Last Look at the Bubble

It’s time for our last look at RPI Rankings as we assess where the ACC teams fit with respect to the Bubble. Usually, we discuss what various teams need to do in order to clear the bubble and make the NCAAT. This year is dramatically different in that seven teams are rated by nearly everyone as “currently IN” and the remainder of the conference can barely even see the Bubble (and some not even with a telescope).

Last week I listed the remaining games for the top seven (ignoring L’ville) to get a sense of the key matchups over the last week of the season. Here is that same list with the wins highlighted. I rearranged the teams on the basis of who had the best week transitioning to the worst week:

UVA – UNC, @Clemson, L’ville

Miami – L’ville, @ND, @VT

UNC – @UVA, SYR, @Duke

Pitt – Duke, @VT, @GT



Duke – @Pitt, WF, UNC

And those results lead us to the final regular season standings:

Four teams entered Saturday with nine wins. Clemson beat BC and VT upset Miami in B’burg to move to 10 wins and ahead of Pit and SYR who were both upset on the road. So we’re left in the strange situation of two teams generally considered as being in the NCAAT behind two who aren’t particularly close to anything other than the NIT. Pitt and SYR meet on Wed in the 8 vs 9 matchup so we’ll need to consider if the loser is still in good shape to make the NCAAT.


(from ESPN)

Note that Sunday’s results may shuffle the rankings some.

Ignoring L’ville, it seems that the top 5 teams could lose their first game in the ACCT and still make the NCAAT. Let’s look the trend graphs and The Dance Card before discussing the Bubble Teams.


To reduce the visual clutter, I’m only including the results since Feb. 1 in both graphs.

I expanded the RPI rankings in the Bubble graph so that we could see Pitt’s and SYR’s ups and downs over the last month.


Now for some discussion:

Notre Dame

ND has lost three of their last five games, so is not ending the regular season on a great note. But with a current RPI ranking of 35 and the following Top-50 wins, they should be comfortably in the NCAAT even with a loss on Thursday.


Pittsburgh and Syracuse

Pitt tried to screw up an impressive win against Duke by losing to both Techs on the road to end the regular season. Both the RPI Rankings and The Dance Card place Pitt above Syracuse…which isn’t surprising since SYR lost four out of their last five to end the regular season. Those stumbles explain their RPI Rankings falling into the Bubble Zone. But here are both team’s Top 50 wins:








Since Pitt is 2-0 against #57 Syracuse, I don’t know that there is a substantial difference between the two resumes. It’s a no-brainer to say that the winner will certainly get in. The real question is, can the loser of the 8/9 game expect an at-large bid?

I’m leaning towards “probably”. Previous year’s selections can’t be used as justification for this year’s decisions, but State has gotten in at least three times with worse resumes than either team. Plus it’s unlikely that enough teams below SYR and Pitt will win enough to move either one out. But there’s still a chance that I could be wrong, so it will be interesting to see what the pundits have to say about the loser as the conference tournaments finish up.

Another thing that we can watch as the conference tournaments finish up is to use the “Chance of Bid” column in the Dance Card along with the absolute ranking. The Dance Card first displayed this column in 2009. Since then, only one team rated at 100% has failed to get a bid….Temple last year (Which we discussed in last year’s post-mortem on the selections.) So I’ll be checking that column on Thursday morning. But it’s only fair to point out that Miami was a Dance Card miss last year with a probability of 99.65%.

Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech

I was surprised that VT showed up above FSU in the Dance Card…but the difference is small enough that it doesn’t really matter. With an RPI ranking of #86, VT is quite a way beyond the highest RPI to ever been given an at-large bid. But we can wrap up all three teams with the same conclusion….if they don’t win on Thursday, then they have no chance….and a Thursday win might not be enough.

But there is historical precedence for a trip to the finals earning a bid….Arkansas in 2008. Ignoring the slim chances of any of these three going that far, a win against a bubble team followed by a win versus a Top 10 team should be good enough.


Now let’s look at the other end of the conference and look at the possibility of an ACC team getting a #1 seed.

Here is a summary table for the RPI Top 10 to give a quick summary of the likely candidates:

As usual, Kansas has played an insane schedule and did quite well against it. Personally I would give them a #1 seed even if they lose in the B12 tournament.

Villanova and Oregon won their regular season conferences, so it would be hard to pass over either if they also win the conference tournament. Virginia didn’t do quite as well as those two, but it’s hard to imagine UVA getting passed over if they win the ACCT.

Lundardi had UNC as one of his one-seeds, even before the win @Duke. But look at their paucity of Top-50 wins…even Xavier has more. UNC also has one of the lower SOS in the Top 10 with Xavier being the only one with a weaker schedule. It just seems to me that a losing record against the RPI Top-50 shouldn’t be rewarded with a one-seed. But on the other hand, if UNC wins both the conference tournament along with the regular season, then that might be good enough…even though a number of Top-10 teams will still have more good wins.

Miami’s good points are all contained within the summary table. But let’s add one more piece of data from Miami’s season: Three losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100:

I’ve never really studied the seeding process, so I can’t say for sure whether their three horrible losses matter or not. But it just seems to me that a one seed shouldn’t have warts quite that big.


If anyone is interested in keeping track on how upsets in mid-major tournaments affect the selection process, the Dance Card highlights the conference leaders in their rankings. Using that as a guide, here are some tourneys to watch. If these top seeds lose, then these teams might fall off the bubble (and then become discussion points, ie media whining, on Selection Sunday). If these conferences get more than one bid because of a tourney upset, then a bubble team will lose out.

Mountain West – San Diego St

Horizon – Valparaiso

West Coast – Saint Mary’s (meaning Gonzaga needs to do really well in their tournament to get a bid)

MAAC – Monmouth



From Wikipedia:

The same wiki article lists the State/WF game as starting at noon on Tuesday. BWW here has a wing special on Tuesday, so we already have group heading there for lunch. Hey, I have to eat something and I really like their parmesan garlic wings. The only bad thing about going there is that it will be impossible to turn my back to the game if it turns ugly.


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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Home Forums Last Look at the Bubble

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    It’s time for our last look at RPI Rankings as we assess where the ACC teams fit with respect to the Bubble.
    [See the full post at: Last Look at the Bubble]


    Well done, as always. Don’t understand it, but believe UNx will get 1-seed if they make it to Sunday.

    Thanks for all the work that goes into these all year, I always look forward to them.


    The Selection Committee does make mistakes from time to time. But the committee is made up of athletic directors and conference commissioners. I choose to believe that their goal is to give every team a fair chance; because they would want their team(s) to have that same fair chance.

    I hope that they don’t listen to Lundardi because his goals are less clear and frequently look like he is just trolling for more clicks to this bracket.

    I don’t always agree with the Dance Card either, but I do wish the committee would at least give it a glance as a quick sanity check on their decisions. If they had looked at it last year, they would have seen that their decisions on Temple and UCLA could probably use another check.


    If you are a Bubble Watch fanatic, tune in to the AAC Tournament where no less than 4 and possibly 5 bubble teams are playing. Add to that the fact that SMU is not playing and you have a tourney that could see a lot of blood on the court as teams scap and claw to stay alive in virtually every contest.


    I started to list the smaller conferences that will still get multiple bids; but decided not to.

    In the American, Cincinnati, Temple, and Tulsa are above the burst line on the Dance Card. If anyone else wins, then a bubble spot might disappear….but then that assumes that someone like Tulsa will keep their spot. In the end, I decided that there were too many moving parts to try and project all of the possibilities for all the mid-majors.


    Looks like buzz Williams went to the Seth Greenberg school of scheduling….

    10-8 and needing to win at least 2 games in the tournament to be considered.


    Buzz’s schedule was not quite Seth-bad (ie 300+); but a long ways from being good. This year, VT suffered the same mishap as Clemson…weak OOC schedule (ranked #255) and a poor performance against that schedule (8-5).


    Yea – vawolf – if I recall Seth usually lost a couple of those games each year…like losing to Radford or something like that.


    3 number one seeds have been upset in their conference tournaments. The bubble either just got smaller OR we know some of the teams that the bozo, talking-heads will be whining about. Gonzaga vs ST Mary’s today for another possible upset.


    Syracuse has fallen to the last team above the burst line on the Dance Card AND Pitt is only five slots back. Things are not looking good for the loser of their game tomorrow.


    I enjoyed King Rice losing to V’s old “I own a college” last night, that’s for sure.

    Weak assed bubble this year.


    Dance Card has the three conference one-seeds (Valpo, Monmouth, Wichita St) as out. They probably all three won’t get left out, but I can hear the whining Sunday over the ones that do.


    Gonzaga beats St Marys to throw another mid-major into bubble hell.

    At half-time of that game, Lunardi’s last four in were Syracuse and three conference one-seeds that were beaten in their conference tourney. The whining by the media will be epic this year because there will be so little difference between one team and the next that everyone looking for an excuse to bitch will have someone that they can champion.


    I don’t go to CBS very often, but I do like Jerry Palm. Interesting trivia about stats and at-large selections.


    Palms thoughts on the ACC as of yesterday:


    When: Tuesday-Saturday

    Number of teams currently in: 7

    In: Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Virginia

    Probably in: Pitt

    On the fence: Syracuse

    Outlook: The ACC is a classic example of how conference standings mean nothing. Pitt, Syracuse, Florida State and Georgia Tech all finished behind Clemson and Virginia Tech, but all have at least a long-shot chance at an at-large bid, while the Tigers and Hokies would have to win the tournament to get in. The loser of the Pitt-Syracuse game will have a nervous Selection Sunday. North Carolina and Virginia still have a chance to be No. 1 seeds.


    Palm on Syracuse

    It’s going to be a long week, and especially selection Sunday, for the Orange. Syracuse is now 19-13 overall, and while it has four top 50 wins, the Orange are just 13-12 against the RPI top 200, and that does not include a loss to St. John’s. Their RPI has dropped to 65 at the moment..

    Syracuse fans have been hoping for “consideration” for the nine games coach Jim Boeheim missed…, but… Boeheim isn’t scoring or rebounding or playing defense. It would be foolish to count on Boeheim’s absence having any positive effect on Syracuse’s hope for selection.


    His view on Pitt (same article)

    It’s a sigh of relief for the Panthers, who have now defeated the Orange all three times they played this season. Pitt still does not have a great record against the top 50 (2-6), but is still likely to get in. A win over North Carolina in the next round would seal the deal.


    As expected, Pitt moved up in the Dance Card and Syracuse is the third team out. GT is the fourth team out.


    Pitt is awful. Kind of shows that getting a bid isn’t the end all / be all.

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