Sometime after Marquette closed out the regular season with a convincing victory over Creighton, a new consensus started bubbling up on Twitter that Team Bubble Watch shouldn’t be counting its chickens just yet, and that another victory over Seton Hall would be necessary for lock status.
It manifested itself in to these two blurbs from well-respected national outlets.
Here is Rob Dauster from NBC Sports:
Marquette (RPI: 57, KenPom: 30, No. 9 seed): The Golden Eagles beat Creighton at home to close out the season, a win that probably puts Marquette into the tournament. The concern with this team isn’t whether or not they’ve put together enough wins on paper. They have five top 45, eight top 50 and 10 top 100 wins on the year, including a win over Villanova. The problem? Four of those five top 45 wins came against Creighton and Xavier after those two teams lost their star point guards, Mo Watson and Edmond Sumner, for the year to torn ACLs. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the committee values those wins. In the past, they have not penalized a winning team for an opponent missing a player, but in this case, given just how bad those two have been without their PGs, it’s worth considering.
Matt Norlander from CBS Sports chimes in:
Projected seed entering the day: No. 11 (Last four in)
The Golden Eagles now own a top-10 offense in America. You might not have known that, but Marquette’s ability to kill you from deep is now what’s going to put the Golden Eagles into the tournament. As a team, Marquette is shooting 43 percent from 3-point range — better than anyone in the sport, eclipsing UCLA. Marquette’s intriguing case does come with a quasi-caveat, though.
The Golden Eagles have that huge home win over Villanova, but their sweeps of Creighton and Xavier have come when both those teams didn’t have their best player (Mo Watson, Jr. for Creighton, Edmond Sumner for Xavier). Will the committee still treat those wins as they would if X and Creighton were at full strength? It shouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean MU should be disregarded, either. My opinion: Marquette will definitely be in the field if it can get past Seton Hall in its quarterfinal game Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. A loss wouldn’t be a death knell, either. Truly on the fence!
I get it. I do. Xavier and Creighton are not the top-20 teams they were expected to be at the start of Big East play and that is directly a result of them losing their talented point guards. There is no debating that point. That is a fact. Their strong resumes are heavily weighted because of the damage they did at full strength. Again, they are not those teams any more. I am not saying otherwise.
However, the fact that they aren’t top-tier, second weekend teams does not mean they are automatically dropped from consideration as a good win. What bracketology forces a lot of pundits into is strict adherence for random number cutoffs. There is nothing magical about 25, 50 or 100. The reason top-50 carries so much weight is because that is what the committee has, wrongly, deemed as important. Marquette is currently at 55 in the RPI, so they wouldn’t fall into the “good win” category as so stated. Yet in all of the bubble outlooks teams like Michigan, Seton Hall and Providence have MU listed in the good win columns. So it is possible to not be technically top-50 and still be a good win.
In fact, we can consult Mr. Pomeroy who does a better job of measuring the current state of a team with his efficiency rankings and isn’t as rigid as something like RPI. In his estimation, both wins at Xavier and Creighton were “A” level wins, while both home victories were “B” level. He’s never fully disclosed the parameters for each, but it’s safe to assume an A or B game is a good win or loss.
If we want to get even more granular, Creighton hasn’t dropped off nearly as much as pundits and fans would like to believe. They were 18th the day after Watson’s injury and are currently 26th. That’s 12 games of data, and 2/3rds of the conference season. So again, while the drop off is real, any other top-30 win would be treated with a measure of respect. Somehow, that is not the case for the Blue Jays.
But for sake of an argument, let’s go along with the assumptions that X and Creighton don’t count for anything post Watson and Sumner, and Marquette only has 4 true top-50 wins. But they are not the only Big East team to play them post injuries. We have to adjust for them as well.
Providence currently has 6 top-50 victories, but if you take away the Ws over CU and X post injuries, they too drop to 4.
Seton Hall currently has 4 top-50 victories, but if you take away the Ws over CU and X post injuries, they drop to 2. Plus, their only top-50 non-conference win came against a South Carolina team without it’s best player Sindarius Thornwell, who was also out to injury. So they really only have 1 win over a true top-50 opponent, and that came yesterday.
At this point, Marquette’s total body of work stands clearly ahead of Seton Hall, and more than likely ahead of a Providence team with 4 sub-100 losses and 2, sub-200 losses. So to label either Providence or Seton Hall a lock, without doing the same for Marquette makes no sense from a pure statistical standpoint.
If the argument was no Big East team is safe ATM, as we don’t know how the committee will judge the league as a whole with injuries decimating 2 of the top-4 teams, I would disagree, but understand. But that’s not the argument being presented.
As it stands, there is a pretty wide gulf between the bubble teams that are in, and the ones right on the wrong side of the cusp. There would have to be 5 or more bid thieves from multi-bid conferences as well as some improbable runs from teams currently behind Marquette for enough teams to vault past them.
And even then, Marquette has the ace in the hole of beating the No. 1 team in the country, which no other bubble team can claim.
It’s ok to be cautious. It’s ok to wait until CBS says so next Sunday. But don’t fool yourself. Marquette is a stone cold, lead pipe lock.