Selection Sunday Bubble Thoughts

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
Abraham Lincoln

As I pondered the post-selection thoughts by the ESPN talking heads, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the advice given by our 16th president. Ole Digger seems to have taken this advice to heart, while some others would do well to follow suit.

In reality, it does no good to talk to Dick Vitale or Bobby Knight on Selection Sunday wrt the Bubble Selections. Neither one has any cogent thoughts to share and essentially said the same thing as last year. We have added a new peanut to our gallery of mixed nuts and Doug Gottlieb (where did he come from?) joined Dick Vitale in jumping the shark when discussing mid-majors.

It has become obvious that Dick Vitale will select the most highly-ranked mid-major team and champion their cause…no matter how weak. Gottlieb and Vitale both took the approach that the selection process is not fair to the mid-majors because they don’t have as many chances to play highly ranked teams. (For those that missed the show, St Mary’s was this year’s “wronged” team.)

Bilas made the point that mid-majors have every opportunity in their OOC schedule to play the big boys if they want to. Vitale claimed that the big boys wouldn’t play them. Gottlieb tried to take the approach that St Mary’s tried, but the “big” teams that they had scheduled didn’t turn out to be any good…which wasn’t their fault. Note that Gottlieb lost all credibility when he claimed that Kent St was a “big” team that St Mary’s scheduled.

We’ve discussed the OOC schedule of the ACC teams a number of times over the last several years. The strength of a team’s OOC schedule is a choice…not an accident. Teams that want to play a tough OOC schedule can get one no matter what conference they play in. It is interesting to note that Gonzaga plays in St Mary’s conference and their OOC SOS was ranked 29th in the nation. So does anyone really think that the big boys are afraid to play St Mary’s?

Poor Bobby Knight appeared to be on his meds, but he is just barely hanging on. Last year, he wanted to include every team in the tournament. This year he only pushed for 128 teams. After all, it’s only one more game.

OK, let’s not take any more shots at fish in a barrel and move onto the bubble analysis.

Based on seeding, the last six teams in were Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, and Dayton. According to the talking heads, the last teams left out were St Mary’s, Creighton, San Diego State, Penn St, and Auburn. Let’s take an objective look at these 11 teams and see what we can discover about this year’s selection process. In no particular order, here are the various stats for our 11 teams. Pick your best six using whatever criteria you think is most appropriate and I’ll reveal the Selection Committee’s decisions down below.


There are a number of ways to slice and dice these various stats. If you picked only one category as the most important, then how would that align with the Selection Committee decisions?

If you pick RPI as the most important, then you would have only picked three of the six teams that made the NCAAT.

If you pick top-50 wins as your category (which would be mine), then you would get 5 of the 6 teams.

If you pick overall SOS, then you would also get 5 of the 6 teams.

If you pick OOC SOS, then you would get 4 of the 6 teams.

If you pick conference tournament performance, then you only have three teams in and two teams out. Of your five selections, four of them would be wrong.

Ready to see which team is which? Scroll down for your answers.


It is always good to keep your goal in mind when you are working on a problem. The Selection Committee’s first job is to pick the best 34 teams in the country that did not receive an automatic qualification. So how do you decide between St Mary’s and Arizona? The answer seems pretty simple to me…the best teams will prove it by beating other good teams.

I really have no sympathy for any of the teams left out. Four of the five simply didn’t beat enough good teams to warrant their inclusion over the six that were selected. The really interesting team to discuss is Penn State. Let’s refine the table from above and list the various stats for the six teams that got in along with Penn St and see what we can find.


Here are some arguments for including Penn St in the NCAAT.

– They tied for the most wins against the top-50 (6).
– Only one team had more wins against the top-25.
– Two teams included in the NCAAT lost in the first round of their conference tournament (including one from the Big 10).
– Two teams from the Big 10 that were selected (Minn and Mich) had worse conference records and all three had the same results in the conference tournament (1-1).

So why was Penn State left out?

Personally, I believe that the Selection Committee made a conscious decision to penalize Penn St for their OOC schedule. I go back to my old formula which has worked against a number of ACC teams in the past and got Arizona State last year:

Miserable OOC schedule +
Mediocre conference performance +
Mediocre conference tourney performance =

Just like when we were discussing St Mary’s, your OOC schedule is a choice. Sometimes we have to pay the consequences that come from our bad decisions…unless you get Chairman Obama on your side. While he has offered opinions on college football’s post-season, he hasn’t made any promises about the NCAAT… at least not yet. So schedule whoever you want OOC, but be prepared to do way better than average in your conference schedule and/or conference tournament.

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982


16 Responses to Selection Sunday Bubble Thoughts

  1. Ed89 03/15/2009 at 10:04 PM #

    But I will say I’m impressed with the Stats that you’ve come up with in such a short time. 3 of the last 6 come from the Big 10 — what a joke.

  2. Texpack 03/15/2009 at 10:14 PM #

    Jay Bilas was the defender of the power conferences all weekend. He flat out asked if Memphis could win 60 in a row in the ACC or the Big East.

  3. Greywolf 03/15/2009 at 10:56 PM #

    Ed89 & VaWolf82
    “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
    Abraham Lincoln

    Sometimes people cite Abraham Lincoln; or a journalist named Silvan Engel or sometimes it’s attributed to “Lincoln, quoting Silvan Engel.” It also gets attributed to Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, and Woodrow Wilson.

    Quotes can get crossed up like the following: “Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.” Abraham Lincoln, and “If the Lord loved the common people, why did he make them so goddam common.” Philip Wilde

  4. Greywolf 03/15/2009 at 11:03 PM #

    BTW VaWolf82, I enjoyed reading every thing but the stats. They gave me a head ache.

    I’ve been called a pain before, but never in that part of the anatomy.

  5. wufpup76 03/15/2009 at 11:25 PM #

    The selections are highly subjective. I don’t feel that St. Mary’s should’ve made the field, though I don’t think Vitale, Knight, or Gottleib to be fools for claiming so. That said, their arguments did leave something to be desired.

    I personally feel they championed the wrong “mid-major”. I would’ve taken Creighton over Arizona (and St. Mary’s, for that matter).

    And I have no problem whatsoever with Penn St. being left out. ALL of their “great” victories came over fellow Big10 teams that did what exactly this season? Beat each other? You reap what you sow. (You can say much the same about a couple of other Big10 teams, but what’s done is done.) Minnesotta should thank the heavens for playing Louisville when they did.

  6. VaWolf82 03/15/2009 at 11:42 PM #

    I would’ve taken Creighton over Arizona (and St. Mary’s, for that matter).


  7. wufpup76 03/16/2009 at 2:19 AM #

    ^Because not everything is numbers-based and this process is subjective.

    Creighton’s numbers are in fact pretty good – certainly not “lock” status, but worthy of bubble consideration. 26 wins, 14 conference wins, *10 road/neutral wins*, winners of 11 of their last 12, 2-2 against the top 50. Plus they passed the eye test with me (regardless of the Illinois St. game) – not the “well they have talent” test. Winning in the mid / smaller conferences, especially on the road, is always undersold except in the RPI. Hence they have a top 50 rpi.

    Arizona – lost 5 of last 6, including conference tourny opener in a must win situation, the very definition of backing your way in. I get tired of hearing how much talent a team has, ultimately results count. Speaking of results – 2 true road wins (Oregon! and Oregon State!), 10 road losses. 3 “neutral” wins – all in the state of Arizona – Gonzaga (good), Santa Clara (meh), Miss. Valley St. (please). They beat some good teams – at home (where they also lost to UAB).

    Arizona may have the lead in “Top 50” wins, but they all came at home. They fall woefully short to me in two key categories: Road wins and how you finish. Creighton has them in those categories. One may argue “Who did Creighton play?” – and that is the subjective part.

  8. BJD95 03/16/2009 at 6:23 AM #

    To me, Arizona fails the eyeball test. Everytime I saw them play, they looked like an NIT team at best. But as VaWolf aptly points out, there were really no compelling alternatives in bubble land.

    I am so very glad Penn State got punished for that OOC schedule. That’s pitiful.

  9. Ed89 03/16/2009 at 6:41 AM #

    This is the second time in several years that Arizona has backed in, and was probably the last team in. I guess it was a goodbye gift to Lute Olsen. Losing 5 of the last 6 is pitiful.

    I haven’t checked any numbers, but as far as the Pack, I’d like to see if there are any other teams that did not make the NCAA or NIT where ALL of their losses were to NIT or NCAA teams. Just to say we didn’t have any bad losses, and we could have easily one 4 or 5 more games.

  10. VaWolf82 03/16/2009 at 6:59 AM #

    I didn’t think Arizona deserved a bid either. However, there wasn’t really anyone significantly better to take that last slot. There is no doubt in my mind had VT not been worked by the refs, a win over UNC would have put them into the field.

  11. VaWolf82 03/16/2009 at 7:47 AM #

    There is an easy way to make room for Creighton, St Mary’s, and other bubbble teams in the NCAAT.

    Reform Div 1-AA from the bottom 15 or so conferences and let them have a 32/48/64 team playoff in the NIT. Appy St certainly got a lot of press coverage and attention from their 1-AA championships. Other small schools could get the same coverage if they were really playing in something other than a single game on Thurs/Fri in the current NCAAT.

  12. wufpup76 03/16/2009 at 8:02 AM #

    “There is no doubt in my mind had VT not been worked by the refs, a win over UNC would have put them into the field.”


  13. Texpack 03/16/2009 at 8:09 AM #

    ^I didn’t think Arizona deserved a bid either. However, there wasn’t really anyone significantly better to take that last slot.

    There was a guy on CBSCS yesterday saying that several NIT quality teams were going to make the NCAA field this year. (I think his name was Jerry Palm.)

    I thought going into the ACCT that VT was the most consistent of the 7-9 teams in the ACC this year. That was based mostly on the times I watched them play. When you see that they finished 4-10 with victories over Mia and Clemson being the only good wins in that group and that they lost to UVa by 14 you understand why they ended up in the NIT.

  14. Par Shooter 03/16/2009 at 9:12 AM #

    It breaks my heart that we had a chance to send Md to the NIT if we could have beaten them Thursday (and possibly if we had beaten them a couple of weeks earlier).

  15. GAWolf 03/16/2009 at 10:06 AM #

    There’s another factor, I believe, in the bubble analysis: $$$$$$$$. Arizona brings more money, whether it be ticket sales or at least draw on television ratings, than most of these smaller, unknown schools.

    I reckon I could be wrong there, but when all else fails answers can usually be found by following the almighty dollar.

  16. Ed89 03/16/2009 at 1:15 PM #

    ^DING, DING! We have a Winner!!

    Same can be said for the 7 teams from the Big 10. The Big 10 has by far the largest alumni base from its schools. Alumni travel and bring in big bucks.

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