Well, there’s one month left in the regular season and then what’s normally the best time of the college season starts. While this year hasn’t been much fun for State fans, there is potential for a record number of ACC teams to make the Big Dance. So let’s get to it:
Since there are no ACC teams playing Thursday night, I used Thursday morning’s RPI rankings so I could have this entry ready by Friday morning. By the time this is published at SFN, there will have been some small changes because of the Thursday night games, but no relative movement between the ACC teams.
Since ESPN is nice enough to put these numbers in such a convenient format, I include them every week for the convenience of our readers even if there isn’t anything new that I want to discuss. But as it happens, there are several interesting things to tease out since I don’t closely follow any team’s season besides State.
I found it interesting that among the 10 ACC teams building a NCAAT resume, Duke had the fewest Top 50 wins (and no Top 25 wins). So just who did they beat?
“*” – Neutral Site
So it’s been two months since Duke’s last Top 50 win. Their best ACC win to date is @GT. Bottom line? That’s not too good.
The other thing that stood out to me was that Duke continues to have the easiest ACC conference schedule. So who have they played and does their schedule get any harder?
So it’s fair to say that their second-half schedule is substantially harder than the first half and they only managed a 5-4 record against the EASIEST ACC SCHEDULE thus far. At present, Duke appears to be headed for their worst regular season in quite some time. (I remember a .500 ACC season but didn’t take the time to nail down the year.) It will be interesting to see if they can recover or not.
I’ve heard several announcers anoint UNC as the class of the ACC this year. While that may end up being the case, it’s a little premature to make that proclamation based on the results achieved against the SECOND easiest ACC schedule:
Note that their toughest ACC game thus far was also their last game in the first half…and they lost. I’ll save my proclamations for just a while longer.
While UNC’s and Duke’s schedules ramp up in difficulty, neither matches what Louisville is facing:
Note that L’ville’s schedule difficulty actually started ramping up with their last two games in the first half. After getting spanked by UVA, it is good they managed to hold on and beat UNC. Losing two games at home would not have been a good segue into their second-half opponents, where five of the games are on the road…and all of the road games are against teams well on their way to NCAAT bids.
I’m feeling unusually generous this week, so I expanded the “IN” criteria to include Syracuse. With a winning conference record (after an 0-4 start) along with four Top-50 wins, there is no reason to think that Syracuse wouldn’t be included in any reasonable bracket.
I cropped the first 10 days of January off this week’s bubble graph to help declutter it. If things continue on their current trajectory, I’ll delete the teams that have fallen/falling off the low end next week. If everyone on the first graph manages to stay there, I might drop the Bubble Graph and just show Clemson’s progress through the RPI Rankings.
Clemson finally moved solidly into the bubble graph this week and should be able to improve their standing beyond their current “slim chance”. Or maybe I should say if they can’t win enough with their remaining schedule to remove all doubt, then they don’t really deserve an at-large bid:
Clemson has seven ACC wins (six against Top-50 teams) and six games remaining against the bottom third of the conference. I said a couple of weeks ago that it didn’t take much optimism to see Clemson ending up with 12 ACC wins. Anything less than 12 would have to be classified as “disappointing” based on how they’ve played since the New Year.
FSU and SYR are in good shape today, but their road is not quite as easy as Clemson’s:
FSU sits at 5-5 in conference and could wrap up a NCAAT bid before the ACCT…but could just as easily fall back into the Bubble region. Time will tell….
SYR has six ACC wins in the book. 3+ wins are certainly doable, but not guaranteed.
I find It interesting that FSU and SYR not only play each other twice over the remaining schedule, but finish the regular season playing each other in Tallahassee.
The top 10 ACC teams have a .500 or better conference record to go along with a minimum of two Top-50 wins. From our days on the Herbble, State fans know that both of those things are very, very good. Of course you need to hold onto that 0.500 record through the remaining month of the regular season.
I’ve always said that the loser of the 8/9 game on Wednesday would have a really hard time getting an at-large NCAAT bid. This year we might see that “really hard” doesn’t mean “impossible”.
VT has finally fallen below 0.500 with their current five-game losing streak. Buzz probably won’t get it done this year, but he’s done a remarkable job turning around the dumpster fire he took over.
With 10 teams having a realistic chance at the NCAAT, the number of games worth watching has gone up nicely. For the remainder, I’ll check the scores on my phone and try to catch any upsets that are on cable.
State doesn’t have a mid-week game this week. They host WF a week after the Duke game.