Welcome to this week’s bubble forecast. Despite the loss at Duke, the Deacs actually had a solid weekend from a bubble perspective. Let’s take a look at the updated table:
As we barrel toward Selection Sunday, the bubble picture is becoming increasingly clear. On the right side of the bubble, a number of teams have significantly shored up their profile in recent games. In the Big 12, Oklahoma State has reeled off eight wins in their last nine, and Iowa State has triumphed in three consecutive bubble matchups. In the Atlantic 10, Dayton and VCU have taken care of business against relatively softer schedules; the former has won nine of 10, while the latter has won eight in a row. When they collide next week, it will be more important for seeding than from a bubble standpoint. Over in the ACC, Virginia Tech and Miami both used wins over Virginia to solidify their profiles.
Meanwhile, many of the teams with ground to make up over this last month have fallen further behind. Indiana remains in free fall after another close loss, Texas Tech suffered another overtime heartbreak, and Georgetown lost to a depleted Creighton squad by 17. Houston blew a double digit lead against SMU, Ohio State collapsed against Nebraska, and Utah and Rhode Island absorbed unacceptably bad losses.
So which teams merit closest attention from Wake fans? Above the cut line, I’ll highlight Syracuse and TCU as the obvious candidates. The Orange have lost three in a row, with Duke and Louisville on deck. A 9-9 mark in ACC play would be enough for most teams this year, but Syracuse had a particularly poor non-conference run; they may need to split the next two to stay in the field. TCU has also lost three in a row, and as I’ve discussed in this space previously, their schedule doesn’t get any easier. With a trip to Allen Fieldhouse to take on Kansas and a visit from West Virginia up next, TCU may be on the wrong side of the line this time next week. Additionally, you can be sure the committee will closely examine Michigan State’s last four games, as they try to move on without Eron Harris.
On the other side of the bubble, obviously Clemson and Georgia Tech are critical. The Tigers are projected to win 2.6 of their last four games (meaning 3-1 is the projection, but very close to 2-2). Tonight in Blacksburg will swing the projection one way or the other. Conversely, the Yellow Jackets are projected for only 1.7 wins in their last four, despite a pretty manageable schedule. An NC State win tonight would be devastating to their chances. Outside the ACC, I expect Tennessee to remain in the mix until the end, as a 3-1 finish is very possible. Providence is coming on strong as the middle of the Big East is becoming muddled, but I don’t think a 2-2 finish would be quite enough. Overall, the list of viable candidates currently behind Wake remains pretty thin.
Big Picture for Wake Forest
I’ll keep this brief, as the situation hasn’t changed much recently. Wake Forest remains firmly situated in the First Four Out section.
One aspect of our bubble forecast that has come into clearer focus is the ACC Tournament, where the Deacs will almost certainly have to play on Tuesday. Given this information, here’s the remaining schedule, and a rough guide for what we need:
@ Virginia Tech (44%)
ACCT Tuesday (~75%)
ACCT Wednesday (~45%)
ACCT Thursday (~30%)
(For the ACC Tournament percentages, I used Game Predict, projecting a path of NC State —> Miami —> Duke, or something similar.)
Now here’s my breakdown:
5+ wins: We’re dancing
4 wins: Great shape
3 wins: ????
2 wins: Longshot
1 win: Start following NIT bracketology
0 wins: Yikes
Tomorrow night hosting Pittsburgh is possibly our easiest remaining game — we need to take care of business or the path forward becomes somewhat unrealistic. It’s as simple as that; let’s get it done.
Weekly Bubble Recap
Bubble teams who were supposed to win, and won:
VCU (@ Richmond)
Wichita State (vs. Northern Iowa)
Miami (vs. Clemson)
Tennessee (vs. Missouri)
Dayton (vs. St. Bonaventure)
Kansas State (@ Texas)
Alabama (vs. LSU)
Rhode Island (@ George Mason)
Arkansas (vs. Ole Miss)
Iowa State (vs. TCU)
Northwestern (vs. Rutgers)
MTSU (@ Marshall)
Oklahoma State (vs. Oklahoma)
Marquette (vs. Xavier)
Illinois State (vs. Loyola-Chicago)
Georgia Tech (vs. Syracuse)
Minnesota (vs. Michigan)
Bubble teams who were supposed to lose, and lost:
Clemson (@ Miami)
Seton Hall (vs. Villanova)
Wake Forest (@ Duke)
Virginia Tech (@ Louisville)
Texas Tech (@ West Virginia)
Michigan State (@ Purdue)
Georgia (vs. Kentucky)
Houston (vs. SMU)
Ole Miss (@ Arkansas)
TCU (@ Iowa State)
Georgetown (@ Creighton)
Syracuse (@ Georgia Tech)
Michigan (@ Minnesota)
Bubble teams landing upset victories:
Pittsburgh (vs. Florida State): Pittsburgh remains on some Matrix brackets with a big upset win, and now heads into Winston-Salem with three wins in their last four outings. Even so, Kenpom projects a 5-13 conference record thanks in part to a 1-3 finish, meaning that the Panthers remain quite a ways off the projected cut line.
Vanderbilt (vs. South Carolina): The Commodores become the third bubble team to upset South Carolina in an 11 day span. They have a couple more chances to earn resume-changing wins, but Kenpom is skeptical. Projected to lose three of their last four, don’t expect Vandy to be on the bubble come Selection Sunday.
Iowa State (@ Texas Tech): Cyclones move to 3-0 in Big 12 overtime games — all on the road no less — and are now effectively safe. ISU has almost secured a top 4 finish in the league, which should be plenty to offset a difficult closing schedule.
Bubble teams suffering upset losses:
California (@ Stanford): A disappointing rivalry loss, certainly, but the Bears remain in good shape. Kenpom expects them to split their final four games, which should be enough for the committee.
Ohio State (vs. Nebraska): Buckeyes blew a 5 point lead with 30 seconds remaining, and now need a miracle.
Utah (@ Oregon State): There are bad losses, and then there is losing to a team that was 4-23 (0-14) entering the game. Utah’s at-large candidacy is all but done.
Texas Tech (vs. Iowa State): Red Raiders lose another overtime affair, and are projected to lose two of their last three. A 6-12 mark in Big 12 play wouldn’t be adequate even if they didn’t play the worst non-conference schedule in the country.
This Week’s Bubble Schedule:
6:00 CBSSN: #55 Rhode Island (57%) @ #117 La Salle
7:00 ESPNU: #39 Clemson @ #46 Virginia Tech (59%)
7:00 (NA): #110 George Mason @ #33 Dayton (85%)
8:00 FS1: #90 St. John’s @ #35 Marquette (82%)
8:00 ESPN3: #104 NC State @ #76 Georgia Tech (71%)
8:00 ESPN3: #152 Evansville @ #13 Wichita State (96%)
9:00 ESPN: #45 Indiana (51%) @ #78 Iowa
The ACC games are clearly the most important: root for Virginia Tech and NC State. Elsewhere, tonight is pretty low-risk for Wake. Our fellow bubble teams are universally playing as favorites, meaning there aren’t any opportunities for marquee wins. Wouldn’t have believed this a few months ago, but Indiana is in “must-win” territory @ Iowa.
6:30 BTN: #27 Michigan (70%) @ #127 Rutgers
6:30 SECN: #56 Vanderbilt @ #42 Tennessee (69%)
7:00 ESPN: #12 Duke @ #48 Syracuse (38%)
7:00 ESPN2: #43 TCU (14%) @ #8 Kansas
7:00 FS1: #36 Xavier @ #59 Seton Hall (53%)
7:00 CBSSN: #186 DePaul @ #52 Georgetown (90%)
7:00 ESPN3: #64 Pittsburgh @ #31 Wake Forest (77%)
7:00 ESPN3: #162 Southern Illinois @ #49 Illinois State (87%)
7:00 (NA): #292 St. Louis @ #41 VCU (97%)
8:30 SECN: #62 Texas A&M @ #50 Arkansas (69%)
9:00 ESPN2: #14 Oregon @ #47 California (41%)
9:00 ESPNU: #20 Oklahoma State @ #28 Kansas State (55%)
9:00 CBSSN: #91 Connecticut @ #40 Houston (78%)
9:00 (NA): #58 Providence (18%) @ #23 Creighton
Wednesday night is the biggest weekday bubble night once again, with quite a few scores to check during the Wake game. I’ll be most focused on Tennessee, Syracuse, and Seton Hall; two losses from those three would be great to see.
7:00 ESPN2: #51 Georgia @ #61 Alabama (58%)
7:00 ESPNU: #79 Nebraska @ #54 Michigan State (72%)
10:00 P12: #63 USC (17%) @ #21 Arizona
11:00 ESPNU: #53 Utah (46%) @ #75 Colorado
Thursday’s bubble slate is pretty weak. The most important game from Wake’s perspective is definitely Michigan State. The Spartans have three very difficult games remaining after the Cornhuskers, so if they lose this one, things could get dicey quickly. Late night, root for both Pac 12 home teams.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the games, and I’ll be back on Friday with a recap and weekend preview. Go Deacs!