The NCAA Tournament selection show is tonight at 6 p.m. on CBS. I'll break the news now - Wake Forest will not be hearing its name called for the fifth consecutive season. It has been five long years since Ish Smith hit an incredible buzzer beater to lift the Deacs past Texas 81-80 in overtime. That shot sent several Blogger So Dear writers into a frenzied celebratory mob in Jake's apartment. Then of course we rolled the quad. We won't have that experience this year because our Demon Deacons finished just 13-19 in Danny Manning's first year. Watching all of this bubble talk with Joe Lunardi had me wondering just how far Wake Forest was from the bubble this year and how much they will have to improve in order to be in the conversation next season.
Wake Forest's Profile
Let's start with Wake's profile, which does nothing to resemble an NCAA Tournament team. Wake Forest had a record of just 1-10 versus Ken Pom top 50 teams, but that number is somewhat misleading as five of those were to top 10 teams. The ACC did not have many teams in the 30-50 range this season.
Record: 13-19, 5-13 ACC (Lost in 1st round of ACC Tournament to Virginia Tech)
Ken Pom: 126
Record vs. KP Top 50: 1-10 (Also had wins vs #51 Richmond & #52 Miami)
Non-Conference SOS: 249th
For my definition of bubble teams, I'm using Joe Lunardi's Last Four In and First Four Out. These are the teams he had as of 11 a.m. I have not included the resume of non-Power 5 teams as they are more difficult to compare.
Joe Lunardi's Last Four In
Record: 22-10, 11-7 SEC (Lost in 1st round of SEC Tournament to Auburn)
Ken Pom: 43
Record vs. KP Top 50: 8-3
Non-Conference SOS: 292nd
Bad Losses: Missouri, Auburn (twice), Mississippi State
Record: 22-10, 11-7 SEC (Lost in 1st round of SEC Tournament to South Carolina)
Ken Pom: 44
Record vs. KP Top 50: 6-8
Non-Conference SOS: 192nd
Bad Losses: Charleston Southern and Western Kentucky
Joe Lunardi's First Four Out
Record: 20-13, 9-9 Big 10 (Lost in Quarterfinals of Big 10 Tournament to Maryland)
Ken Pom: 53
Record vs. KP Top 50: 4-11
Non-Conference SOS: 318th
Bad Losses: Eastern Washington and Northwestern
Record: 20-13, 11-7 Pac 12 (Lost in Semifinals of Pac 12 Tournament to Arizona)
Ken Pom: 41
Record vs. KP Top 50: 4-8
Non-Conference SOS: 80th
Bad Losses: Oregon State and California
Record: 21-12, 10-8 ACC (Lost in Quarterfinals of ACC Tournament to Notre Dame)
Ken Pom: 52
Record vs. KP Top 50: 6-8
Non-Conference SOS: 240tn
Bad Losses: Eastern Kentucky, Florida State, and Wake Forest
How likely is Wake Forest to get back to the tournament next year?
It's difficult to say this far out, but Wake's best case scenario is probably to replicate Miami's success this season and be a bubble team. Miami won 21 games and went 10-8 in conference with a signature win coming at Duke. Outside of that they took care of business against the lower half of ACC teams - Boston College, (2x), Virginia Tech (3x), Clemson, Florida State, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh.
It's quite possible that Wake Forest can hold serve against the bottom half of the league, but Wake's out of conference schedule is looking to be brutal. Wake will presumably play Xavier, Richmond, LSU, and a Big Ten team in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wake Forest is also playing in the Maui Invitational which features Kansas, Indiana, UCLA, St. John's, Vanderbilt, UNLV and Chaminade. That means they will play at least three of those teams. Worst case, that's two additional challenging games.
Wake Forest was clearly very far removed from the bubble this year. There is a path to being near the bubble next season, but it's not going to be easy. Wake fans have to hope that their close road losses this season will turn into close wins next year. If they can do that, then there's an outside shot.
When do you all think Wake will be dancing again?