Welcome to another edition of BSD Bubble Watch, where I look at the NCAA tournament picture from a Wake Forest perspective, using the Bracket Matrix with an eye towards Kenpom projections. The Deacs had a highly successful weekend — not only did they beat NC State by 30 (which, lets be honest - qualifies as a good weekend on its own) — but a number of other bubble teams lost and are trending down.
In my summary chart below, you can see while Wake has not yet moved to the right side of the cut line, there are a number of candidates ahead of us starting to fall.
TCU was beaten soundly this weekend, and they have a murderer’s row upcoming (Oklahoma State, @ Iowa State, @ Kansas, West Virginia, Kansas State). Syracuse lost @ Pittsburgh, and Kenpom has them as the underdog in each of their next four games. Marquette was blown out by a mediocre Georgetown team and has now lost five of six. Seton Hall lost @ St. John’s. Tennessee blew a big lead at home vs. Georgia. Indiana is in free fall, with a daunting schedule ahead. Wake just needs to pass a couple of these teams.
Meanwhile, I don’t see too many candidates behind the Deacs poised to make a run. Michigan and Houston are the two best teams per Kenpom; both have critical coin flip games on deck (vs. Wisconsin and vs. SMU, respectively) which will help bring their statuses into better focus. Rhode Island is worth watching, as they are favored in every game the rest of the way, but only one of those wins would really impress the committee. Kenpom likes Georgia and Utah to finish strong, but they both have quite a bit of ground to make up. Clemson can still climb back up the ladder, especially since their next three games are against fellow bubble teams, but they have dug quite a hole thanks to some painful close losses. Meanwhile, Kenpom expects most of the other candidates, such as Georgia Tech, Georgetown, and Texas Tech, to struggle down the stretch.
Big Picture for Wake Forest
Overall, I want to caution Wake fans against trying to oversimplify our situation. If these articles demonstrate anything, it’s the sheer quantity of variables at play. We’re talking about ~36 teams — each with ~6 games remaining plus conference tournaments — fighting for an unknown number of spots in a field selected by a subjective committee weighing an evolving list of metrics. Suffice it to say there are a lot of scenarios on the table.
What this means for Wake is that we shouldn’t act as if our results are happening in a vacuum. You should be skeptical of anyone who says that if Wake does [specific list of results] —> [exact outcome]. Personally, I think 9-9 would put us in great shape, but I’m not ready to use the word lock. I think 8-10 is far too early to call; so much depends on the teams around us.
I will say getting to .500 in conference play is an overrated benchmark. Looking at the projected conference records around the cut line in the above chart, it would be hard for all of the sub-.500 conference play teams to miss the field. Moreover, if any league is going to send a “losing” team to the dance, it should be this year’s ACC. I’m certainly not going to feel comfortable at 8-10, but I do expect that would keep the Deacs in the mix, pending the ACC Tournament.
As such, Clemson is not a must-win, by any reasonable definition of the often-butchered phrase. There are plenty of scenarios where Wake loses Tuesday and is still selected for the tournament, either at 8-10 or 9-9. It would certainly be a huge win, but if we lose, we still head into Cameron right around the cut line. Similarly, I don’t buy the argument that Wake must beat Duke or Louisville to make the field.
Remember that all five of Wake’s remaining games are between 20 and 80% win probability. Any string of outcomes in the last five games is reasonably possible; we could realistically beat or lose to anyone and everyone left on the docket.
The bottom line is we have a tournament quality team, playing their best ball of the season, with computer numbers in our favor and plenty of chances to impress the committee remaining. We’re in a good spot, despite being on the outside looking in currently, and I strongly encourage everyone to refrain from pressing the panic button if we lose @ Littlejohn.
Now, here’s this weekend’s bubble summary, and the schedule for the coming week...
Weekend in Review
Bubble teams who were supposed to win, and won:
Georgetown (vs. Marquette)
Minnesota (@ Rutgers)
Wake Forest (vs. NC State)
Oklahoma State (vs. Texas)
Utah (vs. Washington)
Georgia Tech (vs. Boston College)
Iowa State (vs. Oklahoma)
Michigan State (vs. Iowa)
Houston (@ Tulsa)
MTSU (vs. Charlotte)
VCU (vs. Davidson)
Arkansas (@ LSU)
Illinois State (vs. Bradley)
Wichita State (vs. Loyola-Chicago)
Bubble teams who were supposed to lose, and lost:
Kansas State (@ West Virginia)
Marquette (@ Georgetown)
Alabama (vs. Kentucky)
Clemson (@ Duke)
Syracuse (@ Pittsburgh)
Texas Tech (vs. Kansas)
Miami (@ Louisville)
TCU (@ Baylor)
Ohio State (@ Maryland)
California (@ Arizona)
Bubble teams landing upset victories:
Dayton (@ Rhode Island): Huge road win for the Flyers, who are now favored in all six remaining games and are projected to win the A10 outright. Expect them to move off the bubble watch soon.
Georgia (@ Tennessee): Bulldogs saved their season with a huge road win this weekend. With four of their last six at home, keep an eye on this team. Kenpom has a 4-2 finish as a bit more likely than 3-3.
Michigan (@ Indiana): Road wins against fellow bubble teams are a big deal. Wolverines have a difficult schedule remaining, but Kenpom likes them to reach 9-9. They are right on the cut line now, and I think this case goes down to the wire.
Virginia Tech (vs. Virginia): A near-perfect weekend for Wake ended on a bit of a sour note with the Hokies’ 2OT win. Tech has a tough slate ahead, particularly this week, but are currently safely in the field.
Bubble teams suffering upset losses:
Rhode Island (vs. Dayton): Heart-breaking last-second loss cripples the Rams chances. Still favored in all six remaining games; likely need at least five.
Seton Hall (@ St. John’s): Bad loss for the Pirates this weekend, although readers of this column shouldn’t have been surprised - it was a coin flip game. Seton Hall remains squarely on the bubble, with a couple opportunities this week for marquee home wins.
Vanderbilt (@ Missouri): A 20-point loss to SEC bottom-feeder Missouri should close the door on the Commodores.
Tennessee (vs. Georgia): Vols have blown double-digit second half leads on back-to-back Saturdays, and now head to Lexington. Still very much alive though, with a particularly favorable schedule remaining (after Tuesday), but much of the margin for error has evaporated.
Indiana (vs. Michigan): It’s tough to see a path forward for the Hoosiers now. They’ve lost five of six, with the one win coming at home in 3OT against Penn State. Now they finish with four of five on the road. Prime candidate to be passed by our Deacs.
Memphis (vs. Temple): After this double-digit home loss to a sub-KP100 team, Memphis is officially off the bubble watch.
This Week’s Bubble Schedule:
7:00 ESPN: #5 Louisville @ #48 Syracuse (30%)
7:00 ESPNU: #7 Baylor @ #40 Texas Tech (39%)
Typical quiet Monday from a bubble perspective. Root hard for the road favorites to take care of business, particularly Louisville.
6:00 CBSSN: #157 St. Joseph’s @ #43 VCU (89%)
7:00 ESPN: #41 Tennessee (13%) @ #8 Kentucky
7:00 ESPN2: #51 Virginia Tech @ #66 Pittsburgh (55%)
7:00 ESPN3: #32 Wake Forest @ #39 Clemson (59%)
8:00 CBSSN: #33 Dayton (90%) @ #286 St. Louis
9:00 ESPN: #61 Ohio State @ #54 Michigan State (67%)
9:00 ESPNU: #95 Mississippi State @ #50 Georgia (78%)
9:00 SECN: #160 LSU @ #69 Ole Miss (83%)
Our Deacs play in the Kenpom game of the day on Tuesday night. The 2nd most important bubble game of the night is also in the ACC, where Pittsburgh is actually a slight favorite at home against Virginia Tech. Keep rooting against the Hokies.
6:30 SECN: #57 Arkansas (21%) @ #27 South Carolina
7:00 ESPN2: #26 Iowa State @ #28 Kansas State (62%)
7:00 BTN: #35 Maryland @ #30 Northwestern (68%)
7:00 ESPN3: #16 Wichita State (86%) @ #163 Southern Illinois
7:00 NA: #217 Fordham @ #44 Rhode Island (93%)
8:00 CBSSN: #22 Creighton @ #55 Seton Hall (41%)
8:00 ESPN3: #79 Georgia Tech @ #34 Miami (78%)
8:30 SECN: #62 Alabama (63%) @ #165 Missouri
9:00 BTN: #49 Indiana (33%) @ #37 Minnesota
9:00 ESPNU: #20 Oklahoma State (52%) @ #38 TCU
9:00 ESPN3: #45 Illinois State (64%) @ #131 Missouri State
The Big 12 takes center stage in the bubble world on Wednesday night; Deac fans should prefer home losses from Kansas State and TCU. Meanwhile, wins by Minnesota and Creighton would be quite helpful.
7:00 ESPN: #15 Wisconsin @ #31 Michigan (52%)
7:00 ESPN2: #64 Texas A&M @ #59 Vanderbilt (66%)
9:00 ESPN: #47 Utah (19%) @ #17 Oregon
9:00 CBSSN: #52 MTSU (78%) @ #239 Western Kentucky
Thursday’s bubble schedule is surprisingly limited. The first game is assuredly the most important; a Wisconsin win would be much appreciated.
That’s all for now. Beat Clemson!