We are just a little over a month away from Selection Sunday (how wild is that?), and I think it’s a pretty good time to start looking at which teams are sitting squarely on that proverbial bubble that we’ll hear about constantly over the last month of the regular season.
The majority of teams have 22-24 games under their belts at this point, and that is plenty of games for us to start evaluating these team’s Tournament resumes, and start determine which ones are sitting pretty, which have no shots, and then which teams will be those bubble teams, the teams that will need to be as impressive as possible over the last four weeks of the season to ensure a berth in the Big Dance.
I have not posted a bracket prediction yet for this season (stay tuned for that in the coming weeks), but I have done a few for my own personal amusement, and let me tell you, when it gets down to the last few at-large teams, it is MIGHTY difficult to decide who should get in and who shouldn’t.
For that reason, I have decided to do this Bubble Watch post, and for it, I have provided Tournament resumes for the eight teams that made up my “Last Four In” and “First Four Out” in the last bracket prediction exercise I did, but I have not provided which teams they are. It’s fun to decide which teams you would put in without knowing which teams they are, rather just seeing numbers that the Selection Committee like to use when evaluating potential Tournament teams.
I will go through which four teams I would put in and why based on just the numbers, and I can tell you that the four I chose here were different than the four I had chosen when I first put my bracket together. Just looking at the numbers can really change the way you think about certain teams.
Here are the Tournament resumes for these eight bubble teams (as of 5:00 pm on 2/9):
|Team B||Team C||Team D||Team E||Team F||Team G||
|vs RPI Top 50||
|vs RPI Top 100||
|Losses outside RPI Top 100||
To start deciding which four teams I would select, I decided to look at the factors one at a time, and I would decide which teams are in good shape in that factor, which are neutral, and which are struggling.
For example, I started with RPI (which is a very flawed ranking system, but it is the one that is held in the highest regard by the Selection Committee, and the one that they use most in choosing teams for the Tournament), and I looked at Team B (29), Team A (35) and Team G (36) as those teams in good shape in that department. Then I put Team D (75), Team H (76) and Team E (77) and marked them as being weak in RPI.
I did that for each of the six factors, and that made it a little easier to decide. There is a method to my madness. One team stuck out after I did this, and that was Team C. They have a good record at 16-7, their 6-7 record against the RPI Top-100 is solid and they haven’t lost to a team outside the Top-100, so for all intents and purposes, they don’t have a bad loss. I wish they had more than two wins against the Top-50, but I don’t have them as weak in any factor, so I put Team C in.
Another team that stood out, but in the opposite direction, was Team E. I love that they have four wins against the Top-50, but their RPI and record are both not great, and they have a losing record in conference play. It’s rare for a team with a losing record in conference play to make the Tournament, so I have Team E out.
Switching back to the positive side of things, I had two other teams that were “good” in three categories, and they were Team A and Team G. They are 35 and 36 respectively in RPI and both have good records overall and in conference play. Team A has played just three games against the Top-50 and only have three wins against the Top-100, but only having one bad loss helps them, so I put them in. I also put Team G in, because while they only have one win against the Top 50, they’ve already played six games against top teams, so they are going to be battle-tested and have proven they can beat a good team.
The next team that I placed out was Team B. I love their RPI at 29, and the Selection Committee likely will as well. But they already have 10 losses, they have a losing record in conference play and in eight tries, they have yet to beat a Top-50 team. For me, that was too many bad factors to put them in the field.
That left me with three teams, Teams D, F and H, each of which have positives and negatives. Team D has seven wins against the Top-100, but they also have a poor RPI. Team H also has a poor RPI, but three wins against the Top-50 is second most among these eight teams. Team F has a winning record against the Top-100, the only team of the eight with that to boast, but they are also the only team here with more than one loss to teams outside the Top-100. Ultimately, I went with Team F because they have a winning record in conference play, while Teams D and H are both 5-6 in conference.
So to recap…
In: C, A, G, F
Out: D, H, B, E
If you’ve stuck with me so far, it’s time to find out who these teams actually are! My first team in, Team C, is Miami (FL). I had the Hurricanes in my field before this exercise, and I think most experts would have them in at this point as well. The biggest positive for Miami is that they have plenty of opportunities left to secure their spot, with road games against Louisville, Virginia and Florida State still on the docket, as well as a home matchup with Duke.
Team A was next, and that is Rhode Island. This is another team that I had in the field in my last prediction, but most experts do not have them in right now. They have a legit chance to win the A-10 Tournament, which would put it out of the hands of the Committee, but home games against Dayton and VCU have to be considered must-wins for the Rams.
My third team in was Team G, which is the California Golden Bears. I did not have Cal in my field, but now I can see where they definitely deserve the consideration. They battle Arizona in Tuscon this Saturday, and a win in that game would be massive. They also still have Oregon at home, which is another chance for a resume-defining win.
My last team in was Team F, which is Arkansas out of the SEC. The Razorbacks play in a weak conference, and they have flown almost completely under-the-radar this season. Mike Anderson’s team has a solid resume, and they can still add to it with road games against South Carolina and Florida still yet to go.
Team D was my first team out, and that is Michigan, who I had in previously. They made quite a statement Tuesday by thrashing Michigan State, but don’t worry UM fans, they have plenty of time to improve the resume. They still host Wisconsin and Purdue, and they play Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern on the road.
Speaking of Indiana, they were Team H, my next team out. As I type this, the Hoosiers are trying to extend the game against Purdue, but it looks like they’ll come up short. They are still hanging their hats on early season wins over Kansas and North Carolina, which are two extremely impressive wins, but they have work to do if they’re going to make the Tournament. They’ll get another crack at Purdue near the end of the season. That game might end up a must-win.
I liked a lot about Team B, but not enough to put them in. Team B was Wake Forest. I’ve watched the Demon Deacons play, and I think they are a Tournament-quality team, but they have some flaws in their resume. The ACC is really tough this year, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they get a team with a losing conference record into the Tournament, but wins against Duke and Louisville down the stretch could go a long way for Wake.
The final team, the one of these eight that I have furthest away, was Team E, otherwise known as Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets just recently got themselves onto the bubble with wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame (all at home). They still have a ton of work to do though, and unfortunately, they don’t have any marquee games left to help them out. A trip to South Bend to take on Notre Dame again at the end of February is the biggest resume-builder left for Josh Pastner’s team.
I had a lot of fun doing this, and I hope everybody that stuck with it did as well! And I more importantly hope I opened your eyes a little bit to the process of selecting at-large teams for the NCAA Tournament. It’ll be interesting to see come March 12 where these eight teams wind up. If enough of you enjoy this, I’ll be sure to do it a couple more times leading up to the Tourney!