Today, let’s take a closer look at the bubble. To do this, we’ll use everyone’s favorite metric, the RPI. Why? Because a lot of inferences can be made based on historical trends related to the RPI. For an excellent article that goes into great detail on the chances of a given team earning an at-large bid based on where it falls in the RPI, check this out from Steel City Blitz. What I will do here is discuss teams I had in the field yesterday who are in the most danger of falling out (or who has fallen out, in one case) based on their current RPI number.
Virginia Tech (RPI 62, previously 50) and North Carolina State (RPI 63, previously 55) are in a precarious situation. Since 2008, only 7 of 39 major conference teams with RPIs between 61 and 70 have been awarded an at-large bid. Both also have a very weak non-conference strength of schedule. On the other hand, each team benefits from five Tier 1 wins, the best being at Virginia for Virginia Tech and at North Carolina for North Carolina State. Virginia Tech is better off right now because their only bad loss is against St. Louis, while NC State has lost to Northern Iowa and Georgia Tech. Losing yesterday to Boston College won’t help, either. Both Virginia Tech and NC State retain 9 seeds for now, but they could be passed by a number of teams below them.
Arizona State (RPI 65, previously 58) has fallen all the way out of the field today, after being a 9 seed yesterday. When I take a closer look at their resume, I do not see the Sun Devils being selected. Not only is their RPI indicative of an NIT bid, but they now have six Tier 2 losses after falling to Colorado in the opening round of the Pac 12 tournament yesterday. To put this into perspective, the only team I have in the field with that many Tier 2 losses is Florida. But, Florida has 10 Tier 1 wins, as opposed to only 3 for Arizona State. Simply put, I do not think the Sun Devils could afford such a loss yesterday.
Another team in serious jeopardy of falling out of the field is Saint Mary’s. Their resume is strikingly similar to that of 2016, when they were not selected. They boast a win at Gonzaga, but their next-best win is at home against New Mexico State. Overall, the Gaels have a strength of schedule of 172 and their RPI has fallen to 43 (previously 36). The RPI alone gives them a less than 50 percent chance of being selected. Of course, the decision will be based on more than this, but I don’t think their quality of wins will help them, nor will the fact that they lost to San Francisco and Washington State. For today, I have the Gaels among the Last Four In, but they could easily be passed by teams on the other side of the bubble between now and Sunday.
Two teams who are still alive in their conference tournaments who could benefit greatly from a win today are Baylor (RPI 59) and Kansas State (RPI 61). Kansas State squares off with TCU, while Baylor draws West Virginia. A win in either case would be well within Tier 1 and would be a resume booster.
Finally, a word about Oklahoma State – they have a nice resume, but an RPI of 85. Until that jumps at least a few spots, there’s no realistic shot of them being selected, based on historical trends.
With all that said, here’s today’s projection. I haven’t made any changes to the top 7 lines since yesterday, as all of these teams except the Big Ten competitors and Gonzaga have yet to play in their conference tournaments, and I figure the next few days will sort it out. On the other hand, a lot of movement has taken place on the 8 line and below. Moves up or down since last time are in parentheses after the team’s name. Those who have earned an automatic bid are underlined.
Bids clinched since last time: Bucknell
In since last time: Savannah State, Louisville
Out since last time: Bethune-Cookman, Arizona State
1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas
2s – Duke, North Carolina, Purdue, Cincinnati
3s – Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State
4s – Texas Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Clemson
5s – Gonzaga, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida
6s – Houston, TCU, Ohio State, Miami
7s – Texas A & M, Seton Hall, Nevada, Rhode Island
8s – Arkansas, Missouri, Creighton (+1), Oklahoma
9s – Florida State (-1), Virginia Tech, Butler (+1), North Carolina State
10s – Saint Bonaventure, Texas (+1), Kansas State, Baylor (+1)
11s – Providence, Louisville (new), UCLA, Syracuse, USC, Saint Mary’s (-1)
12s – Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, South Dakota State
13s – Murray State, Vermont, Buffalo, Louisiana
14s – UNC-Greensboro, Charleston, Montana, Bucknell
15s – Wright State, UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb
16s – Iona, Radford, Nicholls State, Savannah State (new), LIU-Brooklyn, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
LAST FOUR IN – UCLA, Syracuse, USC, Saint Mary’s
FIRST FOUR OUT – Marquette, Notre Dame, Alabama, Arizona State
NEXT FOUR OUT – Oklahoma State, Utah, LSU, Nebraska (+1)
As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments. Look for my next update tomorrow, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime.