"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, February 01, 2019

Marquette's Path to a 2-Seed

I spent some time looking at odds of advancing in the NCAA Tournament by seed from March 2018, as Marquette is very close to playing for nothing but seeding. Even going 1-8 from here on out would put them at 20-12 (9-9) with 10+ Q1/2 wins & at most 1 Q3/4 loss. That's in.

On Bracket Matrix, Marquette is projected on the 3-line, where I also have them below. Being a 2-seed significantly improves a team's odds of March success. In the first round, 2-seeds were 124-8 and 3-seeds were 111-21. 62.9% of 2-seeds get to the Sweet 16, while for 3-seeds it's basically a coin flip at 50.8%. The goal for Marquette should be a 2-seed because it significantly improves their chances of making a run in March.

At this point, I feel there are 6 teams penciled on the first two lines. Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan, Duke, Michigan State, & Gonzaga seem certain to be up there. That leaves I believe 10 teams fighting for those two spots. However, those spots will not go to teams from the same league. Of the 10 teams in the mix, I will assume two will overachieve by 2 wins on Pomeroy to get to a 2-seed. The table below looks at current NET ranking, the Pomeroy regular season projection with two wins added, & records by Quadrant assuming teams get those wins in the easiest quadrants.

Team NET Rank Kenpom Projection +2 Wins Q1 Record Q2 Record Q3/4 Losses
Kentucky 7 26-5 10-2 7-1 0
Houston 8 30-1 5-1 10-0 0
North Carolina 9 25-6 9-6 9-0 0
Purdue 11 24-7 10-6 6-1 0
Louisville 12 23-8 8-8 6-0 0
Iowa State 14 25-6 9-4 5-2 0
Texas Tech 15 25-6 8-5 9-0 0
Marquette 18 27-4 8-4 9-0 0
Kansas 20 24-7 11-6 8-1 0
Villanova 21 26-5 7-3 12-1 1

First of all, these projections all look at teams overachieving. Of the 10 teams listed, it's safe to say a couple will overachieve significantly (2+ wins), a couple will underachieve significantly (4 fewer wins than above), & the rest will be within 1 win of projection (-1 to -3 wins). So statistically, I looked at the scenario that made Marquette the clear favorite in the event that everyone overachieved. To be assured a 2-seed, Marquette likely needs to go 8-1 the rest of the way, though 7-2 will have them solidly in the discussion.

They definitely need to win their lower quadrant games, vs Georgetown, St. John's, Butler, Creighton, and at DePaul. That insures they would be no worse than tied for the best Q2 Record & Q3/4 Loss totals. That leaves their 4 Quadrant 1 games. They play at Seton Hall, at Providence, & both Villanova games. Go 3-1 or even 2-2 in those games & Marquette will likely have the record to be on the 2-line. Some teams will have more Q1 wins, but few will have a better Q1 winning percentage & only Houston would have both a better Q1 winning percentage with no Q2 or worse losses.

There has been some worry about Marquette's losses looking worse of late. While that's true, Kansas is still top-20 in the NET (top-50 neutral are Q1) & St. John's & Indiana are both top-50 (top-75 road are Q1). It seems unlikely any of them will fall out of the top Quadrant.

Bottom line for Marquette, 7-2 will get them strongly into the mix for a 2-seed, 8-1 will all but guarantee it. Pomeroy projects them to go 6-3 from here on out, so they will need to overachieve a bit, but that's nothing new for a team that's been overachieving all season.

Here's the updated S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-VIRGINIA, 2-TENNESSEE, 3-Michigan, 4-Duke
2-Seeds: 8-Kentucky, 7-North Carolina, 6-GONZAGA, 5-MICHIGAN STATE
3-Seeds: 9-Marquette, 10-HOUSTON, 11-Kansas, 12-Louisville
4-Seeds: 16-Wisconsin, 15-Lsu, 14-Texas Tech, 13-Virginia Tech
5-Seeds: 17-Maryland, 18-Iowa, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Purdue
6-Seeds: 24-Oklahoma, 23-Iowa State, 22-NEVADA, 21-BUFFALO
7-Seeds: 25-KANSAS STATE, 26-Florida State, 27-Nebraska, 28-Mississippi State
8-Seeds: 32-NC State, 31-Texas, 30-Minnesota, 29-Mississippi
9-Seeds: 33-Auburn, 34-Cincinnati, 35-Tcu, 36-Ohio State
10-Seeds: 40-St. John's, 39-Seton Hall, 38-Syracuse, 37-Baylor
11-Seeds: 41-Alabama, 42-WASHINGTON, 43-LIPSCOMB, 44-WOFFORD
12-Seeds: 50-RADFORD, 49-HOFSTRA, 48-Florida/47-Indiana, 46-Temple/45-Arizona State

Last Four Byes: Syracuse, Seton Hall, St. John's, Alabama

Last Four In: Arizona State, Temple, Indiana, Florida
NIT 1-Seeds: Utah State, UCF, Arizona, Butler
NIT 2-Seeds: Creighton, UNC Greensboro, VCU, Belmont

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