If you’ve been paying attention to ESPN’s college basketball broadcasts over the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that they love talking about where teams rank in BPI. This is, to a certain degree, just advertising for themselves. ESPN invented BPI and of course they’re going to use BPI as opposed to RPI or KenPom or Sagarin or whatever ranking metric.
Anyway, on Sunday morning, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello published an article about BPI, as The Worldwide Leader’s resident math nerds finished adjustments to the system following transfers and so on and so forth. The rankings have been tweaked and the algorithms have been.... algorithmed.... and thus, ESPN has a summer update BPI top 50.
I’m going to turn things over to Borzello here, because if I tell it to you, you won’t believe me.
It’s only the second year the BPI has produced a summer update, but the preseason BPI ranking in October has been fairly predictive over the past decade. Since 2007, only two national champions -- both UConn teams -- have been ranked lower than fourth in the preseason BPI ranking.
That could be good news for Kansas, Gonzaga, Tennessee or Marquette.
YEP, BPI HAS YOUR MARQUETTE GOLDEN EAGLES AS THE #4 TEAM IN THE COUNTRY BY WAY OF MATH HEADING INTO NEXT SEASON AND OH YEAH, OVER THE PAST DECADE, YOU USUALLY HAD TO BE IN THE TOP FOUR LIKE MARQUETTE IS RIGHT NOW TO WIN THE TITLE IN MARCH.
I mean, WHAT IN TARNATION?
Continuing with Borzello:
This one will immediately raise some eyebrows. The Golden Eagles finished .500 in the Big East last season, got pummeled in the Big East tournament by Villanova, then lost in the NIT to Penn State -- and then lost leading scorer Andrew Rowsey and his 20-plus points per game. However, the model projects Marquette to have the best offense in the country ... and the 90th-ranked defense. Markus Howard returns in the backcourt, and Sam Hauser could be poised for an all-Big East campaign. Steve Wojciechowski is expecting a big boost from his newcomers: Nebraska transfer Ed Morrow, Fordham graduate transfer Joseph Chartouny and freshman Brendan Bailey.
Let’s provide some context here.
At the end of last season, BPI had Marquette with the #15 offense in the country and the #174 defense. KenPom had Marquette ranked #12 in offense and #182 in defense. If Marquette had a top 15 offense and a top 100 defense last year, they would have been on par (at least on KenPom, BPI’s interface is whacky and I’m not trying to figure it out) with TCU, Arizona, and Nevada. I will absolutely sign up for whatever postseason result comes out of Marquette going #1/#90 in those two columns next year.
The question becomes whether or not that’s possible. We already took a look at exactly what Marquette needs to fix the most on defense earlier this summer, and the answer was, essentially, everything. Everything is bad or at the very least getting worse on a year to year basis under Steve Wojciechowski’s guidance. I agree with Borzello’s assessment that Wojo (and Marquette fans everywhere) is expecting to get impact performances out of Morrow (top 30 in Offensive Rebounding Rate as a sophomore at Nebraska, top 200 in Defensive Rebounding Rate and Block Rate) and Chartouny (either #1 or #2 in the country in Steal Rate the past two years), and more importantly, they should both make an immediate and obvious impact on the defensive end. Same goes for Greg Elliott, who goes unmentioned by Borzello, but he can’t help but be better with two healthy hands as a sophomore.
I hesitate to join Borzello and Wojo in thinking that Brendan Bailey will make a big impact on the 2018-19 team. It absolutely could happen. There’s a reason why Wojo recruited him in the first place, y’know? Facts are facts, though, and for the past two years, Bailey has been on a Mormon mission with only one day a week where he could do anything resembling basketball training. As far as I’m concerned, at least until the end of the season opener against UMBC, anything Bailey gives the Golden Eagles is all bonus.
By the way: There’s a very real chance that Marquette could end up facing both the #1 and #3 teams in the BPI summer update by the time Thanksgiving weekend is over. That is bonkers.
So what do you think? Is it absurd to think that Marquette is a national championship contender in 2018-19 like BPI seems to indicate? Is this just one more log on the “holy crap, Wojo really needs to win with this team” fire? Are you irrationally excited for the college basketball season to start right now? Fire it up in the comments section.