Bubble Forecasting: February 6
Hello and welcome to BSD Bubble Watch. In this space, I plan to analyze the bubble from (hopefully) a unique perspective. There are dozens (hundreds?) of places on the internet where you can find brackets that project where the landscape currently stands. In my humble opinion, there is a lack of insight into where bubble teams are headed. At this point, non-conference play is fully “priced in” – teams will rise and fall between now and Selection Sunday based on how they finish the season – and I find the endless discussion about static indicators, such as NCSOS, repetitive.
Instead, in this space, I plan to analyze the outstanding portions of bubble resumes. As a strong believer in the Wisdom of the Crowds, I’ll be using the Bracket Matrix to assess where teams currently stand. To project where they are headed, I will be relying heavily on the statistics available at kenpom.com. I will include all teams included in multiple Matrix brackets, seeded 8 and below.
This article has 3 sections. First, I’ve compiled a chart which summarizes my analysis. The daily columns refer to the school’s seed or standing in that day’s Matrix, with green/red formatting to indicate changes. The left side of the table includes each team’s current Kenpom rank, conference record, and projected conference record. The column titled “Arrow” is my subjective analysis of where that bubble team is headed, relative to where they currently rank. In the second section, I provide a quick snapshot for each bubble team, which hopefully will help explain how I reached the conclusion listed in the chart. Finally, I compile the viewing schedule for the coming week, from the perspective of a Wake Forest fan who wants to closely follow the bubble. Enjoy!
Category 1: Likely to play their way clearly IN
Minnesota: Stopped the bleeding with a convincing road win @ Illinois this weekend. Gophers have a friendly schedule down the stretch, with 5 of 8 at home plus a trip to Piscataway.
Dayton: Projected to finish 6-2, good for a 14-4 conference record. Safe bet to make the tourney for a 4th consecutive year.
Iowa State: Rising to a consensus 8-seed after the win @ Kansas, the Cyclones will be in unless they significantly underperform their projected 4-4 finish.
Oklahoma State: Pokes have been a Kenpom darling all year, ranking #34 even when they sat 0-6 in B12 play. Now 4-6, they’ve climbed to #20, and are projected to close 5-3 against a difficult schedule. Expect to see them in the field March 12.
Kansas State: 9-9 in the B12, as Kenpom projects, should get the job done. Some potential for a “hot” finish here, as these Wildcats are favored in 5 of their last 6 games.
Marquette: Safely in the field right now, a 4-3 finish to 19-11 (10-8) overall should be plenty good enough for the first tournament appearance of the Woj era.
Category 2: Likely to play their way clearly OUT
Texas Tech: Squarely on the bubble right now, 7 of the Red Raiders’ last 8 opponents are higher ranked in Kenpom. A 3-5 finish is not going to be enough to overcome their incredibly soft non-conference slate.
Georgetown: Saturday’s OT home loss to Seton Hall was a backbreaker. Projected 16-15 (7-11), Hoyas likely need a Villanova upset at this point. They get two cracks at the defending champs, but Kenpom does not like their chances.
Houston: Projected for only a 4-3 close, despite playing 4 teams outside the Kenpom top 100. Would move to Category 3 if they win both road games this week; odds are they are “upset” once, however.
Georgia: After two heart-breaking road losses last week, Georgia’s path to the Big Dance has significantly narrowed. Home games remain against Florida and Kentucky, but Kenpom projects only a 4-4 finish (8-10 total).
NC State: Finally about to fall off the Matrix; as the underdog in every game the rest of the way, this is likely the last time you see the Wolfpack mentioned in this space.
Ohio State: Even after Saturday’s upset win @ Michigan, the Buckeyes are projected only 7-11 in B1G play. A 3-4 finish will certainly burst their bubble.
Vanderbilt: Just when it looked like Bryce Drew’s Commodores had turned the corner, they lose at home to Ole Miss. Same projection as Georgia – 4-4 finish, 8-10 overall – and same conclusion (hello, NIT).
Alabama: Home loss to Auburn dropped their projected SEC record from 11-7 to 10-8. With South Carolina and Kentucky on the docket for this week, odds are the Tide’s days on the Bubble are numbered.
Memphis: After an ugly loss at UCF, projected to lose 5 of 8 down the stretch in the mediocre AAC. Ouch.
Category 3: Projected Selection Sunday Bubble Team
Currently IN, but projected level/down
Virginia Tech: Keep an eye on the Hokies; bracketologists almost unanimously have them in right now, but we’ll see if they can withstand a projected 3-6 finish.
VCU: 18-5 (8-2) right now, but this is not a banner year for the A10. Kenpom expects a lackluster final month for the Rams, forecasting a 5-3 record against a fairly soft schedule.
Michigan State: With their backs against the proverbial wall, Izzo’s Spartans responded with a pair of key wins last week. Expect them to hover right around the bubble all month, as Kenpom projects a .500 record down the stretch.
Arkansas: Losing to Missouri is an efficient way to end up back on the bubble. Arkansas’ record looked great at 16-4, but KenPom has never been all that impressed. A 4-5 finish would give the committee something to think about.
Indiana: Could Indiana miss the tournament? Seems like a crazy thought given their wins over Kansas and North Carolina, but the Hoosiers have a difficult slate remaining. Kenpom projects a 3-5 finish. The selection committee will note their injuries, but this is certainly a team that bears watching.
Clemson: The Tigers need to forget about their trip to Tallahassee immediately, as Syracuse comes to Death Valley tomorrow for a huge bubble game. Most bracketologists have them in the field right now, but Kenpom projects a 7-11 record in ACC play. Expect this case to go down to the wire.
Wichita State: Shockers are #17 in Kenpom, but bracketologists aren’t convinced yet. And even with that gaudy ranking, Kenpom expects a stumble in their final 6 games. Whether the Missouri Valley gets 1 or 2 bids will be a key bubble question come Selection Sunday, as Illinois State is in a similar position.
TCU: Horned Frogs are shaping up as the most interesting case in the B12. Projected to finish 3-5 against an absolute murderer’s row of a schedule this month.
California: Winning 7 of the last 8 has moved the Bears onto the right side of the bubble. Kenpom isn’t sold, however, and expects a 3-4 record the rest of the way. Would an 11-7 record in the (seemingly perennially overrated) P12 offset a nondescript non-conference performance?
Seton Hall: Yes, Madison Jones may be starting an NCAAT game next month. Pirates are right on the bubble, and look poised to stay there with a 4-4 finish.
Miami: Canes have a difficult schedule remaining, particularly their last 4 games. Kenpom projects a 3-5 finish. The good news is the ball is in their court (pun intended), as they host fellow bubble teams Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Clemson.
MTSU: Remember that UTEP team that Wake dropped 100 on with ease? MTSU just lost to them, and now has little margin for error. Kenpom expects a 6-1 finish, but that may not be enough considering how weak CUSA is this year.
Currently OUT, but projected level/up
Wake Forest: Deacs are now the first team out in the Matrix. Projected 3-4 finish will likely leave us right on the edge. Shaping up to be a stressful Selection Sunday.
Tennessee: After blowing a 19 point lead @ Mississippi State, the Volunteers are just below the cut line on most bracket sites right now. Kenpom projects a 5-3 finish, however, as the Vols played 8 of their 10 toughest conference games in the first half of their SEC schedule. Watch for them to “rise” up the brackets the next few weeks.
Georgia Tech: An interesting case for the committee here. After a 5-4 start to conference play, Kenpom expects a 3-6 finish. UNC / FSU / ND is an impressive trio of wins – will that be enough to overcome a losing conference record and a poor non-conference resume?
Michigan: Wolverines must right the ship ASAP, starting with tomorrow night’s rematch against their “little brother”. They will need to overachieve their Kenpom to reach 9-9 in conference play.
Rhode Island: Most sites have these Rams out currently, but be wary: Kenpom has them favored in all 8 of their remaining games.
Utah: Despite an 0-2 road trip to the Bay Area, Kenpom likes the Utes to finish 6-2 against a very friendly closing schedule. Don’t write them off yet.
Syracuse: One of the most complicated resumes for the committee to analyze, given their combination of bad losses and great wins. Kenpom expects a 3-4 finish against an extremely difficult schedule. Look for the Orange to be one of the most-debated teams next month.
Now that we know where the bubble stands, here’s the viewing schedule for this week. All bubble games listed, teams I’ve labeled as Category 3 are in bold. Kenpom ranks and percentages were compiled Sunday, February 5.
9:00 ESPN: #9 Kansas @ #28 Kansas State (47%)
Very quiet day for the Bubble Watch. We’ll have to make do with the Sunflower Showdown (thanks, Wikipedia), and oh yea, Louisville @ Virginia could be decent.
6:30 SECN: #64 Alabama (17%) @ #25 South Carolina
7:00 FS1: #59 Georgetown (9%) @ #4 Villanova
7:00 ESPN2: #7 Florida @ #49 Georgia (31%)
7:00 ESPNU: #114 Tulsa @ #85 Memphis (72%)
7:00 ESPNews: #34 Wake Forest (30%) @ #27 Notre Dame
7:00 CBSSN: #45 Rhode Island (67%) @ #131 Massachusetts
8:00 (NA): #154 St. Joseph's @ #32 Dayton (91%)
8:00 ESPN3: #48 Syracuse @ #31 Clemson (71%)
8:30 SECN: #57 Vanderbilt @ #51 Arkansas (65%)
9:00 ESPN: #50 Michigan State @ #39 Michigan (67%)
9:00 ESPN2: #26 Iowa State (62%) @ #71 Texas
9:00 ESPNews: #41 Texas Tech @ #33 TCU (67%)
9:00 CBSSN: #24 Butler @ #35 Marquette (53%)
The bubble kicks into high gear on Tuesday, with plenty of options during Wake's commercial breaks. Wins by Massachusetts or Vanderbilt would be particularly helpful.
6:30 SECN: #70 Ole Miss @ #37 Tennessee (78%)
7:00 ESPN2: #91 NC State (9%) @ #18 Florida State
7:00 BTN: #134 Rutgers @ #60 Ohio State (82%)
7:00 ESPNU: #8 Baylor @ #20 Oklahoma State (53%)
8:00 ESPNews: #43 Houston (86%) @ #264 Tulane
8:30 FS1: #63 Providence @ #53 Seton Hall (68%)
9:00 BTN: #75 Iowa @ #38 Minnesota (78%)
9:00 CBSSN: #46 VCU (69%) @ #160 George Washington
9:00 ESPN3: #54 Virginia Tech @ #40 Miami (69%)
11:00 ESPNU: #56 California (56%) @ #113 Arizona State
Wednesday includes a handful of decent bubble games. Wake fans should pay attention to the Virginia Tech-Miami game, and keep an eye on a couple of former Deacs as Madison Jones and Tyler Cavanaugh play in a pair of televised bubble-relevant matchups.
7:00 ESPN2: #12 Purdue @ #42 Indiana (38%)
8:00 (NA): #138 Old Dominion @ #52 MTSU (82%)
9:00 CBSSN: #123 Missouri State @ #16 Wichita State (94%)
9:00 P12: #204 Washington State @ #44 Utah (93%)
Sadly, a pretty weak bubble slate to distract from the 8:00 ESPN game between a pair of universities that - you may have heard - are separated by only 8 miles!
Enjoy the games this week, and I’ll be back on Friday with another installment. Go Deacs!