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How To Root For A Team That Isn’t On The Bubble

This is uncharted territory for some of us. Allow me to be your guide.

NCAA Basketball: Marquette at Georgetown Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Steve Wojciechowski years to this point have been pure hell, from a February-March rooting perspective. They’ve had fun teams, they’ve had good teams, they’ve had great players, they’ve played historic games, but they’ve never been safely in the tournament. Every single year Marquette has fought with 15 other teams to see who can be the least bad team just so their name can be mentioned on CBS during Selection Sunday. Being a fan of a bubble team forces you to watch Syracuse games, since year after year they are basketball’s version of tepid piss (and I’m not just talking about Jim Boeheim’s pants AYOOOOO). No one should ever be forced to endure that level of torture. Luckily, things are wildly different this year.

As many of you are well aware, Marquette is good this year. Quite good, actually. As our friend Alan Bykowski mentioned on Twitter, they are 2 wins away from being a tournament lock. That’s an odd thing to mention, considering the team currently owns a top 10 ranking, but it means that we can start to shift our focus as fans from “Just Get In The Tournament” to “Let’s Put Ourselves In The Best Position To Make A Deep Run”. Most of these tenets will remain the same, but there are some nuances that you might have forgotten since Marquette was last in this position in 2013. Time to dust off the cobwebs and gets your minds right for March.

1. Keep Winning Games

“Wow Ben you’re so smart tell me more about how winning games is a good thing.”

1. Mean. 2. Yes, winning is important in the regular season no matter what. It does matter slightly less when you’re on the bubble, as odd as that sounds.

Bubble teams are on the bubble because they’re mediocre. Mediocre teams lose more games than good teams, so a bad loss down the stretch doesn’t matter as much, unless it’s to DePaul (#DTLD). Marquette is currently among a collection of teams that don’t lose games, so 2-3 stretch is going to hurt Marquette’s overall seed by a larger factor than what we’re used to.

Speaking of seeds, let’s look at where Marquette generally stands right now. At the time of writing, bracketmatrix.com (it collects every public bracketology and combines them all. If you haven’t heard of it yet, I promise that you’ll spend hours mindlessly refreshing that site between now and Selection Sunday) has the Golden Eagles as a 4 seed. I’d say the reasonably possible range of seed expectations is between 3 and 5. In years past Marquette would be hoping for something between a 9 and 11 seed, but the specific number for that doesn’t matter much, because a) you just want to be in the tournament no matter what, and b) the difference between playing a 6 seed and an 8 in the first round is hardly noticeable. Playing a 14 seed as a #3 seed gives teams a major advantage to playing a 12 as a #5 seed.

Looking at last year’s final KenPom rankings, the average 6 seed ranked 25.25, while the average 8 seed ranked 32.25. Not much difference when you’re looking at possible first round matchups, since the teams in those range tend to be the fairly good, but flawed, high major teams. On the flip side, the average 12 seed ranked 60.75, with the average 14 seed ranking 103.5. That’s a 42.75 ranking difference in first round matchups just from an extra loss or two. Those 12 seeds are usually occupied by some of the best mid-major programs that go under-seeded by the committee, while the 14 seed line might have a decent automatic qualifier every once and a while. It’ll be massively important for Marquette to avoid putting itself in a position to worry about the luck of the draw.

2. Root Against Midwest Or Central Time Zone Teams

Every year, eight sites are picked for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. Those sites are split among the top 16 teams (seeds 1-4 in each region), with an attempt to give every one of those teams as much home court advantage as possible. Two of those sites are always on the west coast. The problem here is that the west coast is a barren wasteland of basketball that’s filled with spoiled brats that don’t care about anything except dry heat and Xanax. As such, some teams will be forced to spend the first weekend in Salt Lake City (gross) or San Jose (?????).

You figure that Gonzaga will take one of those spots. Nevada might, as long as they don’t get throttled by New Mexico again (more on them luego). Those other 2/3 spots have to go to someone, though. If Marquette earns itself a 3 or 4 seed, they will want some teams behind them to avoid being sent to a city named after a lake that’s only famous because it tastes weird. If the committee is doing some #MapMath, it’ll be a lot easier to send Texas Tech or Houston to the west coast if they’re behind Marquette on the seed line than the other way around.

3. Stay On The Same Seed Line As Nevada

Similar logic to the above point, but this applies to the second weekend. If Marquette is fortunate enough to advance to the Sweet Sixteen/Elite Eight (*drooling*), they won’t want to be playing in the West Region. Fans are way more likely to travel to Louisville or Kansas City than Anaheim, but one team from each seed line has to go there. If Marquette winds up with the same seed as Nevada, that’s an easy decision for the committee to make. It’s a way-down-the-road thought to have, but if they wind up in Kansas City, I would be able to walk to the game from my apartment. Think about what truly matters, folks.

4. Laugh At All The Teams On The Bubble

It’s fun when your main worries as a fan are whether your team will finish 1st or 2nd in the conference. It’s even more fun to look down upon the worms down below you on the basketball food chain and gloat about it. In particular, be sure to point and laugh in the general direction of Seton Hall, the PAC 12, South Carolina, Butler, and Creighton. Don’t hold back. Let yourself soak up every ounce of glory coming your way. Hell, you can even float a little closer to the sun if you want. Just because Icarus didn’t know how to properly build wings doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy. We have escaped the dungeon and are experiencing a high that will never end. Ever.