We keep passing signposts on the road to the start of the 2018-19 college basketball season, and we got a big one on Saturday morning. Ken Pomeroy went ahead and hit the “Go Live” button with the preseason rankings and projections for the 2018-19 season on KenPom.com and now we get to pore over the numbers and see exactly what the most notable computer systems on the internet think about the upcoming season.
Let’s get right into what the computer says about Marquette, shall we?
YOUR Marquette Golden Eagles start the season ranked #29 in the country. For context purposes, MU started last year at #49 and finished at #53 after losing to Penn State in the NIT quarterfinals. Marquette’s high water mark in 2017-18 was #39, which they hit twice in late January.
The algorithm projects Marquette to have the #9 Adjusted Offensive Efficiency in the country, but a top 15 offense has been a hallmark of the past two seasons under head coach Steve Wojciechowski. You know that, I know that, the chipmunk that’s currently chewing through your electrical lines in the walls of your house knows that. The important thing here is what the algorithm says about Marquette’s defense. Two years ago, MU finished the year with the #165 defense, and that number dropped to #182 last year.
This year? KenPom.com says Marquette starts the year with the #66 defense in the country.
I swear to Al McGuire, I will sign a contract written in blood for #66 in March right now. Who’s got a pen? I’m signing, we’re all signing.
I do want to provide a note of concern here, though. Last year, the computer said Marquette would have the #85 defense in the country. That did not happen, although I suppose there’s a certain amount of “Haanif Cheatham only played five games” that plays a major part of the nearly 100 spot descent. The point here is that the computer looked at Wojo’s first three years and decided that #165 was an aberration, which it was after years of #69 and #88. Now it’s taking two awful years into account and still spitting out a very good number. That’s most likely due to the system seeing noted steals wizard Joseph Chartouny and noted rebounding machine Ed Morrow on the roster. With three and two years of college hoops behind them respectively, those two guys are known quantities for the calculation. That calculation goes along with the generally accepted thought for Marquette this season: Swapping Chartouny and Morrow for Andrew Rowsey on the roster is going to make Marquette better on defense purely on accident if not on purpose.
Moving on to the record projections.
The math says that Marquette will finish the regular season with an overall record of 19-11 and a Big East record of 10-8. That projection is missing one game, as the second game of the Preseason NIT Tip-Off can’t be placed into the schedule until we know for sure whether Marquette will be playing Tennessee or Louisville.
That’s probably the bad news.
Here’s the good news.
The math also says that 10-8 will be good enough for a three-way tie for second place in the Big East. The math is also spitting out a four-way tie for sixth place in the league at 8-10.
That’s also the full season projection. Going game-by-game, the record comes out to 22-8 overall and 12-6 in the Big East.
Why the discrepancy?
Well, here’s the preseason rankings for the entire Big East.
The entire league is in the top 80, and teams 1-9 are all in the top 60. Just 28 spots separates second best Marquette from ninth best Georgetown. That kind of thing leads to the computer essentially saying “shit, I dunno, home team wins” an awful lot when you perform 10,000 simulations in order to project a most likely season long record.
Of the eight losses projected on the schedule, five of them are shaping up as one possession losses. Only at #28 Indiana, against #1 Kansas, and at Villanova are projected as losses by more than three points.
The Big East is projected as just the fifth best conference in the country with an average Efficiency Margin of +14.24, narrowly falling behind the SEC (+14.30) and the Big Ten (+14.77). The Big East has finished each of the last three seasons as the #3 league in the country and hasn’t finished lower than #3 since 2014, the first year of The Reformation. The conference was ranked #5 at the end of that year.
One small non-conference schedule note before we wrap up. To start the season, Marquette has just two sub-300 opponents on the schedule. One is #316 Presbyterian, the game that MU added at the last minute when the Preseason NIT braintrust was unable to find a second game for the Golden Eagles. There’s nothing that can be done about that one other than glare at the NIT people for being jerks who can’t do their jobs. The other one is #342 Southern, and that one was put on the schedule on purpose by Marquette. One more time for the people in the back: STOP SCHEDULING TEAMS THAT ARE GOING TO BE ONE OF THE 50 WORST TEAMS IN THE COUNTRY. You want to schedule #299 New Orleans or #297 Rice? Cool, whatever, don’t care, I won’t say a word. Intentionally signing up to take the RPI hit of a team projected to finish below .500 in the SWAC? HARD PASS.
Marquette gets the season started on Tuesday, November 6, when they host #234 UMBC at Fiserv Forum. MU has a 97% chance of victory with a projected score of 87-67.
You can check out all of the preseason rankings right here, but it will cost you a yearly subscription fee to check out all of the other information.