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BSD Bubble Forecast: February 27

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Our Deacs have a meaningful March game for the first time since 2010

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

Welcome to the first Championship Week edition of BSD Bubble Forecast. It’s fun discussing games that matter in the month of March, right? It’s been too long. Let’s take a look at where things stand heading into Wake’s big game against Louisville on Wednesday.

Most of these names should look familiar. I’ve cut off a few teams from the top of the list, while Xavier is the lone new addition. Musketeers have lost five in a row, and their body of work post-Edmond Sumner is shaky at best. Note that Providence has jumped into the field, replacing TCU.

Once more brackets update to include the results from this weekend, I expect Kansas State will join TCU below the line, setting up a critical bubble game this Wednesday. Vanderbilt will most likely take Kansas State’s spot for now.

Big Picture for Wake Forest

Once again, Wake sits in the First Four Out section, and is Kenpom’s highest ranked team not in the field. The good news is there is still time to change that, and Wake controls its own destiny. Our Deacs host Louisville on Wednesday, and then travel to Blacksburg on Saturday, with an NCAA Tournament bid likely on the line. Here are the updated percentages; none have changed meaningfully over the past week:

Louisville (36%)
@ Virginia Tech (42%)
ACCT Tuesday (~75%)
——
ACCT Wednesday (~45%)
ACCT Thursday (~30%)

I will repost my one-sentence summary as well, as it still holds:

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

Let’s boil this down a bit. Realistically, it’s hard to see Wake making the tournament with a loss in the Opening Round of the ACC Tournament (although W-Louisville, W-@Virginia Tech, L-Boston College would be interesting). Similarly, it’s hard to see Wake missing the tournament with a win in the Quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament (although L-Louisville, L-@Virginia Tech, W-Pittsburgh, W-Miami, W-Notre Dame would be interesting). So let’s put those games aside for a minute, leaving three games to focus on:

Louisville (37%)
@ Virginia Tech (42%)
ACCT Wednesday (~45%)

Most likely, Wake needs to win 13 to have a chance and 23 to feel confident. It’s an interesting situation, as Wake will likely be the underdog in all three games, but we should still reasonably expect at least one win.

To try to provide a frame of reference, I’ll use some different Wake basketball odds: Our win probabilities in those three games are essentially the same as the odds of Bryant Crawford, Austin Arians, and Keyshawn Woods, respectively, knocking down a three pointer. Individually, you would expect them all to fail; none make more threes than they miss. Collectively, however, we should feel confident that we’ll get at least one make.

So that’s where things stand. Crawford takes the first shot when Louisville comes to Winston-Salem on Wednesday. If he misses, we still have at least an Arians shot in Blacksburg, and then the equivalent of a Brandon Childress free throw would earn Woods a shot in Brooklyn.

Weekend Bubble Recap:

Bubble teams who were supposed to win, and won:

Dayton (@ Davidson)
California (vs. Oregon State)
Wichita State (@ Missouri State)
Rhode Island (vs. VCU)
Oklahoma State (vs. Texas Tech)
Illinois State (@ Northern Iowa)
Seton Hall (@ DePaul)
Minnesota (vs. Penn State)
Iowa State (vs. Baylor)
Vanderbilt (vs. Mississippi State)
Providence (vs. Marquette)
Virginia Tech (@ Boston College)
Georgia (vs. LSU)
Arkansas (@ Auburn)
Indiana (vs. Northwestern)
MTSU (@ UAB)
Houston (@ Memphis)

Bubble teams who were supposed to lose, and lost:

Pittsburgh (vs. North Carolina)
Georgetown (@ St. John’s)
Clemson (vs. Florida State)
Tennessee (@ South Carolina)
TCU (vs. West Virginia)
VCU (@ Rhode Island)
Texas Tech (@ Oklahoma State)
Marquette (@ Providence)
Alabama (@ Texas A&M)
Northwestern (@ Indiana)
Syracuse (@ Louisville)
Georgia Tech (@ Notre Dame)

Bubble teams landing upset victories:

Miami (vs. Duke): Canes improve to 20-8 (10-6), including wins over North Carolina and Virginia on top of this Duke win. They are safely in the field now; Wake fans should root for them to keep winning for RPI purposes.
Michigan (vs. Purdue): Wolverines are playing excellent basketball over the past few weeks: they've won five of six (with the one loss coming in overtime), including three “A” wins. Kenpom expects them to split their final two, which should be plenty to stay in the field.
Michigan State (vs. Wisconsin): No Eron Harris? No problem for the Spartans, as they land a convincing marquee win. Izzo has a tough week ahead to finish the year (@ Illinois, @ Maryland), but it’s hard to see the committee leaving this team out of the field, even if they lose both.
Illinois (@ Nebraska): The B1G just didn’t agree with Kenpom this weekend I guess. The Illini whipped the Cornhuskers in Lincoln, and now ride three straight quality wins into a final week with a pair of winnable games (Illini are an identical 57% to win both vs. Michigan State and @ Rutgers. Home-court advantage is a big deal). A split is more likely, but a five game winning streak to end the year is very much in play.

Bubble teams suffering upset losses:

Kansas State (@ Oklahoma): Not only did the Wildcats lose to the Sooners — their eighth loss in ten games — but they lost by 30. The Selection Committee is subjective at times, and the #eyetest matters. Right now, quite simply, Kansas State is not playing like an NCAA Tournament team. Wednesday’s trip to TCU may be a de facto elimination game.
USC (@ Arizona State): The Trojans slide continues, and this one feels a bit different. There’s no shame in losing to Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona. But losing a 4th in a row to Arizona State? That’s a red flag the committee will notice. USC is currently a 9 seed, and will probably fall to a 10 or maybe an 11 once this loss is incorporated. The bad news for Wake fans is that USC finishes with two easy home games (Washington, Washington State), so a further fall would really require a dramatic collapse.

This Week’s Bubble Schedule:

Monday:

9:00 ESPN2: #29 Miami @ #42 Virginia Tech (56%)

The only bubble game of the night is in Blacksburg. Both teams are in good shape to make the field; root for Miami for our RPI purposes.

If you need more college basketball to watch, there are a couple of great, non-bubble options at 7:00. The North Carolina / Virginia rematch is on ESPN, while West Virginia @ Baylor has to be one of the best games in ESPNU history.

Monday also marks the start of conference tournament season with the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals getting underway. Florida Gulf Coast is the favorite. Dunk City earned the #1 seed with a 12-2 mark in conference, which includes home-court advantage throughout the tournament. They are the best team in the league by 40+ spots in Kenpom, and currently project as a 15 seed in the matrix. This will be a one-bid league, and is not bubble-relevant.

Tuesday:

6:30 FS1: #60 Georgetown @ #57 Seton Hall (64%)
7:00 ESPN: #49 Indiana (16%) @ #12 Purdue
8:30 FS1: #181 DePaul @ #56 Providence (88%)
9:00 ESPN: #43 Vanderbilt (12%) @ #6 Kentucky
9:00 ESPNU: #72 Pittsburgh @ #77 Georgia Tech (60%)

Bubble action begins to heat back up on Tuesday, with a handful of games well-worth monitoring. In the Big East, we’re rooting hard for both road teams, Georgetown and DePaul. On ESPN, we want Purdue and Kentucky to win convincingly as they host bubble opponents. Finally, in the ACC, we’re rooting hard for Pittsburgh to win in Atlanta. Three of five would be a success.

Elsewhere, a couple more conference tournaments get under way with Opening Round action. In the Big South, Pat Kelsey’s Winthrop Eagles won the tiebreaker for the #1 seed over UNC-Asheville. This could prove pivotal, as the 1-seed enjoys home court advantage. Kenpom would favor Asheville on a neutral site, but it’s a different story in Rock Hill. The Matrix currently has Asheville slotted as a 14 seed. Either way, this will be a one-bid league, and is not bubble-relevant.

The Patriot League also begins its tournament with Opening Round action on Tuesday. Bucknell is the clear-cut favorite, although they did get swept by #3 seed Lehigh in the regular season. The Bison have the #1 seed, home-court advantage throughout, won the regular season title by three games, and have the best Kenpom ranking by 40 spots. They are in the Matrix as a 15 seed. This will be a one-bid league, and is not bubble-relevant.

Wednesday:

6:30 SECN: #82 Auburn @ #52 Georgia (76%)
7:00 ESPN2: #41 Arkansas (12%) @ #7 Florida
7:00 BTN: #27 Michigan @ #36 Northwestern (56%)
7:00 SECN: #55 Tennessee (70%) @ #172 LSU
7:00 (NA): #53 Rhode Island (69%) @ #169 St. Joseph’s
8:00 CBSSN: #47 VCU (31%) @ #31 Dayton
8:00 ESPN3: #105 NC State @ #34 Clemson (84%)
8:30 SECN: #76 Ole Miss @ #67 Alabama (68%)
9:00 ESPN2: #75 Texas @ #35 Texas Tech (76%)
9:00 ESPNU: #37 Kansas State @ #40 TCU (60%)
9:00 FS1: #32 Marquette @ #39 Xavier (59%)
9:00 BTN: #50 Michigan State @ #62 Illinois (57%)
9:00 ESPN3: #5 Louisville @ #33 Wake Forest (36%)
10:00 P12: #198 Washington State @ #68 USC (89%)

Obviously Wednesday night is extremely important to the Deacs’ bubble hopes. Outside of Winston-Salem, the marquee game to follow is clearly Kansas State @ TCU. I think a TCU win is preferable, because they have the tougher finale. Both are currently 6-10, we’d prefer neither reach 8-10. The next most important teams to root for are St. Joseph’s and Xavier. A Washington State win would be great, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Additionally, three conference tournaments tip off:
Ohio Valley: This league is all about Belmont. The Bruins won the league by four games, and Kenpom ranks them as more than 100 spots better than any other conference foe. The #1 seed does not include home-court advantage, but the tournament is held in Nashville. Guess where Belmont is located? Even more importantly, the #1 seed earns Belmont a bye to the semifinals. Rick Byrd’s crew checks in as a 14 seed in the latest Matrix. Even if Belmont is upset, this will be a one-bid league, and is not bubble-relevant.

America East: Vermont is the Belmont of the America East. The Catamounts posted a perfect 16-0 record in league play, winning the league by four games. They don’t get the bye to the semis like Belmont does, but they do get formal home-court advantage throughout the tournament. They are the league’s best team by 60 spots in Kenpom, and won all but one league game by more than five points. They are a 13 seed in the matrix, but they do not have a resume worthy of at-large consideration. This will be a one-bid league, and is not bubble-relevant.

Northeast: Whichever team wins this league might as well go ahead and book a flight to Dayton. Mount St. Mary’s is the 1 seed, and top ranked team per Kenpom. They will have home-court advantage throughout, and currently rank as a 16 seed in the Matrix. This will be a one-bid league, and is not bubble-relevant.

Thursday:

7:00 ESPN2: #38 Houston (26%) @ #24 Cincinnati
7:30 ESPN3: #293 FIU @ #44 MTSU (97%)
11:00 ESPNU: #48 California @ #54 Utah (61%)

Thursday is shaping up as a pretty quiet day on the bubble watch, as neither ESPN B1G game (Nebraska @ Minnesota, Iowa @ Wisconsin) is relevant. Root for Cincinnati and Utah to deliver home victories.

Two more conference tournaments kick off March 2 as well:

Missouri Valley: Perennially one of the best mid-major conference tournaments, “Arch Madness” will have plenty of intrigue once again this year. Illinois State and Wichita State both went 17-1 in league play, splitting their head-to-head meetings. Kenpom likes Wichita State better, but the Redbirds earn the 1 seed due to an RPI tiebreaker. Interestingly, the 3rd best team in the league per Kenpom, Loyola, is the 5 seed, meaning they are on Illinois State’s half of the draw. Wichita State projects to have the easier quarterfinal game as well. Right now, the Matrix has Wichita State as a 10 seed, and Illinois State as a 12, the last team in the field. This is an extremely important tournament to watch for Wake fans. We want the Missouri Valley to drop from a two-bid league to a one-bid league. Worst case scenario is they meet in the finals and play a tight game. Any loss not against each other in the finals would be a bad loss. I will continue to provide updates on this tournament as it is very much bubble-relevant.

MAAC: Monmouth is your #1 seed, actually entering the tournament with a more dominant record (18-2) than they did last year (17-3) when they were thought to be on the bubble. These games are played at a true neutral site, however, and Saint Peter’s in particular will be a worthy challenger. Monmouth is currently a 13 seed in the matrix, but they do not have an at-large type of resume. This will be a one-bid league, and is not bubble-relevant.

That’s all for now. I’ll check back in at the end of the week; there will certainly be plenty to discuss then, either way. Until then, go Deacs!