"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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

RPI Forecast has MU finishing 3rd in the country

If you didn’t check Cracked Sidewalks yesterday, please first check out the great story on how Buzz, acting AD Mike Broeker, Jim McIlvaine, Jimmy Butler, Lazar Hayward and some of my colleagues here at Cracked Sidewalks teamed up to reach out to young Liam Kelly, who is thankfully free of cancer today.

That was a real Thanksgiving story, that makes us remember how trivial basketball is by comparison...

MU's tougher schedule results in projected RPI of 3
On December 31, 2009, I noted that scheduling seven or eight non-Top 200 teams every year was killing Marquette’s RPI, and could cost us a bid.

This season, Marquette is projected to play only two schools out of the top 200 (Mount Saint Mary’s, 280th and Winthrop, 263rd). MU is 53-1 against such teams since 2003, DePaul being the one loss.

SeasonRPIvs. non-top 200
2012 Projected3rd 2-0
201150th 7-0
201054th 7-1
200930th 8-0
200820th 7-0
200722nd 5-0
200591st 4-0

Cutting down on the number of teams played against Non-Top 200 teams has helped propel Marquette up to a projected RPI of 3, a spot normally reserved for a No. 1 or No. 2 seed. Duke and Alabama also benefit by only projecting to play two non-top 200 opponents, while Missouri is the only team projected to crack the top 10 despite playing seven non-Top 200 teams:

Projected RPI top 10 (non-top 200 opponents in parenthesis)
1. Duke 2 (NC Greensboro, Boston College)
2. Alabama 2 (Al A&M, Detroit)
3. MARQUETTE 2 (Mount St. Mary's, Winthrop)
4. Ohio State 4 (Jackson St, VMI, TX Pan Am, SC Upstate)
5. Kentucky 5 (Marist, Radford, Chatt, Samford, AR Little Rock)
6. Syracuse 5 (Fordham, Manhattan, Albany, Colgate, E. Mich)
7. Missouri 7 (SE Miss St, Niagra, Bingh, NW St, Navy, Kenn, W&M,
8. Purdue 6 (N. Ill, High Point, Coppin St., W. Car, E. Mich, IUPU-FW,
9. Kansas 3 (Tows, UCLA, N. Dak)
10. North Carolina 6 (Miss Valley, Tenn St, Evansv, Nichol, Monm, BC)

These forecasts assume Jeff Sagarin’s projections, which have Marquette finishing 25-6. Even if that proves unrealistic, the better scheduling would enable Marquette to finish with an RPI of roughly 24 even with a 21-10 mark, and even if MU went just 19-12 this season they project to have an RPI of 42, higher than the last two years.

Last year MU's critics were able to point out that the seven non-top 200 games meant MU was only 9-11 against Top 200 teams prior to the win at UConn. Based on our No. 11 seed, it looks like the seven games against non-Top 200 teams meant MU really did have to win at UConn and vs. West Virginia in the Big East tournament to make the tourney. This year the path looks much easier due to scheduling Top 200 teams like Jacksonville.

Jacksonville tries for 2nd straight upset at Florida today; visits MU Monday
Jacksonville projects to lose by 15 or 20 points to both Florida (today/Friday at 6 CST) and Marquette (Monday, 7 p.m. CST), which ranked No. 11 and No. 12 according to Ken Pomeroy coming into the game. However, Jacksonville did pull off a huge upset of #1 NIT seed Arizona State in 2010, then followed up by going into Florida to pull off the upset last year, and held within a respectable 12 points at #20 Florida State this year.

Historically, Jacksonville actually had more 1st round NBA selections (7-6) than Marquette, until Lazar and Jimmy were drafted. However, they are a long time from Artis Gilmore leading them to over 100 points a game and the 1970 national championship game against UCLA. When I calculated the Value Add of every returning player last year, 6-foot-1 Keith McDougald was Jacksonville’s top player at 1775th – behind every returning MU player.

They went 20-12 last year by scoring off steals and offensive rebounds, and this year is off to the same kind of start. Keith McDougald (4 steals, 43 points) and Russell and Glenn Powell (5/43 and 4/49 respectively) need to turn teams over to score at the other end. Meanwhile, Chris Davis (8 offensive rebounds and 27 points) and Delwan Graham (48/9) score by pounding the glass.

However, both last year and this they turned the ball over a lot, are very poor shooters, and foul a lot due to making up for a lack of height - all things that seem to play into Marquette’s hands.

Marquette needs to take care of business Monday in a final tune-up before heading out to Madison next Saturday to take on Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. CST), which plays the UNC Tar Heels as their warm-up for the in-state rivalry.

Both Sagarin and Pomeroy predict Wisconsin will be the toughest test of the year for Marquette, with Sagarin predicting a 2-point loss but Pomeroy predicting MU getting blow out by 10 points.

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