Big East Bubble Watch: Calm Before the Storm

Posted by Justin Kundrat on February 10th, 2016

The end of football season coincides with the fast-approaching NCAA Tournament. For some, such as Villanova and Xavier, the body of work to date has been impressive enough to already guarantee entry to the Tournament, and likely as a high seed. For others, such as Butler and Seton Hall, it’s imperative to continue winning. The Tournament is just five weeks away and many non-contenders are beginning to play for their postseason lives. The picture is constantly shifting as bubble teams trade wins and losses, pulling each other down as they seek to climb the Big East ladder. This is the first installment of the Big East bubble watch, with RPI and SOS figures from

Isaiah Whitehead And Seton Hall Have The NCAA Tournament Firmly In Their Sights (Photo: USA Today Sports)

Isaiah Whitehead And Seton Hall Have The NCAA Tournament Firmly In Their Sights (Photo: USA Today Sports)


Villanova: 20-3 (10-1); RPI: 3; SOS: 6

Xavier: 21-2 (9-2); RPI: 8; SOS: 61

Analysis: No justification needed here. Both teams are firmly in the RPI top 10 and could be looking at #1 or #2 seeds. At this point, even a prolonged losing streak wouldn’t be enough to keep them out.

Should Be In

Providence: 18-6 (6-5); RPI: 32; SOS: 59

Analysis: Providence is one of those teams whose computer ratings have always trailed its AP ranking and public perception. Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil have been one of the best one-two combos in the country, but the inconsistent play from the Friar supporting cast has occasionally proven difficult to overcome. The Friars are 2-4 against the RPI top 50 and have also dropped two games to teams outside the RPI top 100. With a healthy Bentil, the Friars are capable of beating anyone (see: win over Villanova), but its poor shooting statistics and lack of depth on the interior justifiably bring concern. Nonetheless, Providence will secure a Tournament bid merely by winning the games its supposed to win.

Seton Hall: 17-6 (7-4); RPI: 37; SOS: 81

Analysis: Outside of Villanova, Seton Hall might be the hottest team in the Big East right now. After starting league play 3-4 with narrow losses to Villanova and Xavier, the Pirates have reeled off four straight wins and are starting to see its pieces come together. During this stretch, the Pirates’ RPI has risen from 44 to 37. This week they even garnered 14 votes in the AP Poll, a meaningless notation as far as bracketing purposes go, but still, some much deserved recognition. There are no questionable losses on the resume, although the Pirates are just 2-4 against the RPI top 50. Sophomore Angel Delgado has been playing his best basketball of the season and the Pirates have one of the most underrated defenses (20th in Kenpom) in college basketball. Like Providence, Seton Hall should be good to go if they can just avoid those bad losses.

Not Quite There

Butler: 16-7 (5-6); RPI: 67; SOS: 118

Analysis: Butler fans are probably sick of hearing about it, but conference play has been absolutely brutal for Chris Holtmann’s team. The offense has been humming along behind the varied skill sets of Kellen DunhamRoosevelt Jones and Kelan Martin, but the Bulldogs have struggled mightily in getting stops during crucial stretches. The Butler RPI number, which was once 13th after a neutral floor win over Purdue, has fallen all the way to 67. A recent win over Georgetown helped shore up the resume a bit, but the Bulldogs are still clutching to that Purdue win as a singular claim to glory. Thankfully, the upcoming schedule is ripe with opportunity: a road game against Seton Hall is followed by a date with Xavier at home. Realistically, Butler will need to win at least four of its next seven and collect two top 50 wins along the way to start feeling bullish about its chances. Not easy, but certainly doable.

On The Fringe

Georgetown: 13-11 (6-5); RPI: 75; SOS: 39

Analysis: Georgetown has an odd way of playing to the level of its opponents. Their strength of schedule number is favorable, but outside of a marquee road win at Xavier, the results have not been. Georgetown now has 11 losses on the season, despite being talented enough to play with every single opponent it has faced. With a brutal schedule on the horizon, it’s now or never for D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera & Co. to right the ship. If recent performances are worth anything, all signs are pointing to never.

Creighton: 16-9 (7-5); RPI: 87; SOS: 109

Analysis: Despite an impressive win over Xavier on Tuesday, Creighton still hasn’t done enough. The Bluejays’ record has been inflated by a weak non-conference schedule, which has significantly damaged their computer ratings. Per, they would have to finish at 21-10 just to get into consideration range (~61st) and the Jays’ probability of doing so is just 3.9%. Winning on the road is a must.

Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at

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