"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 27, 2023

Bracketology What If?

Uatu is here to ask...What If?

Marvel fans are familiar with the concept of What If? The stories explore how events may have been different by changing the answer to one question. While that's easy to do in fantasy worlds, Mark Strotman raised the idea of doing What If? in the Marquette Cinematic Universe. With that in mind,we'll look at how Marquette's resume might be different if the final few minutes of some Marquette losses had played out differently. Where one question changes everything, today we ask...What If?

 What if Iggy had finished off Bully?

What If...Marquette had beat Mississippi State in Fort Myers?

This win might be the most intriguing because of the multiple reverberations it would have had. Not only would it turn a Quadrant 1 loss into a win, it would turn the Quadrant 4 Georgia Tech win into a Quadrant 2 Utah win. This assumes Marquette and Mississippi State both would have won the next night. This would improve Marquette's Q1 record from 5-5 to 6-4, improve their Q1+2 record from 9-6 to 11-5, and give them another win over the field. Playing Utah instead of Georgia Tech would also have improved the non-conference strength of schedule and overall SOS. That would've been enough to push them ahead of Indiana at the Reveal, and Marquette would have moved solidly on to the 3-line at worst with Iowa State's recent miscues.

What If...Marquette had won the final minute at Xavier?

After Oso Ighodaro's jumper tied the game at 72, Xavier took a timeout with less than a minute to play. Souley Boum scored on the ensuing possession and Xavier outscored Marquette 8-4 in the final minute to hold on in Cincy. Had Marquette won that game, they would've claimed a share of the Big East title on February 22nd with Providence's fifth loss. Marquette's Gold Out win over DePaul would've clinched the outright title.

In terms of resume, this would have had two impacts. First, it would've knocked Xavier out of the top-16 reveal, opening the door for UConn to replace them. Second, it would've given Marquette a road win the likes of which they didn't have at the time of the reveal. In all honesty, though, turning the Xavier loss or Providence loss to a win would've had the same impact, adding a Q1 road win and moving Marquette up slightly. Winning the Wisconsin game would've had a similar impact. While it wouldn't add the quality of win, it would take away Marquette's worst loss and the only one with potential to drop to Q3. While any of them would've moved Marquette up a spot or two, they weren't the most important narrow miss. 

 What If Purdue Pete had run out of steam?

What If...Marquette had held on to beat Purdue?

Marquette led 58-49 with less than 10 minutes to play, but the deciding moment likely came at about the 8 minute mark. Purdue started to get some momentum, but was still trailing by 6 when Brandon Newman turned the ball over. Chase Ross attempted a three in transition and missed. Kam Jones got the rebound, kicked it out, and Ross missed again. Oso Ighodaro collected yet another offensive rebound, the ball got back to Ross, and he missed another three. Newman secured the rebound, turned the ball up court, and David Jenkins hit a transition three to cut the lead to just 3. But what if Ross had hit one of those threes, Marquette re-established the 9 point lead, and was able to get the defense set instead of giving up a transition three opportunity? In our scenario, Marquette holds on and beats Purdue at Mackey.

We know what happened after that. Purdue dominated Duke and Gonzaga in Portland and spent much of the season ranked at the top of the AP Poll. Not only would Marquette have been ranked sooner and likely held on to their rankings through later losses, their resume metric average would be single-digits currently, their predictive metrics would be better, and they would have a second Q1A road win to go along with the Creighton victory last week. At the reveal, the only thing that separated Marquette from Kansas State and Iowa State on the three line was Quadrant 1A road wins. Having the Purdue win would've given Marquette clear metric and win quality superiority over those teams. They would have been no worse than 11 at the reveal. Further, the subsequent losses by Virginia, Tennessee, Arizona, Baylor, and Texas, coupled with the Creighton win would have pushed Marquette near the top of the 2-line.

Perhaps most important, however, would be the impact this had on Purdue as they have struggled of late. Add another loss to their resume and we would be comparing 23-6 Purdue to 24-5 Marquette. Marquette would have the better record in Q1A, the better Q1A road wins, the better away record, and closer metrics. The Selection Committee noted at the reveal that Alabama was ahead of Houston because of their head-to-head win, which mattered that high up on the S-Curve. It is reasonable to think that had Marquette beat Purdue, that would resonate with the Selection Committee and be the reason why Marquette would at this moment be angling for a 1-seed instead of a 3-seed with an uphill climb to move any higher.

Now...we move back to reality as we know it. First, a few notes on our new S-Curve and bracket:

  • At 10 on the S-Curve, Marquette may be stagnating there due to K-State's favorable schedule  while everyone on the 2-line is stronger in terms of quality wins (current 2's all have at least 13 Q1+2 wins to Marquette's 9) and average metrics (RAP Scores between 5.7 and 9.2, compared to Marquette's 14.0). A reminder, RAP is the average of the Resume average And Predictive average from the team sheet. Teams line up within one seed line of that score 80% of the time.
  • There is a viable way for Marquette to improve their Quadrant 1+2 record, but it's outside their control. Currently Villanova (#78 NET) and Seton Hall (#80) are right outside the magic #75 number. Marquette has a 4-0 record against them, which provides two Quadrant 2 road wins (76-135) and two Quadrant 3 home wins (76-160). If they move up a few spots though, all of those games shift up a Quadrant, which means the Q2 total remains the same, but the resume effect turns those Q3 games into Q1. Today, Marquette is 5-5 in Q1 and 9-6 in Q1+2 combined. Moving those games up would change that to 7-5 Q1 and 11-6 in Q1+2.
  • The 75-rank swings both ways. If Villanova and Seton Hall moved up while #73 Colorado and #75 Washington State dropped down, Arizona would lose a Q1 win and add a Q3 loss while UCLA would effectively see two Q1 wins drop to Q3. What happens to those four teams could determine what happens on the 2-line come Selection Sunday.
  • Lots of movement from familiar names. Arkansas and Kentucky have moved up significantly of late, while Iowa State and Providence are sinking down.
  • The bubble is a mess. Wisconsin, Penn State, New Mexico, and the Big 12 bubble schools all took losses this weekend. Teams like Michigan, North Carolina, and Clemson are trying to knock on the door, but so far haven't done enough to get in. We have added Utah State and Arizona State to the field. At the end of the day, you have to put 68 teams in.

Here's the latest S-Curve and bracket:

Multibid Leagues

Big 10: 8

SEC: 8

Big 12: 7

Big East: 5

ACC: 5

Mountain West: 4

Pac-12: 4

American: 2

WCC: 2

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