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BSD Bubble Forecast: February 24

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Deacs hold serve with historic comeback win over Pittsburgh

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Practice Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the latest installment of the BSD Bubble Forecast. Thanks to a comeback for the ages, the Deacs bubble remains very much unburst. With a bye this weekend, we can sit back, relax, and (hopefully) watch other bubble teams lose. Let’s take a look at the updated summary chart, which I’ve divided in half in the interest of readability. The first chart is teams currently in the field, while the second shows the teams on the outside looking in.

This list of teams currently in the field really features a wide range — some of this group is quite safe, I believe, while others are hanging on for dear life. Of interest for Wake, of course, is the latter group. Starting from the top of the list, Northwestern jumps out first. I don’t think they are in real danger yet, but the warning signs are accumulating. Losers in four of six, the Wildcats barely survived Rutgers at home and were hardly competitive at Illinois this week. Closing with Indiana, Michigan, and Purdue, their long-suffering fanbase can’t relax yet. Another team that is unanimously in the field right now but should be monitored closely is Arkansas. They close with a pair of difficult road games, and then host what should be a desperate and highly motivated Georgia team.

But more likely, the important teams for Wake fans are closer to the cut line. Luckily, there are plenty of candidates here who could stumble down the stretch. Remember, the Deacs likely just need to pass a couple of these possibilities. Here are the remaining schedules and Kenpom projections for the teams I’m focused on, broken out by conference:
California: Oregon State, @ Utah, @ Colorado = 1.8 wins / 3
——
Kansas State: @ Oklahoma, @ TCU, Texas Tech = 1.6 wins / 3
TCU: West Virginia, Kansas State, @ Oklahoma = 1.4 wins / 3
——
Seton Hall: @ DePaul, Georgetown, @ Butler = 1.5 wins / 3
Marquette: @ Providence, @ Xavier, Creighton = 1.4 wins / 3
——
Syracuse: @ Louisville, (BYE), Georgia Tech = 0.9 wins / 2
——
Michigan State: Wisconsin, @ Illinois, @ Maryland = 1.2 wins / 3

Don’t expect any of these teams to play themselves clearly off the bubble; none are likely to run the table. Who is most likely to head in the other direction? Michigan State stands out, with a very difficult closing schedule. The most important situation for Wake fans to watch is probably in the Big 12. We could really use at least one of Kansas State and TCU missing the tournament, if not both. The worst case scenario would be if they both find a way to go 2-1 (or better). It’s a similar story in the Big East with Seton Hall and Marquette (and Providence).

On the other side of the cut line, you can see the Deacs remain in the First Four Out section. For yet another week, we project as the best team in the country (per Kenpom) to miss the Big Dance. The good news here is that I remain skeptical of most of the teams behind us. The list of realistic candidates is really starting to narrow, as teams like Georgetown, Indiana, and Pittsburgh all blew significant leads in games they had to have. Yes, some teams towards the fringes of the bubble had a solid week, with Illinois, Georgia, Utah, and Ohio State all notching impressive wins, but all four still have quite a bit of work to do. Additionally, closer to the cut line, Georgia Tech and Tennessee in particular lost home games they could not afford to lose. Overall, of this list, Providence appears to be the biggest obstacle for Wake.

Big Picture for Wake Forest

The Deacs won the must-win, and now have a chance to catch their breath before a massively important home game against Louisville Wednesday night. The situation remains largely unchanged, here are the odds I posted a few days ago:

Louisville (36%)
@ Virginia Tech (44%)
ACCT Tuesday (~75%)
——
ACCT Wednesday (~45%)
ACCT Thursday (~30%)

Conventional wisdom would say Wake needs two more wins to have a realistic chance on Selection Sunday, and three more wins to feel confident.

Weekly Bubble Recap

Bubble teams who were supposed to win, and won:

Rhode Island (@ La Salle)
Virginia Tech (vs. Clemson)
Dayton (vs. George Mason)
Marquette (vs. St. John’s)
Wichita State (vs. Evansville)
Michigan (@ Rutgers)
Seton Hall (vs. Xavier)
Wake Forest (vs. Pittsburgh)
Illinois State (vs. Southern Illinois)
VCU (vs. St. Louis)
Arkansas (vs. Texas A&M)
Houston (vs. Connecticut)
Michigan State (vs. Nebraska)

I know this looks like a long list, but note the opponents. Outside of Seton Hall’s, none of these wins came against a team projected to make the field.

Bubble teams who were supposed to lose, and lost:

Clemson (@ Virginia Tech)
TCU (@ Kansas)
California (vs. Oregon)
USC (@ Arizona)

Thank you Dillon Brooks.

Bubble teams landing upset victories:

Vanderbilt (@ Tennessee): The Dores continue to defy the almighty Kenpom. They’ve won six of eight, somehow managing to win four consecutive tier “A” games while losing the two easiest of the eight. In fact, the Kenpom favorite has lost seven of those eight games. Go figure. I think if they win two of their final three, which would include another win over Florida or a win over Kentucky, it’ll be tough for us to stay ahead of them.
Syracuse (vs. Duke): By now, I’m sure we’ve all seen the John Gillon bank shot. This was an absolutely massive win for the Orange, and they have flipped back to the right side of the bubble on the Matrix. A split of their final two games is likely, which would complete a bizarre resume (10-8 in the ACC with an RPI in the 70s). We may look back in a few weeks and note that a last-second game-winning three pointer in a home game vs. Duke was the most critical play of Syracuse’s season, and Wake’s.
Oklahoma State (@ Kansas State): The Pokes keep on climbing up brackets, now winners in nine of ten. That run includes five “A” wins as well. They may be removed from the Bubble Watch in the near future.
Providence (@ Creighton): Down by 13 points late in the first half (sound familiar?), the Friars stormed back to notch their most impressive win of the season. This was their third consecutive win over a team safely in the field, and bracketologists have responded accordingly: in the span of less than two weeks, Providence has gone from barely on the radar to the First Four Out. They finish with what should be an easy win (vs. DePaul), and two coin flip games (vs. Marquette, @ St. John’s). A 2-1 finish (or better) will be a problem for Wake.
Georgia (@ Alabama): The Dawgs pulled out a close road win without Yante Maten, moving their projected record from 8-10 to 9-9 and keeping faint bubble hopes alive. If they can take care of business at home vs. LSU and Auburn, this will be a team worth monitoring in the SEC Tournament. Georgia will probably need to make the SEC semifinals, which may require a high-level quarterfinal win given their seeding, but this team has fought the league’s powers tough all year, with overtime losses against both Florida and Kentucky. They are now the SEC’s 4th best team, per Kenpom.
Utah (@ Colorado): This was a sorely needed road win for the Utes, who now finish with a pair of home games. They likely need to win both to stay in the conversation.

Bubble teams suffering upset losses:

(That last section was depressing to write, let’s get to the fun part where we discuss teams in dire straits:)

Georgia Tech (vs. NC State): The Yellow Jackets trailed throughout, validating their sub-75 Kenpom ranking. An expected 1-2 close likely leaves Georgia Tech on the outside looking in, particularly considering they will be a significant underdog on ACC Tournament Wednesday should they even make it that far. An 0-3 finish would certainly remove all doubt.
Indiana (@ Iowa): At this point, Indiana is more worth watching from a coaching carousel perspective, rather than the Bubble Watch. There is not much of a path forward, despite the program prestige and high-level wins. Hoosiers are favored tomorrow vs. Northwestern at least, which may keep them on the watch for another week.
Tennessee (vs. Vanderbilt): It’s time for me to abandon the Tennessee hype train, as the Vols have largely wasted a very friendly schedule over the last few weeks. Losers of four of their last six, Tennessee has dropped 12 spots in Kenpom. They need at least a 2-1 finish to right the ship. The schedule is still very much for the taking.
Georgetown (vs. DePaul): As if losing to DePaul at home isn’t bad enough, the Hoyas win probability reached 98% in the middle of the first half. A very uncomfortable situation is brewing in DC, as Georgetown will need a minor miracle to avoid missing the tournament for the third time in four years. Opportunities remain, as the Hoyas close with three games against tournament-quality foes, but the margin for error is gone and the fanbase may be too.
Kansas State (vs. Oklahoma State): Wildcats have now lost seven of nine, and close with two of three on the road. A nine seed just last week, this situation is getting very interesting. The Big 12’s top five have broken from the pack, and now we’re really left with Kansas State and TCU fighting to be number six. Their meeting next week in Fort Worth certainly looms large, but Kansas State better not look ahead: they are only favored by one @ Oklahoma tomorrow.
Alabama (vs. Georgia): The Tide blew a great opportunity to separate from the SEC’s muddled middle. They now likely need to win out in the regular season, or make a deep run in the SEC Tournament. Suffice it to say Kenpom does not like their chances.

This Weekend’s Bubble Schedule:

Friday:

9:00 ESPN2: #34 Dayton (58%) @ #92 Davidson
10:00 FS1: #270 Oregon State @ #50 California (95%)

Tonight is the calm before the storm, as there is little bubble-relevant action preceding a huge day tomorrow. A Dayton loss would be nice, but they are pretty safely in the field right now. A Cal loss would be great, but I would advise against rooting for Oregon State unless you want a flashback to [Name Redacted] Year 1.

Saturday:

Programming note: as you plan your day of college basketball consumption, don’t forget that UCLA / Arizona (8:15 ESPN) and Florida / Kentucky (2:00 CBS) aren’t part of this list.

12:00 ESPN2: #12 Wichita State (85%) @ #128 Missouri State
12:00 ESPN3: #5 North Carolina @ #65 Pittsburgh (24%)
12:00 ESPN3: #18 Florida State @ #36 Clemson (46%)
12:00 (NA): #58 Georgetown (49%) @ #93 St. John’s
1:00 SECN: #47 Tennessee (29%) @ #29 South Carolina
2:00 ESPN: #3 West Virginia @ #43 TCU (30%)
2:00 ESPN2: #41 VCU @ #55 Rhode Island (60%)
2:00 ESPNU: #35 Texas Tech @ #20 Oklahoma State (76%)
2:00 CBSSN: #54 Illinois State (63%) @ #146 Northern Iowa
2:00 (NA): #57 Seton Hall (68%) @ #183 DePaul

A great day of basketball tips off right away, with a loaded early afternoon slate. Pull against Clemson, Tennessee, TCU, and Rhode Island primarily. Odds are one of Seton Hall, Wichita State, and Illinois State will suffer a crippling loss.

3:00 BTN: #81 Penn State @ #32 Minnesota (81%)
4:00 CBS: #14 Duke @ #28 Miami (48%)
4:00 ESPN: #10 Baylor @ #24 Iowa State (54%)
4:00 ESPN2: #11 Purdue @ #27 Michigan (48%)
4:00 ESPNU: #95 Mississippi State @ #51 Vanderbilt (77%)
4:00 CBSSN: #31 Marquette @ #56 Providence (53%)
4:00 ESPN3: #49 Virginia Tech (70%) @ #151 Boston College

In the middle of the afternoon, there are a bunch of great games, but surprisingly little bubble impact for Wake, as Minnesota, Miami, Iowa State, Michigan, and Virginia Tech all seem to be clearly in at this point. Meanwhile, I’m not sure either result in the Big East game would help or hurt us very much.

6:00 ESPNU: #30 Kansas State (55%) @ #71 Oklahoma
6:00 SECN: #180 LSU @ #44 Georgia (91%)
8:00 ESPN2: #64 Alabama (36%) @ #63 Texas A&M
8:00 BTN: #39 Northwestern @ #45 Indiana (60%)
8:30 SECN: #48 Arkansas (51%) @ #77 Auburn

In primetime, there are some more meaningful games to track. On ESPNU, send all of your positive vibes to Oklahoma, as a Kansas State loss would be very useful. In the SEC, we’re pulling against Alabama and Arkansas.

Sunday:

1:00 CBSSN: #42 MTSU (72%) @ #186 UAB
2:00 CBS: #46 Syracuse (13%) @ #6 Louisville
4:00 CBS: #19 Wisconsin @ #52 Michigan State (43%)
5:00 CBSSN: #40 Houston (54%) @ #91 Memphis
6:30 ESPNU: #80 Georgia Tech (15%) @ #26 Notre Dame
6:30 P12: #62 USC (60%) @ #134 Arizona State
7:30 BTN: #69 Illinois (42%) @ #84 Nebraska

Sunday features a stronger-than-usual bubble slate. In the ACC, we of course want Louisville and Notre Dame to take care of business at home. Elsewhere, let’s hope Michigan State misses on a chance for a marquee win. The rest of the watch includes ample opportunity for bad losses, as MTSU, Houston, USC and Illinois (a midweek Bubble Watch addition after their second Northwestern upset) each face tricky road games.

That’s all I’ve got for now. It should be a great weekend of college basketball, and no matter what, we know Wake will go undefeated. Enjoy the games and Go Deacs!