"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, January 22, 2021

Resume Builder's Last Call

When Marquette left an open slot in their 2020-21 non-conference schedule, the impression given was that it could be used later to add to scheduling flexibility. Now that we're half way through the season, there are two very important things to note as we think back on what that flexibility means:

  1. Scheduling Changes: The open game and subsequent cancellations give teams more mid-season flexibility than we've ever seen before.
  2. Known Quantities: With NET and kenpom rankings having more data set, teams could schedule games now with more knowledge of both the NET value and measurable risk/rewards.

What that means is that a program like Marquette, which now has the ability to add three games (the vacant non-con slot and the Villanova/Georgetown "postponements"), could bolster their NCAA resume by adding non-conference games with teams that have high NET and low kenpom rankings, giving the best odds of adding a high-value win with minimal loss potential. It's also worth looking at playing these on the road, either as individual games or as home-and-homes or 2-for-1 situations. Without fans, home court has never meant less, which again increases the reward while minimally increasing the risk, and it could lead to improved home games in the future as some of these programs would be solid buys in a normal year.

Shanquan Hemphill & Drake need Q1 games to build an at-large resume

Photo from godrakebulldogs.com

A game like this wouldn't only benefit the high-major team, however. Teams that are in smaller leagues also don't have the number of high-profile opportunities (read: Q1 games) to bolster their own resumes, so in addition to gaining a larger audience against a team that can guarantee a national broadcast, they would also get the chance to pull off a victory that would improve their own NCAA at-large resume. So who are the best candidates for these games? Let's take a look:

Drake Bulldogs (13-0)

NET: 11 / kenpom: 60

The Bulldogs are undefeated and would be a Quadrant 1A opponent on any floor. They also haven't played a single Q1 game or any opponents in the top-100 of NET or kenpom. Drake has been blowing out inferior opponents, averaging an 18.5 ppg margin in conference wins, and is favored in every remaining game. Their NET may drop, but at worst they will almost certainly remain a Q2 opponent. But if they lose in their conference tournament, their soft resume will likely keep them outside the NCAA at-large field. However, if they added a Q1 road win, they might have enough ammo that a 1-2 loss resume would get them in. Potential Date: February 4 or monitor for future mutual cancellations.

Colgate Raiders (5-1)

NET: 19 / kenpom: 106

The Raiders NET will likely drop due to their Patriot League schedule, but they are favored in every remaining game and favored by 9+ in 8/10 games. Further, because they are playing a League only schedule currently (not all Patriot League teams did that) it would only take 2 COVID cancellations on their part or opponent's part to bring them below the 13-game threshold to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. They need games. In addition, the Patriot League is playing Saturday/Sunday every weekend, so Colgate is available during the week every week. The best way to insure it's a Q1 game? Play on the road, and do so back-to-back like the Patriot League right after one of Marquette's road trips east. Potential Date: January 28 after Providence or February 28 after UConn.

Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (11-3)

NET: 30 / kenpom: 25

The huge risk here is that the Ramblers do really well in efficiency metrics like kenpom, which indicate they are a high risk opponent. That said, they are only 1-3 away from home against top-150 teams per Pomeroy. This would be a potential Q1 or Q2 home game, or a certain Q1 road game if Marquette wanted to drive down to Chicago or frame it around their roadie at DePaul. The Ramblers are favored in every remaining game on their schedule and a win against them would look great on the resume. Potential Date: February 10, February 23, or March 3.

Winthrop Eagles (13-0)

NET: 53 / kenpom: 105

Marquette fans with long memories might get antsy when they hear Winthrop mentioned due to their upset of Marquette in the 2005 Blue & Gold Classic. Winthrop is one of just two top-60 NET teams with a sub-100 kenpom ranking, joining Colgate in that regard. The drawback here is they aren't local, so this would have to be more of a traditional buy game. Winthrop is a double-digit favorite in 8/10 remaining games and the 20.1% odds kenpom gives them of finishing their season undefeated is second best to Gonzaga. Even if they slip in the NET a bit, this is a likely Q2 home game and high risk/reward. Potential Date: January 30

Bryant Bulldogs (10-3)

NET: 94 / kenpom: 173

This would be a risk/reward play. Bryant gave Syracuse all they could handle in an 85-84 loss at the Carrier Dome on opening night, but the Orange let themselves get into a shooting contest with an opponent that's better at shooting. With more tape out, Bryant should be an easier opponent for a high-major roster at this point, and there are few top-100 NET teams that are this low in kenpom. It would likely have to be a road game to be worth it (Q2 on the road, only Q3 at home) but Bryant is located just 15 miles from Providence, so Marquette could play on back-to-back nights once like the mid-majors are doing. Potential Date: January 26 or 28

In all honesty, I don't expect to see many, if any, teams add non-conference games at this point, so this may be more a thought exercise than anything else. But for teams on the bubble, like Marquette, there is a huge opportunity due to scheduling flexibility. Further, knowing that games like these could offer exposure and resume-building upside that these teams may not be able to arrange in the middle of a normal season makes for viable reasons for both parties to embrace some COVID creativity.

Here's a look at our updated NCAA Tournament projection:


2-Seeds: 8-HOUSTON 7-Iowa 6-Tennessee 5-Texas

3-Seeds: 9-ALABAMA 10-Wisconsin 11-Kansas 12-Texas Tech

4-Seeds: 16-Minnesota 15-Illinois 14-Ohio State 13-VIRGINIA

5-Seeds: 17-Florida State 18-West Virginia 19-Creighton 20-Clemson

6-Seeds: 24-UCLA 23-Oklahoma State 22-Colorado 21-Missouri

7-Seeds: 25-Purdue 26-Oregon 27-Usc 28-Virginia Tech

8-Seeds: 32-BOISE STATE 31-Lsu 30-SAINT LOUIS 29-Connecticut

9-Seeds: 33-Florida 34-Byu 35-Xavier 36-Oklahoma

10-Seeds: 40-Arkansas 39-Indiana 38-Seton Hall 37-Louisville

11-Seeds: 41-Rutgers 42-Stanford 43-DRAKE 44-Richmond

12-Seeds: 50-TOLEDO 49-WINTHROP 48-Pittsburgh 47-San Diego State 46-St. Bonaventure 45-Marquette

13-Seeds:  51-UAB 52-BELMONT 53-WOFFORD 54-SIENA





NIT 1-Seeds: Maryland, North Carolina, Colorado State, Providence

NIT 2-Seeds: Michigan State, Utah State, Georgia Tech, VCU

Multi-bid Leagues

Big 10: 9

Big 12: 7

SEC: 6

ACC: 6

Big East: 6

Pac-12: 5

Atlantic 10: 3

Mountain West: 2

WCC: 2

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