"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, January 30, 2021

Wins & Losses on the Bubble

After dropping games to DePaul and Providence, Marquette falls out of our field and is sliding down the wrong side of the bubble. With fans hoping for a turnaround in the coming days against St. John's and Butler, two winnable home games that could creep Marquette closer to being on the right side of the cut line, I decided to take a deep look at the teams on the bubble, breaking them up into four groups. Because tables are an easy way to compare data, we will be comparing numbers with the following factors in a nitty gritty resume table.

Record refers to the team's overall record in games counted by the Selection Committee, so no exhibitions or DII/DIII opponents included. NET, SOS, and kenpom refer to the current ranking in those metrics, with the NET being the Selection Committee's grouping model, SOS referring to the strength of schedule, and kenpom being the most widely used pure computer metric. Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4 refer to the team's record in those respective games. To consider what those mean in layman's terms, a Q1 opponent is the equivalent of an at-large tournament team, a Q2 opponent is the equivalent of an automatic bid tournament team (small conference tourney winner), a Q3 opponent is the equivalent of a quality buy game, and Q4 is everyone beneath those others (essentially valueless unless you lose). Average NET W & L is the average ranking of the teams you beat and that beat you, so an easy look at how good your wins and how bad your losses are. Here's the table:

Record NET SOS kenpom Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Avg NET W Avg NET L
Stanford 10-5 53 24 42 2-4 2-1 3-0 3-0 131 54
Rutgers 9-6 34 23 28 4-5 1-1 1-0 3-0 109 31
North Carolina 11-5 48 91 33 1-4 3-1 5-0 2-0 114 35
San Diego St. 11-4 28 20 24 0-2 4-2 4-0 3-0 143 46
Loyola-Chicago 11-3 25 257 22 0-1 1-2 5-0 5-0 208 64
Seton Hall 9-7 56 46 46 2-5 1-2 5-0 1-0 117 41
Indiana 9-7 49 59 23 1-5 4-1 2-1 2-0 118 28
Richmond 10-4 58 111 55 2-1 2-1 4-0 2-2 130 103
Utah State 12-5 55 209 49 2-1 1-3 1-1 8-0 214 72
Syracuse 9-5 52 88 45 0-4 2-1 5-0 2-0 148 43
Providence 9-7 67 62 61 2-5 2-2 3-0 2-0 135 48
Maryland 8-8 41 1 44 3-4 0-1 2-0 3-0 102 23
Pittsburgh 8-4 64 177 69 1-0 2-3 3-0 2-1 136 105
VCU 11-4 46 113 62 0-3 2-1 3-0 6-0 173 42
Marquette 8-8 85 61 68 2-4 2-3 1-1 3-0 156 55
SMU 9-3 54 125 51 0-2 4-0 3-1 2-0 158 65
St. Louis 7-2 32 218 43 0-1 1-0 2-1 4-0 199 65
Michigan State 8-5 101 242 60 0-4 2-1 2-0 4-0 191 39
Georgia Tech 7-5 61 168 59 0-2 3-1 2-2 2-0 150 64
Duke 6-5 82 98 37 0-4 2-0 2-1 2-0 148 52

Last Four Byes: Stanford, Rutgers, North Carolina, San Diego State

First, with the exception of Rutgers, all of these teams are +5 or better in overall record, have a NET/kenpom average in the 40s or better, have some quality in their wins with no Q3/4 blemishes. At a glance, the outlier is Rutgers, but there are a few things that really make the Scarlet Knights stand out. First, their 4 Quadrant 1 wins are the most on this list. Their Average NET win is second and Average NET loss is third, meaning they are performing well compared to the other teams here. Had Marquette won those last two games, they would have a similar record to Rutgers, another Q1 win, and no bad losses, and would likely be in this tier. They didn't, so they aren't.

Last Four In: Loyola-Chicago, Seton Hall, Indiana, Richmond

This is a collection of misfits. Loyola-Chicago is in because of their computer numbers. Their NET/kenpom average is the best on the list, but their 1-3 record in Quadrant 1+2 isn't a lot of meat on the resume. Because of that, this team could easily fall out with a bad loss. There just isn't enough to keep them in. Seton Hall and Indiana are fairly similar. Identical records, relatively close in the computers, and similar Average NET W/L numbers. Indiana is a bit better in the top two quadrants, Seton Hall is better in terms of no bad losses. Both are similar to Marquette in that they're just slightly better from a resume perspective, and shows how much value one game here or there can have. Our last team in, Richmond, is a unique case. They are here because they are the only team on this list with a winning record against both Quadrants 1 and 2. But with 2 Quadrant 4 losses, they could easily fall out. This shows how performing against the top (which Marquette has done at times) can offset taking bad losses (which Marquette has also done).

First Four Out: Utah State, Syracuse, Providence, Maryland

Teams with more weaknesses than strengths. The Aggies have a great record, but their atrocious SOS and bottom three Average NET W and L is just too much to overcome their 2-1 Q1 record. Syracuse doesn't have much bad, but zero Q1 wins on the ledger doesn't give any reason for inclusion. Providence is like the aforementioned Seton Hall and Indiana, but is worse in both computers, SOS, and Average Ws and Ls than the teams that were in the "Last Four In" category. Maryland is very similar to Marquette in that they just don't have the overall record. If you're .500, you aren't getting in, even with some great wins on the resume and solid across the board numbers. The Terps are somewhat a victim of their #1 SOS.

Next Four Out: Pittsburgh, VCU, SMU

We'll comment more on Marquette below. As far as these three, all have good enough records, but simply not enough meat in the top quadrants to offset what they did in the lower quadrants. Further, when your computer numbers are in the 50s and 60s, you need something special to lift you into at-large territory, and neither have it. VCU is similar in computer numbers, but for them it isn't any bad losses but rather the dearth of quality at the top of their resume. You have to do something to get in, and they haven't.

Four More: St. Louis, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Duke

I included these because they are all in a number of projections but I have them completely outside the field. St. Louis I feel is included by many because they have good computer numbers and are projected as the A-10 Champs. But now that they've played an A-10 game (and lost) a critical look at the resume shows a 1-1 record vs Quadrants 1+2 and a bad loss to go along with that. They are bottom 4 on the table in terms of both Average NET W and L. That's just not good enough for at-large consideration. Michigan State simply has nothing at the top of their resume while Duke has nothing but a gaudy kenpom number (I suspect with preseason data still propping it up). Georgia Tech just looks like a NIT team. No real quality wins, a couple bad losses, just not enough.

Our focus: Marquette

First, the computer numbers have to improve. Marquette needs to win to do that, but winning by large margins would really help. Currently, kenpom projects a 4-point win against St. John's and 5-point win against Butler. If Marquette can get those into the double-digits it would really help their case. Winning those games, and going +3 in the win column from here on out is probably a minimum. In terms of good wins, the only team on this list that has two wins as good as Marquette's road win at Creighton and home win against Wisconsin is Maryland. Currently, Marquette has three Q1 games (Creighton, at Seton Hall, at UConn), two Q2 games (Xavier, at Butler), and three Q3 games (St. John's, Butler, at DePaul). To get in, they need to sweep the bottom 5 games and pick off one of the Q1 opportunities. Go 6-2 and Marquette will have enough of a record and enough meat on the schedule for inclusion. That would give them a winning record against all but Q1 and bring their numbers up to compare more with the teams on the inside than the ones they currently compare against. Time to get to work.

Here's the current S-Curve:


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

3-Seeds: 9-Tennessee 10-VIRGINIA 11-Ohio State 12-Wisconsin

4-Seeds: 16-West Virginia 15-Kansas 14-Florida State 13-Illinois

5-Seeds: 17-Oklahoma 18-Creighton 19-Texas Tech 20-Missouri

6-Seeds: 24-Minnesota 23-UCLA 22-Purdue 21-Colorado

7-Seeds: 25-Usc 26-Virginia Tech 27-Clemson 28-Oklahoma State

8-Seeds: 32-Xavier 31-Byu 30-Florida 29-Connecticut

9-Seeds: 33-Oregon 34-DRAKE 35-Arkansas 36-Louisville

10-Seeds: 40-ST. BONAVENTURE 39-Colorado State 38-Lsu 37-BOISE STATE

11-Seeds: 41-Stanford 42-Rutgers 43-North Carolina 44-San Diego State

12-Seeds: 50-WINTHROP 49-TOLEDO 48-Richmond 47-Indiana 46-Seton Hall 45-Loyola Chicago


14-Seeds: 58-NAVY 57-BRYANT 56-SIENA 55-ETSU



Last Four Byes: Stanford, Rutgers, North Carolina, San Diego State

Last Four In: Loyola-Chicago, Seton Hall, Indiana, Richmond

First Four Out: Utah State, Syracuse, Providence, Maryland

Next Four Out: Pittsburgh, VCU, Marquette, SMU

Four More: St. Louis, Michigan State, Georgia Tech, Duke


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