Mess in the Middle

In the latest update on the ACC, we’ll highlight what’s going on in the middle of the conference…otherwise known as the “mess in the middle”.   Depending on the author, a picture is not always worth a 1000 words…but we’ll use one for the summary of both the middle of the ACC and where they are with respect to the NCAAT Bubble.



If your first thought was “what a mess”, then you’ve grasped the point of this chart.   When I first saw it, I thought of a box of sand crabs trying to crawl on top of each other to get out of the box.   As soon as one gets close to the top, it either falls back or is dragged down by the others.

I’m going start on this mess by justifying the range that I call “slim chance”.    If you go back to the data that I use to evaluate teams on the Bubble, you’ll see that there have been years where no team with an RPI ranking >55 was selected for an at-large bid to the NCAAT.    Also the highest RPI ever selected for an at-large bid was 74.    For those with both the inclination and low-enough IQ to quote “Dumb and Dumber”, that data should pretty much define where  “a chance” (no matter how slim) transitions into “no chance”.

During the UNC/UVA game, the announcers were wondering what the NCAAT Selection Committee would do with UNC if they finish with a losing record in the ACC.   The answer is quite simple and unsatisfying…it depends on a lot of other things.   But it is beyond doubt that a losing conference record is a huge negative when a team’s resume is reviewed by the NCAAT Selection Committee.

It might be a little early to be overly concerned about conference record, but only one team in this mess has a winning ACC record (Clemson).   WF and UMD are currently at 3-3 and everyone else has a losing ACC record.    At present, it seems unlikely that any of these teams (with the possible exception of UNC) could end up with a losing ACC record AND an RPI ranking high enough to warrant serious NCAAT discussion.   At the very least, we will cover this subject again during the last Bubble Watch entry just before the ACCT.

The performance of the teams in the middle always seems to be about the same…an absolute dog fight when they play each other.    What varies (sometimes greatly) is where you draw the line between top, middle, and bottom.   To me, it seems like that there is a pretty big difference between the top 5 and any of these in the middle.

There is still time and opportunity for any of these teams to move onto and/or over the bubble.   The open question is whether or not any of them have the ability required.    From what I’ve seen, an absolute maximum of two teams from this mess will make the NCAAT and I wouldn’t be shocked if none of them did.



Not much has changed since our last update, but Teams 2-5 all have a nice upward trend over the last two weeks.   Upward trends will inevitably turn into either Plateaus or Peaks…but those fans can enjoy the upward ride while it lasts.



If there is a great amount of confusion on how an undefeated team can drop in the RPI ranking, then it might be time for another RPI refresher.   But I suspect that the “give a shit” quotient for Syracuse is pretty low around here.

It is important to remember that the trends that we look at for the ACC are not taking place in a vacuum.   All of the blanks in these charts are occupied by other teams that are doing their best to climb as well.   Just for kicks, let’s summarize the teams at the top of the NCAA world and see if we can avoid logo over-load.



Let’s do a little simplistic math in regards to the NCAAT:

Most of the teams in the RPI Top 40 will get either an automatic or an at-large bid to the NCAAT.

19 other conference winners will get an automatic bid.

The NCAAT consists of 68 teams.   Which means that only about nine teams with RPI >40 will get an at-large bid to the NCAAT.    To me, this simplistic math emphasizes the “slim” in the label applied to RPI Rankings of 56-75 range discussed above.


Today’s History Lesson

After being pillaged by the ACC a second time, the old Big East split into two conferences.  The football schools formed the American Athletic Conference and the basketball schools kept the Big East label.   Along with the Big East, Conference USA is obviously the other big loser in the conference expansion wars.  (In the past, there were years where C-USA ranked in the top 5 basketball conferences.)  Looking over the standings, it appears that the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, and the MAC also lost schools to the AAC/BE duo.



Coolest Logo – Mountain West

Most Boring Logo – ACC

Stupidest Logo – Big 10

Dumbest Names – Tie between Big 10 (w/ 12 teams going to 14) and Big 12 (w/ 10 teams)



First I missed the fact that the ACC was playing conference games on Monday night.   But I also missed that the FSU/Clemson game on 1/9 was the last Thursday night game until the ACCT.    Not that anyone (ie ESPN) cares, but I prefer Thursday games over Monday even though that feeling is mostly based on “not the way it used to be”.   But at least this break in the weekly schedule gives me two days to get an ACC Update thrown together before the next conference games jumble the rankings.



State’s next two games are at home followed by a brutal stretch of 5 games out of six on the road.   At the start of the season, it looked like State had four home games against teams good enough to highlight on an NCAAT resume.    The first two of those games turned into blow-out losses and the third is a rivalry game that might not mean much to the NCAAT Selection Committee after the way UNC’s season as progressed to date.  All of that means that next Wednesday’s game against FSU may be State’s last home game against a resume-worthy opponent.

It’s also worth noting that State’s conference SOS will likely turn out to be a little better than I thought at the first of the year as State plays the bottom four RPI teams (ND, GT, BC, VT) only once.    But the top of State’s conference schedule is not overly ambitious with home/home games against Pitt, Miami, UNC, and WF…which translates into only six games against the top 5 teams in the ACC.

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

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    In the latest update on the ACC, we’ll highlight what’s going on in the middle of the conference…otherwise known as the “mess in the middle”.  
    [See the full post at: Mess in the Middle]


    Don’t look now, but there’s also a mess, a big hot mess, and the very bottom.

    [edit]. Oops. I guess I should’ve said there’s one behind this keyboard. So this is actually a basketball post, not a football one. Got it.


    ^Ummmm. What? [edit] What??

    Awesome post! Would love to see what we would look like if the WFU game were a win… But in the end it doesn’t matter. Either we’ll ultimately become an NCAAT worthy team or we won’t. We have got to make some hay in the upcoming home games. Our February schedule is brutal. Hard to see this team entering the ACCT on the ‘goodish’ side of the bubble.


    Great analysis. This is an example where pictures are worth 1000 words. This is particularly true of the trending as well as the conference break down. Keep it up!

    Five things that jump out at me:
    – The Wake Forest and Central losses are going to come back and haunt us. A couple of more points here or there and the season looks much different.
    – We played almost no real non-conference team.
    – We’ve played 3 of the top 5 in the ACC and been manhandled. There’s a gap there. Maybe it isn’t 40 points but it’s a gap and a noticeable gap between the NCAA locks.
    – I have never seen the league weaker. It started in the non-conference scheduling. Look at the starting points for most of our teams.
    – That top group is missing UNC, NC State and Louisville. I expect the group that is there right now will be there in the next 3-5 years (barring a coaching change/retirement). Those are solid programs on stable ground with good coaching. Louisville will immediately join that group. UNC is having a speed bump kind of year, but this could be more of the norm with the ongoing scrutiny. There’s some uncertainty there. For us, I am curious to see whether this is a speed bump or indicative. I think we’re the biggest wild card.


    we’re no wild card. we are an after thought. we haven’t won the conference in over 20 years.

    I agree, the Central loss and the WFU loss are gonna hurt if we start to play a little better. The Mizzou game hurts too(although it might not hurt our RPI as much) just b/c we gave that one away. Its interesting our RPI is as high as it is. I thought we were done for sure, but we still have a fighters chance. I dont expect us to make the tourney, but its nice for the season not to be over just yet.


    The WF loss … grrrrrrr


    I am also content to have the season not to be over, as I was 99% sure when I went to bed at halftime of the MD game. Win the next two, and I will feel decent about at least making the NIT.

    For those thinking brackets, I offer Creighton as a national sleeper. They absolutely destroyed #4 Villanova, on the road. With like 10 minutes left to play, the Jays were up 37!


    I guess part of our upward rise beyond beating MD is that the three teams that stomped us are all on the rise. If we beat FSU we may see the peak of our rise. Unless we keep winning against the bottom and middle.


    If we beat GT and FSU, we rise to the top of Slim Chance and maybe to Maybe. But how can we advance from there or stay there. Win at Miami,home WF, at Clemson, at VT, UNC home, Miami Home, BC home. In other words, if we win all but at UNC, Cuse, at Pitt we go 11-7 and have a chance to make it. 10-8 might make it but…. And nothing less will.


    Creighton and Wichita State are killing it.

    I just want to see some good steady improvement. NCAA talk is way too premature. A long way to go just for consideration.

    Pleasantly surprised by the MD win as I called it off as well. Long day for me.


    “Mess in the Middle” ???

    I thought this thread was about how our kids run their zone offense.


    #NCSU-North Carolina's #1 FOOTBALL school!

    Good one Bill



    I don’t think we should concern ourselves with the so-called mess in the middle.

    We’re basically beneath that.


    Based on where we are now, I think a record of 10-8 would give us an RPI better than 50 (we would have gone 8-4 against decent competition.)

    Even if we are 9-9 I suspect we enter the account tourney solidly on the bubble with a likelihood of getting in if we win 2 games against OK competition…. translation: if we win 9 games in our next 13-14 we go dancing because our RPI should be low 50s high 40s.


    packbackr04: I do see your point, but I would argue that NC State *should* be in that top group based on the program metrics, revenue, money spent, year over year recruiting haul, TV exposure, etc..

    Anything less is really not acceptable. Everything is needed to win consistently with the right coach.

    I’m not saying national titles. I am not even saying conference titles. I do think being in the upper third and a year over year virtual lock should be doable given the landscape of college basketball today.


    Thanks for another interesting post. State is going to the big dance so sit back and enjoy the ride in the Cat bird / WBS seat.


    This is why I don’t usually do “subtle”…your carefully planned joke falls flat.
    Which one of these is not like the others?


    Shit, VA…I was wondering about that!

    Scary Wheat can indeed give way to other memes.


    “I find a massive audience groan more satisfying than laughter.” Seth Meyers.


    i hear ya Rye, and agree totally with your sentiment. State should be performing well above where we have for a number of years and it really is inexcusable. Heres hoping we can find our way into being in the top third of the league perennially


    We just need to beat GT right now. We can take on all comers as the season progresses. Lots of work to do if we are going to the Dance, but it starts with winning the next game. The graphs are some good stuff. I hope we can all be pleased by some upward trajectory.


    I was just glad to find out the “Mess in the Middle” didn’t refer to our combo package of bigs “Vandwagon, Freeman, Washington, Anya”, who I have found to be refreshingly better than I hoped they would be.


    Good post. My personal feeling is that the NIT is the ceiling for this year’s squad (I hope not, but I’m also trying to be realistic). February is a pretty brutal stretch, and we’re at 2-4 with 12 games left. Best projection near as I can figure is 7-5 the rest of the way. That puts them at 9-9 and probably needing to make the ACC tournament final at least to have a puncher’s chance at getting into the NCAA (probably as a 9-13 seed if we do).

    Winning against the Terps without Buckets? That was a good sign. The bad signs: this team is still young, still gets too careless with the ball, and doesn’t seem to move well enough in the half-court on either offense or defense. I hope that’s a downward trend.


    ILpackfan – to give you an idea our 12 game schedule breaks down as follows:
    3 opponents with NCAA qualifying rpis
    4 games vs bubble teams (2 UNC, 1 wake, 1 @ Clemson
    5 games vs no chance teams (2 Miami, at vatech, gstech and BC)

    The worst we could do from an rpi standpoint and from a quality of victories standpoint would be to beat the bubble teams @ home and sweep the bums…..even if we did that I think we would still have a decent RPI and I think 2 tourney wins would put us right on that bubble

    We probably won’t get a chance to test that theory.

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