"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

Monday, February 04, 2019

Big East Bubble Trouble

This past weekend was chaos for the Big East bubble teams. Marquette & Villanova remain in safe positions. At the other end, DePaul & Xavier are auto-bid or bust. In the middle are 6 teams straddling the bubble. Let's look at the bubble resumes of teams competing for the last few bids, then follow up with some thoughts.

NET TEAM Record Q1 W/L Q2 W/L Q3 W/L Q4 W/L Kenpom SOS NCSOS
43 St. John's 16-6 2-4 5-0 1-2 8-0 48 83 262
54 Butler 13-10 1-6 5-3 4-1 3-0 56 21 40
61 Creighton 13-9 1-7 4-2 4-0 3-0 49 5 17
66 Seton Hall 13-9 2-6 5-1 3-2 3-0 65 23 43
72 Providence 13-9 1-4 3-3 3-1 6-1 86 77 181
82 Georgetown 14-8 2-3 4-3 1-2 7-0 87 105 251

St. John's
The Good: A 7-5 record vs Q1/2 teams & a win over Marquette. 5 of their last 9 are at home & they're favored in 3/4 road games on Pomeroy.
The Bad: The 12-1 NC record was built on a pile of lies. Terrible NCSOS with the only likely tourney opponent a Duke team that beat them by 30. That home loss to DePaul is ugly.
Bottom Line: T-Rank has St. John's at 0.8 wins above bubble. Any other year, this team would need an 11-7 league record, but this year going 6-3 the rest of the way for a league record of 10-8 may be enough. Anything less & they'll be caught between Dayton & the NIT.

The Good: Wins over Florida & Mississippi aged relatively well & they don't have any truly terrible losses.
The Bad: Florida returned the favor in brutal fashion at the O-Dome. 5 of their remaining 8 are on the road. If Butler wants to dance, it'll be Hotel Magic instead of Hinkle Magic that they need.
Bottom Line: T-Rank has Butler -2.5 Wins Above Bubble, which means they have a lot of work to do. Frankly, they need to get a win either at Marquette or Villanova. You have to show the committee you can beat someone. Get one of those, finish 6-2 for a 10-8 league record, & they get in. If they go 6-2 but lose both those games, they'll need to make noise in the BET.

The Good: No bad losses & have a great SOS which means any respectable record should look favorable to the Selection Committee.
The Bad: They Jays don't really have any good wins either. Missed opportunities against Ohio State & Gonzaga really stand out. Oh...and their defense
Bottom Line: T-Rank has Creighton at -1.1 Wins Above Bubble. They really look like Marquette 2017-18 reincarnated. 10-8 would probably be enough with that SOS, which means a 6-3 finish. Like Butler, they could really use a win at Marquette or Villanova.

Seton Hall
The Good: The Kentucky & Maryland wins are both Q1A, & the 7-6 record vs Q1/2 teams is respectable.
The Bad: They lost to DePaul. Twice.
Bottom Line: Seton Hall is sitting at -0.6 Wins Above Bubble on T-Rank. Those two marquee wins mean that 9-9 in league will get the Pirates in, though that still requires a 5-3 finish for a team only favored 3 times. That's a tough road for a team that ends the season hosting Marquette & Villanova.

The Good: The Texas & (maybe) South Carolina wins are aging decent. 5/9 remaining games are at home.
The Bad: Losses in both Q3 & Q4 as well as a loss to DePaul. The Friars are only favored by Pomeroy in 3/9 remaining games.
Bottom Line: The Friars are -2.2 on T-Rank's Wins Above Bubble & would be our first NIT 3-Seed. PC's bad losses & lack of quality win depth gives them little leeway. They might get to the bubble at 10-8 but really need to be 11-7 to have any confidence, which means an 8-1 finish. They are a couple bad nights from Xavier/DePaul territory.

The Good: Just being mentioned here. Road wins at St. John's & Butler headline a 6-6 record in Q1/2 games.
The Bad: Losses to Loyola-Marymount & SMU stand out, as does the SOS.
Bottom Line: The Hoyas are -1.7 on Wins Above Bubble. T-Rank's Teamcast says they need to go 7-2 to get to the bubble, but I think 6-3 is enough provided they beat either Villanova or Marquette once. That would give them a 10-8 league record & show they can beat a legit locked in team. If they lose both of those, they better win every other game.

Right now, I have St. John's, Seton Hall, & Butler in the field, though come Selection Sunday Creighton looks more likely than Butler to join the first two. The Johnnies & Jays have the most favorable schedules, while Seton Hall has the big wins the Committee likes to see. While the Big East will likely only have 4-5 teams in the NCAA Tournament, I expect them to go to 8 deep when you add in the NIT bids. Not bad for a down year.

The toughest part of the whole thing is that these teams are going to beat up on each other repeatedly from here on out, and every win for one is a loss for another. There are 6 teams that can only take 1-3 more losses. It's entirely possible that only 1 team gets to their threshold number, especially if DePaul keeps playing spoiler. A 3-bid league is possible, though with teams from the Big 10, Pac-12, & SEC nearly in freefall, it's important to remember they do have to take 68 teams & there's only so many Belmont/VCU/Utah State types that can snag bids from the big boys.

Here's the updated S-Curve:

2-Seeds: 8-Kentucky, 7-Michigan State, 6-North Carolina, 5-MICHIGAN
3-Seeds: 9-Marquette, 10-Kansas, 11-HOUSTON, 12-Virginia Tech
4-Seeds: 16-Louisville, 15-Iowa, 14-Wisconsin, 13-Purdue
5-Seeds: 17-Lsu, 18-Texas Tech, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Iowa State
6-Seeds: 24-BUFFALO, 23-KANSAS STATE, 22-NEVADA, 21-Maryland
7-Seeds: 25-Mississippi State, 26-Florida State, 27-Auburn, 28-Cincinnati
8-Seeds: 32-Baylor, 31-Minnesota, 30-Ohio State, 29-Oklahoma
9-Seeds: 33-Syracuse, 34-Indiana, 35-Tcu, 36-Nebraska
10-Seeds: 40-WASHINGTON, 39-Texas, 38-Mississippi, 37-NC State
11-Seeds: 41-Arizona State, 42-St. John's, 43-LIPSCOMB, 44-WOFFORD
12-Seeds: 50-HOFSTRA, 49-DAVIDSON, 48-Butler/47-Temple, 46-Seton Hall/45-Alabama

Last Four Byes: Mississippi, Texas, Arizona State, St. John's
Last Four In: Alabama, Seton Hall, Temple, Butler
NIT 1-Seeds: Creighton, Florida, Arizona, Belmont
NIT 2-Seeds: VCU, Georgetown, Utah State, UCF

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