"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

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Evaluating Marquette's 2011-12 Non-Conference Schedule

When I saw the news of Marquette's latest non-conference opponent this morning, I wanted to jump for joy. Right after the 2011 NCAA bracket came out, I evaluated Marquette's non-conference schedule in relation to their seed and found a direct correlation between the number of sub-200 opponents and a team's seed. After this morning's revelation, it's safe to say that Marquette's scheduling department recognized the problem and has addressed it. Here's a look at the 10 known non-conference opponents, as well as a brief look at the Paradise Jam potential opponents. It looks like 12 of 13 opponents are set, with one buy game still likely. Rumors of Florida Atlantic would be fantastic, as they project to be a top-100 RPI team. If you want the short version, just skip to the end of the article.

LSU (Road, High-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 224
Three-Year RPI Average: 160.3
Key Returning Players: G Ralston Turner (So), G Andre Stringer (So), F Storm Warren (Sr)
Key Losses: None
Expected RPI: 150

After two bad seasons, expect the Tigers to be much better next year. They return everyone, including three top-100 players from 2010, and RSCI #27 PF Johnny O'Bryant will likely be an immediate starter. Frankly, 150 may be conservative for this team. They could challenge for the NIT if Turner and Stringer make noticeable improvements, and this could easily be a tourney team when they visit the BC in 2012. I'd much rather play them on the road this year. LSU is on their way back, and we're better catching them there before all the kids mature.

Mount St. Mary's (Home, Mid-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 232
Three-Year RPI Average: 176.3
Key Returning Players: G Lamar Trice (Sr), G Julian Norfleet (So), F Danny Thompson (Sr)
Key Losses: F Shawn Atupem
Expected RPI: 175

The Mountaineers dipped to their worst RPI in the past three years last year, but they return five of their top six scorers. After a 9-9 season in the Northeast conference, this team should finish in the top half next year. The worst case scenario for them is probably around 200 in the RPI, which would be much better than teams like Longwood or Prairie View A&M from last year.

Norfolk State (Home, Low-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 269
Three-Year RPI Average: 275
Key Returning Players: F Kyle O'Quinn (Sr), G Chris McEachin (Sr), G Pendarvis Williams (So)
Key Losses: G Rob Hampton, G Aleek Pauline
Expected RPI: 275

Kyle O'Quinn is a beast. The 6'10" center averaged 16.4 ppg and 11.1 rpg last year, but this team needs help as they lose their top two assist guys in Hampton and Pauline. We probably got the worst of the Paradise Jam teams for our home game, but it's not unthinkable that Norfolk State could crack the top-250 in RPI if someone can emerge at the point, but the Spartans haven't done that since 2001, so it may be asking too much. This will probably be the worst team we play in non-conference, which is an upgrade over last year when we played 5 teams with RPI rankings below 275.

Northern Colorado (Home, Mid-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 98
Three-Year RPI Average: 165.3
Key Returning Players: G Elliot Lloyd (Jr), F Emmanuel Addo (So), G Paul Garnica (So)
Key Losses: G Devon Beitzel, F Neal Kingman, F Chris Kaba
Expected RPI: 150

This was the team announced on Twitter today when incoming freshman James Davis mentioned he'd be playing Juan Anderson next year. After making the NCAAs last year, Northern Colorado will almost certainly take a step back. They'll need youth to lead the way, and incoming freshman center Brendan Keane will likely need to produce right away to offset the losses of Kingman and Kaba. But even with a likely drop-off, this team will still be better than half the teams we had on the home slate last season, and could be an excellent opponent to start setting up games with for the next 2-3 years.

UW-Green Bay (Home, Mid-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 168
Three-Year RPI Average: 117
Key Returning Players: C Alec Brown (So), F Jarvis Williams (Jr), G Steve Baker (Sr)
Key Losses: G Rahmon Fletcher, G Bryquis Perine
Expected RPI: 200

The Phoenix have slipped in recent years and losing Fletcher and Perine will make for a tough 2011-12 season. They need Steve Baker to take over at the point from day one, and 7-foot center Alec Brown will be heavily relied on to develop. The good news is that even if Green Bay is awful, no Horizon team has been a sub-300 RPI team for the past three years. They play in a good league, and even in a down season shouldn't be a heavy RPI drain.

UW-Milwaukee (Home, Mid-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 94
Three-Year RPI Average: 119.7
Key Returning Players: F Tony Meier (Sr), G Kaylon Williams (Sr), G Ja'Rob McCallum (So)
Key Losses: F Anthony Hill, G Tone Boyle
Expected RPI: 100

The Panthers lose their top two scorers, but with Kaylon Williams running the show, they should stay in the mix of the Horizon. Ja'Rob McCallum showed flashes of stardom last year, while Tony Meier should pick up some of the scoring loss. Rob Jeter has consistently kept this team in the top-135 the past few years, and should do so again in 2011-12.

Vanderbilt (Home, High-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 26
Three-Year RPI Average: 49.7
Key Returning Players: G John Jenkins (Jr), F Jeffrey Taylor (Sr), C Festus Ezeli (Sr)
Key Losses: None
Expected RPI: Top-20

Vandy returns virtually everyone. Their only two graduating seniors combined for 5.4 mpg. Most publications have them as a preseason top-10 team, and along with Florida and Kentucky they will be among the favorites to win the SEC. This is a dangerous game, but after losing by 1 to virtually the same team last year on their court, Marquette should be optimistic about their chances at the BC. Definitely the highlight game of the non-con schedule for season ticket holders.

Washington (Neutral, High-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 30
Three-Year RPI Average: 25.7
Key Returning Players: G Abdul Gaddy (Jr), G C.J. Wilcox (So), F Darrell Gant (Sr)
Key Losses: G Isaiah Thomas, F Matthew Bryan-Amaning, F Justin Holiday
Expected RPI: 30

The Huskies lose their top three scorers, but a healthy Adbul Gaddy and incoming super-frosh Tony Wroten will likely have them near the top of the PAC-12. I like this game being on a neutral court, for RPI purposes it's better than a home-and-home where you likely end up winning one and losing one. At MSG, Marquette will find more friendly confines than a game in Seattle or elsewhere out West and by catching Washington early in the year, this fairly young team may not yet have jelled.

Wisconsin (Road, High-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 16
Three-Year RPI Average: 26.3
Key Returning Players: G Jordan Taylor (Sr), G Josh Gasser (So), F Mike Bruesewitz (Jr)
Key Losses: F Jon Leuer, F Keaton Nankivil,
Expected RPI: 25

The losses of Leuer and Nankivil will be felt heavily, and the Badgers will either need Jared Berggren to step up or instant contributions from freshmen Evan Anderson (redshirt), Jarred Uthoff, and Frank Kaminski to compete on the boards. Their size is largely unexperienced, but Taylor will likely be a first-team preseason All-American, so expect him to keep the Badgers in the top-25 both in rankings and in RPI. This team is always tough at the Kohl Center and next season will be no different.

Winthrop (Neutral, Mid-Major)
Last Year's RPI: 220
Three-Year RPI Average: 216
Key Returning Players: G Robbie Dreher (Jr), G Reggie Middleton (Sr), F George Valentine (Sr)
Key Losses: F Charles Corbin
Expected RPI: 200

The Eagles have made the NCAA Tournament 9 of the last 13 years. While their RPI isn't likely to be impressive, they return six of their top seven scorers and will likely be one of the better teams in the Big South. At worst, they won't hurt us in the RPI, and could very well count as a tourney team defeated come March.

Paradise Jam (Neutral)
I have to assume we'll beat Norfolk State and Winthrop. That pits us against the winner of Drake/Ole Miss. The Bulldogs return all but one player, and could very well be a contender in the Missouri Valley, one of the better mid-majors in the country, behind star guard Rayvonte Rice. The Rebels lose the top two scorers from last year's NIT team and will need big seasons from sophomores Dundrecous Nelson and Demarco Cox. Postseason play is possible, but Mississippi will probably not be as good as last year's team. If we reach the final, we will likely see Virginia or Drexel. We have scrimmaged the Cavs the past two years, and I recall Tony Bennett saying last year that the scrimmage with Marquette showed him just how far his team had to go. After losing Mike Scott and Mustapha Farrakhan, the Cavs need big seasons from the four top-100 players they've inked the past two seasons if they want to keep playing into the second half of March. I think it's more likely Drexel will reach the final. They return six of seven players that played in all 31 games including their top two scorers. The Dragons lost in the CAA tournament by 2 to VCU and may have been an NIT team had they won that game. They will be a contender in the Colonial next season.

The Short Version

Marquette faces two high-majors on the road, LSU and Wisconsin, that could both be in contention for postseason play. Each would be a good resume-building win, but not destructive if we lost.

At home, Vandy is the clear highlight and will be tough as they return virtually everyone. UW-Milwaukee has a chance to be a top-100 RPI team and should count as quality win at home. Mount St. Mary's, Northern Colorado, and UW-Green Bay all project as top-200 teams at worst and while they won't be quality wins, also won't be RPI drags come March. Only Norfolk State really looks like a home downer, but they still will probably be better than 5 (possibly 6) of our home opponents last year. With one home game left, I'm confident Marquette can find another solid buy game.

The neutral site games we know of include Washington and Winthrop. The Huskies will probably be an NCAA team, but lose more significant pieces than we do and should be beatable in the heart of Big East country. Winthrop is definitely beatable and has a history of making the Big Dance, so they could be a modest feather in the cap. After that, I expect Drake and Drexel in the Paradise Jam, but any combination of those two, Mississippi, or Virginia will probably result in top-150 wins. We should win the Paradise Jam, and while it won't give us the big boosts that beating a Duke or Kansas would, it still offers solid wins with little chance for RPI drags.

All in all, this is a great non-conference schedule. Fewer (3) projected top-25 teams, but still plenty of opportunities for quality wins, and only one team that will likely be below 200 in the RPI. The bonus that none of these teams look like sub-300 RPI teams right now is fantastic. I heartily invite Buzz Williams, Mike Broeker and everyone involved in the scheduling department to take a bow. This, along with a typical Big East schedule, is what Marquette needs to finish with a top-20 RPI and SOS next year. Well done, Marquette.

1 comment:

JohnPudner said...

Great work! Here are the none-conference players I had ranked in my top 1500:
Best non-conference foes for MU in 2011-12 (offense minus defense equals overall)
4 Jordan Taylor 6-foot-1 Wisconsin 9.46% minus -0.13% equals 9.58%
35 John Jenkins 6-foot-4 Vanderbilt 6.18% minus 0.00% equals 6.18%
133 Brad Tinsley 6-foot-3 Vanderbilt 3.68% minus 0.00% equals 3.68%
137 Festus Ezeli 6-foot-11 Vanderbilt 3.48% minus -0.15% equals 3.63%
148 Tony Meier 6-foot-8 Wisconsin Milwaukee 3.53% minus 0.00% equals 3.53%
155 Josh Gasser 6-foot-4 Wisconsin 3.33% minus -0.06% equals 3.39%
207 Kyle O'Quinn 6-foot-10 Norfolk St. 2.97% minus 0.00% equals 2.97%
223 Tony Wroten 6-foot-4 Washington 0.00% minus Freshman equals Projection
246 Jeffery Taylor 6-foot-7 Vanderbilt 2.71% minus 0.00% equals 2.71%
274 Terrence Ross 6-foot-6 Washington 2.18% minus -0.36% equals 2.54%
299 C.J. Wilcox 6-foot-5 Washington 2.38% minus 0.00% equals 2.38%
321 Derrick Thomas 6-foot-4 Drexel 0.00% minus -2.27% equals 2.27%
378 Seth VanDeest 6-foot-11 Drake 1.97% minus 0.00% equals 1.97%
400 Mike Bruesewitz 6-foot-6 Wisconsin 1.90% minus 0.00% equals 1.90%
408 Joe Harris 6-foot-6 Virginia 1.85% minus 0.00% equals 1.85%
441 Scott Suggs 6-foot-6 Washington 1.76% minus 0.00% equals 1.76%
471 Alec Brown 7-foot-0 Wisconsin Green Bay 1.64% minus 0.00% equals 1.64%
474 Aziz N'Diaye 7-foot-0 Washington 0.71% minus -0.93% equals 1.63%
535 Johnny O'Bryant 6-foot-9 Louisiana St. 0.00% minus Freshman equals Projection
565 Lance Goulbourne 6-foot-8 Vanderbilt 1.36% minus 0.00% equals 1.36%
582 Nick Williams 6-foot-4 Mississippi 1.32% minus 0.00% equals 1.32%
593 Abdul Gaddy 6-foot-3 Washington 1.28% minus 0.00% equals 1.28%
596 Ben Simons 6-foot-8 Drake 1.27% minus 0.00% equals 1.27%
661 Darnell Gant 6-foot-8 Washington 1.01% minus -0.09% equals 1.11%
675 Andre Jones 6-foot-2 Winthrop 1.08% minus 0.00% equals 1.08%
708 Dai-Jon Parker 6-foot-3 Vanderbilt 0.00% minus Freshman equals Projection
753 Emmanuel Addo 6-foot-8 Northern Colorado 0.92% minus 0.00% equals 0.92%
781 Assane Sene 7-foot-0 Virginia 0.49% minus -0.40% equals 0.89%
782 George Valentine 6-foot-8 Winthrop 0.89% minus 0.00% equals 0.89%
784 Sammy Zeglinski 6-foot-0 Virginia 0.57% minus -0.31% equals 0.88%
793 Steve Tchiengang 6-foot-9 Vanderbilt 0.87% minus 0.00% equals 0.87%
821 Reginald Buckner 6-foot-8 Mississippi 0.82% minus 0.00% equals 0.82%
831 Steadman Short 6-foot-9 Mississippi 0.81% minus 0.00% equals 0.81%
841 Kedren Johnson 6-foot-4 Vanderbilt 0.00% minus Freshman equals Projection
860 Trevor Gaskins 6-foot-2 Mississippi 0.76% minus 0.00% equals 0.76%
862 Pendarvis Williams 6-foot-6 Norfolk St. 0.76% minus 0.00% equals 0.76%
867 Steve Baker 6-foot-2 Wisconsin Green Bay 0.75% minus 0.00% equals 0.75%
873 K.T. Harrell 6-foot-5 Virginia 0.73% minus 0.00% equals 0.73%
880 Dundrecous Nelson 5-foot-11 Mississippi 0.73% minus 0.00% equals 0.73%
903 Terrance Henry 6-foot-9 Mississippi 0.68% minus 0.00% equals 0.68%
935 Raven Barber 6-foot-8 Mount St. Mary's 0.64% minus 0.00% equals 0.64%
996 Tate Unruh 6-foot-2 Northern Colorado 0.56% minus 0.00% equals 0.56%
999 Malcolm Brogdon 6-foot-5 Virginia 0.00% minus Freshman equals Projection