"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, May 19, 2024

Schedule Talk with Mike Broeker

With the 2023-24 season behind us, it's time for Marquette fans to look ahead to the next season and life without Tyler Kolek and Oso Ighodaro leading the way. A quiet transfer portal saw Marquette finish as the only high-major program without any transfers out while adding 7-foot freshman Josh Clark to fill the thirteenth and final scholarship. Marquette has begun to release scheduling information, so we thought who better to talk to about the schedule than Deputy Athletic Director Mike Broeker?

Dwyane Wade led Marquette to the 2001 Great Alaska Shootout title
 Photo by Mark Lester | Anchorage Daily News

Marquette has a long history of involvement in Multi-Team Events, better known as non-conference tournaments or more simply as MTEs. From the Great Alaska Shootout championships in 2001 that put Dwyane Wade on the national stage to multiple appearances in the Maui Invitational to Orlando, Charleston, New York, Puerto Rico, and numerous other destinations, Marquette has been a fixture in these November contests. But with the dissolution of the Pac-12, the face of MTEs seems to be changing.

Cracked Sidewalks: "I was curious about the future of MTEs and it sounds like Marquette is looking at a home MTE next year. Would you be able to confirm it?"

Mike Broeker: "I would say we are going to host our own MTE. We're going to get three games out of it. Next year's MTE is really a factor of a desire to play an additional home game or two and the best way to do that. Is it an every year thing? I don't think we can say that. I've said this, historically, your schedule has to do two things. One, it has to reflect your roster and what you're capable of doing. And then two, it always has to feed your competitive expectation for the program, and obviously, our competitive expectation is pretty clear and Shaka has been open about it."

CS: "With the competitive expectations I was looking at some of the home MTEs that programs did this past year. Duke, Kentucky, and Nebraska all had something along that line and from a scheduling perspective, ended up with, between those three, a total of seven Quadrant 4 [Ed. note, NET 161-362] and two Quadrant 3 [NET 76-160] games. Is that the sort of model you'll be looking at?"

MB: "I think you end up with a mix of teams that can skew top-end Quadrant 2 into Quadrant 3, or Quadrant 3 into Quadrant 4. It ends up in that window you identified."

CS: "Cincinnati and Ole Miss shared an MTE where both of them hosted the same non-high-major opponents. Has there been any thought of a rotating MTE, maybe with a couple local high majors? One year, Marquette would be able to host, with the same group of teams the next year. Maybe a Northwestern or Minnesota, that sort of program to allow for a little big higher quality game while also guaranteeing some home games for all the teams involved?"

MB: "The model exists where two high-major teams host, but you have to remember it's problematic year-over-year because the provision in the MTE states that 75% of the teams year-over-year have to be different. We couldn't partner with Wisconsin and say let's combine efforts and host them where we're cycling two teams because now it's only 50%."

While Marquette's MTE opponents have not been announced at the time of this writing, these comments seem to indicate the MTE will likely be three games that historically would be considered buy level games. For comparison by final NET rankings in 2023-24, Duke hosted #195 La Salle, #277 Bucknell, and #329 Southern Indiana; Kentucky hosted #92 St. Joseph's, #333 Texas A&M-Commerce, and #355 Stonehill; Nebraska hosted #80 Duquesne, #174 Stony Brook, and #220 Rider. One of those teams, Stony Brook, has been confirmed as being on Marquette's 2024-25 schedule, though there is no indication whether or not they are part of the MTE:


CS: "It does sound like Marquette is still going to pursue the prominent destination MTEs. Obviously Maui and Atlantis are the two that come to mind. Are there any target dates on those?"

MB: "We have no MTE commitments for 2025 or 2026. You asked a very interesting question to start this discussion. What is the future of MTEs? Let's take it away from Marquette and look at it in general. I think we all want to play high quality games on our campuses. One, it's good for college basketball. Two, at a basketball school like Marquette, the more home games we can play the better. And three, as much as we love our television contracts, our season ticket holders and our ticket buyers are the lifeblood of what we do from a revenue standpoint. The challenge for the MTE is moving forward, and this is my opinion, I think giving up three games away from home is going to be a hard ask for coaches in the future. The interesting thing will be to see how those MTEs evolve to maybe there's still eight teams, but there are two four-team brackets that play two games with a day off in between. Maybe Maui evolved, or Atlantis evolved, because I think the destinations are still important to building a quality experience for your kids and your programs."

Broeker's comments here felt a bit prophetic. As mentioned above, the dissolution of the Pac-12 will be a partial driver in this. With few exceptions, MTEs traditionally feature teams that are all from different leagues. In an eight team event like Maui or Atlantis, this was traditionally accomplished by including one team from the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC, then adding in a couple of prominent mid-majors from leagues like the A-10, Mountain West, or WCC. The contraction of the Pac-12 makes this far more difficult because MTEs would not be able to include Stanford and North Carolina, who played each other in the Battle 4 Atlantis last year but are now both ACC members, or UCLA and Purdue, both of whom were Marquette opponents in the Maui Invitational but are now both in the Big 10, or Utah and Houston, who played each other in the Charleston Classic but now both call the Big 12 home. All of which led to this change in the ESPN Events Invitational, a tournament in Orlando that Marquette has frequently participated in:


This shouldn't be a problem for programs in the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, or Big East like Marquette. They will likely either end up participating in 2-game events against other high majors, or when they do play in a premier 3-game event programs like Gonzaga, Memphis, San Diego State, and VCU will will out the field. Who this really hurts are the mid-majors who count on these events as their some of their only shots against high-major competition. It remains to be seen if these events when trimmed to two fields of four will add campus games that allow these teams to play the high-majors regardless, or if a team from a mid-major even wants a road game against a high-major that might hurt their resume more frequently than help it.

Sam Hauser's 19 points led Marquette to a road win over Georgia in 2016
 Photo from Marquette Athletics

One potential downside to more home-court MTEs like Marquette plans this year is a reduction in neutral site games. However there is already a solution in place for that in 2024-25 as Marquette will play in the Bahamas against Georgia on November 23rd, incidentally at the same location where the Battle 4 Atlantis will be played a few days later.

CS: "Speaking of Atlantis, there's the Georgia game that's been mentioned. I like any time we're able to play an SEC school, but that seems like a long way to go. Is there any greater plan around that game?"

MB: "We wanted a quality neutral site game that would add to our resume. We're hosting our own MTE but we wanted a destination neutral site for our kids and our fans."

CS: "I also wanted to talk about league challenges. For the time being, the Gavitt Games have been discontinued. We're going into the last year of the Big East/Big 12 Battle. Is the Big East pursuing any other such series?"

MB: "We are looking at everything with the intent of building resumes with the best advantage for our teams for March. With the [league] challenges, one of the challenges is they were built before we went to 20 games from a conference schedule. I've always felt at Marquette, we've done a very good job historically and had the opportunity to schedule those games on our own. I've never believed that we wouldn't be best positioned to find great teams to play us."

CS: "So you feel confident in being able to replace that level of quality? We had six high major games in the past three years from those series, do you think those will be able to be replaced?"

MB: "Shaka is very much 'let's play two high-quality home games, two high-quality road games' every year. Then let's figure out what our MTE situation looks like and how does that impact the rest of what we do? If you think about 11 non-conference games this year, we're going to play five, what I would say, high-quality neutral or series games. I think in the future most teams oscillate between five and six high-quality games. The difference will be the home games, the more home games we play the better that positions us financially."

CS: "It's obviously good for the fans because we love being able to go see great games at Fiserv."

MB: "We have Purdue at home this year. We're very close to finalizing another home-and-home this year. So we'll have two high-major home games in the non-conference, we'll have two high-major road games in the non-conference, and then we'll have the neutral game with Georgia."

Maryland is that aforementioned home-and-home

Image from @marquettembb

Marquette will play Iowa State on the road in the Big East/Big 12 Battle and added a road game at Maryland as that second high-major road game. They will host Wisconsin and Purdue at Fiserv. Georgia will fill out the neutral site game. There are also rumors Marquette may be considering another neutral site game, with Andy Katz reporting that NC State could show up on the schedule. While no location has been discussed, Broeker's comments would indicate that if this were to happen, a neutral site would be most likely based on what's already scheduled for both 2024 and 2025 (Wisconsin, Purdue, Maryland).


With all of this in mind, we have a picture of what the Marquette non-conference schedule is starting to look like. Using the projections at barttorvik.com we can get an idea of what next year will look like, both in terms of quality and quadrant. If we view the known and suspected opponents using T-Rank as a proxy for NET Rankings, we have Marquette playing at Iowa State (#2, Q1A), Purdue (#12, Q1A), Wisconsin (#37, Q2A), at Maryland (#46, Q1B), neutral against Georgia (#70, Q2A), and Stony Brook (#292, Q4). If N.C. State were added on a neutral (#68, Q2A), that would be another quality non-con game, and Marquette's six high-major opponents would match that five to six target Broeker mentioned, indicating that Marquette can indeed replace the non-conference quality even with diminishing conference challenges and having a non-destination MTE. We turned to more general scheduling topics.

Markus Howard's 45 points led Marquette over Q1A Buffalo in 2018
Photo from Sports Illustrated

CS: "There is discussion about the difficulty that mid-major teams having games, like James Madison and Indiana State. In the past, Marquette has brought in those types of programs, Fresno State in 2016 was coming off a tourney bid, Vermont in 2017 and Buffalo in 2018. Is there any focus on bringing those types of mid-major teams in that might be scrapping for a bid?"

MB: "It all depends on where you are at that moment in time and scheduling. That's all driven by where you think your resume is at the time, where you sit, and what are you capable of building on your resume? We see high quality Q1/Q2 games as great opportunities. We also know we have to function as a business here and play a certain number of home games. Those are those quad four opportunities you see across college basketball. You look at resumes more than most when you do your bracketology. I think the teams that hurt themselves are those that try to overthink it. You should play the best games that fit your roster that you have a chance to win and then you need to play games that give you an opportunity to build confidence that don't put you at a whole lot of risk, and allow you to build a 16, 17, 18 game season ticket package. I think where teams get themselves into trouble are when, and this is Mike Broeker's opinion, how can I game the system so to speak to take advantage of all the numbers on the team sheet?. We play enough high-quality games in the Big East conference. Take the opportunity to play five to six quality non-conference games, that's more than plenty. That's more than most."

CS: "I swear, it's almost like you're looking at my question sheet. The next thing I wanted to ask about, there was a lot made up around Selection Sunday of some of the Big 12 scheduling. You look at Iowa State, Texas Tech, TCU, they were all sub-300 in non-conference strength of schedule, BYU was close to that, and a lot of discussion of how that impacted bids, how that affected other leagues. I think you could just as easily look at Oklahoma and Cincinnati not getting in as maybe it hurt some other teams. How do you think that is for the sport? Is there any worry of non-con mismatches as non-conference schedules start to shrink?"

MB: "I think we've got to be careful making assumptions on one year's selections. I think very clearly for multiple years, the Committee has shown through their selections that it's in your interest to play the best games you can play, away from home, and in the non-conference. You're a data guy, there's so many data points on the team sheet based on the argument you're making, and like you said, I can make a reverse argument for Oklahoma and Cincinnati. You can find the data point to justify your argument. So for me, going back to our league, I try to get away from the data points and look at it this way. How can, if we were to perceive or data determined to be the second best team in the Big East conference, how can a team that won 13 games in our league [Seton Hall] not be in the NCAA Tournament? We can point to other things on St. John's and Providence who are left out, we can point to data to make our argument. The Seton Hall one for me is the one that's intuitively just the biggest struggle. So where do I go on non-conference scheduling? We're going to go where the Committee continues to tell us to go. I think it says 'challenge yourself.' We work with a group called HD Intelligence. They do projections based on team roster, returning players, relative strength of that team against the rest of college basketball algorithm that determines percentage chance to fall within the different quadrants. We try to get ourselves to a place where twenty to twenty-two of our games are quadrant one or quadrant two. That includes our league. Now you have to win enough games within that to get to that point, or you have to put yourself in a league like ours, to get within that range of games."

Cracked Sidewalks saw Q3 potential in Rider, but they fell into Q4
Photo by Jeff Hanisch | USA Today

CS: "There's always just the difficulty of trying to predict anything. Last year, looking at Rider, looking at Northern Illinois, I thought those had good shots at being quadrant three games and it didn't work out that way."

MB: "Exactly. The team we predicted number one two years ago, the surefire quadrant one that ended up being a quadrant three, was North Carolina. So things happen. That's why again, for me, it's going back to about the Q3s and Q4s, I don't believe the Committee looks deeply at the individual quad four games as much as they look at the volume of quad four games. If you go look at teams, that's where you'll see the correlation between their selection versus not their selection, or their seed versus what they perceive their seed should've been. And that's the difference between six and seven, or five and six any given year based on what your non-conference schedule looks like."

In the 2023-24 regular season, Marquette played fifteen Q1, six Q2, five Q3, and six Q4 games. That 21/11 split of Q1+2 vs Q3+4 fits exactly what Broeker is aiming for. That occurred with five non-conference games being in the first two quadrants. Both UCLA and Notre Dame fit the high-major profile but ended up as Q3 games. With that in mind, Marquette should be right on track for a similar quality schedule in 2024-25, which is incredible considering Marquette's schedule ranked #7 in the nation last year.

Another topic that has received a lot of discussion lately is interest in non-conference play. With the number of games that are mismatches and the sheer quantity of buy games on a nightly basis, coupled with many other programs not challenging themselves to the level Marquette is, many pundits have discussed how to improve the non-con season. When you add in considerations such as the seeming demise of conference challenges and the slimming down of MTEs, this problem only seems to be one that will grow. Quite simply, on a weekly basis the vast majority of games from November through December just aren't very interesting, and there are many nights where there isn't a single high-profile college basketball game on the calendar.

Former Sports Illustrated writer Andy Glockner floated the idea of a College Basketball Champions League in 2013 that was expanded on by Paint Touches in 2019. Since then, some fans, including some Marquette diehards, have pushed the idea of an ultimate non-conference tournament. Beginning with play-in games among the low and mid-major league champions and carrying on to include top-tier high-majors, the CBBCL would be primarily played on home courts for the best atmosphere while also providing consistent quality college basketball content throughout the non-conference season. Anonymous Eagle has continued this discussion, posting annual CBBCL articles to show what the format would look like in any given year. 

Click here to see what the 2023 CBBCL would have looked like

Photo by Nick Potts | Getty Images

CS: "I know you're aware of the College Basketball Champions League idea that's been floated online in the Marquette culture. It feels like a pie in the sky idea, but it would be awesome if it could happen. Do you think there's any interest in a larger scale non-conference tournament to push early season interest in the sport?"

MB: "You know, I think we're open to anything. What can we learn from others around us? Like you call pie in the sky, I worked at the NBA years and years and years ago; if someone said in-season tournament when I worked there, they might have said the same thing. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but I think we have to look at what's best for the sport? What continues to create interest in a way so that we can all create value both collectively as a conference and on our own campuses? What best positions teams to play in the post-season? What gets lost is the economic reality for us. The more home games we play, the better it is for us financially and that's resources we can turn around and continue to grow our program. It's just absolutely mission critical to how we look at men's basketball. How do those business boundary conditions factor into some type of College Basketball Champions series? And then you have media contracts, so sharing those opportunities, not every high-major league has a media contract that's the same. Some have multiple partners, some have single partners, so how do you get those groups to work together? But anything that continued to deepen the public's interest in college basketball is a great thing."

CS: "I think what I always run into is just he number of games you would have to have to make it a reality. At least, if you're talking about 32, or now 31 leagues it feels like a massive ask, but at the same time, the college basketball fan in me loves the idea of it."

MB: "But that's where great ideas come from. Great ideas don't come from 1,000 feet, they start at 50,000 feet, but by the time you get to 25,000 feet you probably have a workable solution. If it adds great value, creates interest, supports programs financially in the way they need to be supported, honors media agreements. But if you don't, if you start with all these boundary conditions as to why, then it doesn't happen. I think one of the good things we're doing in our league right now with the [league] challenges going away is we're taking one step back and looking a little broader at scheduling to say 'how can we build competitiveness, build attractiveness from a media standpoint, help our teams put better games on campuses? What does that look like and what are we capable of doing?'"

CS: "The last thing I would ask you, is there anything that as fans, we should be thinking of or paying attention to?"

MB: "You guys are great. I say this and mean it with all sincerity, we're really fortunate to have the fans we have. We do not take that for granted. I mean, Shaka and our team, you hear that ad nauseum from them. Continued support is great, our fans have always answered the bell when it comes to filling our buildings, supporting our excellence funds, to now NIL. We're fortunate. When you think about uniforms, scheduling, if it's meaningful to you, it's meaningful to us so long as we can make it a reality. Buy tickets, fill up Fiserv, make it a really hard place to play because it's the best thing you can do."

Here's the 2024-25 Marquette non-conference schedule so far as we know it:



Sunday, April 07, 2024

Season in reflection

Sadly, what once promised to be a magical #mubb season came to an end over a week ago and we're finally ready to talk about it. We talk about the game result, any takeaways we have regarding the team or it's philosophy and how we get over things. Next we turn to the legacy Tyler and Oso will leave behind at Marquette as this almost assuredly was their last game in blue and gold. Then we do a little bit of looking ahead to figure what the future might hold. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/d9hk2j/ScrambledEggs_Editted_040724.mp3

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Scrambled Eggs checks in with Travis Diener

Joe McCann flies solo on this mission but he's in good company because Marquette legend, Travis Diener joins him on the pod. They talk Marquette's first Sweet 16 in 11 years, what this experience is like for the players, and the impact this season can have on the program. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/2yzf9c/Diener.mp3

Monday, March 25, 2024

N.C. State Wolfpack Preview

 

David Joplin and Tyler Kolek lifted Marquette back to the Sweet 16

Photo by Alex Martin | Journal & Courier

I don't know that I've ever enjoyed a Marquette win less than I did the game against Colorado. In the aftermath, I was joyful, but in the morning before and while the game was going on, I was a nervous wreck. The butterflies were having a riot in my stomach and my anxiety levels were through the roof. After the game, I took the dogs for a long walk just to burn off some nervous energy. That win was one I needed about as much as I need air itself.

Thanks to fantastic efforts from Tyler Kolek, Kam Jones, David Joplin, Chase Ross, and really the Marquette team as a whole, we advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013. Knowing our opponent, it seemed appropriate to break down the North Carolina State Wolfpack in a rematch of the 1974 National Championship game.

D.J. Burns silenced N.C. State's critics en route to the Sweet 16

Photo by Joe Sargent | Getty Images

North Carolina State Wolfpack

March 29, 2024 at American Airlines Center (Dallas, TX)

Head Coach: Kevin Keatts (208-121 overall, 136-93 at N.C. State)

NET Ranking: 63

kenpom Ranking: 53

Projected Starters: PG Michael O'Connell (6'2" Sr), SG D.J. Horne (6'2" 5th), SF Casey Morsell (6'3" 5th), PF Mohamed Diarra (6'10" Jr), C D.J. Burns (6'9" 5th)

Entering the NCAA Tournament, the Wolfpack were in rough shape. They had lost 10 of their last 14 games, were below .500 in conference play, and rumors were swirling that Kevin Keatts would be fired once their season came to an end. Their #76 ranking in kenpom was 8th in the ACC and even optimistic Wolfpack fans would've expected a short trip. Instead, after beating Louisville and Syracuse, they upset Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina on consecutive nights, winning five games in five days and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. After earning an 11-seed for their run, the Wolfpack upset 6-seed Texas Tech and were fortunate to draw 14-seed Oakland in the Round of 32 and defeated the Golden Grizzlies in overtime.

Experience is the hallmark of the Wolfpack roster. They boast three fifth-year starters, bolstered by a junior and senior. The focal point is D.J. Burns, a massive presence listed at 6'9", 275 pounds but likely even more imposing than that. Despite his size, Burns is described by Field of 68 analyst Terrence Oglesby as a "walking refrigerator with ballerina feet." Marquette fans will be reminded of Davante Gardner. Burns is a massive human, but also has great footwork and touch around the rim, and is a crafty distributor who leads the Wolfpack in assist rate. Their next most potent weapon is D.J. Horne, an exceptional shooter (40.6% from three) who can also get to the rim and leads the team in scoring. O'Connell is a lower usage shooter who has been scorching of late (63.6% in their last 7 games, 36.6% overall), Morsell is a slasher who does his best work inside the arc, and Diarra is the glass cleaner who is a lob threat on offense and rim protector on defense. NC State really only goes two deep on the bench, with Butler transfer Jayden Taylor subbing in on the wing and Ben Middlebrooks backing up the front court. Both are serviceable and there's not much lost when they go to the bench, but there isn't a ton of depth there beyond that.

Aside from an excellent turnover rate, the Wolfpack may have one of the most vanilla kenpom Four Factors pages ever. They rank between 130-200 in seven of eight factors on offense and defense. They don't turn it over, but they don't really do anything particularly well or particularly poorly. In terms of overall rankings among Sweet 16 teams, they are last in Adjusted Efficiency Margin, 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency, and 14th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Where the Wolfpack can be most dangerous on offense is in spot up and transition opportunities. They are 80th percentile on spot up jumpers, averaging 1.003 points per possession, and that is an area where Marquette is not very good defensively, landing in the 30th percentile. Expect NC State to try to exploit Marquette's switches in this regard. They are also one of the best transition offenses in the country, ranking in the 86th percentile, though Marquette is better defending transition. Where the Wolfpack could really struggle, though, is on the defensive end. Marquette excels at pick and roll ball handler (90th percentile vs 28th for NC State), pick and roll man (89th vs 52nd), and cuts (95th to 16th). Synergy Sports rates Marquette as excellent in all of those categories and they make up 33.8% of Marquette's offensive possessions.

It's fair to point out that NC State has been much better during their current 7-game winning streak. We sorted T-Rank to find out areas where they've really improved during this incredible run they are on. We show both the numbers per T-Rank along with the national rank in parentheses:

They are playing better on both the offensive and defensive ends. That is largely driven by improvements in shooting on offense and limiting shot takers on defense. That's all fairly straightforward. What seems less so is the bizarre and radical shift in free throw rate on both ends. NC State has gone to the line more often than their opponents in all seven games, nearly doubling opponent attempts (170-94). They haven't had the same reffing crew in any of the games, and of the 21 ref positions worked there have been 17 different refs. There's not any indication of bias, but NC State is making a priority to get to the line and to keep opponents off the line.

So what can we expect from this game? Marquette is favored -6.5 on the point spread, and it's not hard to see why. As impressive as NC State's #22 T-Rank is during their winning streak, Marquette is ranked #14 in the country during that same span and that's with Tyler Kolek only playing 2 of 5 games. If NC State can continue their hot shooting, create open looks, and put pressure on the defense through fouls, they could stay in this game. But more likely I expect Marquette to hold their own on defense while cutting NC State's pick and roll defense to ribbons. As good as D.J. Burns is, he is a defensive liability in pick and roll, and Marquette just exploited a similar big man in Eddie Lampkin for Colorado, who had a plus/minus of -7 in 31 minutes played and it's not surprising Colorado's run back into the game came with Lampkin on the bench. NC State's lack of depth makes that a more difficult task, particularly as the development of Tre Norman and Zaide Lowery allow Marquette to go nine deep if necessary to better weather the aforementioned foul disparity. This is a game that Marquette probably wins nine out of ten times, but it's the NCAA Tournament, and all it takes is coming up short that once to see your season crash to a premature end.

Marquette Connection: 50 years ago today, NC State defeated Marquette 76-64 in the National Championship game to claim their first title. Most of the country felt the title was decided when NC State beat UCLA 80-77 in the Final Four, but Marquette played it close early until legendary coach Al McGuire's temper turned the tide. After taking a 28-27 lead late in the first half, McGuire argued a foul call against Marcus Washington and was hit with his first technical foul. David Thompson made three free throws and NC State scored on the ensuing possession to grab a 32-28 lead. Less than a minute later, McGuire protested a goaltending call on Bo Ellis and was assessed a second technical that allowed NC State to push the lead to 37-28. While he wasn't kicked out (that rule didn't exist) it did result in a 10-0 swing in favor of NC State and Marquette was never able to reclaim the lead.

Joe's Guide to Dallas

I did this a couple years ago when Marquette came to Fort Worth, so I thought I'd do a sequel for Dallas.

I admit I'm not going to be your best Dallas tour guide, as I spend much more time in Fort Worth, where I live. But, since many of you may be visiting the DFW Metroplex for the first time, I figured I could at least toss out some things about Dallas to help you out.

Generally speaking, I find parking in Dallas more challenging than Fort Worth, which has a lot of free garages or places you can at least get it validated. In Dallas, you'll probably find Uber/Lyft rides more convenient in a lot of places. But there are some lots and garages that can work out, depending on where you're going.

American Airlines Center

The home of the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars, the AAC does have some good places to hang out before and after the game that are walking distance from the arena.

Hero is the bar immediately outside the arena, in Victory Plaza. It always has a big crowd before games. A good place for a quick bite or a drink before going inside.

If Hero is too packed, take a look at Black Tap Craft Burgers, which is right across the street. 

A little further out, but still an easy walk to the AAC, is Happiest Hour. It's a very popular pregame spot with a lot of space. If you drive there, though, prepare to have your car valet parked. Any time I've been there, they have been fine with you leaving your car there during a game as long as you valet park it. I can't say for certain it would be the same this weekend, but I assume it would be.

The Union is an area about three or four blocks from the AAC, and they have a handful of restaurants that are good for pregame drinks and food: The Henry, North Italia, and TacoLingo. They have a garage, and you can get your parking validated here, but I'm not certain it would cover the entire night if you leave it there.

El Fenix is a TexMex place across from The Union. Just a fair warning: do NOT try to park in their parking lot and walk to the AAC. There is usually an attendant making sure you're going to El Fenix, and they will tow you if you just park and head toward the arena.

Breweries

I know my audience. You want to hit some breweries at some point this weekend? I got you. Dallas may not be Milwaukee as far as beer goes, but it has a lot of options. Some of my favorites:

Deep Ellum is one of the more popular DFW brands. Dallas Blonde is their signature beer, but they have something for everyone. This one is about 2 miles southeast of the AAC, and the Deep Ellum area in general can be a fun place to hang out.

Texas Ale Project is one of the closest breweries to the arena, less than 2 miles, but I would not recommend walking because it's on the opposite side of the highway. I like their Fire Ant Funeral, which is a red ale.

Peticolas is also not far from the arena, like Texas Ale Project: less than 2 miles, and also on the opposite of the highway. Try the Velvet Hammer, an imperial red ale.

Community is right up there with Deep Ellum among the more popular craft beers in DFW. It's a short 5-mile drive from the arena. You may even see it as you're driving toward downtown. Nice place to eat and drink. Their Mosaic IPA is a good one.

Restaurants

I mentioned a few places to eat in the American Airlines Center section, but a few others I'll toss out:

Nick & Sam's is a trendy and popular steakhouse if you want to treat yourself, maybe a date night for you and your significant other. It's in Uptown, which is a little north of the AAC and a popular area for the young adult crowd. If you're into the club scene, you'll find places that are your speed in this area.

Want some good BBQ? Pecan Lodge is the place to check out. It's in the Deep Ellum area, on Main Street. If you walk Main Street, you'll find a lot of options to eat and drink, so if barbecue isn't your thing, you'll find something to your liking. Twisted Root is a burger place nearby that I enjoy.

Katy Trail Ice House is a very chill bar with indoor and outdoor seating. As the name suggests, it's right along the Katy Trail, which is a nice walking and jogging path that goes right through Dallas.

Fun Stuff

Dallas doesn't have much in the way of "must see" tourist stuff like a lot of big cities, but if you're looking to do some exploring on Saturday, here are some things I can throw at you.

Texas Rangers - Hey, it's easy to forget baseball season starts this week! If you want to make a trip down to Arlington, the Rangers are playing the Cubs. I know we have a decent amount of Cubs fans in the MU fan base. Plus, you can hang out at Texas Live before or after the game and watch sports. Be sure to visit the Revolver Brewhouse at Texas Live and get a Blood & Honey!

Reunion Tower  - This is the easy-to-spot structure in the Dallas skyline with the giant ball of lights on top. It has a rotating view of the city, and you can get a drink or even dine up there. Crown Block is the restaurant. It's obviously an expensive place, but if you're looking for a fancy dinner with a view, you would have a nice experience there.

Sixth Floor Museum - It's the site of the JFK assassination. It's a very interesting museum that looks at the events of that day.

Perot Museum of Nature and Science - If you have kids to entertain, this is certainly a place you can spend an afternoon. It has a lot of hands-on exhibits that are very fun for children. It's actually pretty close to the American Airlines Center.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden - Want to just have a nice day outside with the family? This is your place. Bring some food and have a picnic, go for a walk, maybe take some nice Easter photos among all the flowers. This is a great place to just be outside and enjoy nature. If you've been buried in snow for a while, this may feel refreshing for you.

Golf - Yes, we mentioned on the podcast there are a few Topgolf locations in the area, but DFW has a lot of courses if you're looking to play 18 while you're in town. Some are a bit of a drive from downtown Dallas, but a few of my favorites: Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine is awesome, but it's not cheap. Tour 18 is fun because its holes are inspired by signature holes at iconic American golf courses. The Tribute in The Colony is modeled after some famous courses in Scotland. PGA Frisco is one of the newer ones, but it's a pretty good place to play and also just hang out for a drink or a meal.

I hope those of you visiting find this helpful and enjoy your stay in Dallas!


The Curse is Lifted, or we just figured out how to win tough games, one of the two

Welcome in to a VERY excited Scrambled Eggs podcast. #mubb has broken through to the 2nd week of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 and we are here to celebrate. We talk through the Round of 32 game, how it happened, and the keys to victory. We then turn to the Sweet 16 game against NC State and wrap up the pod with some light Dallas area talk. Celebrate and get ready for what we hope to be a long run. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/86hev8/ScrambledEggs_Editted_032424.mp3

Friday, March 22, 2024

First half nightmare, second half pleasant dream

#mubb has advanced in the NCAA tournament and while it wasn't as pretty as we would have wanted, it was a solid win. We're back to talk about Marquette's first tournament win since it's last tournament win. We talk about the best episode of the K1 and Stewie show, Tyler, The Healthy and a Jopwagon capable of double doubles. We then talk the next game, which is tough, against Colorado. This is a #ScrambledEggsAfterDark special. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/spsg4q/ScrambledEggs_Editted_032224.mp3

Monday, March 18, 2024

Bracketology: Final Thoughts

 

David Joplin, Shaka Smart, and Zaide Lowery are headed to Indianapolis

Photo by Ebony Cox | jsonline.com

Ultimately, the biggest lesson for any bracketologist is the Selection Committee cannot get it wrong. We may disagree with their decisions, but when they say Marquette is headed to Indianapolis as a 2-seed in the South region, that's where they're going to end up, and it's that way for all 68 teams selected into the field.

In terms of results, Cracked Sidewalks had 67/68 teams correct, 42 teams on their exact seed line, and 61 teams within 1 line. Our unofficial Paymon score, which is the calculation Bracket Matrix uses to score bracketologists, was 346 out of 408 possible points. While it's Cracked Sidewalks' worst score since 2019, our #39 rank is the best in that time period and is in the 83rd percentile of all bracketologists.

What bracketologists try to do is project what the Selection Committee will do. We use historic precedent and contemporaneous data to come to a prediction. Over the past five tournaments, the average Paymon score has improved every year, from 337.8 in 2018 to 356.5 in 2023. Bracketologists have consistently gotten better at predicting what the Selection Committee will do, which is what makes this year so bewildering.

The winning score this year was 355, lower than the average score in 2023. The average this year was just 338.7, the lowest since 2018. So either one of two things happened, the bracketologists were drastically worse at evaluating the field, bucking a 5 year constant upward trend, or the Selection Committee seeded the field differently than past committees have. Due to a number of factors, I strongly believe the answer was the latter.

The Mountain West

One of the biggest talking points was the alleged underseeding of the Mountain West Conference. While the Mountain West earned 6 bids thanks to New Mexico winning the auto bid (they would've been out without it). Selection Committee chair Charles McClelland said "The majority of their best wins came from in conference. They did have some good wins out of conference but they didn't have those great wins." While there may be some validity to this, I reviewed the five Mountain West teams that were considered to be underseeded. There was discussion throughout the year about the Big 12 "gaming" the NET due to playing weak non-con schedules, so I compared those Mountain West teams to the Big 12 teams with the 5 worst NCSOS rankings. The comparison is based on seed given, projected seed by this year's bracketologists, estimated seed based on comparable resumes using T-Rank, and the record these teams accrued in non-conference games away from home in Quadrants 1, 2, and 3.

The Mountain West teams were underseeded by an average of 1.94 using 2024 bracketology projections and 2.24 using historic comparisons. They had an average NCSOS of 166.4 and went a combined 19-7 in meaningful non-con games away from home. The Big 12 teams were seeded exactly (0.008 disparity) by the 2024 bracketologists but were 0.94 better in seeding based on historical comparisons. They had an average NCSOS of 292.8 and went 10-8 in meaningful non-con games away from home.

Quite simply, Charles McClelland's comments were either hypocrisy or a lie. The five Mountain West teams played tougher schedules in non-conference, performed better against those schedules, and were seeded on average 2 lines worse than they deserved while the five Big 12 teams played weaker non-con schedules, performed worse against them, and were seeded on average 1 line better than they deserved. The same Big 12 schools that also got the majority of their wins from in their conference. Blatant hypocrisy.

Indiana State

With all the bid thieves, someone deserving was going to be left out, but even with all that Indiana State should've been in ahead of Virginia, in my opinion. The Sycamores rank #28 in NET and are now the highest NET team to ever be left out of the field. While it is not a primary selection criteria, it is still the NCAA's own metric and no team inside the top-31 had ever been left out before. Further, they were top-45 in every team sheet metric; no team in the top-45 of all metrics had ever been left out.

It's late, and any more feels like it would just be sour grapes, but I do think this tournament highlights two things. First, the Selection Committee should be made up of people who come in understanding the bracketing process and basketball people. Simply being an athletic director or administrator does not give one comprehensive knowledge of college basketball. Second, I would again say this is time for NCAA expansion to 80 teams. This was a strong bubble. Beyond the First Four Out, St. John's, Providence, Ohio State, and Kansas State all had resumes that compared favorably to teams selected in the past. It wouldn't have been difficult to add those eight teams and another four more. South Florida, Richmond, Memphis, Ole Miss, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Wake Forest, and Princeton would all be compelling teams for the expanded Field of 80 Cracked Sidewalks posited in the past.

Here's to another great year of brackets and many more in the future.

It's Dancing Time and We Got the Reset We Wanted

The regular season is done, the conference tournament season is done, even Selection Sunday is done. Now it's time for #mubb to show what it's capable of in the NCAA Tournament. We quickly dissect the Big East Tournament for football....we mean basketball. We then turn to NCAA Tournament bracket and break down Marquette's match-up against Western Kentucky and our overall impression of MU's road to the Final Four. This is what we've all been waiting for, enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/jewfk3/ScrambledEggs_Editted_031724.mp3

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Bracketology: Selection Sunday Final

Our final submission is ready to go. Due to Iowa State moving up, Marquette lands in the West with North Carolina, Baylor, and Kentucky as the other protected seeds. Golden Eagle fans may not love seeing Michigan State across the pod from them, but Sparty would have to win two games (Mississippi State, Washington State) to play Marquette due to the bubble chaos forcing MSU to Dayton.

Where We're Prepared to be Wrong:

  • Iowa State as a 1-seed: They have a viable case due to their 10 Q1 wins, but the NCSOS is an anchor so we're sticking with UNC.
  • Illinois/Kansas/Duke/Auburn: This was a really tough scrub that changed multiple times. These teams seem likely to straddle the 3/4 lines, but the order is up in the air.
  • Indiana State: Selection Committee chair Charles McClelland mentioned they were considering the injury to Jayson Kent in their losses to Southern Illinois and Illinois State. Those are the Sycamores only losses outside Q1, but their 1-5 Q1 record might be enough to keep them out anyway. If they're out, Oklahoma and Virginia are the closest teams to the field. It's worth noting that Michigan State looks to be safer than some of the other bubble teams, and their resume is heavily dependent on their Q1 win over Indiana State. Hard to have one of those teams in without the other.
  • Big East Bubble: I love the Big East, so I'd love for it to be a 6-bid league, but I don't see it. All three bubble teams have resume averages at 53 or below, which would be the second worst ever for any of them to get in. Had the bubble not shrunk I think two or maybe all three get in, but with the stolen bids, it seems unlikely the league gets more than 3.
  • St. Peter's Destination: If Purdue, who was knocked out by NEC Champion Fairleigh Dickinson last year, faced the NEC Champion that knocked them off as a 15-seed two years ago it would be objectively hilarious. Bracketing rules prevented it in our scenario, but we'd love to see the Committee put them in.
Here's our best estimation of what the S-Curve and bracket will look like:

Multibid Leagues
Big 12: 8
SEC: 8
Big 10: 6
Mountain West: 6
ACC: 4
Pac-12: 4
Big East: 3
AAC: 2
A-10: 2
Missouri Valley: 2
WCC: 2

Bracketology: Selection Sunday Morning

 I'll have one final post with a final S-Curve and bracket, but this is where we stand. First, a few thoughts:

  • Final 1-seed: Iowa State was considered ahead of North Carolina, but the Cyclones terrible NCSOS isn't something the Selection Committee typically rewards and UNC gaining a Q1A win with Pitt moving up to #40 in the NET is worth noting. We're keeping UNC here, but Iowa State moved to the top of the 2-line.
  • Marquette: Despite the loss to UConn, they remain on the 2-line and at the #8 overall position. There's a good chance this impacts their destination for the second weekend, but they should be locked into Indianapolis.
  • Bid Thieves: A insane four bid thieves took the Big East bubble teams all out of consideration. This moved the teams in the mix for the last two bids to Michigan State, Texas A&M, Indiana State, Oklahoma, and Virginia. Ultimately, Michigan State's metrics, Texas A&M's Q1+2 performance, and Indiana State's across the board metrics and NCSOS earned them bids. Oklahoma looked safe, but when they were in the mix for the last four, their 2-11 record against the field and #274 NCSOS was prohibitive, while Virginia was knocked out because more often than not, when they played a team in contention for the tourney, they lost by double-digits.
Here's the current S-Curve. Final S-Curve and bracket to come:





Friday, March 15, 2024

Bracketology: Quick Hits

Oso Ighodaro and Marquette burst Villanova's bubble
 Photo from gomarquette.com

Bubble teams are making their final statements, other teams are seeing their bubbles burst, and the top seed lines are coming into form. Today we just have an S-Curve and some notes on the events of the week. We'll start with some comments on the shape of the field, then have our updated S-Curve.

The Bubble: 11 teams for 8 spots

This is a big bubble that mercifully shrunk a bit in the past few days. As we've mentioned in the past, Championship Week typically isn't factored as heavily as most college talking heads indicate, but we do pay attention to the Wednesday/Thursday games. If you needed to win beyond Thursday, then you had too much work to do and just need to win your autobid (I'm looking at you, Ohio State). Here's where we came down on the bubble:

Should be safe - Colorado, Mississippi State, Oklahoma

Colorado has all their metrics inside the top-44, is 17-9 against Q1-3, and despite not having the marquee wins of other programs, don't have any real blemishes that hurt them either. Mississippi State needed that win yesterday and if that wasn't enough, today's win over Tennessee may have cemented their position. But even before that they had all their metrics in the top-47, two wins over protected seeds and two more neutral court wins over tourney teams, and a 14-11 record against Q1-3. Oklahoma might be in some trouble, but their SOR of 32 really stands out (all metrics top-50) and while they are just 12-12 against Q1-3, all 12 losses are Q1 and no bubble team has more Q1A wins (3) than the Sooners. One of these might fall to Dayton, but they should all be in.

Reasons for concern - Texas A&M, Virginia, Indiana State

Texas A&M has 5 Q1 wins, is an adequate 14-13 against Q1-3, and all of their metrics are in the top-49. That's the good, but they also are just 2-5 in Q3 and that's a lot of bad losses on the ledger. In the past, they have scheduled poorly, but they are the only bubble team with a top-150 NCSOS and it's a sparkling #21. I think that puts them over the top. Virginia has an awesome #25 SOR, usually a guarantee for selection, but their predictive average is a poor 57.5 because all their losses are by double digits. This is a team that passes the resume test, but does horribly with the eye test. Typically the Committee values the former more heavily, so we have Virginia in for the moment. Every metrics for Indiana State is in the top-44 and no top-32 NET team has ever been left out (they are #28). But they only have one Q1 win and a Q4 loss. Selection Committee chair Charles McClelland noted that Indiana State was missing Jayson Kent for that Q4 loss, so they might get an injury consideration that gets them in. The Sycamores should still be nervous with every bid that's stolen.

Walking the tightrope - St. John's, New Mexico

We felt good about St. John's until taking a second look at their resume. All but one metric is top-43, but their 71 KPI drags their predictive average down to 57, which would be a record low for inclusion. They also only have one win over a surefire tourney team in Creighton. 13-12 against Q1-3 is adequate, but not overly encouraging. Right now they are probably in, but it's close. New Mexico will likely set a new precedent either way. Their 23 NET would be the highest left out, but their 63 SOR would be the lowest included. 13-8 against Q1-3 and six wins over tourney teams is very solid, but their #272 NCSOS is the second worst on the bubble, so they aren't entirely safe.

Outside looking in - Seton Hall, Pittsburgh, Providence

Seton Hall has an impressive #40 SOR, but every other metric is outside the top-60 and they have an 11-12 record against Q1-3. Five Q1 wins including two over protected seeds keep them on the periphery, but right now our vote would be for the Pirates to go to the NIT. Pittsburgh has a lot to like, with a 15-10 record against Q1-3 and all but one metric in the top 42 (and 58 KPI is bad but not prohibitive). But they have the #344 NCSOS, and when you're this close to the cutline, that's a death blow. They would have to break precedent or win the ACC to get in, and I doubt they do either. Providence is 10-12 against Q1-3 and unless they win the Big East tournament will be two games under .500 in that category. No team has ever got in at two games under .500 in Q1-3. Providence's 55.5 resume average would also be the second worst ever, and their resume just doesn't have enough good to offset those negatives.

Need to win their tournament - Ohio State, Oregon, N.C. State

You can't put together a tourney resume during Championship Week, which is what these teams would need to do. Even Ohio State, who has admittedly looked like a different team under Jake Diebler, just can't count on wins this week to bolster their resume. And if you discount their performance under Chris Holtmann, that means discounting their win over Alabama, which is critical to their case. It's just too little too late (see also: 2022 Texas A&M).

Marquette Thoughts: Losses by Duke and Creighton helped solidfy Marquette's hold on a 2-seed, and also likely keeps them in Indianapolis for the first weekend. There are three teams still in the mix for a 2-seed, but it's really only two because Baylor or Iowa State will fall out of 2-seed contention when they play each other tonight. Kentucky is the other team to watch as an SEC Championship coupled with a Marquette loss could push them to a 2-seed in Indianapolis. Tennessee's loss also helps solidify North Carolina as the last 1-seed, which keeps Tennessee as a 2-seed and likely the South region, which makes Marquette as the 2-seed in the Midwest beginning in Indianapolis as the most likely scenario for Marquette fans.



Thursday, March 14, 2024

Bracketology: Bracket Dreams (and Nightmares)

 

Cracked Sidewalks identified Vermont as a 2023 Dream Matchup

Photo by Michael Conroy | AP Photo

Bids have been awarded, Championship Week is in full swing, and Selection Sunday is just days away. Before we get there, we are going to turn to the bracket and look at some teams Marquette might see on the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament to try to determine dream matchups that could pave the way to a Sweet 16 and nightmare scenarios that could lead to an early exit. As Marquette is virtually locked into a 2-seed or 3-seed, we are going to pick a dream and nightmare scenario from each of the six lines they could see facing them next week.

First Round - The teams that can give Marquette trouble are experienced teams that have high-major players, can slow the pace and make up for the talent gap with three-point shooting, and defend the pick and roll well. Do those things well and we don't want to see them, do those things poorly and it plays right into Marquette's hands.

14-Seed Dream - Charleston Cougars: This is the exact kind of team Marquette would want to see. They play an up-tempo style but are mediocre (#133) long-range shooting team. Charleston doesn't have any prominent high-major down-transfers and rank #219 in experience. Finally, their pick and roll defense is #197 nationally, which Marquette can exploit.

14-Seed Nightmare - Akron Zips: The Zips check almost all of the Cinderella criteria. They are ranked #32 in pick and roll defense, are #22 nationally in experience, and feature a trio of high-major down transfers in Ali Ali, Sammy Hunter, and Shammah Scott. They slow the tempo at #300 in pace and though they aren't great three point shooters (#238 nationally) overall, they have ten games over 40% as a team and are #32 in 2PFG% so the potential for big offensive output is there. Finally, head coach John Groce is no stranger to Cinderella's slipper as he took Ohio to the Sweet 16 in 2012.

Butler to Akron transfer Ali Ali challenges Tyler Kolek

Photo from IndyStar.com

15-Seed Dream - Colgate Raiders:  The past few years, Matt Langel's Raiders have had all the makings of a trendy upset pick, with great three point shooting and tons of experience. But while Langel's past four tourney teams averaged a 58.5 offensive rank while being top-10 in 3PFG% every year, this team is at #209 and #85. They defend the pick and roll decently at #58, but don't have the experience (#150) or high-major down transfers to really be an upset threat. The name might get some people to pick them, but their game isn't nearly as good as recent Raider teams.

15-Seed Nightmare - Morehead State Eagles: Late results scrubbed Morehead up to the 14-line, but if there's a 14 or 15 can pull an upset in 2024 this is the team I expect to do it. The Eagles are #33 in pick and roll defense, slow the pace at #336 nationally, and are effective from deep at #106 in 3PFG%. They are middle of the road (#163) in experience but have legitimate talent in Xavier transfer Dieonte Miles and former top-100 recruit Jordan Lathon, who scored 26 points as a freshman for UTEP all the way back in December 2018 against Marquette at Fiserv Forum. This is a dangerous, dangerous team.

Second Round - In the second round, the teams tend to have less of a talent disparity. While it's still worth looking at pick and roll defense, pace, and three-point shooting, at the other end of the spectrum it's the NBA caliber talent and teams with elite offenses or defenses that are worrisome, and the teams without those things that tend to provide less resistance.

6-Seed Dream - Utah State Aggies: Since 2019, the Mountain West has earned 12 NCAA bids. With the exception of last year's San Diego State team that went to the Championship Game, the other 11 teams to earn a bid in the last 5 years went 0-11 in NCAA Tournament games. On top of that history, Utah State is #109 in pick and roll defense, doesn't slow the pace (#114), and doesn't shoot the three well (#252). Utah State isn't bad offensively (#38) or defensively (#51) but aren't elite on either end either. Without any difference-making NBA talents, this team may not make the second round and doesn't look likely to break the non-Aztec Mountain West curse.

6-Seed Nightmare - Dayton Flyers: Anybody but Dayton is my mantra on Selection Sunday. This team is everything Marquette doesn't want to see. They are #4 nationally in pick and roll defense, slow the pace at #338, and are lights out from deep, ranking #3 in 3PFG%. Dayton is borderline elite on offense, ranking #17 in adjusted efficiency per kenpom. They are built around Daron Holmes, a projected NBA Draft pick that is #3 in kenpom's Player of the Year ranking. Dayton hasn't proven themselves against the big boys, but like 2019 Murray State, everything they do is everything you don't want to see.

7-Seed Dream - Washington State Cougars: They are poor (#231) at pick and roll defense and are adequate but not elite on offense (#54) or defense (#30). The Cougars do slow the pace at #313 but don't have the shooting to truly take advantage (#150). Wazzu also doesn't have anyone who stands out as a next level talent. This is a decent team that likely won't embarrass themselves in March, but also aren't likely to make a deep run.

7-Seed Nightmare - St. Mary's Gaels: It isn't just the #24 pick and roll defense or the #15 overall defense, but what really stands out is their shot volume difference. The Gaels take 17.6 more shots per 100 possessions than their opponents because they are dominant on the glass on both ends (#3 Offensive Rebounding Rate/#2 Defensive Rebounding Rate). While NBA talent isn't there, this is a team that is big, long, and physical across the front line with dominant glass eaters. Offensively, they aren't elite (#46) but they slow the pace (#358) and are a solid shooting team (#95). Finally, this team is 23-2 since December 5, so they know how and expect to win.

Tyson Walker & Michigan State were Marquette's nightmare last year
 Photo by Andy Lyons | Getty Images

10-Seed Dream - Drake Bulldogs: Drake has a relatively efficient offense at #36 nationally, but is mediocre defensively (#78) and terrible guarding the pick and roll (#291). They do shoot the three well, but they also are willing to play up-tempo, and against high-major teams that is often a recipe for trouble because the more possessions you play the more likely the metrically superior team wins, especially when there's no next level talent on the roster.

10-Seed Nightmare - Michigan State Spartans: Haven't we lived this nightmare before? Top-100 pick and roll defense, #11 overall defense, and guys that will at least sniff the NBA if not make it outright in Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard, and Malik Hall. Add in a very good to excellent shooting team (#67, but #13 since December 1st) that slows the pace (#304) and you have a team that is built to give a higher seed problems. Add in how good Tom Izzo is on the second game of an NCAA weekend (24-7 in his career) and you have a recipe for disaster.

11-Seed Dream - Indiana State Sycamores: They have some great college players in Robbie Avila and Isaiah Swope, as well as a great story, but this isn't a team that should scare the big boys much. They do shoot well (#11 nationally) and have a potent offense (#20), but turn it over a bit too much for comfort against pressure (#152) which is an area Marquette could exploit. Their defense is porous (#98) and they don't defend pick and roll well (#216). The Sycamores dropped their only two games against high major opponents (Alabama, Michigan State) by double-digits and while they could get lucky in an up-tempo shooting contest, there are too many warts to consider them a strong second weekend threat.

11-Seed Nightmare - Colorado Buffaloes: At a glance, there are areas to exploit. They have a poor defense (#62) and worse pick and roll defense (#277). But at the other end, they are top-20 in offense and are the #5 three-point shooting team in the country. Further, they have three players who project to be NBA Draft picks in K.J. Simpson, Tristan Da Silva, and Cody Williams. Despite erratic early season play, they have found consistency in their current six-game winning streak. On raw talent alone, this team will be a handful for any first weekend opponent.


Multibid Leagues

Big 12: 9

SEC: 8

Big 10: 6

Mountain West: 6

Big East: 5

ACC: 4

Pac-12: 3

West Coast: 2

Missouri Valley: 2

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Welcome to Crackedtology

Well we did it, we brought together staples of the Cracked Sidewalks, Alan Bykowski joins the pod to talk brackets. We talk Marquette seeding and opportunities, where the Big East stacks up, and other such nonsense. Make your bracket prediction as well. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/k4ebe3/Crackedtology_V294whh.mp3

Monday, March 11, 2024

Bracketology: Championship Week

Shaka Smart celebrates Marquette's 2023 Big East Tournament title

Photo by Marquette Athletics

The regular season is over. Four months are in the books, and in less than a month, the NCAA National Champion will be crowned. Before we get to that tournament, however, we have Championship Week. Today we do a quick breakdown of the remaining multibid conferences, including potential bid thieves and who Marquette fans should be cheering for. Let's dig in.

Big 12 (9 bids)

Most Likely Bid Thief: Kansas State

Teams to Cheer For: Houston, Texas

It would be a surprise if someone who wasn't a single-digit seed won this tournament, but keep an eye on K-State. They already played first round opponent Texas tough and beat Iowa State, Baylor, and Kansas, the other favorites on their side of the bracket. They're playing close to home and if anyone not projected in the field could find their way to the final, it's the Wildcats.

There are three teams here competing with Marquette for a 2-seed, but Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas would each likely need to win this tournament to pass Marquette, and they are all on the bottom half of the bracket so only one can make the final. Houston winning would keep the obvious 1-seed protected, but also root for Texas, because their wins boost Marquette's profile and if they beat K-State they'll have chances to take out the teams Marquette is in competition with.

SEC (8 bids)

Most Likely Bid Thief: Arkansas

Teams to Cheer For: Anyone but Kentucky

This is another league where a bid thief feels unlikely, but if anyone could win five games in five days, I'm putting my money on Eric Musselman and that lineup. They've beaten Duke and had second half leads on Kentucky and Alabama. Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Auburn have all shown the ability to slip up and if the Hogs find themselves in the semifinals, who knows what could happen?

I don't think Marquette can catch Tennessee anymore, but Kentucky could catch them from behind. That could lead to Marquette fans having distasteful rooting options like either Buzz Williams or Chris Beard followed by Nate Oats, but it's in our best interest for Big Blue Nation to fall, so hold your nose and cheer against the 'Cats.

Big 10 (6 bids)

Most Likely Bid Thief: Ohio State

Teams to Cheer For: Purdue

Since Jake Diebler took over for Chris Holtmann at Ohio State, the Buckeyes are #16 in T-Rank, behind only Nebraska and Purdue in the Big 10, both teams they have defeated in their 5-1 stretch. Last year they won three games in three days and were leading Purdue in the semifinals before running out of steam. If they can repeat that, they would find themselves playing for an NCAA Tournament berth on Sunday. Iowa and Indiana are also worth keeping an eye on as they are playing their best basketball of the season right now.

When it comes to bracketing Marquette, they are likely to go to the Midwest with Purdue or the South with Houston. Marquette cannot go to the East (UConn) while Arizona is a veritable lock to go out West. Personally, I would rather play into a Purdue team we lost to by 3 on a neutral court when everything went wrong rather than a Houston team with the physicality and length to make Marquette's life difficult at every turn. The best way for Marquette to be drawn into Purdue's region is if Purdue is the top overall seed, which means winning the Big 10 Tournament. If Purdue wins, it will prevent #5 overall from being in their region (likely UNC or Tennessee) which pushes #5 to the East or South while Arizona goes out West. That would leave Detroit open for Marquette, as long as they can hold onto the #7 spot, so go Boilers!

Mountain West (6 bids)

Most Likely Bid Thief: UNLV

Teams to Cheer For: New Mexico

UNLV is playing in their home arena and already has wins over three of the four teams they could face before the final, while losing 87-86 to regular season champ Utah State. They have been playing like an at-large caliber team for the past six weeks and if anyone is going to get a seventh bid for the Mountain West, it's the Rebels.

As far as who to cheer for, it doesn't really matter much for Marquette, so I say cheer for Richard Pitino and New Mexico, because a deep run (without winning the title) for the Lobos could lead to a Pitino vs Pitino game in Dayton, which if nothing else would be tremendous television.

Big East (5 bids)

Most Likely Bid Thief: Villanova

Teams to Cheer For: Marquette

I hate to say it, but if anyone can win four games in four days, it's the Wildcats. I don't truly believe anyone playing on Wednesday will still be alive for the Saturday final, but 'Nova has the most talent of the Wednesday teams and is playing like a top-20 team per T-Rank since February 1st.

I don't think Marquette can get a 1-seed, but if North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arizona bow out early while Marquette beats Villanova, Creighton, and UConn on their way to a Big East title, they might have a far outside shot. But more important, Marquette needs to see Creighton lose to keep the Bluejays in the rear view, and the easiest way to do that is to reach Saturday's final, which would insure Creighton was eliminated before Marquette.

ACC (4 bids)

Most Likely Bid Thief: Pittsburgh

Teams to Cheer For: Clemson

Since January 19th, Pittsburgh is ranked #28 per T-Rank, and thanks to finishing fourth in the ACC gets a double-bye. They only need to win three games in three days to claim the title, and if anyone outside the field could do it, the Panthers look most likely (largely because Wake Forest is inept away from home, and this game isn't being played in Winston-Salem).

Clemson is safely in the field, but if they won the ACC are not in a position to threaten Marquette, might knock out a bubble team (Virginia) along the way, and could do damage to teams on the top three seed lines in North Carolina and Duke, both of whom Marquette will be keeping an eye on.

Pac-12 (3 bids)

Most Likely Bid Thief: Utah

Teams to Cheer For: Washington State 

At 11-2 to start the New Year, Utah looked like a solid tourney team. But they sputtered as the year went on and find themselves going into Championship Week on the outside of the field. But they've already claimed wins over the Colorado and Washington State teams that are the highest seeds on their half of the bracket, and this is a team with four wins over our current NCAA field, so the ability to win is there. Keep an eye on the Utes to make a run this week.

For Marquette, the team to cheer for is Washington State. Aside from being a great story, they are solidly in the field and swept Arizona, a team directly in front of Marquette on the S-Curve. If anyone can end Tommy Lloyd's unbeaten in the Pac-12 Tournament streak, Kyle Smith and his Cougars are likely that team. 

West Coast, A-10, and American

Most Likely Bid Thieves: Santa Clara, UMass, and South Florida

These leagues will combine for just four bids if the favorites (Gonzaga/St. Mary's, Dayton, FAU) win, but these are major bid thief opportunities. Santa Clara played St. Mary's close a month ago and has wins over Gonzaga and San Francisco, the two teams on the other side of the bracket. Richmond won the A-10 regular season title, but 4-seed UMass also has a double-bye and has already beaten the 5-seed (VCU) and 1-seed (Richmond) on their side of the bracket. Frank Martin is also a proven coach who has taken two teams to the NCAA Tournament, including bringing South Carolina to the Final Four. Watch the Minutemen. In the American, South Florida started the year rough but is a staggering 21-2 since December 9th. They won the regular season title and head coach Amir Abdur-Rahim had a similarly shocking shared league title last year before winning the ASUN with Kennesaw State and going to the NCAA Tournament.