Post-Selection Sunday Bubble Review

I normally like to get my last bubble review up as soon as possible after the NCAAT Selection Show. Normally that means getting things pulled together on Sunday night. But unfortunately business travel means that “as soon as possible” is today. (But of course, Lake Erie is quite beautiful this time of year, so it’s not all bad. And if you believed that one…..)

Somebody help me. I’m a dummy. I have no intelligence whatsoever…

From Dick Vitale’s post-selection show video at ESPN

Who would have thought that Vitale would have said something that I can agree 100% with. Of course he then drones on about poor, poor VT. I didn’t get to see the show live, but Dickie V usually finds an undeserving mid-major to champion. I don’t remember him taking up for a BCS school before.

Setting the Vitale jokes aside…he makes the same mistake every year (as do many others). They take one criterion (often one that they make up) and then base all of their decisions and proclamations from that one position. Often (like head-to-head results) these criteria have never been used by the Selection Committee.

Some people choose to remain ignorant of how the selection process works. But I enjoy studying the selection process and have done a number of entries here discussing the various nuances seen each year. Our commentators here have helped me with their own work or by linking appropriate articles and comments. (The SFN comments section was the first place that I read about the Selection Committee dropping the emphasis on how a team finishes the year.)

So this entry is intended to chronicle what we learned and saw this year. I don’t know if anyone else goes back into our archives, but this is the type of article I will look up next year to refresh my memory and to see if there are any new things that I need to look at. For example, maybe leaving VT out will kill some of the criteria that I’ve seen posted here from time to time:

– 9 wins is normally enough and 10 ACC wins will always be good enough.
– 20 wins and 0.500 in the ACC is always enough.

In addition to VT, I saw Miss St, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Seton Hall listed as teams that fell on the wrong side of the bubble. Let’s look at each one’s resume and see if we can determine their fatal flaw(s) (Each title is a link to their resume at CBS Sports.)

Virginia Tech

Well let me start on a rather arrogant note and quote some of the remarks that I’ve made just this season about VT and/or weak OOC schedules:

It’s shouldn’t be hard to see that there is a very real possibility of having a 9-7 conference record and still needing multiple wins in the ACCT to get an at-large bid. (This happened to VT just two years ago when the ACC was the #1 ranked conference.)

Mid-Season ACC Review

The 2006 FSU team is one of the examples that I use to justify my formula for how to fall into the NIT (which is one of the reasons that we have tracked OOC SOS):
Weak OOC Schedule +
Marginal Conference Performance +
Poor Conference Tournament Performance=

Along with FSU (2006), you can add UVA (2000) and VT (2005) as ACC teams used to justify my conclusion. Outside of the ACC, ASU (2008) and Penn State (2009) also support this conclusion.

How Weak is the ACC?

VT (14-3) and UM (14-4) look to be doing pretty well…as long as you don’t look too closely. Both teams have OOC SOS ranked 300+, so their chances of getting into the NCAAT start to look a whole lot like the view that mid-majors have.

How to get out of a hole

VT is squarely on the bubble because of a ridiculously easy OOC schedule, currently ranked #340. If you doubt the impact that a weak OOC schedule can play, scroll down and review Penn State’s resume from last year (6 Top 50 wins including 2 Top 25 wins) for just one example of how the Selection Committee has punished poor scheduling decisions in the past.

Pre-ACCT Bubble Watch

You can argue that the Selection Committee should ignore SOS and just look at top-25 and top-50 wins if you want to. But you absolutely have no basis to claim that the VT snub somehow demonstrates an inconsistency by the Selection Committee.

With a decent OOC schedule (not incredibly difficult, just decent); VT would have probably been a no-brainer with wins against GT (#33), Clemson (#34), and WF (#39). The more interesting question for me is exactly where the line in the sand concerning OOC SOS lies. (As we’ll see with our next team.)

Here are some interesting comments from Jerry Palm (at

Again this year, a team learned the hard way that you can’t take the first two months off and get a free pass into the tournament. This year, that team was Virginia Tech.

However, with a 96-team field, you’ll see a lot more majors play schedules like that, because in that tournament, nearly every .500 or better team from a major conference would figure to get in. That means not taking any chances on non-conference losses in case you struggle in the league. So a 96-team field doesn’t just water down the regular season by making it less important, but it waters down the actual schedule.

Miss St

– Their RPI ranking alone puts their chances of getting a bid down in the 30% range. (See last year’s Bubble Review.)
– They only have two top-50 wins…and five losses to 100+ teams.
– An OOC SOS ranking of 208 might be an issue.

So you really have to line up the last 4-6 that got in next to Miss State and then try to pick amongst the best of a bad bunch.


RPI ranking of 74 pretty much ends the discussion. From previous work, an RPI ranking of 65 is the worst ever selected for a BCS school (NC State in 2005) and would tie the worst ever (New Mexico 1999). It’s not hard to believe that there would be better teams available…next case.

It would be interesting to listen in on the Selection Committee’s discussion about Illinois to see what they viewed as the worst parts of Illinois’ resume. Five top-50 wins (including two top-25 wins) is certainly better than several State teams from the Herb era. What I really would like to know is how much discussion these wins got versus the four losses to teams ranked 100+

Rhode Island

Only one top-50 win. That was enough to send VT to the NIT two years ago, so I don’t see any need to look any deeper.

Seton Hall

How in the world do you evaluate a team that tied for 9th place in the monstrosity known as the Big East? No embarrassing losses combined with frightfully few impressive wins means that we are left evaluating a wonderful example of “mediocre”. A second round BET loss to ND probably pushed them off of the back side of the bubble.


I don’t understand the Selection Committee’s decision to no longer place special emphasis on how a team finishes the year. To me, that makes the Committee’s decisions harder, not easier. It’s fairly easy to use the conference tournaments as a way to identify those teams that are ready to play in a bigger tournament. Or maybe I just want to hold onto the one criterion that got several of Herb’s bubble teams at State into the NCAAT.

As has been the case the last few years, there are examples of teams with resumes that are pretty close to those of the last few in…but none with a burning example of being shafted by the Selection Committee. I shudder to think of the discussions we will have if the NCAA is stupid enough to continue expanding the NCAAT.

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

ACC College Basketball Rankings & Lists

16 Responses to Post-Selection Sunday Bubble Review

  1. caniac45 03/16/2010 at 1:39 PM #

    in other news, shout out to Michelle Beadle for wearing an NC State jersey on sportsnation today. GO PACK!

  2. StateFans 03/16/2010 at 2:02 PM #

    I recognize what VPI did poorly and ultimately positioned themselves on the bubble.

    Regardless, what the committee did it is just a HUGE slap in the face to the entire ACC. Greenberg made a good point and praised NC State in the process while interviewed about this.

    He highlighted the difficulty of the overall ACC and talked about how tough it is to go play somewhere like NC State (11th seed in ACCT). Said Marquette found out how tough the bottom of our league is when they couldn’t beat State on their own home floor.

    He could have added that it took NCAAT team, Florida, a 75 foot prayer to beat us at home — where VPI managed to beat us by about 20 points twice.

    BTW — love Michelle Beadle.

  3. NCSUgator 03/16/2010 at 2:25 PM #

    If you’d really like to get into the analysis of team selection — the academic stats side — you can read (for a price, unless you’re at a university) the article “Evidence of bias in NCAA tournament selection and seeding” by Coleman (and others) out of U. of N. Florida who runs the Dancecard website. Just published this month. The abstract hits the high points of the study:

  4. choppack1 03/16/2010 at 2:26 PM #

    If you look at VaTech’s overall schedule – you realize that they encountered some bad luck (like playing the worst 5 ACC twice) – and they brought some of it on themselves…most notably playing a horrid schedule.

    While the RPI isn’t the sole factor – to me – it really kind of is. Let’s face – where do they get the strength of schedule from??? RPI maybe? Only one team ranked worse than VPI got in – Minnesota. I’m not sure how they managed to do that.

    I thought that just so it didn’t look like the committee had it in for VaTech, they’d get a bid. However, the math was working against them going into the tourney. They needed at least one win and probably two to advance.

    We all saw what happened – and now arguably the toughest team we faced all year (in a year where we faced 13 NCAA opponents) – is left home.

  5. choppack1 03/16/2010 at 2:38 PM #

    OK – I looked at the #s again – it looks like SOS played a huge factor:
    RPI on the left, SOS on the right

    Good side of bubble:
    42 FSU 54
    44 Mizzou 47
    48 UNLV 91**
    49 ND 35
    50 Marquette 40
    56 Florida 36
    62 Minnesota 37**

    bubble done bursted:
    40 URI 72**
    43 Wich State 105
    45 UAB 101
    47 Kent State 94
    53 Memphis 85
    54 Dayton 33**
    55 Miss St 74
    58 W&M 110
    59 VT 133

    Given this, to me the NCAA needs to explain why UNLV got a bid. Their SOS is real outlier – and has more in common w/ the teams on the wrong end of the bubble.

  6. wufpup76 03/16/2010 at 4:03 PM #

    Re: Illinois – I don’t know if anyone caught it on Sunday afternoon, but Steve Lavin said not only would Illinois get in but they would get an 8 or 9 seed.

    ^Sorry Va, I know this doesn’t really add to the discussion here but I wanted to throw that out there before I forgot. You should have seen Jay Williams’ and Doug Gottleib’s faces when Lavin said that. It was unbelievable. This guy turned down our head coaching job (Thank God).

    “I don’t understand the Selection Committee’s decision to no longer place special emphasis on how a team finishes the year. To me, that makes the Committee’s decisions harder, not easier.”

    ^I think their refrain now is to value the overall body of work ahead of how hot/cold a team is at the end of the season. I can see both sides of the argument (yours and the Committee’s) for/against including this criteria. I would place body of work over end of season results, but I think how a team ends the season is a useful tool for selection and seeding.

  7. bradleyb123 03/16/2010 at 4:15 PM #

    After reading this, I’m now opposed to further expansion of the NCAAT. I WAS for expansion, previously, because I thought there were several bid-worthy teams that are left out for the lousy conference tournament winners scooping up so many automatic bids. That is true, and I wouldn’t want to change the automatic bid thing because that makes every conference tournament exciting. What I was thinking was “why not just invite EVERY bid-worthy team, and just expand the tournament as needed?”

    But you’ve given me the “why not?” reason I was looking for.

    Teams would simply schedule horridly weak OOC schedules, just to pad their win totals. Because 20+ wins and you’re most likely in (in an expanded tournament).

    That would be a bad thing. So I am now officially opposed to tournament expansion.

  8. Texpack 03/16/2010 at 5:13 PM #

    “If you look at VaTech’s overall schedule – you realize that they encountered some bad luck (like playing the worst 5 ACC twice) – and they brought some of it on themselves…most notably playing a horrid schedule.”

    I would say that they brought it on themselves by not beating more of the good teams they played. We had 6 or 7 top 50 wins and we are an NIT caliber team. It’s not just who you play, its who you beat. 10-6 in the ACC means no more to the committee than 10-6 during your OOC slate of games. I would argue that if VT was really an NCAA caliber team, they would have gone 13-3 or at least 12-4 in the conference by winning 9 or 10 games against the bottom 5 in the league and winning 2 or 3 against the top 6.

    The only slap in the face issued on this one was to VT and the person(s) responsible for their extremely weak schedule.

  9. 61Packer 03/16/2010 at 5:39 PM #

    I also am not in favor of major expansion of the NCAA tourney. But I would like to see 3 more teams added, and have 4 play-in games to give the #1 seeds the same opportunity instead of just one of them. I believe that when the play-in game started, the winner faced the overall #1 seed; why has that changed? Adding 3 teams this season would’ve put Illinois, Virginia Tech and Mississippi State in the tourney, and there would’ve been a lot less criticism of the selections.

    What really needs expanding, however, is the ACC schedule, which needs to go to at least 18 if not 22 games. Virginia Tech got punished for not playing a tough ACC schedule, but it wasn’t their fault. Blame the ACC coaches and some officials who don’t want more than 16 league games each season.

    I can guarantee you that a huge majority of Wolfpack fans would like to see us playing Duke twice each season, along with the other 10 ACC schools, instead of the long procession of cupcakes. Why in the world do we keep playing teams like Elon and NC Central when we aren’t playing every conference foe twice?

  10. bradleyb123 03/16/2010 at 6:26 PM #

    61packer, I think the ACC coaches don’t want to play that many conference games. That would be more grueling for their team, and result in more losses for them (generally), which could hurt their NCAA chances.

    Personally, I’d rather play everybody twice and have a full round-robin conference schedule. But I think the coaches don’t want that.

  11. whit25 03/16/2010 at 6:41 PM #

    RE: “I believe that when the play-in game started, the winner faced the overall #1 seed; why has that changed?”

    The winner of Tuesday night’s PIG plays one of the #1 seeds who play on Friday. This may or may not be the overall #1 seed. This year’s top seed, Kansas, was going to play its 1st weekend in Oklahoma City, which was scheduled for Thur/Sat. To force the PIG winner to play Tues and Thur doesn’t seem fair. Actually, forcing 2 teams to play in the PIG doesn’t seem fair either, but that’s another story.

    Virginia Tech’s problem is not its ACC schedule, it’s Brown, Longwood, Campbell, UNCG, Delaware, VMI, UMBC, Charleston Southern and NCCU. Plus Iowa, Georgia and Penn State, who were all pretty bad this year. That leaves Temple (an 11-point loss) and Seton Hall (an OT win) as the only non-conference games of any value on the Hokies’ schedule. Even with this atrocious schedule, Virginia Tech probably could have gotten a bid with a win over Miami in the ACC Tournament.

    And a true round-robin in ACC play will never happen. That would be 22 conference games, leaving only 8 or 9 non-conference games. No coach wants that.

  12. VaWolf82 03/16/2010 at 7:10 PM #

    I’ve thought about Palm’s comments today and I’m not sure that I agree with his reasoning. I agree that his concerns are a possibility, but look at it another way:

    How many Top 50 wins would it take to get into a 96 team tournament?

    My guess is not very many. So if you play a “decent” OOC schedule and the ACC schedule, you will plenty of chances at getting those wins. Why risk everything on the ACC schedule?

    I’ll look at UNLV later, but The Dance Card had them in (one spot above FSU).

  13. theghost 03/16/2010 at 10:47 PM #

    I’m still for playing the full round robin, but kicking BC and Miami out and trading fsu to the SEC for South Carolina. I know the football money people won’t let it happen, but this football crap has nearly ruined ACC basketball, as far as I’m concerned.

  14. choppack1 03/17/2010 at 8:16 AM #

    “I would say that they brought it on themselves by not beating more of the good teams they played.”

    They did beat GaTech, Wake and another top 50 team. However, to me, at the end of the day, they didn’t play enough good teams – their winning % vs. the Top 50 was fine…they were 3-4…and they were 3-2 vs. teams that got at large bids.

    Make no doubt about it – if they had played some relatively decent OOC opponents, they’d be dancing right now. I guarantee if their SOS was 50, they’d be dancing…Hell, they’d probably be dancing if it was under 100.

    They were punished for their schedule – and that’s the end of the story.

    If you don’t believe that look at FSU – and tell me who they beat that was really good. However, FSU’s SOS was 52 – and guess what, they’re dancing. (And just look at how we’ve faired – there’s no way you can argue that FSU is a better team than VaTech – WE SWEPT FSU- VA TECH SWEPT US.)

  15. MP 03/17/2010 at 11:12 AM #

    I also think that the current times support a full round-robin ACC schedule. I also found myself thinking this past weekend about the ACCT. I have loved and enjoyed the ACCT over my lifetime and the ACC is the conference that created the conference tournament. However, with the ACCT being so diluted by the NCAAT invitations now (and potentially moreso if the NCAAT expands), I wonder if the ACC should not set a new trend and eliminate the ACCT in order to play another week of regular season games. This would help to expand to a full round-robin. And although it would be a shame to lose the ACCT, I can’t help but wonder if it is outdated and approaching irrelevant.

  16. choppack1 03/17/2010 at 11:57 AM #

    MP – that’s an excellent point. At the very least, we should increase the conference schedule to 20 games – that would give every one 2 games w/ 9 teams and only 1 game w/ 2 teams.

    However, that would require boldness and vision – and Swofford has shown nothing but the desire to do as little as possible to upset the apple cart.

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