"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, February 22, 2014

Why I believe winning three of four gives MU a bid - but why that is so uphill

At the midpoint of the season, I said Marquette could sneak into the tournament with a 7-2 second half. Since then MU has gone 4-1, meaning three more wins in four (tough) games could be enough. See the post just below on which players should be on the court more according to Value Add, but here are the combination of factors I see.

First and foremost, I believe it would be quite a feat for Marquette to win three of the last four. Obviously visiting Villanova would seem almost impossible, and winning at Providence or against a St. John's team that so thoroughly destroyed us seems tough. The only game in which MU looks like a (slight) favorite is at home against Georgetown, so the chance of winning that and pulling upsets in at least two of the other three seems daunting. So the premise of this piece is whether or not MU should expect a bid IF they win 3 of these 4.

1. HOT TEAM. I believe Marquette would benefit subjectively from the last three years, and from the fact that in this first symetrical Big East season, MU could claim to have gone 4-5 the first half and then 7-2 in the second half. The consideration for how good a team is at the time of the tournament gives us a big edge.

2. WINS OVER TOP 25 TEAMS. If MU beats everyone but Villanova to finish up the season, the biggest obstacle is that MU likely would have ZERO wins over RPI Top 25 teams. The last chance to pick up another top 25 win by the end of the regular season ended tonight when George Washington missed two potential game-tying three-pointers in the last minute at No. 10 St. Louis. If GW had won, they had three pretty easy games to close out the season that could have left them in the RPI Top 25 and thus given MU another Top 25 win in addition to the one shot at Villanova. GW could still get into the Top 25 with a good showing in the Atlantic 10, so MU has an outside shot at up to two RPI Top 25 wins, but most likely end up with ZERO.  Based on RPI Forecast, 79 teams should end with at least one win over an RPI Top 25, so not being in the top 79 in that category would hurt. Even one win would put MU in with most bubble teams. Here is the expected breakdown:

a. Teams expected to have 6 wins over RPI Top 25 - 1 Wisconsin
b. 4+ wins over top 25 - 6 total teams (counting Wisconsin)
c. 3+ wins over top 25 - only 13 total
d. 2+ wins over top 25 - only 36 total (theoretically possible with win over Nova AND a GW run in A10 to put them in Top 25)
e. 1+ wins over top 25 - 79 teams - so at least 10 teams will get at-large bids with only 1 win over RPI top 25

3. WINS OVER TOP 50 TEAMS. Marquette could theoretically end with anywhere between 1 and 8 wins over the RPI Top 50.

a. Only 37 teams end up with 4+ wins over RPI top 50 teams, so logically if MU can get to four that is a huge RPI Top 50 wins.
b. Another 20 teams have exactly 3 wins over RPI Top 50 teams - so basically 3 wins is a strong bubble team as it would include the 38th to 57th team and just over half of those would make the tournament so three helps MUs case.
c. Anoother 21 teams are forecast to have exactly 2 wins over the RPI Top 50, so if MU ends up there as they are now then that would be a little shaky - that puts them in with the 58th through 78th best teams in that category, so a slight negative.
d. It is possible MU could end up with only the George Washington win, if Xavier (currently projected to finish 45th before the loss to Georgetown today), Georgetown (67th before win over Xavier), Providence (64th) and even potential victim St. John's (55th) could all end up missing the Top 50 to leave MU with only the one win over GW, which would likely kill any hope since that would leave 78 teams in front of us with at least two Top 25 wins.

However, keep in mind that some combination of those teams could end up in the Top 50, so MU could also pick up two Top 50 wins against Georgetown or Providence to double up, so if MU does win three of the last four then there is a good chance MU could end with three, four or even five Top 50 wins - at which point I believe MU is in the tournament.

4. MU is projected to finish in the Top 50 in strength of schedule - 48th is the actual projection. So keep rooting for MU's opponents in their other games to assure MU could go in as a hot team (7-2 second half) with a Top 50 SOS, and if some combination of Georgetown, Xavier, Providence and St. John's win their other games MU could easily finish with 3-5 wins over Top 25 teams by the end of the regular season.

I believe all of this adds up to a bid IF MU wins three of the last four to complete a 7-2 second half.

Now the hard part. The odds at www.kenpom.com give MU a 12% chance of beating Georgetown, Providence AND St. John's. So if MU loses at Nova, those are the odds.

Yes, I believe MU gets into the tournament winning three of the last four - but the team would have earned it.

Otherwise, we go into the Big East Tournament having to win out at Madison Square Garden to make the tournament.

No comments: