126 days after Marquette tipped off its season against Colgate, the day of reckoning has come. Selection Sunday is but a few hours away, with the potential fate of the Golden Eagles in the selection committee’s hands. The games are played, the stats kept, all there is to find out now is who the next opponent(s) will be.
As much as having a good team playing well at the right time matters going into the dance, luck plays a huge role in postseason success. Plain and simple, the NCAA Tournament is a crap-shoot. Getting the right matchup in the right venue can be the difference between an early exit and a historic run.
Marquette has had a season that exceeded its wildest expectations, yet those same expectations have been raised because to that success. Going one-and-done would leave a bitter taste in what was a tremendous season. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. With Marquette’s journey about to be laid out on CBS, it’s time to examine the resume the selection committee will be using to plot the path.
The Golden Eagles finished the 2012-’13 season with a 23-8 record, going 14-4 in the Big East for a second consecutive year. While it has been said conference records on their own aren’t weighed more heavily than non-conference slates, the caliber of competition in the conference is much higher, making those 14 wins stand out quite nicely.
Moving on to RPI, the preferred metric of the NCAA, according to both ESPN and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, Marquette currently sits at No. 12. A high RPI on its own doesn’t automatically translate into a high seed, but it is one of the first metrics used to separate teams with similar resumes.
Breaking that down a bit further, Marquette’s individual conference RPI was No. 1 in ESPN and No. 8 in CBS, showing that Marquette’s results improved as the competition got tougher.
Another facet of the RPI that is much more insightful, although still flawed, is the record against teams in different RPI ranking subsections. Marquette went 2-4 against teams 1 through 25, a respectable, though not outstanding, number. In comparison, Arizona was 2-3, Kansas State was 3-5, Florida was just 1-2 and Oklahoma State was 2-4, as well. Those are the teams the Golden Eagles will be up against for a potential 3-seed.
Marquette was 8-3 against teams ranked 26 through 100 and 13-1 against teams ranked over 100, with the sole loss coming at Wisconsin-Green Bay. These numbers, once again, are more than solid and measure favorably with most of the teams gunning for a 3-seed. Most seasons a loss to a poor team like Green Bay could drop you a seed on its own, but when teams like Kansas lose to TCU, a much more pitiful team than the Phoenix, it likely will not influence matters too heavily.
Marquette’s strength of schedule (SOS) was also quite impressive, coming in at No. 11 and No. 13 on CBS and ESPN, respectively. Once again, this shows that Marquette’s high win count wasn’t accumulated solely against the little sisters of the poor, but on quality non-conference and Big East opponents.
One aspect that might come back to bite Marquette is its home/road splits. At 5-6, it is the only team in the top-18 of the RPI to have a losing road record. Should the Golden Eagles be playing at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, it would would be a 1-seed. However, seeing as Milwaukee is not hosting, the road woes may come back to bite them seeding wise, as the committee may take note of the struggles away from home.
While these are the traditional measures used by the selection committee, advanced metrics are allowed in the room and have been playing a larger role of late. Marquette finished the season ranked 25th in KenPom and 20th in the Sagarin rankings. These numbers are a bit lower than the RPI numbers and may be a more accurate representation of where MU will be seeded.
The goal for Marquette is to be one of the top-4 seeds, where location will be protected, for the most part, though a 3-seed would put Marquette away from potential 1-seeds in the Sweet 16, and as such be more desirable.
Last year Marquette was given a 3-seed (and screwed by getting a pseudo-road game against Murray State) after finishing 23-7 (14-4), 12th in the RPI and 18th in KenPom. This season the numbers are eerily similar, though the results are to be determined in a few hours.
My guess is a 4-seed, but Bracketology wasn’t my major so don’t quote me on that.