Sunday, March 17, 2019

Final Bracketology: Selection Sunday Edition

Last of the season is below, posted on the Bracket Matrix as usual. Time for the best week of the year in sports!

1. Virginia, Duke, Gonzaga, Michigan State
2. Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan
3. Houston, LSU, Texas Tech, Florida State
4. Kansas, Purdue, Wisconsin, Auburn
5. Virginia Tech, Kansas State, Marquette, Villanova
6. Mississippi State, Iowa State, Buffalo, Maryland
7. Cincinnati, Nevada, Wofford, Louisville
8. Iowa, Central Florida, Seton Hall, Washington
9. Minnesota, Mississippi, Syracuse, Utah State
10. Baylor, VCU, Oklahoma, Florida
11. TCU, Arizona State, Ohio State, Temple, Belmont, St. Mary's (CA)
12. Oregon, Murray State, New Mexico State, Liberty
13. UC Irvine, Northeastern, Vermont, Old Dominion
14. Yale, SLU, Georgia State, Northern Kentucky
15. Montana, Colgate, Bradley, Abilene Christian
16. Gardner-Webb, Iona, North Dakota State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Prairie View A&M, North Carolina Central

Monday, March 11, 2019

Bracketology: Championship Week Edition

Just a week a way from the greatest time of year in sports. Latest and greatest is below. The Marquette free fall is real.

1. Virginia, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Kentucky
2. Duke, Tennessee, Michigan State, Michigan
3. LSU, Texas Tech, Houston, Purdue
4. Kansas, Florida State, Kansas State, Wisconsin
5. Virginia Tech, Marquette, Maryland, Mississippi State
6. Nevada, Villanova, Buffalo, Auburn
7. Cincinnati, Iowa State, Louisville, Wofford
8. Central Florida, Iowa, VCU, Oklahoma
9. Washington, Baylor, Mississippi, Syracuse
10. Utah State, Minnesota, Seton Hall, Texas
11. St. John's, Ohio State, Florida, TCU
12. North Carolina State, Belmont, Clemson, Temple, Murray State, Liberty
13. New Mexico State, Hofstra, UC Irvine, Vermont
14. Old Dominion, Yale, Georgia State, Northern Kentucky
15. Montana, Colgate, Omaha, Bradley
16. Gardner-Webb, Sam Houston State, Norfolk State, Iona, Prairie View A&M, St. Francis (PA.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

How Far Can Marquette Go In March?

Coming off a dominant win at Providence and heading into a big road contest at Villanova, MU is flying high and clearly having their best season since 2013. Which means the topic from recent years of "Will Marquette make the NCAA Tournament?" now shifts to more pleasant topics of "What seed will Marquette be?" or "Can Marquette make a deep run in March?"

So just how far can these Warriors go? Can they make a run to the Final Four? Are they primed for a 14-3 upset that also nearly happened in 2013? Here are a few reasons why each is a likely possibility.

Reasons For a Deep Run

Stud Performer
No surprise here, Marquette has one of the top players in the country in Markus Howard. Howard is on nearly every mid-season watch list, a lock for First Team All Big East, a top candidate for Big East POY, and has an outside shot at passing Jerel McNeal's scoring record as a junior. He can hit pretty much every shot on the court, and is still able to put up 25 ppg even though he isn't catching any team by surprise. His court vision and defense have improved dramatically this year, making him a much more dangerous weapon outside of just hitting jump shots. He's flat out one of the most special players in Marquette history, and has the potential to put this team on his back in key situations.

There are a plethora of players over the years that have been a one-man wrecking crew in March: Danny Manning, Christina Laettner, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, the list goes on and on. Markus Howard is absolutely that player for Marquette.

Solid Defense
Every Marquette fan knows that defense has been the biggest issue under Wojo, a bit of a surprise to many fans given his "slap the floor" mentality as a guard at Duke. Here are MU's defensive efficiency ranks in the NCAA under the first 4 years of the Wojo-era: 2015-69th, 2016-88th, 2017-165th, 2018-182nd. Headed in the wrong direction each year, and in dramatic fashion. This year? 42nd.

How does that happen? The biggest improvement by far has come in the paint. Theo John has been a one-man block party all season, and has also forced opponents to take bad shots which have led to defensive boards. When John sits for rest or foul trouble, Ed Morrow provides a physical presence that has limited opponents in the paint as well. In the backcourt, Sacar Anim has proven to be a top-tier defender both on the ball and off the ball. He's guaranteed to defend the opponent's top guard every game. Case in point? Sacar's stats against Max Strus and Kamar Baldwin. Both are averaging 17ppg on the season, but averaged 14ppg against Sacar over all 4 games. As a team, they've gotten much better at switching on ball screens, making better decisions on double teams, and are doing better at defending the 3 (227th in the country last year, 76th this year).

Balanced Scoring
Outsiders may look at this team and say it's the Markus Howard show and there's nobody else. That is definitely not the case. While Marquette may not have a specific player that is a consistent offensive presence behind Howard every night, there is always someone that seems to step up. Here is the scoring log from every conference game for Markus Howard and anyone that scored in double-figures that game:

1/1 @ St. Johns - Howard (8), Joey Hauser (15), Chartouny (11), Sam Hauser (10)
1/6 vs. Xavier - Howard (26), Anim (20), Joey Hauser (18)
1/9 @ Creighton - Howard (53!!!), Sam Hauser (13), Joey Hauser (13)
1/12 vs. Seton Hall - Howard (26), Anim (14), Sam Hauser (13), John (10)
1/15 @ Georgetown - Howard (0), Sam Hauser (31), John (14), Anim (10), Joey Hauser (10)
1/20 vs. Providence - Howard (24), Sam Hauser (25), Joey Hauser (11)
1/23 vs. DePaul - Howard (23), Sam Hauser (19), John (16), Joey Hauser (14)
1/26 @ Xavier - Howard (31), Joey Hauser (21), Sam Hauser (20)
1/30 @ Butler - Howard (32), Sam Hauser (19), Anim (14)
2/5 vs. St. John's - Howard (17), Sam Hauser (19), Anim (11)
2/9 vs. Villanova - Howard (38), Anim (18)
2/12 @ DePaul - Howard (36), Sam Hauser (17), Anim (12)
2/20 vs. Butler - Howard (28), John (15), Sam Hauser (11)
2/23 @ Providence - Howard (14), Sam Hauser (18), Anim (18), Joey Hauser (15), Morrow (11)

And now the tallies through 14 conference games (excluding Howard):

Sam Hauser - 12
Joey Hauser - 8
Anim - 8
John - 4
Morrow - 1
Chartouny - 1

January was a stellar month for the Hauser brothers. Sam has shown he's the most consistent scoring threat outside of Markus. While Sam does lack athleticism, he's a marksman from beyond the arc and is hitting nearly 60% of his 2-point jump shots. Joey hit the "freshman wall" for a 3-week stretch, but came out of his slump at Providence, hitting 3 of 4 shots from long range. If he can prove to do more of the dirty work in the paint, he'll be a consistent threat every night. Anim has displayed his ability to hit a variety of shots: 3-pointers, fade-away jumpers, tear drops, and can blow by defenders when he puts the ball on the deck. John has improved his 1-on-1 skills and has double-double ability when presented with the right matchups.

The last point (and one of the most important) is the win at Georgetown. Of course with Markus Howard out, someone else was bound to score in double figures, but the way Sam Hauser took the reigns at point guard and put up a stellar offensive performance was incredible.

Free Throw Shooting
In any tight game, free throws are extremely crucial and can be the number 1 reason a team wins or loses in the final minutes. Marquette has 3 solid free throw shooters in Howard (92%) and the Hauser brothers (Sam - 91%, Joey - 83%). This gives Wojo more plays to run out of bounds if MU is up by just a couple points with less than a minute to go. Howard will most certainly draw the most attention from defenders, which can leave the Hausers open to receive the inbounds pass.

True Grit
This team has displayed a toughness that Wojo's past teams have lacked. What this has translated to is come-from-behind wins, and maintaining a lead. Here are several examples:

1/9 @ Crieghton- Down 5 points with 8 second to play, Marquette manages to go the length of the court, score a layup, force an out-of-bounds pass by the Blue Jays, and hit a 3-pointer to force overtime. Here's the probability win chart, per kenpom.com. Down 5, Marquette had a 0.4% chance to win.


1/15 @ Georgetown - Most Marquette fans probably wrote off this game as a loss after Howard left just 3 minutes in with back spasms. Every team has a "next man up" mentality (or so they say), but Marquette proved it over the next 37 minutes, trailing by as much as 8 points with 15 minutes left in the game and relying on their small forward to be their point guard. The game ended with a stout defensive stand by Marquette. Here's the probability win chart from kenpom.com:



1/20 vs. Providence - Down 8 points at halftime, Marquette went on an offensive barrage in the 2nd half to win by 11.

1/26 @ Xavier - The Musketeers came out inspired and were firing on all cylinders throughout much of this game. Stellar shooting in the 2nd half from the Warriors helped them take the lead and keep it. Here's the probability win chart from kenpom.com:



1/30 @ Butler - This was a dominant road win that was essentially a wire-to-wire victory, but at the 13 minute mark, Marquette saw their 17-point lead dwindle to 6 points in just 3 minutes. Hinkle was rocking at this point, and Marquette teams of old may have folded down the stretch. Instead, they went on a 13-3 run over the next 4 minutes and never looked back.

1/9 vs. Villanova - Just watch the last play of the game. Enough said. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcNabPZkj-M


Reasons For an Early Exit

Over-reliance on Howard
Markus Howard is Marquette's Most Valuable Player, and 2nd place is a very distant 2nd. They managed to beat Georgetown without him, but in the 2 losses to St. John's he averaged just 12.5 points. MU fans would probably feel good about Sam Hauser stepping up, but would you bank on anyone else for sure?

Slow Starts
Marquette has had slow starts vs. Providence, at Xavier, vs. St. John's, and vs. Butler. Other than St. John's, they've been able to overcome these slow starts with great play in the 2nd half, but a slow start in late March could be too little too late.

Turnovers
Marquette has struggled with not only turning the ball over too much on offense, but also not forcing many turnovers on defense. This has improved as of late, but it's still a glaring issue. On the season, Marquette is turning the ball over on 19.1% of possessions (212th in the country) and forcing turnovers on 17.2% of defensive possessions (269th in the country). In Big East play, offensive turnover percentage has improved to 18.0%, but defensive turnover % is essentially flat at 17.3%.

Lack of Depth
After the starting 5, production drops off very quickly. 82% of Marquette's offense comes from the starters, which means when the bench comes in, they're trying to hold down the fort more than take over. If a couple key starters get in early foul trouble, it could make for a rough game.

Lack of True Ball Handlers
The only true ball handler on the team is Markus Howard. If the game is on the line and you need someone to catch the inbounds, bring the ball up the floor and break the press, he's the only one you can trust. Chartouny should be in this category, but he's shown a lack of confidence with the ball in his hands for most of conference play, and he's shooting under 70% from the charity stripe. Yes, the Hausers can hit their free throws, but I worry about them trying to split a double team in the back court without turning the ball over.

Lack of Tournament Experience
Marquette has a grand total of 1 NCAA Tournament game of experience over the last 5 years. Sure, Marquette's top 2 players in Howard and Sam Hauser were on that team, but a 20-point blowout in the first round (after leading by 1 at the half) doesn't exude experience on how to win postseason games.

Bad Luck
This is reason for any good team to have an early exit. The better team doesn't win every game. If Marquette draws a 3-seed, they may beat a 14-seed 9 times out of 10, but what if this 1st round game is that 10th time? A Marquette loss would lead to a lot of finger-pointing, but it could just mean they had a cold shooting night and ran into a team playing their best game of the season. It happens. Marquette is currently ranked 20th in the country according to KenPom (i.e. how often they're winning close games); could their luck run out?


Every year in the NCAA Tournament you hear the phrase "Survive and advance." No matter what the seeds are, teams have to assume they're going to get their opponent's best shot. There are no style points in March, just wins and losses. In 2013, Marquette "survived" against Davidson and Butler in the first and second rounds, then handily beat Miami in the Sweet 16; you never know how these games will go until the ball is tipped. You don't care how you win, just that you win. Let's hope Marquette's true grit is enough for them to make it to the second weekend or beyond.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Bracketology: February 25

Latest and greatest is below. For as great as Marquette is playing, there's isn't a lot of opportunity for them to get to a 2-ssed.

1. Virginia, Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky
2. Tennessee, Michigan, North Carolina, Michigan State
3. Houston, Kansas, Purdue, Marquette
4. Texas Tech, LSU, Wisconsin, Florida State
5. Iowa State, Maryland, Kansas State, Virginia Tech
6. Louisville, Nevada, Iowa, Mississippi State
7. Villanova, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Washington
8. Auburn, Baylor, Mississippi, Syracuse
9. Wofford, St. John's, TCU, Oklahoma
10. Ohio State, Texas, North Carolina State, VCU
11. Florida, Minnesota, Arizona State, Central Florida
12. Seton Hall, Clemson, Temple, Alabama, Belmont, Lipscomb
13. New Mexico State, Hofstra, Yale, Vermont
14. Old Dominion, UC Irvine, South Dakota State, Texas State
15. Northern Kentucky, Montana, Radford, Loyola-Chicago
16. Bucknell, Sam Houston State, Norfolk State, St. Francis (PA.), Prairie View A&M, Canisius

Monday, February 11, 2019

Bracketology: February 11

It's February, which means it's time to start talking about 12-5 upsets, mid-majors, and the all-important "eye test." Here's my first seeding of the season, which I'm sure will drastically change in the next 35 days. And yes, it's a lot more fun to do this when Marquette is good!

1. Duke, Virginia, Tennessee, Gonzaga
2. Michigan, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State
3. Kansas, Purdue, Houston, Marquette
4. Louisville, Villanova, Wisconsin, Nevada
5. Iowa State, Virginia Tech, Texas Tech, LSU
6. Iowa, Maryland, Kansas State, Florida State
7. Mississippi State, Cincinnati, Auburn, Buffalo
8. Washington, Baylor, Oklahoma, Ohio State
9. Syracuse, TCU, St. John's, Mississippi
10. Texas, Wofford, North Carolina State, Indiana
11. Alabama, Minnesota, Arizona State, Central Florida, Seton Hall, Temple
12. VCU, Lipscomb, Davidson, Belmont
13. Hofstra, New Mexico State, Vermont, Yale
14. Old Dominion, Georgia State, South Dakota State, UC Irvine
15. Northern Kentucky, Radford, Loyola-Chicago, Montana
16. Bucknell, Rider, Sam Houston State, Norfolk State, Robert Morris, Prairie View A&M

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Final Bracketology: Selection Sunday Edition

Happy Holiday!  Final predictions are below.  As always, this will be posted on The Bracket Matrix as well.  Looks like this will be the first time I watch the NIT in a long time.




1. Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier
2. Duke, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Purdue
3. Tennessee, Michigan State, Michigan, Arizona
4. Auburn, West Virginia, Texas Tech, Wichita State
5. Gonzaga, Clemson, Houston, Ohio State
6. Kentucky, Florida, Arkansas, Miami (FLA.)
7. TCU, Texas A&M, Creighton, Rhode Island
8. Nevada, Providence, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech
9. Kansas State, Butler, Missouri, Alabama
10. North Carolina State, Florida State, St. Bonaventure, Texas
11. UCLA, Oklahoma, USC, St. Mary's (CA), San Diego State, New Mexico State
12. Loyola-Chicago, South Dakota State, Buffalo, Murray State
13. UNC-Greensboro, Davidson, College of Charleston, Stephen F. Austin
14. Montana, Bucknell, Wright State, Marshall
15. Georgia State, Lipscomb, Pennsylvania, Iona
16. Maryland-Baltimore County, Cal State Fullerton, Radford, LIU-Brooklyn, North Carolina Central, Texas Southern

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Bracketology: February 25

Better late than never.  At least this helps take my mind off the loss to DePaul... ok, not really.

1. Virginia, Duke, Xavier, Kansas
2. Purdue, Auburn, Villanova, North Carolina
3. Michigan State, Cincinnati, Texas Tech, Tennessee
4. Ohio State, Wichita State, Clemson, West Virginia
5. Arizona, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Rhode Island
6. Michigan, Nevada, TCU, Houston
7. Seton Hall, Texas A&M, Florida State, Butler
8. Arizona State, Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma
9. Creighton, Florida, Missouri, Miami (FLA.)
10. Virginia Tech, St. Mary's (CA), North Carolina State, Providence
11. Kansas State, USC, St. Bonaventure, Texas, Louisville, Baylor
12. Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, Louisiana-Lafayette
13. Vermont, Montana, Buffalo, Murray State
14. E. Tennessee State, College of Charleston, Rider, South Dakota State
15. Bucknell, UC Santa Barbara, Northern Kentucky, Pennsylvania
16. Wagner, NC-Asheville, Florida Gulf Coast, Nicholls State, Southern, Savannah State