"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 27, 2024

Bracketology: Fans are Down but Marquette is Up

Marquette is rising in the latest bracket

Photo from Marquette Athletics

After a 2-3 stretch that included upset losses to Providence, Seton Hall, and Butler that snapped a record 20-game home Big East winning streak, it seemed like Marquette was on a downward trajectory. While a dominant win over Villanova helped ease fears, the palpitations fans felt as St. John's stormed back to almost erase a 13-point deficit coupled with a win over a pesky DePaul team that never quite went far enough away caused angst on message boards and social media. And yet as we look at today's bracket, Marquette has moved up to the 2-seed line.

As I rescrubbed the seed list today, some clear lines were formed. The 1-seeds are all very solid at the moment. Tennessee is strong at #5, but there's a gap between them and North Carolina because of the Tar Heels' winning Quadrant 1 record and head-to-head victory over the Volunteers. The first major question came up at 8/9, which is the last 2-seed and the first 3-seed, and that debate was between Kansas, who was at 8 earlier this week, and Marquette, who was the clear next team in line. Let's check the resumes:

Last week we talked about how unimportant NET is, but we still use it as a sorting tool and in this case, it couldn't be any closer. Kansas has a slightly better record, resume average, and Q1+2 record. Marquette has a slightly better metric average, more Q1 wins, no bad losses, and more wins against the field. I rarely factor in head-to-head as it's one of my least favorite tools to use, but Marquette also has a head-to-head win over Kansas. The last factor that really swayed it was Marquette's 4-2 Q1A record. Elite wins are highly valued, and the only teams with 4 Q1A wins are Purdue, Arizona, and Marquette. The first two are both on the top two lines, so it seems fitting that Marquette and not Kansas join them there.

I can hear the skeptics. "Okay, fine, they have a slight edge on Kansas, but a 2-seed? There are a ton of other candidates for that spot!" But honestly...there aren't. Let's look at some of the teams on the 3, 4, and 5 lines:

A few things jump out. First, Marquette's Resume And Predictive (RAP) Average is on par with everyone except Auburn, but as the Tigers have zero Q1 wins they really aren't in consideration for the 2-line. In terms of quality wins, no team has more Q1 wins and obviously no team has more than half the number of Q1A wins. What really jumps out is performance against the field. Marquette is 6-2, only one other team is over .500 (Creighton) and barely so at 5-4. Oh, and that's another team Marquette has a head-to-head win over (like Illinois). There has been a lot of talk about Kentucky, but ultimately their entire resume is the North Carolina win, and with their universally mediocre metrics, home loss to UNC-Greensboro, and altogether too many instances of coming up short in big moments, they just aren't contenders for the 2-line right now.

It isn't all seashells and balloons, though. A big part of why Marquette is on the 2-line is because teams are not differentiating themselves. Creighton, Illinois, Alabama, Auburn, and Kentucky have come up short more often than not in their biggest games. Dayton simply hasn't made the most of the few opportunities they've had against tourney-level competition. Which leaves Baylor, who is...fine, but there is questionable validity to the quality of their best wins (BYU, Auburn) and they've looked underwhelming against teams close to the bubble (Michigan State, Texas, K-State). Marquette has an opportunity in this moment to solidfy their position. Keep winning into February and they will have a good shot to cement their position as a 2-seed. Find a way to knock off UConn and Creighton again while winning the Big East from behind and a 1-seed isn't out of reach. It's a long season. Enjoy the ride, and take a breath because we're in better shape than you might think.

Let's look at the S-Curve and bracket:

Multibid Leagues

Big 12: 10

SEC: 8

Big East: 7

Big 10: 6

Mountain West: 5

ACC: 3

Pac-12: 3

American: 2

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