So. There were supposed to be two Marquette basketball games on Wednesday. The men were supposed to be visiting St. John’s, while the women were scheduled to visit Connecticut. Both games were canceled/postponed, with the Red Storm’s COVID problems causing the stoppage for the men and MU’s issues calling off the game for the women.
The men won’t be back in action, or at least aren’t scheduled to be in action until Saturday morning against Creighton. Megan Duffy’s team is off until January 7th when they’ll be in Omaha to play the Bluejays as well.
This leaves us with a lot of time to sit around and wait with nothing to talk about in terms of new hoops action. With New Year’s Eve coming up on Friday, it feels like a good time to take stock of where the two teams stand in terms of an NCAA tournament profile.
Let’s start with the women’s team.
NET Ranking: #73
Average NET Win: 237
Average NET Loss: 56
Record vs 1-25: 0-1
Record vs 26-50: 0-1
Record vs 51-100: 1-0
Record vs 101+: 8-1
vs 1-25: home-and-home vs Connecticut
vs 26-50: home-and-home vs Creighton & DePaul
vs 51-100: none
vs 101+: home-and-home sets against Villanova, St. John’s, Providence, & Georgetown; home vs Seton Hall, at Butler & Xavier
First of all, let’s point out that the NCAA is using a NET algorithm to evaluate the women’s basketball teams but then also just sorting them purely by rank. The men’s evaluation format weights things based on whether it was a home, road, or neutral site game. For example, Marquette’s road loss at #31 Colorado is in the second sorting column here because the Buffaloes fall between #26 and #50. However, using the home/road/neutral weighting, that would be a Quadrant 1 game for the Golden Eagles.
I’m not saying shifting a loss from Column #2 to Column #1 is going to help Marquette secure an at-large bid.... but it’s also not going to hurt.
In terms of where Marquette stands and where they’re going.... well, things aren’t great. A NET ranking of 73 when you need to be in the top 50 to be comfortable with your at-large chances isn’t ideal. Having just six games remaining against top 50 NET teams is also not helpful, particularly when two of those could also just as easily be counted as scheduled losses to Connecticut.
It’s also not great that Marquette has four Big East games remaining against sub-150 NET teams: both ends of the season series against #173 Georgetown as well as road trips to #215 Xavier and #297 Butler. The Xavier and Butler games are officially “DO NOT LOSE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES” games, and the contests against the Hoyas could move there if things don’t go well for GU as Big East play goes along.
In short, I think there’s a clear path for Marquette to get to the NCAA tournament for a program record fifth consecutive time...... but it sure looks an awful lot like 16-4 in the Big East at the absolute worst.
Onwards to Shaka Smart and the men’s team, then.
NET Ranking: #75
Average NET Win: #150
Average NET Loss: #40
Quadrant 1 Record: 2-4
Quadrant 2 Record: 1-0
Quadrante 3 Record: 1-1
Quadrant 4 Record: 4-0
Quadrant 1: home-and-home series with Villanova, Seton Hall, and Providence; home vs Xavier, at Connecticut, Creighton, and DePaul
Quadrant 2: home vs Creighton & DePaul; at St. John’s & Butler
Quadrant 3: home vs St. John’s & Butler; at Georgetown
Quadrant 4: home vs Georgetown
Let’s address Marquette’s Q3 loss, since it’s the closest thing that they have to a “bad loss” at this point. That’s St. Bonaventure in the Charleston Classic title game. The Bonnies slipped from #83 (an easy neutral site Q2 game) to #110 after getting sandblasted by Virginia Tech, 86-49, on a neutral floor on December 17th. KenPom no longer shows them as the favorite to win the Atlantic 10 — that’s Davidson now — and with the A-10 currently having just five top 100 NET teams and three sub-200 teams, I would imagine that it’s pretty likely that SBU stays Q3 for Marquette the rest of the way through the season.
Much like Megan Duffy’s team, the men’s basketball team is not in a good position for the NCAA tournament with a NET of #75 at this point of the year. The difference here is the quality of the opponents in Big East play. In theory, the women’s team can establish themselves as a tournament team by racking up wins against what appears to be inferior competition. For the men? They’re the inferior competition for everyone else.
Seven of the other 10 Big East teams currently have a NET ranking better than Marquette. That’s bad when it comes to the chances of stacking up victories.... but pretty good when it comes to improving your NET ranking merely by playing those teams. Right now, if Marquette can sweep Georgetown and take the home games against both St. John’s and Butler, they avoid taking another Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 4 loss the rest of the season. Avoiding problems is just as big of an issue as proving your value at this point for the Golden Eagles.
As I suspected before the season started, the hope for an NCAA tournament bid is still pretty slim for the Golden Eagles. That has more to do with “The Big East is great” than “Marquette is not good” though. If Shaka Smart’s goal to lead the country in improvement by March comes through? Well, that’s a different story, isn’t it?