You might remember back during the summer that we were less than excited about Marquette's non-conference schedule.
Marquette did not schedule any games outside of multi-team events, made for TV conference clashes, or yearly home-and-home rivalry games against anything resembling a quality opponent. Marquette beat Wisconsin on Saturday for their first road win over a KenPom top 40 team since the Golden Eagles visited Pittsburgh on January 12, 2013, and came away with a 74-67 win. With that game out of they way, Marquette has three opponents ranked below #300 as their remaining non-conference games. As a loss to any of the three of them would essentially be a death knell to any postseason positivity, this is the perfect time to take a look at the profile that MU has to show the NCAA tournament committee.
That's.... not great.
The NCAA selection committee wants to see top 50 wins to give you an at-large bid. At worse, they want to see you play a lot of top 50 teams. With eight perennial multi-bid leagues and 36 at-large bids, that's 44 spots occupied off the top of the deck, so those top 50 teams are your primary competition for tournament bids. You have to show the committee that you can beat those teams to get into the field. Right now, Marquette has played only two of those top 50 teams and they're 1-1. Even worse, the loss is the Iowa game, so it's not like Marquette can sit there and say "HEY LOOK AT THE TOUGH SCHEDULE WE PLAYED" because blowouts are not helpful. Even worse than that, the win is against Wisconsin, and they slid from 37 down to 42 after the loss. What happens if the Badgers start suffering inefficient losses and drift out of the top 50, which is the way they're trending right now?
So that's a problem.
Here's the good news.
|26-50||Butler, Georgetown, Providence|
|51-100||Seton Hall, Creighton|
I mean, that's kind of good news, really. There's 10 chances for those top 50 wins there. Seton Hall and Creighton are #53 and #58 respectively, so if they catch a bit of a hot streak, they could easily slide into the top 50 as well.
It's *kind of* good news because it means that Marquette's going to have to clobber their way through 10-14 games against top 50 opponents to get to the postseason. The obvious upside is that the possibility to rack up the wins is there for the taking, but the downside is that there's a distinct chance that it's not going to be a lot of fun. In fact, KenPom is predicting an 8-10 league record for MU right now.
It also means that the four games against DePaul and St. John's are absolute dead lock "MUST NOT LOSE" games. The Blue Demons and Red Storm are both in the 160s right now, so losses to them on the road wouldn't be season altering, not really, not like losing to Presbyterian would be. However, the amount of top 50 wins that would be required to balance out a 160s loss isn't really fun to think about.
What we as Marquette fans have to hope for is that the Golden Eagles continue to get better and better under Steve Wojciechowski's guidance and turn those offensive efficiency numbers around. MU had a huge jump in the KenPom rankings after defeating Wisconsin on Saturday, going from 81st up to 67th before settling in at their current rank of 72nd. Marquette has the third best defensive efficiency in the Big East right now, but with a national rank of #138, MU has the third worst offensive efficiency in the conference.