"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, March 02, 2024

Bracketology: By land or by air?

Projecting a bracket is like playing chess on an airport runway
 Photo by Marquette Athletics | Twitter.com

March is finally here, and as the Selection Committee prepares to select and seed the bracket, Marquette fans can start looking at travel plans to determine where our team will be playing in the first and second weekends of the tournament. Let's start by looking at Marquette's date and distance calculator:

For the first weekend, the top overall seed gets to pick their destination, then teams 2-16 are placed based upon the closest geographical location to their campus. Looking up the S-Curve, it seems that the first three seeds are locked into 1-seeds and their locations. Purdue will go to Indianapolis, UConn will go to Brooklyn, and Houston will go to Memphis. But even the three teams after that are not competing with Marquette for location. Arizona will head to Salt Lake City, North Carolina to Charlotte, and Tennessee also to Charlotte (even though Memphis is in their home state, Charlotte is closer). If any of these teams fall, it won't likely be further than the 2-line which means they are all likely to get their top choices.

1. Indianapolis, IN (276 miles)

If the tourney started today, Marquette would be in Indianapolis. As the top overall seed, Purdue will certainly be here, but the next teams to have Indianapolis as first choice aside from Marquette are all current 4-seeds. It's possible Marquette could be displaced if they stumbled in the next week and one of Creighton, Illinois, or Kentucky won out. Indy feels likely at the moment, but it's not impossible this could change. Geographical Nightmare Draw: Between Purdue fans and the location of this site, a Big 10 opponent in the second round like Northwestern or Michigan State could place Marquette into a veritable road atmosphere. Both of those teams could fall in a 7/10 or 6/11 game and be a team Marquette sees in the second round.

2. Omaha, NE (507 miles)

This spot feels very unlikely. First, if Marquette is displaced from Indianapolis, that likely means they've fallen on the S-Curve, and if they are falling behind Creighton, Illinois, or Kentucky, they are also likely falling behind Iowa State and Kansas in the process, both of whom have Omaha as first choice. Despite being second choice, I think this is a rather unlikely location. Geographical Nightmare Draw: The Selection Committee rules prohibit geographical disadvantage for protected seeds in the first round, but there's nothing that says Nebraska couldn't be placed in Omaha in Round Two. The already hostile CHI Health Center would be a sea of red if that were the case.

3. Pittsburgh, PA (552 miles)

 If Marquette falls, Pittsburgh feels a little more likely. While there's a good chance Duke will be here (second choice for them, but UNC and Tennessee will occupy Charlotte) anyone else that passes them for Indy would the the next most likely contenders for Pittsburgh. If they land as a 3-seed, this is a logical consolation spot. Geographical Nightmare Draw: While the Selection Committee tries to avoid a first round "home court disadvantage," they have typically inferred that as 50 or 75 miles from a team's campus. The Akron Zips are located 113 miles from Pittsburgh and while they went 0-4 away from home against kenpom top-100 opponents, those losses were by an average of just 4 points. A road environment against a scrappy underdog would be less than ideal. 

4. Brooklyn, NY (900 miles)

We skip a couple spots to get here, but if everything goes wrong and Marquette falls to the 4-line, my guess is they don't fall further than Brooklyn. Memphis and Charlotte would be closed, leaving Brooklyn and the West Coast destinations. In this case, my money would be on joining UConn fans in Brooklyn. While it's not as close to home, a weekend in NYC isn't the worst thing in the world. Geographical Nightmare Draw: If the Committee is using 50 miles as their geographical cutoff, playing a 13-seed Princeton team just 54 miles from their campus would make for a tough opener. It would be bad enough playing a slow-down style against a team that doesn't turn it over, but doing so just outside their backyard would make this one difficult.

A couple bubble notes...we have Memphis back in the field, skyrocketing up ahead of teams like Wake Forest, Ole Miss, and Villanova that are in at many other bracketology sites. The reason is pretty straightforward, but it's not what most would expect. While the FAU win helped the Tigers, it wasn't adding a Q2 win but rather the movement of Clemson and VCU into Q1 that really benefited them, along with their Ole Miss loss dropping to Q2. They went from Q1/Q2 splits of 1-3/4-2 in our last bracket to 3-2/3-3. It wasn't just the FAU win pushing their combined record there to a winning 6-5, but the winning Q1 record specifically. I hate the Tigers' metrics, but they have some Q1 meat and don't have the eyesores of other bubble contenders (Wake only having one Q1 win, Ole Miss' sub-80 predictive average, Villanova's sub-60 result average). Throw them in the field and let Dayton sort them out.

Multibid Leagues

Big 12: 9

SEC: 7

Big East: 6

Big 10: 6

Mountain West: 6

ACC: 4

Pac-12: 3

American: 2

WCC: 2

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