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It's still probably a little too early to look at this stuff. We have 13 more Big Ten games plus the BTT still to come. But since we dominated the entire world in Quad 1 wins last year, I wanted to take a look a the games we've played and the games yet to come.
First, a quick refresher. The NCAA uses the NET rankings now. They replaced the RPI with NET in 2018. And when the committee looks at your resume, they basically look at who you beat (and who you lost to). Every win and loss is split into four quads:
Quad 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75.
Quad 2: Home 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135.
Quad 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 135-240.
Quad 4: Home 161-358, Neutral 201-358, Away 241-358.
The main things the Committee looks at: did you lose any Q3 or Q4 games (you better not have), and did you win a lot of Q1 + Q2 games? The reason we got a 1-seed last year: our incredible resume in those categories. I don't have the pre-NCAAT team sheet saved, but here's our entire schedule (including Drexel + Loyola) in terms of the four quads:
I can't remember if our final team sheet (after the Ohio State win in the BTT) had 12 or 13 Quad 1 wins. I know that we had 12 going into that game (it says so in the game notes from the title game), but I think Minnesota fell from 75 to 81, meaning our win in Minneapolis fell from Q1 to Q2. As I recall, the Committee's team sheets had us with 12 (and then they saw us get 13 against Ohio State). Doesn't really matter I guess (they had us in ink as a 1-seed regardless of what happened against Ohio State).
The reason the Committee already had us in ink: the strongest Q1 + Q2 wins list in the country. Making it somehow even stronger was the fact that many of those Quad 1 wins were in the upper half of the quadrant. It was really difficult for any team to come up with six better wins than:
- Beat #3 at their place
- Beat #7 both at home and on a neutral court
- Beat #13 both at their place and on a neutral court
- Beat #23 at their place
Just for a quick comparison here, Villanova was #11 on the final NET rankings. But their Q1 + Q2 was 5-4 + 6-3 for a total of 11-7. So they fell to a 5-seed. Illinois, #4 in NET, 18 Q1 + Q2 wins, lock-of-all-locks for a 1-seed. Villanova, seven spots lower in the NET (would suggest a 3-seed), only had five Quad 1 wins, drops to a 5-seed.
So now let's get to my concern right now. We're in first place in the Big Ten with a 6-1 conference record. But our current team sheet (shown at the very top) is a lot weaker than this time last year. As of today, we have only one Quad 1 win (at Iowa).
Yes, it's early. But let's just toss some numbers together here.
Quad 1 record on January 19th, 2021: 3-4
Quad 1 record on January 19th, 2022: 1-3
Again, it's early. I'm just pointing out that last year I spent a lot of time saying "our tournament resume is shockingly strong." And this year I might have to spend some time saying "our tournament resume is shockingly weak". Not just because we only have one Quad 1 win at this moment, but also because it's January 19th and we've only played four Quad 1 games. And last year was the one with the limited non-conference schedule.
Maybe this is the best way to say that:
January 19, 2021: 15 games played, 7 of them Quad 1
January 19, 2022: 17 games played, 4 of them Quad 1
That just means we'll have a ton of opportunities for Quad 1 wins in the next six weeks, right? Well, let's look at it.
First thing to note: what qualifies as a Quad 1 win now might not be a Quad 1 win once the Committee sits down with their team sheets in March. Minnesota was a Quad 1 win when we won up there two weeks ago because they were 60-something in the NET rankings and any road win over a top-75 team is Quad 1. But Minnesota is now 82 in the NET rankings, so that's now a Quad 2 win.
It can also go the other way. K-State is a Quad 2 win (they're currently #65 and we beat them on a neutral court). If they can climb up to 49th by the end of the year, that becomes a Quad 1 win. So all of this will be shifting.
BUT, if we just go by the current NET rankings and the remaining schedule, here's our Quad 1/Quad 2 breakdown. Quad 1 games are in bold. Quad 3 games are in italics.
at #114 Maryland
home vs. #25 Michigan State
at #80 Northwestern
home vs. #17 Wisconsin
at #33 Indiana
at #7 Purdue
vs. #80 Northwestern (Quad 3)
at #113 Rutgers
at #25 Michigan State
vs. #22 Ohio State
at #54 Michigan
vs. #85 Penn State (Quad 3)
vs. #21 Iowa
Again, those will be moving around. The Wisconsin (17), Iowa (21), Ohio State (22), and Michigan State (25) home games are all Quad 1 games for now, but if any of them fall to 30 or below, they move to Quad 2. The road games all seem safe to stay in Quad 1 (unless Michigan drops 20 spots), but I'm assuming at least one of the home games drops out. Happens every year when Big Ten teams start beating up on Big Ten teams.
But let's be optimistic and assume we have eight more chances for Quad 1 wins before the BTT. Win them all and we go into the BTT 9-3 in Quad 1 games. Last year we got three Quad 1 wins in Indy (Rutgers, Iowa, and Ohio State on neutral courts) to get to 13. So maybe this year we could go from 9 to 12 in Indy? I'm describing a scenario where we go 19-1 in the Big Ten, though. Highly, highly doubtful that happens.
Let's split it down the middle and say we go 4-4 in the eight Quad 1 games. Well, then we would enter the BTT at 5-6 in Quad 1 games. Could get a few more in Indy, but... let's just drop a pin here and say that we won't be matching those 13 Quad 1 wins this season. And I haven't even mentioned the scary scenarios yet. Hold onto your butts.
Say we struggle with the tougher schedule coming up and only go 6-6 to close out the Big Ten schedule. That means we finish 13-7 in the Big Ten just like we did in 2020. And say those wins are the five Quad 2 and Quad 3 games listed above (at Maryland, at Northwestern, home for Northwestern, at Rutgers, home for Penn State) plus two of the Quad 1 games (let's say home wins over Michigan State and Iowa just because I do not want to lose to Izzo and Fran at home). That's 20-10 (13-7) going into the BTT. Our quads at that point?
Quad 1: 3-9
Quad 2: 6-1
Do you see where I'm going with all of this? This is a scenario that exists. We could go 13-7 in the Big Ten and only have three Quad 1 wins heading to Indy.
Last year (depending on where we put Minnesota because their NET ranking fell that weekend) we went into the Big Ten Tournament 10-5 in Quad 1 and 5-1 in Quad 2 (15 Q1 + Q2 wins regardless of which column Minnesota was in). This year, in the scenario I just laid out where we go 13-7 in the conference, we would enter the BTT with nine Q1 + Q2 wins, only three of them Q1. Meaning if we lost in the first round of the BTT, even though we just went 13-7 in a tough Big Ten, we'd have nine total Q1 + Q2 wins one year after finishing with 18.
I don't think that's what will happen. I do think we can get to 15-5 in the Big Ten. After starting 6-0, we only need a 9-5 finish to finish 15-5 in the conference. That's where KenPom has us finishing as of today (15-5).
I just wanted to note that this 15-5 might only include six Quad 1 wins. And with only 7 Big Ten teams currently in the top-50 of the NET, there's a decent chance that the BTT winner would only pick up two more Q1 wins in Indy because it might be a Quad 2 game on Friday. If the Big Ten season ended today and Illinois was the one seed in the Tournament, the opponent in the Friday night game would be either #80 or #82 in the NET. They'd need to be #50 for that to be a Quad 1 game.
This is why I'm in the mood I'm in this week. Monday was a chance for a flag-planting win, and we lost in double-OT. I know that the national writers were all "wow, Illinois-Purdue was high quality basketball between two teams who might go deep into March", and yes, we could go deep in March as a 6-seed. But all I can think right now is "we could go 14-6 in the Big Ten and only get a 7-seed because we'd only have four or five Quad 1 wins".
Maybe I should just look up the seven seeds last year and list their Q1 + Q2 records. Here we go:
Oregon - 3-4 + 7-1 = 10-5
Florida - 6-5 + 3-3 = 9-8
UConn - 4-5 + 3-3 = 7-8
Clemson - 3-7 + 7-0 = 10-7
For this year, the totals will be a bit higher (most teams played 25-26 regular season games last season and will play 30-31 this season). And an Illinois team that goes 14-6 in the B1G winning all of the Q2 and Q3 games would be 4-8 + 6-1 = 10-9 (before the Big Ten Tournament). So yes, I think I have that right. We could go 14-6 in the B1G, lose in the first round of the BTT, and get a 7-seed.
Yes, it's January 19th. So much will change. Perhaps all of the teams in bold above hold onto their Q1 status, we win six of those eight, hang a Big Ten banner, and head into the BTT win seven Q1 wins (before picking up two more in Indy). With Curbelo back, this is one of the ten best lineups in college basketball. If we play like it, we have absolutely nothing to worry about.
I'm simply saying that if we run the table from here through the BTT - 19-1 in the Big Ten and then 3-0 in Indy - we still can't match last year's 13 Quad 1 wins. At the most, we can get to 11 (one now, eight on the schedule, two in Indy since the 8/9 game would be two Quad 2 teams). If we match last year's 16-4, get the one-seed for the BTT, and then win it, that's still only eight Quad 1 wins. That's a resume comparable to last year's three-seeds like Arkansas, Texas, and Kansas.
I just wanted to put this out there. There are fewer Q1 opportunities this year, and with the missed opportunities against Marquette, Arizona, and Purdue, a similar run to last year (16-4 in the Big Ten and then a BTT title in Indy) is probably capped at a 3-seed. That's totally fine - I'd love a 3-seed because we never get to play on that side of the bracket - but I just wanted to point it out. As of this very moment, here's the top half of the Big Ten in Quad 1 + Quad 2:
Wisconsin - 5-1 + 5-1 = 10-2
Purdue - 4-1 + 2-1 = 6-2
Michigan St. - 2-2 + 3-0 = 5-4
Ohio St. - 3-4 + 1-0 = 4-4
Illinois - 1-3 + 3-1 = 4-4
Iowa - 0-4 + 4-0 = 4-4
Indiana - 1-2 + 1-2 = 2-4
Work to do.