College Basketball Bubble Watch
The picture: 18 hours to go
NC State's situation is simple: Beat North Carolina to win the ACC tournament, and the Wolfpack steal a bid from the bubble. Arkansas', though, is more complex.
After three straight wins at the SEC tournament, the Hogs' at-large profile is surprisingly competitive. Even with a loss to Florida in the SEC final, they would be 8-10 away from home and 5-5 against the RPI Top 50, having played what's currently rated as the No. 14 schedule in the land. They also beat Southern Illinois, West Virginia and Oral Roberts, so the nonconference profile has a little bite to it.
Bottom line: They might not need to win the game to have a claim. If they do win, someone else definitely goes home.
On the bubble front, here are a few thoughts:
• I'm not sure why the vast majority of people think Syracuse is a lead-pipe lock to be in. The Orange have an RPI above 50 and went 3-7 against the RPI Top 50. It gets even stickier when you think that Drexel might not make it, and the Dragons have a better RPI and won at Syracuse. They also have won at Villanova -- one of those three SU Top 50 wins (which came at home for the Orange). Will they get in? Probably, but I'm not 100 percent sure they should.
• That said, I don't see how you can take Drexel over Old Dominion, as explained previously. It's also worth noting that Old Dominion's Conference RPI is better than Indiana's, Illinois' or Purdue's , showing how finishing 9-7 or 10-6 in the Big Ten and winning all your home games isn't outperformance.
Can both get in? I know the committee doesn't look at bids by conference, but three from the CAA vs. two from the MWC and MVC doesn't feel right this year.
• The final cluster of bubble teams is, at this point, virtually indistinguishable, and each team has strengths and weaknesses that conflict with a competitor's, meaning clear ordering is impossible. It will all come down to what the committee elects to value.
If it likes road performance, look at Drexel (14-5 away/neutral), Missouri State (10-6), Old Dominion (9-6), Illinois (9-8), Kansas State (9-9) and Air Force (9-7).
If it's about who you can beat, it favors Georgia Tech (8-7 vs. RPI Top 50), Michigan State (6-9), Arkansas, Texas Tech (5-6, including three top-10 wins) and ODU (4-3).
If it's about who you played out of conference, they'll want Drexel (NonConf RPI 12, NonConf SOS 8), Michigan State (9/46), Illinois (19/33), Arkansas (16/28) and App State (42/5, with a lot of non-Minter in there).
The point is, it's impossible to know with certainty exactly what the committee is looking for, and each of these teams is strong in certain aspects and very weak in others. For a hint, though, we can look to last season, because several committee members carried over to this season.
The charges last season: (1) play and perform well against a strong nonconference schedule; (2) play and perform capably on the road; and (3) mid-major leagues got respect, and order of league finish matters.
Interpret that as you will. Here's the second-to-last critical look at the bubble:
|The Bubble Breakdown|
|CONFERENCE||LOCKS||SHOULD BE INS||AT-LARGES TAKEN (OUT OF 34)
(assuming no auto bid outlier)
|Other Locks/Should Be Ins^||2||1||3|
Right now, it looks like the last four in would be something like Purdue, Illinois, Kansas State and Old Dominion. The last four out would be Stanford, Drexel, Air Force and maybe West Virginia, although if you had Stanford and/or Drexel in place of two of those last four, I wouldn't have any issues. I'll take one last look Sunday and make a final determination.
(Please remember, per selection committee criteria, that records displayed are Division I only. Next update: March 11)