We reached a very important milestone on the pathway to the start of the 2020-21 college basketball season very late on Tuesday night. While the country sat around waiting for final election results, Ken Pomeroy hit the ol’ PUBLISH button on his preseason rankings and ratings.
Yessirreebob (is that supposed to be all one word?), the KenPom.com preseason data is up and available for your perusal!
Your Marquette Golden Eagles will start the season as the #34 team in the country. Is that high? Is that low? You have to make your own decision on that, but for what it’s worth, that’s three spots lower than where MU was at the end of the 2019-20 season. In case you’re wondering — and you’re reading this, so I presume you are — it would appear that the algorithm expects Marquette to be markedly worse on offense while improving dramatically on defense.
Last year, the Golden Eagles rode Markus Howard’s electrifying scoring abilities to the 14th most efficient offense in the country. This year, the KP algorithm says that MU starts the year with what is projected to be the #31 offense in the country. Yeah, it’s a drop off, but without Howard, we knew there would be one. Staying in the top 40 is fine, at least in terms of projections.
Defense is a different story. It’s not a secret that the Golden Eagles struggled on that end of the floor, as they ended the year ranked eighth by KenPom in the Big East in defensive efficiency and #73 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. That is expected to change, at least the eyes of the computer calculations, as Marquette starts off at #39 in the country. This is the part where I warn you that KenPom thought that head coach Steve Wojciechowski had the #34 defense in the country to start last season..... and that did not turn out that way.
If you are panicking right now off that last paragraph, I would like to remind you that Marquette has added three athletic power forwards in their incoming recruiting class. Combine the addition of three gentlemen at 6’7” or taller with the departure of the 5’11” Howard on the defensive end, and one would think that merely being taller and longer should be a boon to the ability to come up with stops. In theory at least, right?
Let’s dive in a little deeper, shall we?
We turn to the Big East, as the overall look of Marquette’s conference is the second most important part of the KenPom preseason numbers. Let’s just throw the card on the table, shall we?
KenPom says Marquette is the third best team in the league.
Villanova starts the year off at #4, Creighton comes in close behind at #13, and then, next, sitting at #34, is Marquette. Those are the only three top 40 teams in the league. UConn makes their Big East re-debut at #43, and Seton Hall turns up at #50 to round out the full total of top 50 teams in the league.
If you think about “Top 50” as shorthand for “NCAA Tournament Contenders,” that’s your list for the Big East heading into the year. Is that good for the Big East? Probably not, but that’s right about half the league in its current 11 team incarnation, so it’s not bad, either. The goal has to be six teams every year, and this is in the ballpark.
Every team in the Big East — yes, even mobilized dumpster fires like DePaul and Georgetown — start the year off as top 90 teams. That is a good sign for the Big East, as overall strength will end up paying dividends for the league when postseason berths are being handed out. Here’s the full list in order:
#4 — Villanova
#13 — Creighton
#34 — Marquette
#43 — Connecticut
#50 — Seton Hall
#56 — Butler
#63 — Providence
#65 — Xavier
#72 — St. John’s
#85 — DePaul
#86 — Georgetown
Finally, we turn our attention to the schedule projection. Unfortunately, 2020 being 2020 rears its ugly head here, as the Big East has only announced four games for every member of the league so far. Even weirder, KenPom only has one of Marquette’s six non-conference games — the home date against #33 Oklahoma State — installed on the slate. That’s something that will get fixed in fine tuning, I’m sure, but for the time being, it means we have just five games worth of predictions available to us.
The good news is that Marquette is projected to win the games you’d think they would win and lose the games that you’d think they would lose. That means a projected record of 3-2 in the five games with home wins over OSU and Seton Hall and a road win over Xavier against a road loss to Creighton and a home loss to Villanova.
However, Marquette is favored at just 58% against the Cowboys and only 53% against the Musketeers. That ends up giving us a win/loss record projected at 2-3 when you take the most likely result of the five games all together instead of each individual result.
We may as well look at the preseason rankings for the other non-conference games since they’re not on the slate, huh?
Arkansas-Pine Bluff: #353 (out of 357)
Eastern Illinois: #168
Green Bay: #265
In short, Marquette will be favored in their three games against non-Major Seven opponents, but will not be favored in the other two. UCLA would be favored on a neutral site with their ranking just a nudge above MU anyway, and home court advantage won’t be enough to propel the Golden Eagles to a projected win over a top 10 team. They’re only at 39% against #4 Villanova, after all.
And that’s all we’ve got to talk about, unless you really want to dive in deep on Marquette being projected at #55 in the country in tempo. We know Steve Wojciechowski likes to play faster than most of the country, so that’s not news. What do you think about all of this? Good? Bad? Weird? Makes you crave a slice of cake? That’s what the comments section is for, so sound off.