Happy KenPom.com Release Day to all that celebrate.
Or, at least first full day of the preseason data being out in the public, as from what I can tell, Ken Pomeroy hit publish on his website sometime late last night, possibly before midnight wherever you live.
In any case, you’re here to get a handle on where Marquette stands heading into the 2022-23 season, so let’s just get to it: The KP algorithm plots Marquette as the #76 team in the country. To give you a comparison point, the Golden Eagles wrapped up Shaka Smart’s first season at Marquette at #56 and entered the NCAA tournament at #48 after starting off the season projected at #87. The quick shorthand of “the top 50 in KenPom are your at-large NCAA tournament candidates” tells you that the algorithm does not think that Marquette is a tournament team this season.
Let’s get a picture of where MU stands within the Big East before we get a little bit more granular with things.
I can think of several things wrong with that list based on my mental impression of the teams in the league this season. The most notable one is Georgetown not being last, but I will let y’all hack away at general thoughts about that rundown in the comment section down at the bottom.
Back to the Marquette related stuff.
Let’s hit the individual sides of the ball rankings for Marquette. KenPom rates out the Golden Eagles with the #78 offense in the country and the #71 defense in the country. This is where I have my biggest “well, they’re going to be better than this” objection to what the math says. Last year, the math said MU projected as #106 and #67 on offense and defense. They ended up at #64 and #55. I don’t particularly worry about the offense with Shaka Smart steering the ship, because he’s known for his defense. Last year’s #55 was his worst ranked defense since he posted a #78 in his second season at VCU, and yes, that was the team that went to the Final Four. To drive the point home, Smart’s worst defense at Texas was in his first season in Austin, and they finished at #40.
I get that the math is what the math is and this is what it says. I also think that Shaka Smart’s two coaching tenures say “the teams get better on defense as he gets more comfortable in the job.” As such, your biggest reason for optimism for Marquette this year should be based around the idea that not only will they outperform that #71 in the preseason ranking but also that they’ll beat out last year’s #55 at the end of the season.
I also want to note this part: The projection slots Marquette with the #66 tempo in the country, plotting MU at 73.0 possessions per game. This is both good and bad. It means the projection is actually somehow mirroring Shaka Smart’s statements that he wants the team to play faster than they did last year when they finished with an adjusted tempo of 70.9 possessions per game and 70.4 raw possessions per game in Big East play. However, that made Marquette the 25th fastest team in the country last season. If the trend of overall play in college hoops is to go faster — that’s how you fall 40 spots while speeding up by two full possessions — then it’s actually going to be crucial for the Golden Eagles to play at the speed Smart prefers.
Onwards to the schedule!
I remind you that there are two different ways to read the schedule projection. The first is just looking down at the bottom of the list and looking at the projected record. That number is taking thousands of simulations of the season and telling you the most likely outcome of the 30 games listed. That means there’s some situations where they pull a big upset and also maybe fall victim to an upset or any number of possible outcomes, but the most likely version of a 30 game slate against these opponents in these places is the projection. So: Marquette is projected to go 15-15 overall with a 9-11 record in the Big East. There is one game missing from the schedule because KenPom doesn’t list non-conference tournament possible opponents and eventually adds the games in once they become crystallized against a specific opponent. Marquette’s two possible opponents in the Fort Myers event are Georgia Tech and Utah, and they come in at #117 and #72 respectively. When comparing teams on a neutral floor, you can just take the rankings and come up with who’s favored, which means MU would be the pick to beat GT by maybe four or five points, while the Utes would be a 50.1/49.9 type favorite against the Golden Eagles.
The other way to read the schedule projection is game-by-game. Individually, KenPom projects Marquette to go 6-4 in the non-conference schedule and 6-14 in Big East play. Combined, that’s 12-18, and three games below the full picture projection. That’s because there are a lot of games that fall into the coin toss region. Anything that’s within 10% in either direction of 50% is really a cointoss game, where the winner is favored by just one possession. There are seven losses that fall within that margin for Marquette as well as four wins.
Think about it this way: An optimist’s view is that Marquette could easily tilt seven games in their favor and go 19-11 instead of 12-18.
Of course, the pessimist view is that 8-22 is just as likely if the cointoss falls against the Golden Eagles.
The 11 games in the cointoss window breakdown as one neutral site game — against Mississippi State in Fort Myers — seven games at home, and three on the road. I will go so far as to say this: The three road games are at DePaul, at Georgetown, and and Butler, and an NCAA tournament caliber Marquette team wins all three of those.
Got a question about what it all means? Wanna shout about how the computer is wrong about Marquette? That’s what the comments section is for, so fire away.