Is the 2017 Bubble Really the Weakest in Years?

Posted by Shane McNichol on March 2nd, 2017

One of the prevailing narratives that has developed during the second half of this season is the existence of a historically weak crop of bubble teams. The bubble, by its very definition, is a fluid concept where a 68-team field consisting of 37 at-large teams necessarily limits the strength of the group. For whatever reason, though, this season’s bubble dwellers have earned a reputation as a particularly futile bunch. To explore the veracity of that claim, I reviewed the last seven NCAA Tournament bubbles (2011-17). This includes every NCAA Tournament since the 2011 implementation of the First Four, which added three additional teams to the at-large field. For this year’s bubble, I used ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s Last Four In and his first two out from the bracket released on Monday, February 27 — teams included were USC, Providence, Marquette, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.

There are several clear takeaways here. First, the 2017 bubble does in fact feature the worst aggregate winning percentage and average RPI of the last seven years, along with the second-worst average KenPom ranking. In comparison with the last six years, this group of six bubble teams is statistically weaker than other years relative to the higher levels of automatic qualifiers. The most important finding, though, can be found in the far right column. This season’s bubble teams have all played very difficult schedules, nearly cutting the average bubble member’s strength of schedule rating in half. That’s notable because this season’s six bubble teams are from power conferences, while 19 of the 36 bubble teams from 2011-16 came from the mid-major world. That group included schools like Middle Tennessee, Tulsa, Colorado State, Iona, BYU (twice), Boise State (twice) and Oral Roberts.

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Big East Bubble Watch: Volume II

Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 2nd, 2017

A positive resulting from the recent struggles of Creighton and Xavier is the opportunity it has afforded the conference’s bubble teams. At the beginning of the season, five was a fair benchmark for possible NCAA Tournament bids coming out of the Big East this season. Now, with just one regular season game remaining for each team, as many as seven teams could hear their names called on Selection Sunday. At the expense of quality seeding has come quantity, which might prove to be a boon given the unpredictable nature of March Madness. Here is where those seven teams stand as we head into of the final weekend of the regular season. RPI and strength of schedule (SOS) figures are from RPIForecast.com.

Locks

  • Villanova: 27-3 (14-3); RPI: 1; SOS: 24
  • Butler: 23-6 (12-5); RPI: 10; SOS: 11
  • Creighton: 23-7 (10-7); RPI: 24; SOS: 44

Analysis: These three teams have made things pretty easy for themselves — even losing out would not be enough to destroy their NCAA Tournament hopes. Villanova is a virtual lock for a #1 seed, probably in the East Region; Butler has climbed its way up to the #3 seed line; and Creighton should find itself in the #5 to #6 range. With the right match-ups, all three are Sweet Sixteen contenders.

Should Be In

Xavier Has Lost Six Games in a Row and is Reeling as March Arrives (USA Today Images)

  • Xavier: 18-12 (8-9); RPI: 35; SOS: 7

Analysis: The Musketeers’ awful slide has continued with the once 18-6 team having now lost six games in a row. A home loss to Marquette does not help matters but it alone is not yet enough to knock the Musketeers to the fringe. Xavier has gone 0-6 vs. the RPI top 25 this season, but it has avoided any bad losses and still boasts a total of eight top 100 wins. The concern for Chris Mack‘s team at this point isn’t so much its seeding but just how poorly it might perform in the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers’ last six games have been a disaster on the defensive end.

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ACC Bubble Watch: February 14

Posted by Mick McDonald on February 14th, 2017

With the Selection Committee releasing its early look at the top 16 seeds on Saturday, we are now officially in the home stretch of the 2016-17 regular season. Here is a look at the state of the bubble in the ACC four weeks away from Selection Sunday. (KenPom rankings are all as of Monday, February 13)

LOCKS (6): North Carolina, Florida State, Louisville, Virginia, Duke, Notre Dame

BUBBLE:

Wake Forest vs. Clemson Tonight is a Key Bubble Match-Up (USA Today Images)

  • Clemson (13-11, 3-9 ACC, KenPom: #39). We knew there was likely to be a very good ACC team that would fall victim to a brutal schedule and as a result miss the NCAA Tournament. To this point of the regular season, it appears that Clemson is that team. Wins at home over Georgia (KenPom: #50), UNC-Wilmington (KenPom: #56) and Alabama (KenPom: #62), along with a win over Davidson (KenPom: #88) on a neutral court, and at South Carolina (KenPom: #27) represent an impressive array of victories. The Tigers’ only bad loss came against Oklahoma (KenPom: #82) on a neutral court, but nine defeats in ACC play are too much to overcome. Clemson probably needs to a 5-1 finish to the regular season and a decent showing in the ACC Tournament to receive a bid — a difficult, if not impossible, task. This Week: Wake Forest (2/14), at Miami (2/18).
  • Georgia Tech (15-10, 6-6 ACC, KenPom: #79). In league play, Georgia Tech has notched big home wins over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame. A home loss to Ohio (KenPom: #109) is the only significant blemish on the Yellow Jackets’ non-conference resume, but it’s not a killer and a nice road win over VCU (KenPom: #43) will help compensate. The Selection Committee has seemed to value “big wins” regardless of location in recent years, so it will be interesting to see if that trend holds again this year. If the Yellow Jackets can take care of business in their three remaining home games and find just one win on the road (at Miami, Notre Dame or Syracuse), they should be going dancing in Josh Pastner’s inaugural season. This Week: at Miami (2/15), vs. Syracuse (2/19).

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Finding a Parachute for Four Teams Fading Fast…

Posted by Shane McNichol on February 11th, 2017

In Sports Illustrated‘s recent profile of former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, he asked two philosophical questions about the game of basketball: “Why do we watch basketball games front to back? Why not watch games back to front, or out of order?” Those questions are silly on their face, but they stuck in my head this week while evaluating the NCAA Tournament resumes of a few teams whose seasons have clearly stagnated. Is there something to be said for viewing a team’s record of wins and losses without the associated construct of time, completely freeing its resume from any particular front-to-back narrative? This idea, in many ways, ties into the cutesy “blind resumes” gimmick we see on television so much throughout late February and early March. When we remove the bias that everyone inherently brings to the analysis, how does that change our opinions?

Is Tom Crean Destined for the NIT? (USA Today Images)

In the end, the individuals comprising the selection committee will bring their own biases along with them regardless of how the narratives are constructed. So as we sit here in mid-February, we thought it would be a useful exercise to re-evaluate a handful of teams who have seemingly lost control of their seasons. Indiana, USC, Clemson and Minnesota looked well on their way to the NCAA Tournament as recently as a month ago, but conference play has taken a significant toll on each. The narratives attached to these teams will greatly affect how they are viewed by the selection committee over the last month of the season. Can any of this quartet recover?

  • Indiana: The obvious poster child for this phenomenon, the Hoosiers were among the nation’s top 10 and projected as a #2 seed by ESPN‘s Joe Lunardi as recently as December 12. Since that date, Indiana has suffered injuries to key players (OG Anunoby and James Blackmon) and compiled a 7-8 record as a result. Fortunately for the Hoosiers, their only loss to an opponent outside the RPI top 100 came in a true road game at Fort Wayne, but with four of the Hoosiers’ last five Big Ten games on the road, concerns about a bid remain if Indiana can’t right the ship.

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Finding a Path to the Madness for Big 12 Bubble Teams

Posted by Shane McNichol on December 29th, 2016

The top of the Big 12 is off to a hot start this season with Kansas, Baylor, and West Virginia all ranked among the top 12 of the AP poll and the current KenPom ratings. These three teams have a combined 34-2 record that includes wins over Duke, Virginia, Louisville and Xavier. The class of the league appears as strong as ever, but if the Big 12 has notions on putting seven teams back into the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year, trouble arises further down the standings. With a mix uninspiring victories and troubling losses, the middle of the pack is full of teams that will need to earn their chops in conference play to sufficiently impress the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Texas and Oklahoma appear in trouble, so let’s focus on the five teams with the best resumes to date.

Iowa State Hasn't Shined as Much as Hoped This Season (USA Today Images)

Iowa State Hasn’t Shined as Much as Hoped This Season (USA Today Images)

  • Iowa State. The Cyclones entered the season with high expectations given that head coach Steve Prohm returned four key contributors. To date the Cyclones have yet to really impress or disappoint. Iowa State’s three losses have all been understandable — dropping games to Gonzaga, Cincinnati and rival Iowa — but the rest of the schedule has consisted of mostly cupcakes save for a nice win over Miami (FL). The key for the Cyclones in Big 12 play will be their performance on the road. Hilton Magic should result in a minimum of six or seven home wins, but that means Iowa State will need to win three or four road games to feel confident about an NCAA Tournament berth. With no sign of a true bottom-feeder in the conference this year, that will be much easier said than done.
  • TCU. Despite sporting an 11-1 record, Jamie Dixon’s Horned Frogs have yet to create any real buzz in part because TCU’s best wins came in an odd scheduling quirk, beating Washington in back-to-back contests. Aside from those two victories, their next best win came against Illinois State — not exactly something to write to the Selection Committee about. Whereas Iowa State is more concerned with taking care of business and keeping the status quo, TCU needs a big win or two in conference play as well as a plus-.500 Big 12 record. Going 9-9 with six losses to Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia isn’t likely to be enough.

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RTC Bracketology: March 15 (2:00 PM ET) Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) on March 15th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries.

Here’s what has changed on Friday and earlier today:

  •  Albany (America East) and Tulsa (Conference USA) have clinched bids by winning their conference tournaments.

The NCAA Tournament Picture (full S-curve after the jump)

  • NCAA Tournament Locks (38): Arizona, Florida, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Duke, Villanova, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, San Diego State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Louisville, North Carolina, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas State, Vcu, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio State, George Washington, Memphis, Arizona State, New Mexico, Oregon, Baylor, Oklahoma State, Colorado, Stanford, Pittsburgh, Saint Joseph’s
  • Clinched NCAA Tournament Auto-Bids (15): Harvard (Ivy), Eastern Kentucky (OVC), Wichita State (MVC), Mercer (ASUN), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Manhattan (MAAC), Wofford (SOCON), Milwaukee (Horizon), Mount St. Mary’s (NEC), North Dakota State (Summit), Gonzaga (WCC), Delaware (CAA), American (Patriot), Albany (America East), Tulsa (Conference USA)

Bracket Math

I have 38 locks above, but when you consider nine conferences figure to have at least three bids or more (American, ACC, A10, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC) it’s fair to assume that in MOST — if not all — of those leagues, the automatic bid will also come from an already “locked in” team. Therefore, we subtract nine from 38, which leaves us with 29 “true locks”. Add in the 32 automatic bids awarded to teams that win their conference tournament (which is where the nine conference champs we discounted a second ago will end up) and you’ve got a total of 61 locks. 

Since 68 teams make the NCAA Tournament, that leaves us with 7 spots remaining for bubble teams. Now, let’s take a look at the bubble:

Projected Bubble Spots Left: 7

  • Probably In (4): Nebraska, Dayton, Xavier, SMU
  • Bubble In (3):  Tennessee, BYU, Providence
  • Bubble Out: Minnesota, Arkansas, California, Green Bay, Florida State, Southern Miss, N. C. State, St. John’s, Belmont, Missouri, Georgia, Louisiana Tech

Potential Bid Thieves Left: 3

  • ACC (1): N. C. State
  • A-10 (1):  St. Bonaventure
  • SEC (1): Georgia

The Projected NCAA Tournament Field

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Xavier on the Cusp of Returning to the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 14th, 2014

Brian Otskey is reporting from the Big East Tournament all week

After missing the NCAA Tournament last year for only the second time since 2000, Xavier head coach Chris Mack made it clear to his team what the goal was this season. “Every time we play a game from day one, from game one up until tonight, we always wrote the four letters in the top right of the white board [in the locker room] that said NCAA’ because deep down that’s been a goal of these guys,” said the fifth year Musketeers coach. On a day that saw more dramatics reminding us of moments from years gone by in this event, Xavier was all business in taking care of Marquette and solidifying itsNCAA Tournament hopes. Xavier’s 68-65 win over Marquette was number 21 on the year for Mack’s squad and should be enough to ensure the Musketeers return to the NCAA Tournament next week. Xavier was out-shot and out-rebounded by the pesky Golden Eagles but it was able to get to the free throw line regularly and surprisingly won the turnover battle, two things Marquette head coach Buzz Williams said were key reasons why his team failed to advance to Friday night’s semifinal round. “We turned the ball over too many times in a lower than normal possession game,” said Williams. He was absolutely right as his team failed to take advantage of a Xavier club that ranks near the bottom of the Big East in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage.

Xavier Won Its First Big East Tourney Game Last Night

Xavier Won Its First Big East Tourney Game Last Night

In particular it was Justin Martin who provided a spark for Xavier in the win. He shot the ball very well en route to a 19-point performance and did not turn the ball over once. This was a physical game contested heavily in the paint, your typical grind it out Big East style of game that didn’t feature many transition opportunities. Xavier was buoyed by the return of Matt Stainbrook, who suffered a sprained MCL in the team’s loss at Seton Hall on March 3. Stainbrook only played 15 minutes but contributed eight points and gave the Musketeers a much-needed presence in the paint on both ends of the floor. Marquette tried to mount a charge at the end but a questionable shot by Todd Mayo sealed the deal. After the game, Williams actually asked the assembled media how the NIT selection process works, claiming he was not familiar with it.

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Reviewing the Big Ten’s Bubble Teams Before Indy

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on March 12th, 2014

The Big Ten Tournament commences on Thursday and teams are either hoping to improve their seeding, resume, or win it outright. But these conference tournaments are always of most consequence to the bubble teams. It’s their final chance to rack up a quality win or two in order to impress the selection committee and see their name announced on Selection Sunday. Four Big Ten teams are on the bubble to varying degrees: Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, and Illinois. The Cornhuskers and Gophers are squarely on it, while the Hoosiers and Illini are longshots at this point. According to bracketmatrix.com, the consensus view has Nebraska in the tourney as an #11 seed while most have Minnesota in their “first four out.” The table below displays the current profile for all four teams.

b1g bubble resumes 2014

Here’s what lies ahead for each of these teams heading into Indianapolis:

Indiana and Illinois. As it turns out, the two longshots face each other in the first round in the #8/#9 match-up on Thursday afternoon. So while one team will be automatically eliminated from bubble talk in its first game, the other will move on to face Michigan on Friday. Beating Michigan will be a tall task, as the outright Big Ten champs have won five straight — the last two of which were against Indiana and Illinois — and at 15-3 have been the hands-down best team in the league. That said, Michigan won a close game against the Hoosiers last Saturday and went to overtime against last-place Purdue a few weeks back, so they are not infallible. The Wolverines are #10 in the RPI and have an SOS of #9, so a win over Michigan here would be a significant boost to either team’s RPI and could advance that team on to the bubble.

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RTC Bracketology: March 12 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) on March 12th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries.

Monday and Tuesday were the last two “quiet” days of the season. Sure, several automatic bids were handed out to the NCAA Tournament, but all in all not a lot changed in my NCAA Tournament bracketology. BYU’s loss to Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Final is the biggest result on the board in the last two days and the Cougars were already the first team out of my field. For now, I’m leaving things that way with the right to change my mind before Selection Sunday.

The NCAA Tournament Picture (full bracket after the jump)

  • NCAA Tournament Locks (35): Arizona, Florida, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Duke, Villanova, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, San Diego State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Louisville, North Carolina, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas State, VCU, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio State, George Washington, Memphis, Arizona State, New Mexico, Oregon, Baylor, SMU, Oklahoma State
  • Clinched NCAA Tournament Auto-Bids (11): Harvard (Ivy), Eastern Kentucky (OVC), Wichita State (MVC), Mercer (ASUN), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Manhattan (MAAC), Wofford (SOCON), Milwaukee (Horizon), Mount St. Mary’s (NEC), North Dakota State (Summit), Gonzaga (WCC)

Bracket Math

  • How many spots are still available for bubble teams hoping to win their way into the NCAA Tournament? Let’s break it down with a little bit of simple math.
  • I have 35 locks above, but when you consider nine conferences figure to have at least three bids or more (American, ACC, A-10, Big East, Big 12, Big Ten, Mountain West, Pac-12, SEC) it’s fair to assume that in MOST, if not all, of those leagues, the automatic bid will also come from an already “locked-in” team. Therefore, we subtract nine from 35, which leaves us with 26 true locks.” Add in the 32 automatic bids awarded to teams that win their conference tournament (which is where the nine conference champs we discounted a second ago will end up) and you’ve got a total of 58 locks. 
  • Since 68 teams make the NCAA Tournament, that leaves us with 10 spots remaining for bubble teams. Now, let’s take a look at the bubble.

Projected Bubble Spots Left: 10

  • Bubble In (10): Colorado, Stanford, Nebraska, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, Xavier, California, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Tennessee
  • Bubble Out: BYU, Arkansas, Georgetown, Providence, Green Bay, Florida State, St. John’s, Belmont, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia

Potential Bid Thieves Left: 67

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RTC Bracketology: March 10 Edition

Posted by Daniel Evans on March 10th, 2014

Daniel Evans (@bracketexpert) is Rush the Court’s resident bracketologist. He will update his brackets at least twice a week through the rest of the regular season here at RTC, but his updated brackets can be viewed daily at Bracketology Expert. As we approach March Madness, he’ll also provide occasional blind resumes. Evans has been ranked by the Bracket Matrix as the nation’s 11th-best bracketologist out of hundreds of entries.

It’s the best week of the year as we all count down the hours to Selection Sunday. It may take every minute to figure out this field, which continues to produce loops with some of the stunning losses we’ve seen over the last few weeks. On Sunday alone, two potential No. 1 seeds lost  following a Saturday when Kansas and Arizona lost. One quick note for this bracket: Wisconsin’s loss to Nebraska on Sunday night moved the Badgers off of the No. 1 seed line. Villanova is now the final No. 1 seed and I believe firmly that if the bracket was released today, the Wildcats would join FloridaWichita State and Arizona on the top line. For the first time in over a month of bracketing, I feel like those four teams are relatively clear-cut choices on the top line, but over the next six days that is certain to change. The Gators and Shockers are locked in as No. 1s but Arizona and Villanova could still make things interesting in conference tournament play. Meanwhile, the Badgers loss was Nebraska’s gain. The Cornhuskers jumped up to a No. 10 seed in this bracket and will likely end up in the No. 10-12 range on Selection Sunday.

The NCAA Tournament Picture (full bracket below)

  • NCAA Tournament Locks (36): Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Syracuse, Wisconsin, Kansas, Duke, Villanova, Virginia, Creighton, Michigan, San Diego State, Iowa State, Michigan State, Louisville, North Carolina, Saint Louis, Cincinnati, UCLA, Texas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Kansas State, VCU, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Iowa, Ohio State, George Washington, Memphis, Arizona State, New Mexico, Oregon, Baylor, SMU, Oklahoma State
  • NCAA Tournament Auto-Bids (5): Harvard (Ivy), Eastern Kentucky (OVC), Wichita State (MVC), Mercer (A-Sun), Coastal Carolina (Big South)

The Bubble Picture

  • Projected Bubble Spots Left: 10
  • Bubble In (10): Colorado, Stanford, Nebraska, Saint Joseph’s, Dayton, Xavier, California, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Tennessee
  • Bubble Out: BYU, Arkansas, Georgetown, Providence, Green Bay, Florida State, St. John’s, Belmont, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia

Potential Bid Thieves Left (70)

  • American (5): Houston, Rutgers, UCF, Temple, South Florida
  • ACC (10): Clemson, N. C. State, Florida State, Maryland, Miami (FL), Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Boston College, Virginia Tech
  • A-10 (9): Dayton, St. Joseph’s, Richmond, La Salle, St. Bonaventure, Rhode Island, Duquesne, George Mason, Fordham
  • Big East (8): St. John’s, Xavier, Marquette, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Butler, DePaul, Providence
  • Big 12 (3): West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU
  • Big Ten (6): Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Penn State, Northwestern, Purdue
  • Mountain West (9): UNLV, Nevada, Boise State, Wyoming, Fresno State, Utah State, Colorado State, Air Force, San Jose State
  • Pac-12 (5): Utah, Washington, Oregon State, Washington State, USC
  • SEC (12): Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State
  • WCC (3): BYU, San Francisco, St. Mary’s

The NIT Picture

  • There will be more to come on the NIT bracketology front as this week progresses, so stay tuned. I’ll likely also try to throw together CBI and CIT fields.
  • Clinched NIT Bids (5): Belmont (OVC), Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun), Davidson (SoCon), Vermont (America East), Green Bay (Horizon)

The Projected NCAA Tournament Field (March 10, 2014 at 10:13 AM CT)

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