Back on November 17th, just after Marquette beat then-#10 Illinois, I wrote and published this article here on AE. The short version of that one is “hey, it’s one game early in a long season, don’t get over your skis on what this means for the Golden Eagles for March.”
I stand by that.
Today, here in the wake of Marquette’s second win over a ranked team in as many weeks, I am here to tell you that you can officially go nuts with feelings of optimism for what things are going to look like for the Golden Eagles in March.
ITEM #1 — Marquette is now #39 in the NCAA’s NET calculation.
Did you know the NET is updated daily? Did you know you can go poke around and look at it whenever you want? You can either follow this link or run “NCAA nitty gritty” through your favorite search engine and end up there. The Golden Eagles moved from #44 to #39 after beating Seton Hall on Saturday, and clearing that #40 barrier in the NET is a pretty big one.
There are 36 at-large bids to the NCAA tournament every year. The most recent Bracketology effort from our SB Nation overlords show seven conferences — Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, SEC, ACC, West Coast, and Pac-12 — as comfortably getting multiple bids into the field, and by “comfortably,” I mean at least three teams. That’s seven spots that could be expected to go to an at-large team that will probably end up as an automatic bid. Sure, you’re going to get a 2021 Georgetown in there mucking things up, but for the most part, those seven leagues will send one of their 3+ teams to the NCAA tournament as an auto-bid.
Add those seven spots to the 36 at-large bids then. 43 bids covered by the teams with the best possible resumes one way or another. It doesn’t exactly work like this, but if you’re in the top 40 in the NET, you’re pretty damn close to feeling pretty safe to getting one of those 43 spots, or at the very least one of those 36 at-large bids.
ITEM #2 — T-Rank is now projecting Marquette to make the tournament.
Are you familiar with T-Rank, the college basketball ratings system available for free at BartTorvik.com? You should be! Not only is it giving you all the analytics metrics that you need, but there are handy graphs to help chart how a team is doing as a season goes along. You can even filter out preseason bias and feel just like CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish.
For our purposes here, we’re paying attention to the T-Rank feature called Teamcast. It’s a page with a team’s entire schedule on it and then below that, a projection of the NCAA tournament field. You can change the results of whatever team you’re looking at and say “oh, if they win this game, where do they go?” and so on and so forth.
After updating following MU’s win over Seton Hall, the Teamcast showed Marquette projected as one of the last four byes into the NCAA tournament, meaning that they would avoid the First Four in Dayton. Now, on Sunday morning, after all of Saturday’s results have posted, things have changed a little bit. Marquette is now projected as the very last team to earn an at-large bid to the field.
To be very clear what this means: T-Rank is projecting that Marquette is going to go 6-7 the rest of the way this season to finish at 10-10 in the Big East, and then end up as the last team in. Just for specifics, I went ahead and clicked DynamaRank at the top of the page and then altered the schedule to “lose the next six games, but then go 5-1 in the next six and beat St. John’s in New York whenever that gets rescheduled” and boom, exactly right at the last team in. Change it to “the same, but beat Providence in Rhode Island and never make up the St. John’s game,” and suddenly Marquette is one of the last four byes.
You get the idea. There’s a clear path to the NCAA tournament at this point, and that maybe wasn’t there as recently as two weeks ago.
After beating DePaul, we were looking the next set of games as The Seven Game Stretch Of Doom. Marquette already snagged one win out of those seven. The mission for the rest of the season is clear: Take care of business against the Big East teams that aren’t on track for the NCAA tournament, steal a win against teams that are on track for the tourney, sail into the field of 68 with ease.
Maybe it’s not going to be that easy. After all, there’s still an angle into the NCAA tournament even if the Golden Eagles lose each of the next six games, all of which might be against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 25 when they take place. A six game losing streak isn’t going to be fun, but there’s still reason for optimism if that happens.
But maybe, just maybe.... Marquette steals more than one win out of the next six, and we can really cut loose? Fingers crossed.....