"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, 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






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





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:


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






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