"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

Friday, March 10, 2023

Dreaming of a Marquette March

The good news, we know Marquette will be in the NCAA Tournament, and they look to have solidly locked up a 3-seed. With that in mind, we're going to dig into the teams Marquette might see the first weekend and see who would give the staff nightmares and which teams they are dreaming of playing. Let's dig in:

 Greg Williams traded his St. John's gear for nearly identical Louisiana gear

Photo by Benjamin Massey | Louisiana Athletics


Nightmare: Louisiana

Marquette has six losses all year long, and four of those came to teams ranked in the top-30 of Offensive Rebounding Rate. This isn't just a team that does damage inside, though, the Ragin' Cajuns are top-50 in 3PFG%. They are also anchored by down-transfers. Big man Jordan Brown came from Arizona, wing Terence Lewis from North Texas, and guard Greg Williams came from St. John's, where he once scored 17 points in a win over Marquette. Don't be mistaken, if this game happens, this is still a game where Marquette will be favored, but Louisiana has some high-major talent and their strengths are areas where they can take advantage.

Dream: Vermont

The Catamounts are always an upset darling, but they haven't played a top-100 kenpom team since December and went 0-5 against such opposition, losing by an average of 18 points. They are terrible on the offensive glass and the worst defensive team in the mix for a 14-seed. Vermont has stayed close to NCAA opponents in recent years, but John Becker is 0-4 in Thursday/Friday NCAA games and this doesn't look like the year he breaks that streak.

Buzz Williams' intensity level hasn't diminished since leaving Marquette

Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel | USA Today Sports


Nightmare: Texas A&M

If nothing else, Marquette fans would be terrified just of the idea of facing Buzz again. As sweet as the victory would be, it would be equally crushing to see a season end to the man who brought Marquette to three consecutive second weekend trips a decade ago. On the court, it would be a tough matchup. A&M is top-10 in offensive rebounding and has a wealth of physical bigs they could throw at Oso Ighodaro. They aren't a great shooting team, but they out-physical teams on the glass to create second chances. Defensively, they will challenge you inside and dare you to beat them at the arc. This is a tough matchup physically for Marquette and psychologically for Marquette fans.

Dream: TCU

Honestly, I'm not sure there is a dream 6-seed, but the team that Marquette matches up best with is the Horned Frogs. Offensively, they don't rebound as well as the others on that line, they are a poor three-point shooting team, and their health questions could make them vulnerable. Defensively, they aren't great at stopping teams inside the arc, so Marquette's bread and butter offense takes advantage of their weakness. How the Big 12 teams will be seeded will be interesting, but if the choice is Duke's wealth of offensive rebounders or Oscar Tshiebwe, TCU seems like the most attractive option.

Nevada big man Will Baker once played for Shaka Smart at Texas
Photo from Nevada Athletics


Nightmare: Pittsburgh

The team best built to outscore their opponents on the 11-line are the Pitt Panthers. They can put four shooters around their rim-protecting big and can beat you in multiple ways. They are comfortable playing through either of their two point guards, Jamarius Burton or Nelly Cummings, run a tight, established rotation, and know their roles. In addition, no Marquette fan wants to send fan favorite Greg Elliott home. Pitt is prone to the occasional blowout loss and it's certainly a team Marquette would be favored against. However, they have played 10 games decided by 4 points or less, so this is a team that knows how to keep it tight down the stretch and have the ability to make for a nervy final few minutes for any team they come up against.

Dream: Nevada

The Wolfpack is fine, but not great in any regard. They have good size across the board, but don't take advantage on the offensive glass and aren't an outstanding shooting team. Defensively, they slow the pace but again don't have a calling card. They're just kind of okay at everything. But where they aren't okay is away from home. Per T-Rank, Marquette is the 7th best team in the country in road/neutral games while Nevada is 64th. It seems unlikely they would last to even play a 3-seed, but if they did, don't expect this to be a Sweet 16 team no matter who they face.

A few notes on where we stand. The 1's and 2's were voted on Wednesday. It is very unlikely those will change, which is why we feel confident about the placing of Purdue on the 1-line and keeping Gonzaga and Marquette on the 3-line. Most of the seeding feels set, but we are still looking at the last 4-seed (Virginia, San Diego State, Miami, Iowa State all considered), the last 6-seed (Texas A&M, Northwestern, Creighton), and whether Florida Atlantic can win Conference USA and move up to the 7-line.

On the bubble, it came down to 6 teams for the final three spots. We looked at Rutgers, Nevada, Pittsburgh, Clemson, NC State, and Oklahoma State. Teams like Wisconsin and Michigan largely played themselves out of contention, which opened the door for Rutgers. Nevada stayed in despite their loss because of the overall body of work. Oklahoma State was knocked out because they simply didn't have enough wins to offset their 15 losses (no team with 15 losses has ever got in with fewer than 19 wins). That left one spot for the three ACC teams. Each of them had positives. Clemson was 4-0 against NC State and Pitt, but their #333 NCSOS is simply awful. NC State had a slightly better NCSOS, but we couldn't justify putting them in over a Clemson team that beat them three times. That left Pitt, who had mediocre metrics, but 4 Q1 wins (more than NC State) and only 2 losses outside Q1+2 (to Clemson's 4). Pitt was the least offensive of the three. That said, keep an eye out for bid thieves, because a surprise win in Conference USA, the American, or any of the high-major conferences could shrink the field and knock those last four in to the other side of the bubble.

Apologies for no bracket today, but the snow day in Milwaukee means it's hard enough getting this out with two kids here that were supposed to be in school. Here's the current S-Curve:

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