"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, December 25, 2022

Big East Christmas Presents

While overtime at Providence was frightful, Marquette being a safe NCAA Tournament team is delightful. That's where the team is at in our first look at the S-Curve this year. But considering it's Christmas, we also thought we'd look around the Big East and see what teams are hoping Santa left under their tree today in their quest to earn an NCAA bid. After that, we'll have our first S-Curve of the year, and as a special Christmas Treat, a full NCAA bracket for your holiday delight. Merry Christmas!

UConn's new coach is unconventional but effective

Back to the Future Cinematography by Dean Cundey

Connecticut: A Time Machine

What do you get for the team that has everything? The Huskies aren't just a 1-seed, they're the overall number one team in our current S-Curve. They are the only team in the country ranked top-5 in the averages of both Resume and Metric rankings. Their 7 wins against Quadrant 1+2 opponents is best in the country. So for the Huskies, Santa is bringing Special Assistant Coach Emmett "Doc" Brown, who will help speed UConn into the future. When you are beating everyone by double-digits, all you want is to get to the tourney before anyone figures out how to beat you. If the NCAA Tournament started today, UConn would be the favorite, so they want to get there as soon as possible in this exact condition.

Xavier: Long Range Attempts

Xavier is one of the best shooting teams in the country. They rank #2 in 3PFG% at a sizzling 40.9% clip from deep. They have five players shooting 39.5% or better from deep. And yet they rank #261 in the percent of points scored from long range and #306 in 3-point attempt percentage. Why on earth would they not be doing everything in their power to create as many deep looks as they can? When you're this good at shooting, you should do it a lot! Sean Miller's a smart guy, modernize that offense.

Marquette: Offensive Rebounding

It seems like the Golden Eagles' present arrived broken, with the news that Zach Wrightsil will miss the rest of the season. This is a tourney team that is outperforming expectations on both ends, but their lowest offensive and defensive rank in the Four Factors is rebounding on both ends. Looking at Coach Smart's best teams, every time he finished in the top-30 of kenpom, his teams were better than bad on the offensive end, averaging 98th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Without Wrightsil, they'll need it to emerge from somewhere else, so hopefully Santa has a backup plan since the expected rebounder won't be back.

Did motion sickness lead to Creighton's losing streak?

Creighton: Dramamine

The Blue Jays don't seem to handle travel very well. Per T-Rank, they were ranked #17 overall through their first 7 games, including their runner-up finish in Hawaii. Then they flew back to the mainland, and clearly the travel didn't suit them well. They plummeted to #120 after they got back as they lost their next five games, punctuated by an 0-1 Big East start at the hands of Marquette. Hopefully the Dramamine will help them with the motion sickness that saw their offense go from #10 to #262. Settle your stomachs, hope that Kalkbrenner has kissed his illness goodbye, and get a win for Christmas against DePaul.

Butler: A Bench

Butler's starting five looks like an NCAA Tourney team, but they rank #362 out of 363 in terms of bench minutes. Whether it's the injuries that kept out Ali Ali and Jalen Thomas early or Myles Tate and DJ Hughes recently, Thad Matta has had only one bench player available for all of their games, freshman Pierce Thomas. The Big East season is long, and while you want your best players ready to go in March, you need some depth to get there. Hopefully Santa brings health to a bench that desperately needs it.

Providence: Laser surgery for Jared Bynum

Last year, Providence had respectable three-point shooting largely thanks to Bynum being the best marksman in the league at 41.3% from deep. This year, he's hitting just 20.4% from beyond the arc. Bynum needs a trip to the eye doctor so he can get his vision and shooting corrected. The first sign their Christmas wish might come true was his 3/8 (37.5%) performance in the double-overtime win over Marquette, representing season-highs in both makes and attempts from deep for the Friar guard.

Seton Hall needs help holding on to the ball

Seton Hall: Stickum Spray

With a 22.1% turnover rate, the Pirates turn the ball over a lot. They have five different rotation players that have individual turnover rates over 20%. Santa needs to help them learn the value of possessions, and if they can't do it on their own, spraying Stickum on their hands might help them keep a tighter grip on the ball. It wouldn't necessarily fix their shooting, but let's focus on one improvement at a time.

St. John's: A Meaningful Non-Conference Win

While some brackets have the Johnnies in, they wouldn't be close to the NCAA field if the tourney were held today because they didn't beat anyone of note in non-conference play. While they have a trio of high major wins, Nebraska at home and Syracuse on a neutral are both Quadrant 3 wins, while their neutral court wins over Florida State and Temple register as Quadrant 4. Right now, the only bubble St. John's is close to in the NIT bubble because they haven't beat anyone that mattered.

Villanova: Justin Moore

Last year, Moore ranked #2 in kenpom's Big East Player of the Year metric and was the highest returning player, but he's been kept out due to injury. After a miserable 2-5 start, Cam Whitmore arrived with St. Nick to propel 'Nova to a five-game winning streak, but to get back into NCAA contention they need to be better than their #56 T-Rank since Whitmore's return. A healthy Justin Moore would give them another athletic switchable defender who knows the system. He's also a proven offensive contributor for a team lacking a true go-to scorer. To become the Villanova of old, they need an old Villanova player, and Moore fits the bill.

DePaul: A StubHub Login

The Blue Demons are 0-5 against Quadrant 1+2 opponents and their most recent loss was by approximately a bajillion points on the road at Northwestern. The only way they're going to attend postseason games is if they pay for the privilege, so Santa can let them use his StubHub login to buy tickets to any NCAA site they choose.

Rick Pitino would be an immediate upgrade on the Hilltop

Photo by Joe Robbins | Getty Images

Georgetown: Rick Pitino

It's hard to imagine things got this bad for Georgetown. They haven't beat a high-major team since December 11, 2021 (Syracuse) and haven't beat a Big East team since March 13, 2021 (Creighton) in the improbable Big East Tournament Final. This team desperately needs new leadership. Patrick Ewing is clearly not the guy, so let's give them someone who knows the Big East, who knows how to coach, and who Casual Hoya has been asking for all season long. Let's give them the gift of Rick Pitino. He might not last long as he's getting up there in the years, but he's won everywhere he went so it's worth taking a chance on an upgrade.

With Santa's work done, let's look at the S-Curve:

And, as promised, here's the full NCAA bracket. For Marquette fans, they begin their run in Birmingham against Oklahoma, followed by a likely match with Kelvin Sampson's Houston team if they manage to make the second round.

NIT 1-Seeds: Utah State, TCU, NC State, Rutgers
NIT 2-Seeds: Butler, Colorado, Oklahoma State, Providence

Multibid Leagues

Big 10: 10

Big 12: 7

SEC: 7

ACC: 5

Big East: 4

Pac-12: 4

Mountain West: 4

American: 2

WCC: 2

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