WAY Too Early Bracketology – Fall 2020

Normally we here at Paint Touches release our WAY too early Bracketology some time during the dog days of summer. This project started as a dorky way for me to pass the time between the National Championship and Marquette Madness. I mean what would you rather do? Spend endless hours entering data into a homemade algorithm to develop a bracket predication that maybe two dozen people and my mom will see? Or try to find something to do outside where I live in the middle of nowhere, Texas where the average temperature is somewhere a little north of egg fyin’ on the driveway weather? Most people would probably say neither but at least option A has air conditioning.

This year, our take at a preseason bracketology is delayed for a variety of reasons, a huge one being my wife and I welcoming our firstborn daughter in January (first and last good thing to come in 2020 folks). But to be honest, I just couldn’t put my heart into doing this knowing that the season could very well be Kevorkianed at any moment. Watching TBT gave me a little hope. Then the NBA playoffs, the MLB, and NFL gave me some more. But it wasn’t until the NCAA announced Nov. 25th as the opening day for college basketball that I was excited enough to get back to work. I know that we’re not out of the woods yet, the season could end up a short lived disaster. But after this ugly mother of an offseason, it feels good to look forward to college basketball again.

So, without further ado:

EAST:
1: VILLANOVA
16: HOFSTRA/NORFOLK STATE
8: Oklahoma
9: Syracuse
5: Rutgers
12: YALE
4: STANFORD
13: VERMONT
6: Florida
11: Dayton
3: West Virginia
14: COLGATE
7: Ohio State
10: Seton Hall
2: DUKE
15: SIENA

MIDWEST:
1: IOWA
16: ILLINOIS-CHICAGO
8: Connecticut
9: Colorado
5: KENTUCKY
12: WESTERN KENTUCKY
4: Michigan State
13: SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
6: Oregon
11: Marquette/North Carolina State
3: HOUSTON
14: BALL STATE
7: North Carolina
10: Saint Louis
2: Kansas
15: MURRAY STATE

WEST:
1: GONZAGA
16: Bryant/Texas Southern
8: Arizona State
9: SAN DIEGO STATE
5: RICHMOND
12: NORTHERN IOWA
4: Michigan
13: STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
6: Texas
11: Byu/Providence
3: Virginia
14: NORTHERN COLORADO
7: Alabama
10: Louisville
2: Illinois
15: UC-SANTA BARBARA

SOUTH:
1: BAYLOR
16: LIBERTY
8: Memphis
9: Lsu
5: Indiana
12: UNC-GREENSBORO
4: Texas Tech
13: LITTLE ROCK
6: Florida State
11: Ucla
3: Wisconsin
14: NEW MEXICO STATE
7: Tennessee
10: Arizona
2: Creighton
15: WINTHROP

LAST FOUR BYES:
Louisville
Seton Hall
UCLA
Dayton

LAST FOUR IN:
Marquette
BYU
NC State
Providence

FIRST FOUR OUT:
Purdue
Northern Iowa (In with an auto-bid)
Clemson
Minnesota

NEXT FOUR OUT:
Xavier
Cincinnati
Georgia Tech
Maryland

IN THE HUNT (Alphabetical order):
Arkansas
Auburn
Loyola (IL)
Miami (FL)
Oklahoma State (If they hadn’t gotten banhammered)
Ole Miss
Penn State
SMU
St. John’s
Utah State

Conference Breakdown:
Big Ten: 8
ACC: 7
Big 12: 6
Big East: 6
PAC 12: 6
SEC: 5
A10: 3
AAC: 2
WCC: 2
Mountain West: 1
MVC: 1

Quick Analysis:

Prior to last year, we proudly had picked MU’s seed (or lack thereof) within two seed lines for 5 consecutive seasons (which is when we started this little project). Last year was our most off MU projection when we pegged them for a 4 seed. Up until February 11th, we were feeling pretty smart about that selection but one 1-6 finish later and MU found itself facing a likely 9 seed or higher heading into the Big East Tournament. We don’t know what would have happened in the Garden (though we’re pretty sure it wouldn’t have been pretty). And we also don’t know what seed the committee would have bestowed upon Marquette, but BracketMatrix’s projection of a 9 seed feels fair given MU’s frontloaded resume.

This season we have Marquette slotted for a date in Dayton taking on the Wolfpack before a date with the Fighting Shakas. Funny enough, this is the third time in six seasons that we have picked Marquette for the play-in game.  This is not done on purpose, it’s just where the math lead us. The first two times we made this prediction it proved to be decently prescient. In Wojo’s third year, they finished the season as a 10 seed (one seed line away from Dayton). In Wojo’s fourth campaign, they ended up with a 2 seed in the NIT (two seed lines away from Dayton).

A trip to Dayton doesn’t seem like too unreasonable of a pick in either direction. Most of the few preseason bracketologies that are out have Marquette flirting with both sides of the bubble. The self proclaimed Bracket King, Joe Lunardi has Marquette pegged as member of the first four out in his most recent bracket. The major predictive services are all over the map for MU. T-Rank does not love Marquette at all and has them as the 76th best team this season. KenPom ,on the other hand, has Marquette at #34 in his preseason rankings.

Given the amount of unknowns on this team, it’s unsurprising to see such a dichotomy between T-Rank and KenPom. With that in mind, we wanted to take some time to briefly discuss why our projected trip to Dayton may be too optimistic of a prediction and why it could be too pessimistic. Starting on the too optimistic side, our numbers are based on returning talent from last season and incoming talent that didn’t play any minutes last season. What it doesn’t capture is factors like team chemistry and players’ familiarity with their role. Marquette is losing 67% of its scoring from last season. A lot of that will be made up with the additions of DJ Carton and Dawson Garcia (not to mention the other freshmen, including RSFR Dexter Akanno) but a significant chunk is going to have to be made up by returners like Koby McEwen, Greg Elliott, and Jamal Cain taking more active (and in McEwen’s case, more efficient) scoring roles. This is a big shift in role from last season where the offensive strategy often seemed to be “stay out of Markus Howard’s way.” Another reason to be not quite this optimistic is because this ranking relies on an assumed All Big-East level performance from the aforementioned Carton. DJ Carton is a bad man. He played starter level minutes for a top 10 team prior to taking the rest of the season off to work on his mental health. His advanced numbers are straight out of a sabermatician’s wet dream and his name has appeared in the first round of more than one mock draft. Still, transferring isn’t always as simple as moving from one school and being as good as or better for another school. A lot of transfers struggle out of the gate as they navigate a new coach, new gameplans, and a new change in lifestyle. Andrei wrote an excellent article on Wojo’s history with transfers earlier this summer that may mean expectations for Carton should be a little tempered. Without an All-Big East level performance from Carton, it’s hard to see this team making the tourney.

While our projection of a tournament berth (barely) could end up being a reach, there are also a few reasons why our pick may not be optimistic enough. The first one that comes to mind is one, Mr. Dexter Akanno. Our model uses 247Composite rankings to judge the impact of freshmen (and redshirt freshmen). So a former #400 recruit coming off a redshirt? Not really going to add much to this projection. But as Paint Touches documented earlier this summer, Mr. Akanno does not seem to be your typical former #400 recruit. Now, we have been burned by highlight videos before, but this is the first time the highlight video contained footage of the future Golden Eagle going toe to toe with a current NBA All Star and winning….Okay it was a highlight video so we don’t know if Akanno won per se but he definitely put some points on Donovan Mitchell and did it with style.  Plus, it was enough to get another NBA star, Spencer Dinwiddie, to give him a shoutout on twitter. This model has Akanno penciled in for back of the bench, garbage time minutes. If the truth is he’s actually a possible starter or even a valuable contributor off the bench, that’s worth a few spots on the old s-curve. Akanno isn’t the only newbie who could outperform projections. Dawson Garcia has justifiably gotten all of the preseason love but Justin Lewis and Osa Ighodaro could certainly end up being better then their respective #97 and #125 rankings. Finally, this team could benefit from some good ole fashioned Ewing Theory. For those who may be unfamiliar, the Ewing Theory is the idea that when a team loses a superstar, say a 5’10” Arizonan dynamo who finished his career as the Big East’s all time leading scorer, they may actually improve as a team because they relied too heavily on the aforementioned superstar leading to a less efficient performance. The term was coined when the New York Knicks stormed their way to the ’99 NBA Finals after Patrick Ewing went down in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Reggie Miller led Pacers. There are dozens of examples of this phenomenon throughout sport history, though the evidence is much more anecdotal than analytical. You will find no shortage of Marquette fans and college basketball gurus who agree with the idea that Marquette relied on Markus Howard too much. His historic 40%+ usage all but proves that sentiment. Will Marquette actually be better off without him? No. You can never convince me that any team in college basketball history would have been worse for having Howard on the roster. However, I think it is possible that we could see a “Ewing Theory bump” in the production of several key returners from last year’s campaign. Maybe guys like McEwen, Elliott, Theo John, and Cain play with more urgency knowing that they don’t have Howard to bail them out. There’s certainly some anecdotal evidence that had McEwen playing some of his best ball in games where Howard was injured, on the bench, or just not playing well. If all or some of the returns take bigger steps forward than anticipated, this team may end up finishing above the likely 9 seed that was waiting for them at the end of last season.

That’s what we have for the summer. What do you think of the bracket? See anyone too high? Too low? Other random thoughts? Share them in the comments below!

Tags: , , ,

Categories: Analysis, Offseason

Author:Ryan Jackson

Texas A&M Professional, Marquette Fantatic

Subscribe

Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

One Comment on “WAY Too Early Bracketology – Fall 2020”

  1. David Hahn
    November 25, 2020 at 9:12 am #

    Great analysis. Look forward to more posts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s