I was reminded this week of an old comedy (maybe Abbott & Costello) where the stars are in the military (maybe French Foreign Legion). There is a scene where everyone is in one line, standing at attention. The sergeant addresses the company and asks for a volunteer for a dangerous mission. Simultaneously everyone takes one step back, leaving our hapless hero as the volunteer.
Doing this entry on bubble teams reminded me of that old movie. Some will step forward and move into the NCAAT. Some will take a step back and fall into the NIT. A third group will essentially stand still and hope that they have already done enough to be included in the Big Dance. But before we take a closer look at the ACC, let’s take a minute and talk about how expansion has affected the ACCT and getting into the NCAAT.
In the good old days, the bubble teams would be somewhere between about 4th thru 6th place in the conference. Their first games in the ACCT were significant because the top teams got the easy pickings and the bubble teams generally faced real competition. With expansion, the bubble teams rank somewhere between 5th and 8th and a win in the first round is simply not that impressive. However, a first-round loss could be devastating to a bubble team.
Going back to the soldier analogy, this is how I view the early rounds of the ACCT for our intrepid bubble teams:
Win on Friday – Take a big step forward
Win on Thursday – Stand in current position
Lose on Thursday – Take a big step backwards
If you’re new around here, take a look at the general criteria for Clearing the Bubble because I’m not going to repeat it today. After you finish with the prerequisites, let’s look at who has something to prove in the ACCT:
If either wins the ACCT, then they will be guaranteed a #1 seed. Depending on what happens in other tournaments, UNC might be able to lose in the finals and still get a #1 seed. Worst case scenario for UNC is probably a 2 seed and a 3 seed for Duke.
Oliver Purnell is finally going to make the NCAAT. In fact, their comebacks against UMD and VT may go a long ways into putting those two teams in the NIT.
Clemson’s free-throw shooting will likely limit how far they go in either tournament…but this is clearly the best team from SC since Rick Barnes left for Texas.
I would have never expected an 8-8 ACC conference team to have an RPI ranking of 28…but that’s where they’re at. Throw in a 4-3 record against the RPI Top-50 and a home win against Duke and they have to be a lock for the NCAAT.
I also would have never imagined that a team could earn a first-round bye and not be a lock for the NCAAT, but that’s where I put VT. Their first-round bye is strictly a function of their easy conference schedule…actually make that the easiest conference schedule. (I’ll have more on conference SOS later this week.)
All of the following items scream “bubble”:
RPI Ranking: 57
0-6 record against RPI Top 50
Losses to #156 Penn St, #132 ODU, and #114 Richmond
If VT could have held on at Clemson, then they would likely be in. If they can win on Friday, then they should be in. A loss on Friday will send Hokie fans into Purgatory waiting on the Selection Show on Sunday night.
On Feb 10, UMD looked like a lock for the NCAAT….6-3 in conference and a road win in Chapel Hill. On March 10, they find themselves on the bubble and barely hanging on.
RPI Ranking: #69
1-6 record against RPI Top 50
2-5 record down the stretch
Losses to #101 Missouri, #136 BC, #115 UVa
There is some chance that the NCAAT Selection Committee will be blinded by VT’s first-round bye in the ACCT. However, UMD’s problems are obvious to all…especially after the collapse at home against Clemson and a loss to UVa. Two wins in the ACCT will probably be enough to make the NCAAT. A loss on Thursday will certainly send them to the NIT. I doubt that one win on Thursday will be enough, but I guess that stranger things have happened.
Before we pass judgment on FSU, let’s review the resume that got a 7-9 Arkansas team into the NCAAT last year.
For most of the conference schedule Ark stunk. From 1/9 thru 2/24, they struggled with a 4-9 record during the SEC portion of their schedule. Here is the five-game winning streak that earned them a NCAAT bid:
#64 Miss St and #47 Vanderbilt during the last week of regular season
#110 SC, #47 Vanderbilt, and #64 Miss St in the SECT.
Now I’m not saying that Ark didn’t deserve a bid. Those two wins against Vandy were against an NCAAT team. Their final RPI ranking of #35 and 5-5 record against the RPI Top-50 is more than respectable. The point that I’m trying to make is that Arkansas didn’t have to beat a Final Four contender to get an at-large bid even though they struggled for most of the year.
Now for FSU:
RPI Ranking #63
4-5 Record against RPI Top-50
4-1 record over the last five games with two wins versus RPI Top-30
In 2005, two wins in the ACCT were enough to get #65 NC State into the NCAAT. Now we know that there are no clearly-set, static criteria for clearing the bubble. But if FSU wins two games in the ACCT this year, then they will have matched or surpassed the 2005 NCSU team in nearly every criteria generally discussed this time of year.
While they are both sitting at 7-9, I just don’t think that two wins would be enough for either team. If either team hits a hot streak, then maybe we can do a special entry on Sunday morning to take another look at their chances of an at-large bid.
It looks to me like the ACC is guaranteed four bids and there are enough wins available to get at least two more teams in. Now let’s tip off and see who delivers when it counts the most.
For those with reading comprehension issues, this entry is about the ACCT and criteria for making the NCAAT. Off-topic comments are prone to deletion with no explanation. Complaints about deleted posts will certainly be deleted as well.
Oh and one last thing….Don’t attempt to bury off-topic comments in a longer post. I’m generally too lazy to edit posts…it’s just easier to delete the entire thing.