -1.3079
2006 Florida 13 18 23.9172 6 3 -4.6484
2007 Florida 2 14 28.8619 3 1 -2.8752
2008 Kansas 1 3 33.9647 1 1 0
2009 North Carolina 1 37 28.5574 3 1 -0.9203
2010 Duke 4 5 31.5489 2 1 -0.9632
2011 Connecticut 21 27 21.703 15 3 -10.529
2012 Kentucky 2 6 31.7277 1 1 0
2013 Louisville 17 1 31.1411 2 1 -0.842
2014 Connecticut 57 12 19.1162 25 7 -11.4515
2015 Duke 3 37 29.3074 6 1 -8.1259
2016 Villanova 15 7 26.7471 5 2 -3.0569
2017 North Carolina 4 25 28.0091 3 1 -5.0447
2018 Villanova 1 22 31.4091 2 1 -0.7436
2019 Virginia 2 5 35.6552 1 1 0

Average 9.94 15.44 28.13 5.89 1.78 -4.08

A few pieces of data jump out. Here are the big takeaways:

  1. Top-21 Offense: 94% of the champs were in the top-21 in offense, with only 2014 UConn as the outlier (get used to that). Which means we will be looking for a champion in the 94th percentile of defensive teams or better.
  2. Top-37 Defense: 100% of the champs were in the top-37 in defense. While the average defensive rank isn't as good as the average offensive rank, there are no outliers here. That means our 2021 National Champ should be in the 89th percentile of defensive teams or better.
  3. Top-6 Adjusted EM Rank: These numbers vary greatly by year because teams at the top and the grouping at the top is disparate, but 83% of the champs finished the regular season ranked in the Top-6 of kenpom. That's the 98th percentile of teams or better. The outliers were all still top-25, with 2003 Syracuse, 2011 UConn, and 2014 UConn breaking the mold.
  4. Top-3 Seed: 94% of the teams had a top-3 seed, with 2014 UConn again the outlier. Worth noting that 68% of the winners were 1-seeds, so you are in much better position picking that seed than all the others combined by more than 2-to-1 odds.
  5. Adjusted EM vs #1: 7 Champs were either the #1 team themselves or within 1 point of the top team, but that's just 36.8%, so not definitive. If we go to 5.02 (a number whose significance will be clear later) it rises to 57.9% of the Champs. If we go to 8.36 that's 78.9% of Champs, and to get to 100% we have to go to 11.45. 

So what does all this mean about who is a legitimate threat to win the National Championship? Let's take a look at the top-8 teams in kenpom currently. Before we exhaust that list, we will already be reaching teams that would be bigger statistical outliers than 2014 Connecticut:

Team AdjOE Rank AdjDE Rank AdjEM AdjEM Rank Seed AdjEM vs #1
Gonzaga 2 4 38.16 1 1 0.00
Baylor 4 9 33.13 2 1 -5.03
Michigan 6 12 30.73 3 1 -7.43
Iowa 1 75 29.79 4 2 -8.37
Houston 13 6 27.54 5 3 -10.62
Illinois 9 15 27.46 6 2 -10.70
Ohio State 3 86 27.29 7 1 -10.87
Villanova 5 64 25.00 8 2 -13.16

The bolded red scores indicate if these teams won a national title, they would be an unprecedented statistical outlier. Which means if you're looking at Iowa, Ohio State, or Villanova, the defense is simply too bad to expect a 6-game run and no team has ever won a title with a defense that bad. For Villanova, their Adjusted Efficiency Margin vs #1 Gonzaga is a bigger statistical outlier than 2014 UConn, which is a double-whammy. While people might point to teams like Houston and Illinois as viable picks, I would point to that Adjusted Efficiency Margin vs #1. While they would not be the biggest statistical outliers in the history of kenpom (2014 UConn strikes again) they would be more improbable than any team other than that one.

Ultimately, while it's not quite "Gonzaga and Baylor vs the Field" I do think it's safe to say "Gonzaga, Baylor, and Michigan vs the Field" is a safe bet where the smart money would be on one of those three teams over the other 338 options out there. They meet every criteria and while the Wolverines would be the fifth most improbable team based on that "vs #1" criteria, that's not nearly the crazy outlier that teams in the double digit disparities are.

Gonzaga really does deserve an extra mention. As noted above, the target number of -5.02 has produced 57.9% of the National Champions. So in terms of team success compared to the best team in the country, Gonzaga has better than 50/50 odds of winning the title. It's easy for casual fans to dismiss the WCC team, but their 7-0 Quadrant 1 record indicates they can play with anyone. Only Ohio State (8 Q1 wins) has more victories in that quadrant but the Buckeyes balance that with 4 Q1 losses. Gonzaga's SOS of 83 has been dragged down by the WCC, but it's still tougher than schedules faced by Baylor (203), Iowa (93), and Villanova (91), all teams on the top two seed lines that are never criticized for not scheduling tough enough.

That said, while Gonzaga's current 5.03 Adjusted Efficiency Margin lead on Baylor would break the record of #1 vs #2 by a wide margin, indicating Gonzaga is better against the field than any other team in the kenpom era, there is still risk. There have only been 4 teams to ever had an Adjusted EM margin of greater than 3 over the field. 2002 Duke (3.1778) lost in the Sweet 16, 2004 Duke (3.9222, the record) lost in the Final Four, 2008 Kansas (3.3894) won the title, and 2015 Kentucky (3.9082) lost in the Final Four. And that's why we love the NCAA Tournament, because even when you have prohibitive favorites, we are often surprised by the results.

A few notes on some of the teams not here. Pomeroy #9 Loyola-Chicago would have the worst offensive rank (#52) of any team to win the title. #10 Alabama would have the second worst offensive rank (#29) which feels crazy considering how much credit Nate Oats' offense has received. Could there be a team ranked #15 or lower? Anything is possible, but #15 Creighton has a -15.04 AdjEM disparity to Gonzaga while #25 Texas Tech has a -17.78 disparity, so seeing a team come from as far back in the kenpom rankings as those three outlier schools would be an insane level of statistical difference to overcome.

These numbers will fluctuate until Selection Sunday and this may be a topic we revisit (or an article worth reconsidering) once we have a bracket and it's time to make picks. But at this point, if you are picking a National Champion, you should really be looking at the top three teams as your only real options, and there's a pretty strong argument that any choice other than Gonzaga would be a somewhat improbable pick.

Here's the latest S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-GONZAGA 2-BAYLOR 3-MICHIGAN 4-Ohio State

2-Seeds: 8-VILLANOVA 7-ALABAMA 6-West Virginia 5-Illinois

3-Seeds: 9-Iowa 10-Houston 11-FLORIDA STATE 12-Oklahoma

4-Seeds: 16-Arkansas 15-Kansas 14-Texas 13-USC

5-Seeds: 17-Virginia 18-Texas Tech 19-Wisconsin 20-Purdue

6-Seeds: 24-Byu 23-Clemson 22-Creighton 21-Tennessee

7-Seeds: 25-Oklahoma State 26-Virginia Tech 27-Florida 28-Lsu

8-Seeds: 32-Rutgers 31-Missouri 30-LOYOLA CHICAGO 29-Colorado

9-Seeds: 33-Ucla 34-BOISE STATE 35-San Diego State 36-Maryland

10-Seeds: 40-Drake 39-Xavier 38-Minnesota 37-North Carolina

11-Seeds: 41-Louisville 42-Oregon 43-St. Bonaventure 44-Seton Hall 45-Colorado State 46-Stanford

12-Seeds: 50-WICHITA STATE 49-BELMONT 48-TOLEDO 47-VCU

13-Seeds: 51-WRIGHT STATE 52-COLGATE 53-WINTHROP 54-FURMAN

14-Seeds: 58-ABILENE CHRISTIAN 57-LIBERTY 56-NORTH TEXAS 55-UC SANTA BARBARA

15-Seeds: 59-VERMONT 60-EASTERN WASHINGTON 61-SIENA 62-GRAND CANYON

16-Seeds: 68-NORTH CAROLINA A&T 67-WAGNER 66-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M 65-SOUTH DAKOTA 64-JAMES MADISON 63-TEXAS STATE


Last Four Byes: Xavier, Drake, Louisville, Oregon

Last Four In: St. Bonaventure, Seton Hall, Colorado State, Stanford

First Four Out: Connecticut, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Richmond

Next Four Out: Duke, Michigan State, Utah State, Memphis


Multi-bid Leagues

Big 10: 9

Big 12: 7

ACC: 6

SEC: 6

Pac-12: 5

Big East: 4

Mountain West: 3

AAC: 2

A-10: 2

MVC: 2

WCC: 2

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Marquette at North Carolina

R.J. Davis & UNC get a visit from the Golden Eagles Wednesday

Photo by the Associated Press
 

A month ago, we suggested resume building options a savvy University scheduling department could use breaks in the schedule to bulk up their resume ahead of Selection Sunday. While they didn't follow that exact course, Cracked Sidewalks has learned that Marquette will be traveling to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina on Wednesday, February 24th. Looking at television windows, this game will likely be on ESPN2 at 6:00 pm CST, though neither university has released those specifics yet.

This seems to be a last attempt by Marquette to get into the at-large conversation. UNC sits at #53 in the NET and would be a Quadrant 1 opportunity. If Marquette were able to get this win and improbably win out, a 14-12 record with 5 Quadrant 1 wins would at least get them into the discussion, especially if they added a win or two in the Big East Tournament. While it's unlikely with a current record at 10-12, a game like this is their best hope to get some attention from the Selection Committee.

The two programs last met in the 2011 Sweet 16, with the Tar Heels claiming the 81-63 win. Marquette is 1-4 in the series, but that one win was in the 1977 National Championship game. Expect a lot of video clips and mentions of that game on Wednesday.

From a game perspective, the Tar Heels have an imposing front line of Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot, and Day'ron Sharpe. It will be interesting to see if Justin Lewis is ready for this game as Marquette could use the bodies up front. The back court is where Marquette has the edge, with UNC running out a freshmen quartet of Caleb Love, Kerwin Walton, Anthony Harris, and former Marquette recruiting target R.J. Davis. That's a pretty low efficiency group that is almost as turnover prone as the Golden Eagles. Walton is a sharpshooter who does most of his damage from three, but as a group Marquette seems to have the stronger guards.

Unlike Roy Williams' better teams, this is a low efficiency UNC team on offense. Their primary success comes from their offensive rebounding (#2 in the country). They will want to turn up the tempo, which will be a clash with this slower-paced Marquette squad. Where the game will likely be decided is in turnovers and at the arc. Both teams are turnover prone, so expect a couple D.J. Carton runouts, but if Marquette lets the ball slip, UNC could punish them with pace. That said, if Marquette can turn it into a shooting contest, the Tar Heels are poor at both shooting the ball and limiting opponents three point attempts. Marquette has only shot 32.5% from beyond the arc in conference play. If they can get back to the 35.1% they were shooting in the non-con (or a bit better) they might be able to pull off the upset.

North Carolina is coming off a crushing 99-54 win over Louisville in a game where the Tar Heels grabbed nearly half (47.1%) of the available offensive rebounds while holding Louisville to a miserable 6.2% shooting from three. Marquette will need to hold their own on the boards and do more damage from the arc if they want a chance to pull the upset.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Big East NCAA Win Targets

We're less than a month from Selection Sunday and the Big East seems to be looking at anywhere from 3-6 bids, depending on how things shake out. Looking at the latest Bubble Watch at The Athletic, they list two teams in the "Should Be In" category and four more in the "Work to Do" category. Let's take a look at those teams and see what they need to do to punch those tickets.

Villanova Wildcats, 13-3 (8-2)

'Nova is in good position, but if they completely collapsed and finished 13-8 (8-7) with two Quadrant 1 wins, they could be in trouble. Non-con wins over Arizona State and Texas didn't age as well as they hoped and the general weakness of the Big East hasn't helped. To guarantee inclusion I think they need two more wins, mostly because they just don't have the volume of games on their schedule. Lock Status: 2 wins away

Despite being 2nd in the league, Marcus Zegarowski & Creighton are closest to lock status

Photo from Omaha World Herald
 

Creighton Blue Jays, 16-5 (12-4)

For lock status, Creighton likely only needs one more win. 17-8 (13-7) would likely do it because of their excellent Quadrant 1+2 record. Creighton does have an ugly 2-4 Q3 record, but the Selection Committee looks more at good wins than bad losses, so they are closer to lock status than 'Nova despite being lower on the S-Curve. Lock Status: 1 win away

Seton Hall Pirates, 13-8 (10-5)

Losing four of five had the Pirates on the ropes, but all four losses were to Villanova and Creighton and they've won four straight since, including valuable wins at Providence and UConn. Seton Hall only has one bad loss (Q3 at home to Providence) balanced against 6 Q1+2 wins. If they can win their next two at Georgetown and Butler, they would guarantee no more bad losses and enough quality to get in. 15-10 (12-7) isn't getting left out. Lock Status: 2 wins away

Xavier Musketeers, 11-4 (4-4)

That Oklahoma win has aged marvelously, but it's their only Q1 win and losing two straight since returning from a COVID pause isn't good. On the plus side, they don't have any losses outside Q1+2. The problem for Xavier is they only have one more Q1 game, Creighton at home. While 3 wins would probably suffice, to lock Xavier in I think they need 4, which either guarantees they don't pick up any bad losses or they get the Creighton win to offset any bad loss they might incur. Lock Status: 4 wins away

Connecticut Huskies, 10-5 (7-5)

It's worth noting this team is 6-1 with James Bouknight in the lineup and just 4-4 without him. Because of that, the Selection Committee may give them some leeway. Normally, I would point to the strength of their resume actually being no bad losses since they don't have many Q1+2 wins, but I think the Bouknight factor will work in their favor putting them closer to the field than Xavier despite being behind them on the S-Curve. Lock Status: 3 wins away

St. John's Red Storm, 14-8 (8-7)

Losses to BYU, Georgetown, and Marquette didn't seem that big a deal at the time, but after winning 7 of 8, it's those games on the margin keeping the Johnnies out of the field. The resume isn't terrible, but there just isn't enough good to offset the two Q3 losses. Considering the only remaining Q1 game on the schedule is at Villanova and any other losses would hurt their resume, they probably need to win out, though if they added a Q2/3 non-con win during their week off between Villanova and Providence to bolster the resume, they could afford to take a loss. Lock Status: 4 wins away

Other Big East Teams

Providence and Marquette need more wins than are left on their schedules. If either added a quality non-con game, won out, and won 1-2 Big East Tournament games they might be able to get in the mix, but it's a long shot. Butler, Georgetown, and DePaul can only get in by winning the Big East Tournament. There's no path to an at-large berth, even if they won all the way to the BET final and lost.

On the S-Curve, Wichita's upset of Houston tipped the American auto-bid to the Shockers, which knocked St. Louis out of the field and St. John's out of "Next Four Out" status. Here's the full S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-GONZAGA 2-BAYLOR 3-MICHIGAN 4-Ohio State

2-Seeds: 8-VILLANOVA 7-West Virginia 6-ALABAMA 5-Illinois

3-Seeds: 9-VIRGINIA 10-Iowa 11-Houston 12-Oklahoma

4-Seeds: 16-USC 15-Texas Tech 14-Texas 13-Tennessee

5-Seeds: 17-Florida State 18-Wisconsin 19-Kansas 20-Virginia Tech

6-Seeds: 24-Clemson 23-Purdue 22-Creighton 21-Arkansas

7-Seeds: 25-Rutgers 26-Missouri 27-Byu 28-Florida

8-Seeds: 32-Lsu 31-Loyola Chicago 30-Colorado 29-Oklahoma State

9-Seeds: 33-Seton Hall 34-Ucla 35-Xavier 36-San Diego State

10-Seeds: 40-BOISE STATE 39-VCU 38-Louisville 37-Oregon

11-Seeds: 41-Minnesota 42-Maryland 43-Drake 44-Colorado State 45-Connecticut

12-Seeds: 50-WICHITA STATE 49-BELMONT 48-TOLEDO 47-Indiana 46-St. Bonaventure

13-Seeds: 51-WRIGHT STATE 52-COLGATE 53-WINTHROP 54-UC SANTA BARBARA

14-Seeds: 58-ABILENE CHRISTIAN 57-UNC GREENSBORO 56-LIBERTY 55-NORTH TEXAS

15-Seeds: 59-VERMONT 60-EASTERN WASHINGTON 61-SIENA 62-GRAND CANYON

16-Seeds: 68-NORTH CAROLINA A&T 67-WAGNER 66-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M 65-NORTH DAKOTA STATE 64-JAMES MADISON 63-TEXAS STATE

First Four Out: St. Louis, Stanford, North Carolina, Utah State

Next Four Out: Mississippi, SMU, Richmond, Syracuse

Multi-bid Leagues

Big 10: 10

Big 12: 7

SEC: 6

ACC: 5

Big East: 5

Pac-12: 4

Mountain West: 3

AAC: 2

A-10: 2

MVC: 2

WCC: 2

Friday, February 05, 2021

Patriot Games

Earlier this year, some talking heads around college basketball were calling for a season without conference games. To anyone that studies brackets, this would be a disaster. Why? Because systems like the NET need the cross-pollenation of data we get from non-conference games. If teams don't play other leagues, or only do so in a limited fashion, it's more difficult for a computer system to separate them those leagues. Especially a computer system that uses only season based data like the NET (as opposed to predictive systems that incorporate past data). After all, how do you know whether the Big East or MEAC is the better league if those teams never play each other or share common opponents?

Thankfully, league agreed to play non-conference schedules and we were saved from a seeding nightmare. Almost.

Are we ready for Jordan Burns and...**checks notes**...4-seed Colgate?

Photo courtesy of Colgate Athletics

Enter the Patriot League. Three Man Weave touched on this in their podcast, but it's worth going deeper into this topic. Only two teams in the Patriot League elected to play non-conference games: Army and Navy. They did pretty well for themselves in those games, going a combined 6-2. The only losses came to high major programs projected to make the NCAA field. Their wins included victories over teams from the Big East, A-10, and the MAC, leagues typically much better than the Patriot. Because of this small sample size, the Patriot's value is massively overinflated. In the first two years of the NET, the Patriot ranked 19th and 21st among conferences in the NET and 21st and 23rd in kenpom. This year, the Patriot is ranked 14th among conferences in the NET but just 22nd in kenpom. So predictive metrics indicate the league is no stronger than usual, but the NET rates the league far stronger.

The conference rating isn't the only thing out of whack. Colgate has been the league's best team three years running, with NET rankings of 132 in 2019, 121 in 2020, and 15 in 2021. According to kenpom, they have been ranked 126 in 2019, 118 in 2020, and 99 in 2021. Clearly something is wrong, but it isn't just with Colgate. Take a look at the disparity between Patriot League team rankings in the 2021 NET and kenpom:

Team NET Rank kenpom Rank NET Overvalue
Colgate 15 99 84
Army 87 177 90
Navy 95 165 70
American 175 251 76
Lafayette 177 214 37
Bucknell 184 245 61
Boston University 217 258 41
Holy Cross 240 339 99
Lehigh 275 328 53
Loyola-Maryland 277 260 -17




Average 174.2 233.6 59.4

Trust me when I say that while NET and kenpom disparities are common, it's not common for teams to have a difference of more than 30. Every now and then you see it with an overachiever like Drake who is killing everyone they play, but that's because they are fighting their way up against the preseason projections in kenpom that drag them down. In the case of the Patriot, it's a lack of data population for the NET, and it's a problem with almost every team.

Colgate is the easiest example to look at. They have outscored their Patriot opponents by an average of 21.4 ppg. That includes an average margin of 21.0 in two games over an Army team that holds wins over Buffalo and La Salle, even though one of those two contests was a LOSS for Colgate. As a result Colgate is rated higher by the NET than any team in the MAC or A-10. However, according to kenpom, Colgate would be the 3rd best team in the MAC and 9th best team in the A-10. Perhaps even more impressive (and likely due to their margin over the Army team that beat the Navy team that beat Georgetown) is that Colgate would be the 2nd best team in the Big East (behind only Villanova) despite kenpom indicating they would be 10th best in the league, ahead of only DePaul by a narrow margin.

While Colgate is the easy one because of their absurdly high NET, the consistent overvaluation of these teams indicates that unless Santi Aldama and Loyola Maryland represent the Patriot in the NCAA Tournament (an anomaly due to narrow losses against teams that didn't play non-con games and a blowout against Navy, who did), any team that earns the Patriot bid will be overseeded compared to their actual quality. What does all this mean? Non-conference games matter. They are the only thing that allows a metric like the NET to operate with some level of sanity. Here's hoping the NCAA Selection Committee heavily considers this when it comes to Selection Sunday, because if the Raiders win the auto-bid, they probably belong around the 14-line (the rest of the league are 15-seeds at best), but when the NET is considered, it wouldn't be crazy to have them as a single digit seed and the rest of the league a couple lines higher than they deserve.

Here's the current S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-BAYLOR 2-GONZAGA 3-MICHIGAN 4-HOUSTON

2-Seeds: 8-Iowa 7-Ohio State 6-VILLANOVA 5-ALABAMA

3-Seeds: 9-Texas 10-Illinois 11-VIRGINIA 12-Tennessee

4-Seeds: 16-Oklahoma 15-Missouri 14-Texas Tech 13-Wisconsin

5-Seeds: 17-West Virginia 18-Kansas 19-UCLA 20-Usc

6-Seeds: 24-Colorado 23-Purdue 22-Virginia Tech 21-Florida State

7-Seeds: 25-Creighton 26-Connecticut 27-Clemson 28-Oklahoma State

8-Seeds: 32-Minnesota 31-Byu 30-Xavier 29-Florida

9-Seeds: 33-Louisville 34-DRAKE 35-Rutgers 36-Arkansas

10-Seeds: 41-San Diego State 40-Loyola Chicago 38-ST BONAVENTURE 37-BOISE STATE

11-Seeds: 41-Oregon 42-Colorado State 43-Richmond 44-Lsu

12-Seeds: 50-WINTHROP 49-TOLEDO 48-Stanford 47-Utah State 46-Seton Hall 45-Maryland

13-Seeds: 51-BELMONT 52-UAB 53-LIBERTY 54-UC IRVINE

14-Seeds: 58-VERMONT 57-NAVY 56-SIENA 55-UNC GREENSBORO

15-Seeds: 59-CLEVELAND STATE 60-GRAND CANYON 61-LOUISIANA 62-NORTHEASTERN

16-Seeds: 68-NORTH CAROLINA A&T 67-LIU 66-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M 65-MONTANA STATE 64-SOUTH DAKOTA 63-SAM HOUSTON STATE

 

Last Four Byes: Oregon, Colorado State, Richmond, LSU

Last Four In: Maryland, Seton Hall, Utah State, Stanford

First Four Out: VCU, Indiana, North Carolina, St. John's

Next Four Out: Pittsburgh, Syracuse, SMU, Georgia Tech


Multi-bid Leagues

Big 10: 9

Big 12: 7

SEC: 6

ACC: 5

Big East: 5

Pac-12: 5

Mountain West: 4

Atlantic-10: 2

Missouri Valley: 2

WCC: 2

Monday, February 01, 2021

It's just bad all the way down, no way around it.

First, this was recorded immediately before news broke that the Villanova has been rescheduled so account for that. Basically, we rehash the disaster that has been the last 10 days of Marquette basketball, and where we go from here. We also spend time talking about what the future looks like. Trying to enjoy! #mubb https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/ey6jdu/ScrambledEggs_Editted_020121.mp3

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Wins & Losses on the Bubble

After dropping games to DePaul and Providence, Marquette falls out of our field and is sliding down the wrong side of the bubble. With fans hoping for a turnaround in the coming days against St. John's and Butler, two winnable home games that could creep Marquette closer to being on the right side of the cut line, I decided to take a deep look at the teams on the bubble, breaking them up into four groups. Because tables are an easy way to compare data, we will be comparing numbers with the following factors in a nitty gritty resume table.

Record refers to the team's overall record in games counted by the Selection Committee, so no exhibitions or DII/DIII opponents included. NET, SOS, and kenpom refer to the current ranking in those metrics, with the NET being the Selection Committee's grouping model, SOS referring to the strength of schedule, and kenpom being the most widely used pure computer metric. Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 refer to the team's record in those respective games. To consider what those mean in layman's terms, a Q1 opponent is the equivalent of an at-large tournament team, a Q2 opponent is the equivalent of an automatic bid tournament team (small conference tourney winner), a Q3 opponent is the equivalent of a quality buy game, and Q4 is everyone beneath those others (essentially valueless unless you lose). Average NET W & L is the average ranking of the teams you beat and that beat you, so an easy look at how good your wins and how bad your losses are. Here's the table:


Record NET SOS kenpom Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Avg NET W Avg NET L
Stanford 10-5 53 24 42 2-4 2-1 3-0 3-0 131 54
Rutgers 9-6 34 23 28 4-5 1-1 1-0 3-0 109 31
North Carolina 11-5 48 91 33 1-4 3-1 5-0 2-0 114 35
San Diego St. 11-4 28 20 24 0-2 4-2 4-0 3-0 143 46
Loyola-Chicago 11-3 25 257 22 0-1 1-2 5-0 5-0 208 64
Seton Hall 9-7 56 46 46 2-5 1-2 5-0 1-0 117 41
Indiana 9-7 49 59 23 1-5 4-1 2-1 2-0 118 28
Richmond 10-4 58 111 55 2-1 2-1 4-0 2-2 130 103
Utah State 12-5 55 209 49 2-1 1-3 1-1 8-0 214 72
Syracuse 9-5 52 88 45 0-4 2-1 5-0 2-0 148 43
Providence 9-7 67 62 61 2-5 2-2 3-0 2-0 135 48
Maryland 8-8 41 1 44 3-4 0-1 2-0 3-0 102 23
Pittsburgh 8-4 64 177 69 1-0 2-3 3-0 2-1 136 105
VCU 11-4 46 113 62 0-3 2-1 3-0 6-0 173 42
Marquette 8-8 85 61 68 2-4 2-3 1-1 3-0 156 55
SMU 9-3 54 125 51 0-2 4-0 3-1 2-0 158 65
St. Louis 7-2 32 218 43 0-1 1-0 2-1 4-0 199 65
Michigan State 8-5 101 242 60 0-4 2-1 2-0 4-0 191 39
Georgia Tech 7-5 61 168 59 0-2 3-1 2-2 2-0 150 64
Duke 6-5 82 98 37 0-4 2-0 2-1 2-0 148 52

Last Four Byes: Stanford, Rutgers, North Carolina, San Diego State

First, with the exception of Rutgers, all of these teams are +5 or better in overall record, have a NET/kenpom average in the 40s or better, have some quality in their wins with no Q3/4 blemishes. At a glance, the outlier is Rutgers, but there are a few things that really make the Scarlet Knights stand out. First, their 4 Quadrant 1 wins are the most on this list. Their Average NET win is second and Average NET loss is third, meaning they are performing well compared to the other teams here. Had Marquette won those last two games, they would have a similar record to Rutgers, another Q1 win, and no bad losses, and would likely be in this tier. They didn't, so they aren't.

Last Four In: Loyola-Chicago, Seton Hall, Indiana, Richmond

This is a collection of misfits. Loyola-Chicago is in because of their computer numbers. Their NET/kenpom average is the best on the list, but their 1-3 record in Quadrant 1+2 isn't a lot of meat on the resume. Because of that, this team could easily fall out with a bad loss. There just isn't enough to keep them in. Seton Hall and Indiana are fairly similar. Identical records, relatively close in the computers, and similar Average NET W/L numbers. Indiana is a bit better in the top two quadrants, Seton Hall is better in terms of no bad losses. Both are similar to Marquette in that they're just slightly better from a resume perspective, and shows how much value one game here or there can have. Our last team in, Richmond, is a unique case. They are here because they are the only team on this list with a winning record against both Quadrants 1 and 2. But with 2 Quadrant 4 losses, they could easily fall out. This shows how performing against the top (which Marquette has done at times) can offset taking bad losses (which Marquette has also done).

First Four Out: Utah State, Syracuse, Providence, Maryland

Teams with more weaknesses than strengths. The Aggies have a great record, but their atrocious SOS and bottom three Average NET W and L is just too much to overcome their 2-1 Q1 record. Syracuse doesn't have much bad, but zero Q1 wins on the ledger doesn't give any reason for inclusion. Providence is like the aforementioned Seton Hall and Indiana, but is worse in both computers, SOS, and Average Ws and Ls than the teams that were in the "Last Four In" category. Maryland is very similar to Marquette in that they just don't have the overall record. If you're .500, you aren't getting in, even with some great wins on the resume and solid across the board numbers. The Terps are somewhat a victim of their #1 SOS.

Next Four Out: Pittsburgh, VCU, SMU

We'll comment more on Marquette below. As far as these three, all have good enough records, but simply not enough meat in the top quadrants to offset what they did in the lower quadrants. Further, when your computer numbers are in the 50s and 60s, you need something special to lift you into at-large territory, and neither have it. VCU is similar in computer numbers, but for them it isn't any bad losses but rather the dearth of quality at the top of their resume. You have to do something to get in, and they haven't.

Four More: St. Louis, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Duke

I included these because they are all in a number of projections but I have them completely outside the field. St. Louis I feel is included by many because they have good computer numbers and are projected as the A-10 Champs. But now that they've played an A-10 game (and lost) a critical look at the resume shows a 1-1 record vs Quadrants 1+2 and a bad loss to go along with that. They are bottom 4 on the table in terms of both Average NET W and L. That's just not good enough for at-large consideration. Michigan State simply has nothing at the top of their resume while Duke has nothing but a gaudy kenpom number (I suspect with preseason data still propping it up). Georgia Tech just looks like a NIT team. No real quality wins, a couple bad losses, just not enough.

Our focus: Marquette

First, the computer numbers have to improve. Marquette needs to win to do that, but winning by large margins would really help. Currently, kenpom projects a 4-point win against St. John's and 5-point win against Butler. If Marquette can get those into the double-digits it would really help their case. Winning those games, and going +3 in the win column from here on out is probably a minimum. In terms of good wins, the only team on this list that has two wins as good as Marquette's road win at Creighton and home win against Wisconsin is Maryland. Currently, Marquette has three Q1 games (Creighton, at Seton Hall, at UConn), two Q2 games (Xavier, at Butler), and three Q3 games (St. John's, Butler, at DePaul). To get in, they need to sweep the bottom 5 games and pick off one of the Q1 opportunities. Go 6-2 and Marquette will have enough of a record and enough meat on the schedule for inclusion. That would give them a winning record against all but Q1 and bring their numbers up to compare more with the teams on the inside than the ones they currently compare against. Time to get to work.

Here's the current S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-GONZAGA 2-BAYLOR 3-MICHIGAN 4-VILLANOVA

2-Seeds: 8-ALABAMA 7-Texas 6-Iowa 5-HOUSTON

3-Seeds: 9-Tennessee 10-VIRGINIA 11-Ohio State 12-Wisconsin

4-Seeds: 16-West Virginia 15-Kansas 14-Florida State 13-Illinois

5-Seeds: 17-Oklahoma 18-Creighton 19-Texas Tech 20-Missouri

6-Seeds: 24-Minnesota 23-UCLA 22-Purdue 21-Colorado

7-Seeds: 25-Usc 26-Virginia Tech 27-Clemson 28-Oklahoma State

8-Seeds: 32-Xavier 31-Byu 30-Florida 29-Connecticut

9-Seeds: 33-Oregon 34-DRAKE 35-Arkansas 36-Louisville

10-Seeds: 40-ST. BONAVENTURE 39-Colorado State 38-Lsu 37-BOISE STATE

11-Seeds: 41-Stanford 42-Rutgers 43-North Carolina 44-San Diego State

12-Seeds: 50-WINTHROP 49-TOLEDO 48-Richmond 47-Indiana 46-Seton Hall 45-Loyola Chicago

13-Seeds: 51-BELMONT 52-UAB 53-LIBERTY 54-UC IRVINE

14-Seeds: 58-NAVY 57-BRYANT 56-SIENA 55-ETSU

15-Seeds: 59-CLEVELAND STATE 60-SAM HOUSTON STATE 61-COASTAL CAROLINA 62-GRAND CANYON

16-Seeds: 68-NORTH CAROLINA A&T 67-MONTANA STATE 66-PRAIRIE VIEW A&M 65-SOUTH DAKOTA 64-NORTHEASTERN 63-UMBC


Last Four Byes: Stanford, Rutgers, North Carolina, San Diego State

Last Four In: Loyola-Chicago, Seton Hall, Indiana, Richmond

First Four Out: Utah State, Syracuse, Providence, Maryland

Next Four Out: Pittsburgh, VCU, Marquette, SMU

Four More: St. Louis, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Duke

 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

It's a disaster, no way around it

Come for the depressing #mubb talk, stay for the Gene Mauch discussion. It's bad guys, we don't know what else to say. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/nb7pyw/ScrambledEggs_Editted_012321.mp3

Friday, January 22, 2021

Resume Builder's Last Call

When Marquette left an open slot in their 2020-21 non-conference schedule, the impression given was that it could be used later to add to scheduling flexibility. Now that we're half way through the season, there are two very important things to note as we think back on what that flexibility means:

  1. Scheduling Changes: The open game and subsequent cancellations give teams more mid-season flexibility than we've ever seen before.
  2. Known Quantities: With NET and kenpom rankings having more data set, teams could schedule games now with more knowledge of both the NET value and measurable risk/rewards.

What that means is that a program like Marquette, which now has the ability to add three games (the vacant non-con slot and the Villanova/Georgetown "postponements"), could bolster their NCAA resume by adding non-conference games with teams that have high NET and low kenpom rankings, giving the best odds of adding a high-value win with minimal loss potential. It's also worth looking at playing these on the road, either as individual games or as home-and-homes or 2-for-1 situations. Without fans, home court has never meant less, which again increases the reward while minimally increasing the risk, and it could lead to improved home games in the future as some of these programs would be solid buys in a normal year.

Shanquan Hemphill & Drake need Q1 games to build an at-large resume

Photo from godrakebulldogs.com

A game like this wouldn't only benefit the high-major team, however. Teams that are in smaller leagues also don't have the number of high-profile opportunities (read: Q1 games) to bolster their own resumes, so in addition to gaining a larger audience against a team that can guarantee a national broadcast, they would also get the chance to pull off a victory that would improve their own NCAA at-large resume. So who are the best candidates for these games? Let's take a look:

Drake Bulldogs (13-0)

NET: 11 / kenpom: 60

The Bulldogs are undefeated and would be a Quadrant 1A opponent on any floor. They also haven't played a single Q1 game or any opponents in the top-100 of NET or kenpom. Drake has been blowing out inferior opponents, averaging an 18.5 ppg margin in conference wins, and is favored in every remaining game. Their NET may drop, but at worst they will almost certainly remain a Q2 opponent. But if they lose in their conference tournament, their soft resume will likely keep them outside the NCAA at-large field. However, if they added a Q1 road win, they might have enough ammo that a 1-2 loss resume would get them in. Potential Date: February 4 or monitor for future mutual cancellations.

Colgate Raiders (5-1)

NET: 19 / kenpom: 106

The Raiders NET will likely drop due to their Patriot League schedule, but they are favored in every remaining game and favored by 9+ in 8/10 games. Further, because they are playing a League only schedule currently (not all Patriot League teams did that) it would only take 2 COVID cancellations on their part or opponent's part to bring them below the 13-game threshold to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. They need games. In addition, the Patriot League is playing Saturday/Sunday every weekend, so Colgate is available during the week every week. The best way to insure it's a Q1 game? Play on the road, and do so back-to-back like the Patriot League right after one of Marquette's road trips east. Potential Date: January 28 after Providence or February 28 after UConn.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (11-3)

NET: 30 / kenpom: 25

The huge risk here is that the Ramblers do really well in efficiency metrics like kenpom, which indicate they are a high risk opponent. That said, they are only 1-3 away from home against top-150 teams per Pomeroy. This would be a potential Q1 or Q2 home game, or a certain Q1 road game if Marquette wanted to drive down to Chicago or frame it around their roadie at DePaul. The Ramblers are favored in every remaining game on their schedule and a win against them would look great on the resume. Potential Date: February 10, February 23, or March 3.

Winthrop Eagles (13-0)

NET: 53 / kenpom: 105

Marquette fans with long memories might get antsy when they hear Winthrop mentioned due to their upset of Marquette in the 2005 Blue & Gold Classic. Winthrop is one of just two top-60 NET teams with a sub-100 kenpom ranking, joining Colgate in that regard. The drawback here is they aren't local, so this would have to be more of a traditional buy game. Winthrop is a double-digit favorite in 8/10 remaining games and the 20.1% odds kenpom gives them of finishing their season undefeated is second best to Gonzaga. Even if they slip in the NET a bit, this is a likely Q2 home game and high risk/reward. Potential Date: January 30

Bryant Bulldogs (10-3)

NET: 94 / kenpom: 173

This would be a risk/reward play. Bryant gave Syracuse all they could handle in an 85-84 loss at the Carrier Dome on opening night, but the Orange let themselves get into a shooting contest with an opponent that's better at shooting. With more tape out, Bryant should be an easier opponent for a high-major roster at this point, and there are few top-100 NET teams that are this low in kenpom. It would likely have to be a road game to be worth it (Q2 on the road, only Q3 at home) but Bryant is located just 15 miles from Providence, so Marquette could play on back-to-back nights once like the mid-majors are doing. Potential Date: January 26 or 28

In all honesty, I don't expect to see many, if any, teams add non-conference games at this point, so this may be more a thought exercise than anything else. But for teams on the bubble, like Marquette, there is a huge opportunity due to scheduling flexibility. Further, knowing that games like these could offer exposure and resume-building upside that these teams may not be able to arrange in the middle of a normal season makes for viable reasons for both parties to embrace some COVID creativity.

Here's a look at our updated NCAA Tournament projection:

1-Seeds: 1-GONZAGA 2-BAYLOR 3-VILLANOVA 4-MICHIGAN

2-Seeds: 8-HOUSTON 7-Iowa 6-Tennessee 5-Texas

3-Seeds: 9-ALABAMA 10-Wisconsin 11-Kansas 12-Texas Tech

4-Seeds: 16-Minnesota 15-Illinois 14-Ohio State 13-VIRGINIA

5-Seeds: 17-Florida State 18-West Virginia 19-Creighton 20-Clemson

6-Seeds: 24-UCLA 23-Oklahoma State 22-Colorado 21-Missouri

7-Seeds: 25-Purdue 26-Oregon 27-Usc 28-Virginia Tech

8-Seeds: 32-BOISE STATE 31-Lsu 30-SAINT LOUIS 29-Connecticut

9-Seeds: 33-Florida 34-Byu 35-Xavier 36-Oklahoma

10-Seeds: 40-Arkansas 39-Indiana 38-Seton Hall 37-Louisville

11-Seeds: 41-Rutgers 42-Stanford 43-DRAKE 44-Richmond

12-Seeds: 50-TOLEDO 49-WINTHROP 48-Pittsburgh 47-San Diego State 46-St. Bonaventure 45-Marquette

13-Seeds:  51-UAB 52-BELMONT 53-WOFFORD 54-SIENA

14-Seeds: 58-CLEVELAND STATE 57-NORTHEASTERN 56-NAVY 55-BRYANT

15-Seeds: 59-TEXAS STATE 60-UC IRVINE 61-MONTANA STATE 62-UMBC

16-Seeds: 68-NORTH CAROLINA A&T 67-UTAH VALLEY 66-SOUTHERN 65-NORTH ALABAMA 64-SOUTHERN 63-SAM HOUSTON STATE

 

NIT 1-Seeds: Maryland, North Carolina, Colorado State, Providence

NIT 2-Seeds: Michigan State, Utah State, Georgia Tech, VCU


Multi-bid Leagues

Big 10: 9

Big 12: 7

SEC: 6

ACC: 6

Big East: 6

Pac-12: 5

Atlantic 10: 3

Mountain West: 2

WCC: 2