"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 19, 2024

Well that was unfun

Boy that did not go the way we had it planned in our heads. #mubb took a drubbing against clear #1 in the country, UCONN. So we talk about the game, what happened, what went wrong, what takeaways for the season as a whole, and is Marquette as far behind as that game might indicate. We then look to the week ahead with the hopes that the team having a chance to come home for a bit and play some not as awesome teams will have restorative powers. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/yfknym/ScrambledEggs_Editted_021824.mp3

Bracketology: Monday Morning Point Guarding the Top-16


The Selection Committee released their top-16 on Saturday morning, and for the second year in a row, our projections from 6 days before the release were more accurate than the day before. While David Worlock reported the Selection Committee didn't begin their meetings until Wednesday, they seemed to again disregard the results of Monday through Thursday. UNC's loss to So what were the lessons learned? Here's what we took away: 

Conference Titles Matter: North Carolina was thought to be 7th, but finished 5th. In fact, the top-5 were all teams leading Power-6 conferences, and the team who was the highest compared to our projection was SEC leader Alabama. San Diego State also showed up after beating New Mexico Friday, the one result that did seem to matter from the week as San Diego State was at 19 on our S-Curve going in yet showed up 5 spots higher for the Committee.

NCSOS Matters: Iowa State's productive conference play (6 Q1 wins, including 3 Q1A on the road) wasn't enough to get them to the 2-line where we thought they deserved to be. Instead, they were the third 3-seed. This could be problematic for Big 12 bubble teams that largely played terrible non-conference schedules, and factored into the final spot in our new S-Curve.

Metrics Over Results: Tennessee ahead of Marquette despite a better collection of wins for the Golden Eagles, Alabama ahead of Baylor and Iowa State despite multiple more Q1 wins for the Big 12 teams, and Auburn and Illinois ahead of Wisconsin despite 6 Q1 wins for the Badgers and 6 combined for the Tigers and Illini. When it came to seeding, predictive metrics were highly prioritized.

Aztec Uprising: The highest NET team in the potential 6-bid Mountain West landed not just a protected seed, but 14 overall. A few things stand out. First, this likely means for the Mountain West, the Committee ignored BPI, which rates Mountain West teams significantly lower than the other predictive metric, kenpom. Second, this reinforces that NCSOS matters. The Aztecs #14 NCSOS was better than Auburn, Wisconsin, Creighton, Dayton, or Clemson that they finished ahead of.

Ultimately, this all led to a pair of major decisions. The first was a change not to make. After the UConn rout of Marquette and Purdue loss at Ohio State, many bracketologists moved UConn to #1 overall, but we're sticking with Purdue. For now, they still have the better NCSOS, metrics, and top-end results. Putting UConn ahead feels like a prisoner of the moment move, not a review of the entire season, though if the metrics did shift in UConn's favor that change would be made.

Second, on the bubble, Gonzaga moved into the field. The Committee has historically punished teams on the cut line with weak NCSOS, and Ole Miss was slated to be the last team in with a #324 NCSOS while Gonzaga is 300 spots better at #24. They still have to go through Dayton, but there's just enough there to put Gonzaga on the right side of the cut. More than other bubble teams, though, they can't afford slip-ups because their remaining conference slate doesn't give them much opportunity to improve (they really need the win at St. Mary's).

As far as how the Committee did, we try to remember that when you come up with the official seed list, you can't be wrong. Marquette at #7 overall was a surprise because they had the better body of work than North Carolina or Tennessee, but given that information and the rout at UConn, they've now fallen to #8 on our S-Curve. Alabama was even more shocking at the top of the 3 line, as was the separation between Alabama and Auburn, who came in with virtually identical resumes including splitting the season series with each other. That speaks strongly to the importance of conference championships because that's really the only place the Tide stands out over the Tigers. The same goes for San Diego State, who doesn't have the overall resume of teams they are ahead of but moved into the Mountain West champs position Friday night (likely the contingency the Committee mentioned). Finally, Illinois was a mild surprise. Every number indicated they belonged in the top-16, but so often the Committee has valued overall resumes that compare to Clemson rather than metrics with minimal top-line wins like Illinois.

Here's the full S-Curve and bracket:

Multibid Leagues

Big 12: 10

SEC: 8

Big East: 6

Big 10: 6

Mountain West: 6

ACC: 4

Pac-12: 2

WCC: 2

Friday, February 16, 2024

Bracketology: Top-16 Contingency Plans


Thursday on Twitter, NCAA Director of Media Coordination David Worlock reported that the March Madness Selection Committee wrapped up their meetings on Thursday and had contingency brackets built based on the potential results to come Thursday and Friday night (likely referring to Purdue/Minnesota, which Purdue came from behind to win). This is vastly different than last year, and with that in mind, we decided to dig back in on the Top-16 and try to get a better forecast for Saturday, because there have definitely been changes since we posted our expected list on Monday. We won't do a full S-Curve and bracket breakdown, but are instead going to focus just on what we think will be revealed on Saturday.

Photo from The Athletic

1-Seeds: 1-Purdue (Midwest) / 2-UConn (East) / 3-Houston (South) / 4-Arizona (West)

Purdue remains a lock for the #1 overall seed. UConn remains our expected #2 due to more overall Q1 wins than Houston and a better top of the resume win (North Carolina on a neutral vs a BYU road win). Arizona edges out the teams on the 2-line because of 7 Q1 wins and an excellent pair of top line wins, having beaten both Alabama and Duke away from home.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: The UConn/Houston order could be flipped, but both will be 1-seeds. It's possible Arizona could miss the top line. If they do, expect to see Marquette there on the strength of a better Q1 record than Tennessee and better resume/predictive averages than North Carolina.

Photo by Associated Press

2-Seeds: 5-Marquette (South) / 6-North Carolina (East) / 7-Tennessee (Midwest) / 8-Iowa State (West)

Marquette beating Butler coupled with North Carolina's loss at Syracuse moves the Golden Eagles to the top 2-seed. Both UNC and Tennessee are solidly on this line. Iowa State jumps up to the 2-line thanks to their third Q1A win on the road over Cincinnati. It's tough rewarding the Cyclones' #324 non-conference strength of schedule, but their Big 12 play has reinforced their quality metrics.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: Iowa State was moved up here late due to a metric edge and better road performance than Kansas. But the Jayhawks have some of the best wins in the country and a tougher SOS than the Cyclones, so it's possible they could remain a 2-seed.

Photo by Kayla Wolf | USA Today

3-Seeds: 9-Kansas (Midwest) / 10-Baylor (East) / 11-Duke (West) / 12-Wisconsin (South)

Kansas has the best top-line wins of anyone in the field, Baylor has solid metrics and more Q1A wins than anyone else in consideration here, and Duke's 5-2 Q1 record overshadows their Q2+3 losses. The hardest decision was the last 3-seed. Despite their recent fade, we're going with Wisconsin. There are teams with better metrics, but none of them have a winning Q1 record and 6 Q1 wins.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: The computers like Alabama and Auburn more than Duke or Wisconsin, but the SEC schools are 3-6 and 2-4 in Q1, respectively. Traditionally, teams need to have .500 records or better in Q1 to be 3-seeds. If the committee values metrics over Q1 performance, either or both SEC schools could find themselves here, knocking Duke and Wisconsin down in the process.


Photo by Jeff Hanisch | USA Today Sports

4-Seeds: 13-Alabama (West) / 14-Creighton (Midwest) / 15-Auburn (East) / 16-Clemson (South)

As mentioned above, Alabama and Auburn have the predictive metrics to be much higher, but fall here due to their lack of Q1 production. Between the two of them, they only have two wins against top-25 NET teams, and that's because they split the season series with each other. Creighton was a tough call here, but makes the 4-line because of their win over Alabama, 4-4 Q1 record, and 6-4 road record. Clemson gets the last protected seed, though this may be controversial. The Tigers are the only team in the country with two road wins over top-15 NET teams (Alabama and UNC). They are 4-4 in Q1, 2-2 in Q1A, and 5-4 on the road. Their resume warrants it, even if the predictive metrics do not. Regional placement here was largely to try to balance the regions, especially as the West was shaping up to be particularly weak.

Where we're prepared to be wrong: If anyone else shows up here, it is most likely Illinois. The Illini have all-around metrics of a 3-seed, but 3-5 in Q1 with zero Q1A wins makes us suspect. Their best win is FAU on a neutral court, and their best road win is at Ohio State, a team so far from at-large consideration they just fired their coach. The committee may also mention Dayton and San Diego State, but neither have the overall body of work to be included. It's worth mentioning San Diego State hosts New Mexico Friday night, which may be another contingency the Selection Committee planned for.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

National Marquette Day Hits Different

This is gonna be an intense one. #mubb is back after a brief layoff with a heart pounding win against St John's on National Marquette Day. We talk about the vibes, the crowd, and the game to start off the pod. We then turn to the big week ahead. Marquette is on a 7 game winning streak but face to tough road games this week if they hope to extend it. First is a revenge game against Butler in Hinkle, surely Marquette won't shoot so poorly again? Then there is the top 5 showdown in Hartford against #1 UCONN. What will it take for Marquette to win, how does this game impact the rest of the season, we discuss. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/s4b6wg/ScrambledEggs_Editted_021224.mp3

Monday, February 12, 2024

Bracketology: Breaking Down the Top-16

Tristen Newton & Tyler Kolek are battling for 1-seeds in the NCAA Tournament
 Photo by Patrick McDermott | Getty Images

A year ago, the Selection Committee ignored the results between the Super Bowl and Selection Sunday in revealing their mid-season Top-16. With that in mind, our expectation is that this upcoming Saturday's reveal will likely come closer to what we see right now than whatever results occur between now and then. With that in mind, we have a new S-Curve and bracket, but will focus on those Top-16 teams today.

1-Seeds: Purdue, UConn, Houston, Arizona

Purdue is a lock for the top overall seed with an 8-2 Q1 record, 15 Q1+2 wins, and a perfect 7-0 record against Q1A teams. The order could be debated for UConn and Houston, but the Huskies have one more Q1 win and Houston doesn't have any wins over the top-16 while UConn has a win over North Carolina. Arizona edges Kansas for the last 1-seed due to far superior metrics and one more Q1 win. There will be a 5-loss team on the 1-line, and there's a case to be made for Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, or Marquette as that team, but we're going with Arizona.

2-Seeds: Kansas, North Carolina, Marquette, Tennessee

All of these teams could make a push over the next month for the last 1-seed. Kansas is closest for now due to their 5-2 Q1A record and three wins over teams on the top-two seed lines. North Carolina edges Marquette due to slightly better metrics and one more Q1 win. If bad losses mattered as much as good wins, Marquette's lack of any losses outside the first two Quadrants (Arizona, Kansas, and UNC all have a Q3 loss) would matter more, but what they really need to do is increase their Q1 win totals, particularly in Q1A. Winning at Butler and UConn would be a massive start. Tennessee has hurt themselves with recent losses, but there is still a significant gap between the last 2-seed and the first 3-seed.

3-Seeds: Iowa State, Baylor, Alabama, Duke

Iowa State's non-con left questions as to whether they were just beating up on bad competition, but wins over Houston, Kansas, and both Texas and TCU on the road have diminished those criticisms. Had Baylor won at Kansas there would've been an argument for them to be in the last 1-seed discussion, but for now their metrics and lack of really standing out keeps them on the outside. Alabama will be an interesting test case as they have every metric edge on Duke, but their 3-6 Q1 record is atypical for a team in the 3-seed discussion. If any of these fall to the 4-line, it's more likely Alabama than Duke despite their S-Curve placement. The Blue Devils are here largely because of their 5-2 Q1 record and the Committee's historic valuing of Q1 wins over Q2+3 losses (Duke has 3, more than any other team in the top-3 lines). If anyone crashes the 3-line, it is most likely Wisconsin, who despite their recent swoon still has a 6-5 record against Q1.

4-Seeds: Wisconsin, Auburn, Clemson, South Carolina

The Badgers lead the way here due to that 6-5 Q1 record and solid computer numbers. That could even push them to the 3-line, though 8 total losses is more than anyone else on the top-6 seed lines, so the Committee could also leave them out for that entirely. Auburn's computer numbers indicate they should be a 2-seed, but they are the only team in our top-16 with fewer than 2 Q1A wins, so they get knocked down a couple lines for that. Clemson rocketed up our list from 32 to 15 thanks to adding a Q1A win over North Carolina. The Tigers have been a yo-yo team up and down the seed list, but they have true road wins over UNC and Alabama while non-con wins over TCU, South Carolina, and Boise State have aged well. Speaking of South Carolina, they round out our top-16. The Gamecocks are a bit of a reach here due to weak predictive metrics, but they have a 3-2 Q1 record backed up with a win at Tennessee and they are tied for the lead in one of the traditional power leagues. The Committee has rewarded teams with strong resume metrics but weak predictives on the 4-line in past reveals (Providence and Wisconsin in 2022) so we put them here despite not having typical 4-seed numbers.

Also Considered: Creighton, Illinois, Dayton

The Committee always gives us hints by mentioning the next few teams, and these are the three whose names will either surprise us by showing up in the top-16 or be mentioned as contenders. All three have strong enough metric numbers but lack the signature wins to be among the elite. Creighton's best win is over Alabama at home, but they have no other wins against single-digit seeds. Illinois' best win is probably FAU on a neutral, but they are 0-3 against the protected seeds. Dayton has respectable numbers and no losses outside Q1, but they also don't have a single win against a projected at-large team.

Let's dig into the full S-Curve and bracket:

Multibid Leagues

Big 12: 9

SEC: 9

Big 10: 6

Mountain West: 6

ACC: 5

Big East: 4

Pac-12: 3

Missouri Valley: 2

Monday, February 05, 2024

Bracketology: Resume Fine Lines

Tyler Kolek floats a shot over Creighton's defense

Photo from gomarquette.com

After a chaotic weekend, Marquette finds themselves at #7 on our overall S-Curve and are a safe 2-seed, but the difference between the last 1-seed (#4 Kansas) and the first 3-seed (#9 Wisconsin) is razor thin. All of the teams between 4-9 can be argued for any position and have pros and cons to their resumes that give them 1-seed upside depending on what the Selection Committee values. Kansas came out on top because despite not having the best metrics, they have 2 wins over other 1-seeds (UConn, Houston) and an additional win over a 2-seed (Tennessee).

If Marquette keeps winning, they can certainly get to the 1-line, though they likely cannot afford more than 1 loss between now and Selection Sunday, including the Big East Tournament. Another factor that could help would be seeing the quality of their current wins improve. Here are some Marquette opponents that could help the resume look better by moving up in the NET rankings (which matter more for your opponent than yourself).

Creighton Blue Jays (NET 16, 1 spot from Q1A): A week ago, Marquette had 4 Quadrant 1A wins, but Creighton being at 16 instead of 15 due to the Butler loss takes them out of the Q1A category. They could start that progression up on Wednesday when they travel to Providence.

St. John's Red Storm (NET 43, 3 spots from Q1A): The Johnnies were a Q1A win last week, but their heavy loss to UConn took them out of the top-40. They remain in Q1, but fell out of both Q1A and the field due to mounting losses. Thrashing DePaul on Tuesday would help get them back on the right side of 40.

Villanova Wildcats (NET 45, 5 spots from Q1A): Beating Providence soundly took Villanova from 51 to 45 and has them close to Q1A territory for Marquette's road win at the Finn. Next up is a trip to Xavier, where a win might be enough to get the road game back into Q1A.

Texas Longhorns (NET 31, 1 spot from Q1): Texas was flirting with Q3 earlier this year, but winning 3 of their last 5, including double-digit wins on the road over Oklahoma and TCU have them on the verge of Q1. This would be a big boost to Marquette, pushing them ahead of Kansas and North Carolina in terms of total Q1 wins.

UCLA Bruins (NET 124, 24 spots from Q2): The young Bruins have won 5 of 6 and seem to be figuring things out. It's easier to make big moves when you are outside the top-100, so if they can beat Stanford and California on the road this week, it could be enough to turn this into a quality win. If Marquette could add a 9th win in the first two quadrants, it would match or exceed every other team on the 2-line (along with 1-seed Kansas).

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NET 168, 8 spots from Q3): This is the least important of these, but if UCLA moved up, it would be nice to have one fewer game in Q4, especially as the upcoming DePaul home game will certainly add a Q4 game to the schedule. While the Irish have lost 8 of 9, they have been more competitive than they were at Fiserv and keeping it close this week at Duke and against Virginia Tech could move them up a quadrant.

Let's check in on the updated S-Curve and bracket after a wild weekend of basketball:

Multibid Leagues

Big 12: 10

SEC: 9

Big 10: 6

Big East: 5

Mountain West: 5

ACC: 4

Pac-12: 4

It's all starting to come together

Don't look now but #mubb has won 6 in a row and is starting to get healthy. We talk about the roller coaster that was Villanova and a bit of a laugher in our nations capital against Georgetown. We then look ahead to National Marquette Day and what we think of the rematch against St Johns. We also spend a little bit of time looking ahead and whether the regular season title is out of sight yet or not. And we close with some free advertising for the university and NMD. Enjoy! https://mcdn.podbean.com/mf/web/riqswu/ScrambledEggs_Editted_020424.mp3

Friday, February 02, 2024

The Practical Application of Culture and Connection in a Basketball Setting (Introducing Breaking Eggs)

Here at Cracked Sidewalks, we're trying something new. This is a first effort, open to critism, and ridicule but we are soft launching a video content series called Breaking Eggs. The idea is to do video breakdowns Marquette plays, players, and strategy so fans can get a little more understanding of the team and how it operates. No idea how often/much we'll do this but here is the inital offering in Breaking Eggs, let us know what you think in the comments