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Marquette’s NCAA Tournament chances aren’t done just yet

Photo by Anthony Giacomino/Paint Touches

Buzz Williams was happy with his team’s effort against Creighton, even though it came in a loss.

Despite having just five games left in the regular season and missing an opportunity against Creighton Wednesday night, Marquette still finds itself with a chance to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

It just can’t afford to lose more than one or two games between now and March 15, the night of the Big East Tournament championship.

Coach Buzz Williams thinks Marquette is playing well since it lost at St. John’s and seemed pleased with his team’s effort against the Bluejays.

“I feel different now after losing to Creighton than I did in our last loss at St. John’s,” Williams said. “I thought we competed, I thought our guys played, I thought they gave great effort.

“Creighton is great, but how we responded to the St. John’s loss led us to this moment in time, and how we respond to this loss, we’ll see.”

As of games through Feb. 20, Marquette is ranked No. 51 by KenPom, No. 55 in the Sagarin ratings and No. 75 in the RPI.

Tournament selection committee members have acknowledged they consider more than just a team’s RPI when debating its merits, so let’s consider the numbers on the remaining five Golden Eagle regular season opponents:

Saturday, Feb. 22, at DePaul (No. 163 KenPom, No. 151 Sagarin, No. 125 RPI)

Thursday, Feb. 27, vs. Georgetown (No. 65 KenPom, No. 59 Sagarin, No. 62 RPI)

Sunday, March 2, at Villanova (No. 7 KenPom, No. 2 Sagarin, No. 4 RPI)

Tuesday, March 4, at Providence (No. 56 KenPom, No. 57 Sagarin, No. 60 RPI)

Saturday, March 8, vs. St. John’s (No. 30 KenPom, No. 43 Sagarin, No. 53 RPI)

Let’s check KenPom’s likelihood of Marquette winning its final five regular season games:

Marquette has a 66% chance of beating DePaul, 70% chance of beating Georgetown, 13% chance of winning at Villanova, 35% of winning at Providence and a 56% chance of beating St. John’s.

Pomeroy has Marquette going 2-3 or 3-2 over its last five games and finishing 17-14/18-13 and 9-9/10-8 in the conference. In either scenario, the Golden Eagles would almost assuredly have to win the Big East Tournament in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Marquette is 0-6 against KenPom’s top 25 and 2-10 against his top 50 (wins are against No. 37 George Washington and No. 40 Xavier). Its worst loss is at No. 119 Butler, which continues to get worse by the day.

However, its next worse loss is against Xavier back on Jan. 9.

I think winning its next two games are reasonable, but not many outside of the Marquette players and coaches should be expecting a victory at Villanova. The Wildcats are 11-1 at home, with the lone loss a 96-68 dismantling by Creighton.

That leaves the Golden Eagles with must-win games at Providence and home against St. John’s to close the regular season.

Providence is 12-3 at home this year, including an 81-68 win over Creighton on Jan. 18. The Friars have slipped up lately, going 2-4 since beating Xavier Jan. 25.

It will be senior night at the ‘Dunk’ and Providence has a chance to get right with games at Butler and Seton Hall before the showdown with Marquette.

If Marquette wins, an 11-7 Big East record is attainable and might be good enough for fourth or even third place.

Right now, Marquette sits in fifth place and would play St. John’s in the second round of the Big East Tournament on the Johnnie’s home floor. Win that? Creighton’s probably next. Win that one? Villanova. So, as you can see, Marquette is up against it right now.

There are certainly opportunities, however.

A win against DePaul won’t do anything to sway committee members, but sweeping the season series against fellow bubble teams Georgetown and Providence and splitting with St. John’s should put Marquette in position to earn a bid.

For the purpose of this exercise, let’s say Marquette loses at Villanova and goes 4-1 over its final five games and finishes third in the conference (not unreasonable, considering Xavier has to go to Georgetown and St. John’s and has Creighton and Villanova at home, while St. John’s has to go to Villanova and Marquette).

Marquette would then play the No. 6 team (currently Georgetown) before playing the winner of Villanova and Seton Hall/DePaul.

Would wins over the Hoyas and Wildcats, plus another shot at Creighton be enough to sway committee members to vote Marquette in at 22-13? We’ll see.

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