"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

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Marquette Dreams and Nightmares

 Oscar Tshiebwe goes at Walker Kessler

Photo by Butch Dill | AP Photo

The regular season is about to wrap up and Marquette seems to be settling in to their seeding. This team likely has a ceiling of a 7-seed and floor of a 10-seed. With that in mind, we decided to dig into the different scenarios and look at which teams Marquette fans should be excited to see in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament and which ones might mean a short stay in the Madness. For first round opponents, we looked at teams from the 8-seeds to Dayton and for the second round we looked at teams on the top three seed lines.

There were four main factors we considered. The first is Pick and Roll defense, because the majority of Marquette's offense (and nearly everything Tyler Kolek is praised for) comes from pick and roll, and the team has struggled with teams like Creighton and Butler that do well taking away pick and roll. The second is offensive rebounding rate, as Marquette's biggest defensive liability is giving up second chances and Marquette has struggled with teams like Connecticut and UCLA that are effective on the offensive glass. The third is offensive turnover rate, because Marquette has also struggled with teams like Wisconsin and St. Bonaventure that don't beat themselves with turnovers. The final factor considered was the presence of a potentially dominant big man. Marquette has struggled with the likes of Adama Sanogo and in two games turned Ryan Kalkbrenner into a star.

While none of these factors guarantee victory or defeat, the better teams are at Marquette's weaknesses the more likely we'll see a matchup problem that leads to an early exit, and the more Marquette is able to exploit opponent weaknesses, the more likely the team can make a deeper NCAA run. As we always hear, March is about matchups, so let's see who we want to match up with and who we want to avoid.

Opening Game

10-Seed Dream: Miami - Get excited if this is the draw. Miami is terrible at pick and roll defense, ranked #225, and worse at offensive rebounding, ranked #315. The Hurricanes have the ideal big man combo for opponents, Sam Waardenburg is efficient but his low usage makes him less effective, while his backup Anthony Walker is higher usage but low efficiency. It's a manageable front court. They don't turn the ball over much, ranked #7, so it's not all seashells and balloons, but this is a great matchup.

10-Seed Nightmare: Davidson - In general, the 10-seed matchups are pretty decent for Marquette, but Davidson is probably the toughest of them. They are elite at not turning the ball over, ranked #24 nationally, and Luka Brajkovic is a stretch-5 matchup nightmare that is a high-efficiency big who is great on the boards and shoots 42.3% from deep. Add in that Bob McKillop's offense is one of the toughest to prepare for on short notice and Davidson is a team I'd rather see playing elsewhere in their opener. On the upside, they don't defend pick and roll well, ranked #278, and aren't a good offensive rebounding team, ranked #292.

9-Seed Dream: Michigan State - The storyline here will clearly be around a certain letter writer, but this is desirable for more than a narrative. Sparty is a fine matchup as they are only average at pick and roll defense, ranked #69, and offensive rebounding, ranked #84. The real upside is they turn it over frequently, ranked #260, and their best big, Marcus Bingham, isn't getting enough minutes to be a game changer.

9 Seed Nightmare: North Carolina - The biggest problem here is Armando Bacot and the size UNC has available to them. Bacot has played at an All-American level and can play alongside another big body in Brady Manek. They are an average offensive rebounding team, rankedl #99, and also in turnover rate, ranked #70, so not much for Marquette to exploit there. UNC's weakness is pick and roll defense, ranked #214, so they aren't a true nightmare, but they're the worst on this line.

8-Seed Dream: Colorado State - While the Rams don't turn it over, ranked #12 in turnover rate, they are poor at pick and roll defense, ranked #170, and abysmal at offensive rebounding, ranked #339. While David Roddy is a versatile matchup difficulty, the 6'6" big spends as much time at the 4 as the 3 and they really don't have anyone in the mold of the players that have really hurt Marquette.

8-Seed Nightmare: Murray State - The good news is they don't have Ja Morant. The bad news is they do have KJ Williams, who would have every opportunity to become a household name if he played Marquette. The Racers aren't elite in pick and roll defense, ranked #93, or offensive turnover rate, ranked #81, but they are good enough that they aren't areas easy to exploit. They are an excellent offensive rebounding team, ranked #13. That is largely because of Williams, who can score, rebound, block shots, and even step out to hit threes.

7-Seed Dream: Boise State - Nothing Boise does would particularly bother Marquette. They are pretty average in pick and roll defense (#108), offensive rebounding (#71), and offensive turnover rate (#148). Center Mladen Armus is the lowest efficiency player in their rotation and is turnover prone. It wouldn't be an easy matchup, but if Marquette is on the 10-side of a 7/10 matchup, this is the team we want to see.

7-Seed Nightmare: USC -  This is a tough one. USC is a great offensive rebounding team, ranked #19 and anchored by Isaiah Mobley, who would be a pain for this defense. They also don't have any glaring weaknesses playing into Marquette's favor, ranked #143 in pick and roll defense and #81 in offensive turnover rate. The hope would be that maybe they are a paper tiger propped up by a soft schedule, but there is a lot to be concerned about with the Trojans.


Second Round

2-Seed Dream: Kansas - This isn't a great matchup, but we're talking about 2-seeds, so what do you expect? Kansas is mediocre against pick and roll, ranked #81, and is poor in offensive turnover rate at #153. They are a great offensive rebounding team, ranked #25, and have a potent big man in David McCormick, but his hit-or-miss nature makes him more desirable than the front lines of Duke or Auburn.

2-Seed Nightmare: Auburn - There's no good points about playing Auburn. Their pick and roll defense at #52 and offensive turnover rate at #63 aren't excellent, but they're good enough to be problematic, while they are excellent rebounding at #33 and have a dominant big in Walker Kessler backed up by a near equally effective Dylan Cardwell.

1-Seed Dream: Baylor - Of all the teams Marquette might see to get to the Sweet 16, Baylor just might be the most attractive. The biggest positives are the turn the ball over too much, ranked #187 in offensive turnover rate, and don't have a dominant big with the injury to Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua that also shortened a rotation that has already been injury plagued. Their pick and roll defense, ranked #70, is only average. While they are very good at offensive rebounding, ranked #7, they have been below their season average percent in every game since JTT was injured.

1-Seed Nightmare: Kentucky - Oh hell no. This is the worst matchup in the entire country for Marquette. From their #38 ranked pick and roll defense to their #1 ranked offensive rebounding rate to the likely National Player of the Year, the monstrous Oscar Tshiebwe, in the middle, there is nothing good about playing Kentucky. The biggest spot to exploit is their still respectable #66 offensive turnover rank. No good can come of this matchup.

Before we get to the S-Curve, a few notes. First, I have made a change to the "Last Four Byes" methodology. I do selection and seeding separately. I will continue to put the last four selected teams into Dayton, but everyone else is seeded on slightly different criteria than why they are selected. It's the reason a team like VCU is, in my opinion, safely in, but shows up on the 11-line. Their resume score (main factor in selection) makes them safe, but their average resume/metric score drags them back. The "Last Four In" at the bottom are the teams I actually selected last, so even if they appear higher than teams seeded below them, their spots are the most precarious. Finally, we are close enough to Selection Sunday that the "Next Four Out" are teams I do not believe can play their way in anymore, which is why they are in red text.


2-Seeds: 8-VILLANOVA 7-Auburn 6-Kansas 5-DUKE

3-Seeds: 9-Tennessee 10-Wisconsin 11-PURDUE 12-Texas Tech

4-Seeds: 16-HOUSTON 15-Providence 14-Ucla 13-Illinois

5-Seeds: 17-Arkansas 18-Texas 19-Connecticut 20-St. Mary's

6-Seeds: 24-Iowa 23-Lsu 22-Ohio State 21-Alabama

7-Seeds: 25-Seton Hall 26-Usc 27-SAN DIEGO STATE 28-Boise State

8-Seeds: 32-MURRAY STATE 31-Iowa State 30-Tcu 29-Colorado State

9-Seeds: 33-Marquette 34-Michigan State 35-San Francisco 36-North Carolina

10-Seeds: 40-Wyoming 39-Wake Forest 38-Miami 37-DAVIDSON

11-Seeds: 41-Vcu 42-Creighton 43-Xavier 44-Smu 45-Memphis

12-Seeds: 50-SOUTH DAKOTA STATE 49-NORTH TEXAS 48-LOYOLA CHICAGO 47-Michigan 46-Notre Dame






Last Four Byes: Xavier, Miami, North Carolina, Wake Forest

Last Four In: SMU, Memphis, Notre Dame, Michigan

First Four Out: Rutgers, BYU, Florida, Indiana

Next Four Out: Dayton, Belmont, Virginia Tech, Oregon

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