Playing with RPI Wizard after the Storming of the Kohl Hole

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Rejoice Marquette faithful, for we have witnessed the completion of another successful Badger Hate Week, the holiest week in the Marquette basketball calendar. The Badger has seen his shadow is unlikely to arise from his Kohl Hole for many months…or at least until its next game for another round of whack a mole. Some may have sympathy for the rodent and its two injured guards but don’t fall prey. There is no sympathy in a rivalry game. No mercy. Only the first double digit Marquette victory in Madison since the early 80s.

Besides the unbridled joy that culling the Badger gives us, today’s rout was important for an even higher purpose. If pundits are to be believed, Marquette will be reprising its role as Team Bubble Watch this season. True road game victories against high majors are few and far between. They are a huge boost to the tournament resume, even against struggling teams like Wisconsin. Just ask Duke who just dropped a game to perennial ACC bottomfeeder Boston College on the road.

To appreciate how important this victory is for Marquette’s tournament chances, I turned to RPIWizard. For those who don’t know, it is a nifty tool that allows you to select teams and then select wins/losses for their remaining games and it will tell you what the team’s RPI and SOS will be at the end of the season. Now there is some guess work involved in this obviously. The tool uses Jeff Sangarin’s Predictor to give probabilities for all the remain games in the basketball season. The final RPI/SOS calculations assume that all the teams with the higher probabilities will win…and we all know basketball isn’t played on paper. For example, the Preidctor gave Marquette a 27% chance of winning today….whoops. Still, it can get you a decent ballpark for what your RPI and SOS might look like at the end of the season.

First let’s look at the probabilities that RPIWizard gives us for Marquette’s remaining games in order from highest to lowest:

American – 96%
Northern Illinois – 88%
DePaul -76%
Georgetown – 67%
at DePaul – 57%
Butler – 53%
St. John’s – 53%
Providence – 51%
at Georgetown – 46%
Creighton – 38%
Seton Hall – 35%
at St. John’s – 32%
at Butler – 32%
at Providence – 31%
Xavier – 26%
at Creighton – 20%
at Seton Hall -18%
Villanova – 16%
at Xavier – 12%
at Villanova – 6%

So as you can see, the Predictor does NOT like Marquette. Like at all. But loves the rest of the Big East. I’m not sure how Sangarin’s formulas work, but I take issue with a lot of these probabilities. But lets use them for the purposes of this exercise. If we take these at face value, RPIWizard says we will go 15-15 (6-12) which will result in a RPI of 80 and an SOS of 25. That obviously gets you nowhere. Maybe the NIT if you’re lucky.

But let’s assume that Marquette is a little better than Sangarin thinks. What if they win 7 Big East games by winning the 6 they are supposed to and winning at Georgetown? That gets us to 16-14 (7-11) with an RPI of 70 and SOS of 25. That doesn’t get you in the tournament but all of the sudden you are in the conversation. Make a run to the Big East championship game and you have a solid argument.

Let’s add one more victory, at home on senior night against the Jays to give us a 4 game winning streak heading into the Big East Tournament. A resume of 17-13 (8-10) RPI 62 SOS 25? That is the resume of a team on the bubble…but the right side of it. Avoid a bad loss in the Big East Tournament, pray there aren’t that many bracket busters and you can break out your dancing shoes.

One more win would bring Marquette to a .500 conference record, a mark that I think most Marquette fans would deem reachable. I am going to stick with Sangarin’s predictor for sake of this exercise, but I personally think a win at St. John’s or at Butler is more likely than a win at home vs Seton Hall. Beat the Pirates at home and Marquette is 18-12 (9-9) with an RPI of 46 and SOS of 25. Lock city baby.

Let’s go back for a second and say we lost today. Using those same Ws/Ls from before: 6 Big East wins leaves us with an RPI of 92, 7 Big East wins would be an RPI of 82, 8 Big East wins bumps RPI to 71, and 9 Big East wins only gets the RPI to 62. The Wisconsin win was so vital for Marquette’s tournament resume because it gives them a greater margin for error in conference play. With the Wisconsin win, Marquette has faint hope for an at large bid with only 7 Big East wins. Without it? They would need 9 Big East wins and would still be squarely on the bubble.

Since it is the last day of Badger Hate Week, let’s loop back around and see how Wisconsin’s hopes for a 20th straight tournament appearance is looking. Marquette was their last opportunity for a quality non-conference win. They do get Western Kentucky next which is a solid buy game opponent….but a win will only make the committee yawn in March. Sangarin’s Predictor believes the Badgers will finish 19-12 (12-6) in a down B1G which will give them an RPI of 50 and SOS of 32. A bottom half seed to be sure but definitely in the tournament. But as we have seen, the Badgers might be a little overrated by Sangarin at the moment. Let’s give them one more loss, at Northwestern which Sangarin currently gives Bucky a 51% of winning. That pushes back their RPI to 63 and SOS to 33. They could certainly get in with some wins in the B1G tournament but there is a real chance that they could get left in the cold. Gard will need to lead his Rodents to at least 12 B1G wins in order to feel safe about their tournament chances. And if King and Trice are still out for Western Kentucky on Wednesday….and they lose that game….their tournament hopes will be dead for all intents and purposes.

A final disclaimer, well a reminder of the one mentioned earlier. There is a lot of guess work involved with RPI Wizard. It should not be taken as hard science but as a general road map of where tournament numbers might be at the end of the season.

A Happy Badger Hate Week to all. May your homes be vermin free and all your Badgers culled. And don’t forget to “happen to run into” your Madison alumni coworkers at the watercooler on Monday.

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Categories: Analysis, Home

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic


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