"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

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Marquette is Dancing!

Shaka Smart & Justin Lewis led Marquette back to the NCAA Tournament
 Photo from JSOnline.com

It's Selection Sunday, and if you only take one thing away from this article, it's that Marquette will be learning their NCAA Tournament destination tonight. In a year when most fans were just hoping to see progress and a reinvigorated defense, this team is going to be playing on the biggest stage in the sport in the next week. There is no question. There is no doubt. Marquette is a lock.

Moving on, here are the tough decisions that came today:

The Protected Seeds: Arizona and Kansas locked in 1-seeds by winning conference tournaments, Baylor held on to the last 1-seed thanks to Auburn, Kentucky, and Duke all falling in conference tourney play. Tennessee has the best claim at the last 2-seed and could slip past Duke or Villanova. UCLA claims the last 3-seed thanks to Illinois and Wisconsin both losing early in the Big 10 tourney. Providence's stellar record allows them to hold on to our last 4, though I could see Houston passing them. It would be far more surprising to see Providence as a 3 than a 5.

The Mountain West: Resume-wise, Colorado State is the favorite. However, Boise State won both the regular season and conference tournaments. Meanwhile, San Diego State has the best predictive numbers (by far) and no losses outside the Quadrant 1. I ended up going with the champs first on the 7-line, with CSU joining Boise there and San Diego State a couple spots back as an 8-seed. I could see them coming out in any order. Wyoming also sneaks into the First Four, anchored down by their predictive metrics but making it in due to their 10-5 Q1+2 record.

Marquette's Seed: I haven't published all of my updates, but I've had Marquette on every line from 7-10 this week. Ultimately, their top end quality placed them as a 9-seed, just behind Creighton due to the 3-game sweep. I could see an argument for Virginia Tech being ahead of Marquette, but their lack of wins over the field kept Marquette ahead. If this proves correct, there is no one on the 8-line I would want to see, considering Seton Hall wouldn't be an option. San Diego State is probably Marquette's best matchup as they have an anemic offense that would almost guarantee a close game.

The Bubble, Falling Out: Teams like Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Michigan that needed help to polish their resumes dropped their openers, which ultimately played their way out of the field. Wake's loss put them in a circumstance where their 338 NCSOS would have been unprecedented to select for Dayton. The Demon Deacons needed to be in the main field, because precedent was a killer once you get to Dayton. Notre Dame suffered from two different problems. First, before the week began two of their Q2 wins fell to Q3, leaving them with a 4-8 Q1+2 record that quickly became 4-9. There just isn't enough good to offset that mediocre record despite the NCSOS. Michigan fell out because their final record was 17-14. No team has made the tournament with a W/L margin of +3 or lower in a non-pandemic year since Georgia's 16-14 in 2001. That knocked Michigan out and kept Oklahoma from moving in.

The Bubble, Moving In: Typically, I don't move teams in on the basis of conference tourney results, but this year has been different for a few reasons. The teams above falling out meant going to find replacements. UAB winning Conference USA put North Texas into the at-large pool. The Mean Green's profile is nearly identical to 2019 Belmont which went to the First Four. In the NET, UNT is 46 and Belmont was 47. UNT is 6-4 in Q1+2, Belmont was 5-3. Both had 2 losses in Quadrant 3. UNT's NCSOS is at 57 and Belmont was at 43. Indiana moved in partially due to their wins this week but more because when the teams above fell out and they were Next Four Out while Florida and Rutgers didn't do anything to improve their fatal flaws. The last team added was Buzz Williams' Texas A&M. Their 3 wins this week, two in Q1, was unprecedented in teams trying to play in the past 5 NCAA years. The second reason is because the Committee was still voting on 6 teams for inclusion as of Saturday evening. With the Committee taking long to decide the field, it indicates these games will be valued more seriously. Finally, Xavier is still in. They are there because of their 5 Q1 wins, acceptable overall record, and good enough metrics. When looking at Michigan, Oklahoma, and Rutgers, all teams with quality wins as well, Xavier is the only team that doesn't have an obvious thing to keep them out (Michigan and Oklahoma's +3 win margins, Rutgers' unprecedented resume and NET numbers).

The Bid Thieves: Virginia Tech was really testing the "play your way in" theory but made it easy by knocking off Duke, while as mentioned, UAB put North Texas into the at-large pool. The only remaining bid thief is Richmond in the A-10. If they win, Davidson will earn an at-large, most likely pushing SMU or Texas A&M to Dayton and North Texas out of the field.

Here's the full S-Curve:

1-Seeds: 1-GONZAGA 2-ARIZONA 3-KANSAS 4-Baylor

2-Seeds: 8-Duke 7-VILLANOVA 6-Auburn 5-Kentucky

3-Seeds: 9-TENNESSEE 10-PURDUE 11-Texas Tech 12-Ucla

4-Seeds: 16-Providence 15-Arkansas 14-Wisconsin 13-Illinois

5-Seeds: 17-HOUSTON 18-Connecticut 19-Iowa 20-St. Mary's

6-Seeds: 24-Usc 23-Alabama 22-Texas 21-Lsu

7-Seeds: 25-Ohio State 26-Michigan State 27-BOISE STATE 28-Colorado State

8-Seeds: 32-North Carolina 31-MURRAY STATE 30-San Diego State 29-Seton Hall

9-Seeds: 33-Tcu 34-Memphis 35-Creighton 36-Marquette

10-Seeds: 40-Miami 39-Iowa State 38-San Francisco 37-VIRGINIA TECH

11-Seeds: 41-Smu 42-Texas A&M 43-Indiana 44-Xavier 45-Wyoming 46-North Texas






Last Four Byes: Iowa State, Miami, SMU, Texas A&M

Last Four In: Indiana, Xavier, Wyoming, North Texas

Still Evaluating: Michigan, Notre Dame, Wake Forest

Bid Thief Potential: A-10 (Richmond)

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