BPI Talk: Illinois should be on the bubble

Illinois (BPI Rank 55, RPI Rank 28)

Is Illinois, a team below .500 in the Big Ten, solidly in the NCAA tournament field, as its No. 28 RPI suggests? Or are the Illini closer to the bubble, as their No. 55 BPI suggests?

Illinois has had some spectacular performances –- a 17-point win against Butler, an 11-point win at Gonzaga, a 19-point win versus Ohio State, and close wins against Indiana and at Minnesota –- each generating a Game BPI score of at least 94.

But let’s not forget about four losses by at least 14 points, one of which was at home to Northwestern. And three of the Illini's wins aren’t so impressive. They won by two or fewer points against Hawaii (in overtime), Gardner-Webb (at home) and Auburn (at home).

The Illini have had an impressive last four games, but when it comes down to their entire body of work, let’s not forget they lost eight of their previous 11 games.

No team ranked in the BPI top 85 has a higher variation than Illinois, which means the Illini are rather inconsistent. Variation measures the average difference between a team’s Game BPI and season BPI.

Butler (BPI Rank 48, RPI Rank 17)

Joe Lunardi has Butler as a No. 5 seed in his latest BracketologyInsider, but BPI projects the Bulldogs as a No. 12 seed and one of the last four at-large teams in the field.

Three of Butler’s four losses have been by 15 or more points. Meanwhile, its three best wins according to BPI rank –- Indiana, Gonzaga and Marquette –- are by a combined five points. A win is a win, and that certainly counts for a lot, but even the Indiana win wasn’t as strong a performance (by BPI “Game Score” standards) as Butler’s 11-point win against North Carolina.

It can be argued that Butler perhaps being overrated by RPI came to fruition over its last three games. The Bulldogs lost at home to Charlotte, and defeated George Washington by three points and Fordham by five points.

VCU (BPI Rank 16, RPI Rank 35)

VCU has taken care of business against weaker opponents. The Rams haven’t had many lackluster performances. In fact, they only have two Game BPI scores below 68 -– their back-to-back losses to Richmond and La Salle in late January.

In the last 10 days, Butler struggled at George Washington and Fordham, and lost at home to Charlotte. Temple won by a point at UMass. VCU, on the other hand, won at Charlotte by seven, and defeated Fordham, UMass and George Washington at home by a combined 61 points. The Rams have 16 double-digit wins, including 10 by at least 20 points.

All four of VCU’s losses are by single digits. Its only loss to a team outside the BPI top 50 (Richmond) was in overtime. Two of those losses were on a neutral court to Duke by nine points (with all of Duke’s top players) and Missouri by three points.

Virginia (BPI Rank 45, RPI Rank 77)

Virginia’s three worst losses according to BPI rank (George Mason, Delaware and Old Dominion) came without senior point guard Jontel Evans (he played three minutes vs Delaware).

The Cavaliers’ best four Game BPI scores are against teams ranked in the BPI top 100 (Clemson, Maryland, Florida State and Wisconsin). They’ve played their best against some of their toughest opponents.

Baylor (BPI Rank 36, RPI Rank 55)

When Baylor gets in close games, it usually loses. Seven of the Bears’ nine losses are by single digits. Their only double-digit losses are to Kansas and Kansas State. Meanwhile, all of their wins are by at least seven points. All but two of their wins are by double digits.

Furthermore, the Bears were without Brady Heslip when they lost to Charleston –- their worst loss of the season in terms of BPI rank.