What a week for our Deacs! Wake Forest completed a third consecutive double-digit comeback win yesterday, defeating Virginia Tech 89-84. From a bubble perspective, this was obviously an absolutely massive week for Wake Forest. I’ll post updated charts either tomorrow or Tuesday (need to give the Matrix a chance to incorporate yesterday’s results), but you can rest assured that the Deacs will be safely in the field heading into the ACC Tournament in Brooklyn.
Big Picture for Wake Forest
Given that, Wake Forest is now in a fairly simple position: avoid bad losses. In other words, the Deacs have, in all likelihood, done enough to merit inclusion in the field; the only issue would be a loss bad enough to negate a big win.
In the ACC, only one team really qualifies, and as luck would have it, they are Wake’s opening matchup. The Deacs face Boston College at 2:00 in the afternoon on Tuesday, in what you might consider a “can’t lose.” As long as Wake takes care of business there, the rest of the tournament should be just an opportunity to improve NCAA seeding. Most notably, avoiding a trip to Dayton for the First Four is very much in play. On the other hand, with a loss to Boston College, we’ll need to settle in for a stressful Selection Sunday.
Friday/Saturday Bubble Recap:
Bubble teams who were supposed to win, and won:
Illinois State (MVC quarters and semifinals)
Wichita State (MVC quarters and semifinals)
UNC Wilmington (vs. Delaware)
Kansas State (vs. Texas Tech)
Arkansas (vs. Georgia)
VCU (vs. George Mason)
Xavier (@ DePaul)
Marquette (vs. Creighton)
Syracuse (vs. Georgia Tech)
Clemson (vs. Boston College)
MTSU (vs. FAU)
Rhode Island (vs. Davidson)
USC (vs. Washington)
Gonzaga (vs. Pacific)
St. Mary’s (Portland)
Bubble teams who were supposed to lose, and lost:
Texas Tech (@ Kansas State)
Georgia (@ Arkansas)
California (@ Colorado)
Michigan State (@ Maryland)
TCU (@ Oklahoma)
Georgia Tech (@ Syracuse)
Bubble teams landing upset victories:
Indiana (@ Ohio State): Hoosiers keep faint, faint hope alive.
Providence (@ St. John’s): This was actually a very slight upset, per Kenpom. Friars seem to be safely in the field now.
Vanderbilt (vs. Florida): Huge comeback win for the Commodores. This will probably move them into the field heading into the SEC Tournament.
Seton Hall (@ Butler): Big upset here, that came a bit out of nowhere as Butler led by 10 with seven minutes to play. Pirates are likely safely in the field now. Part of a perfect day for the Big East.
Wake Forest (@ Virginia Tech)
Bubble teams suffering upset losses:
Ohio State (vs. Indiana): Buckeyes should disappear from the Matrix once this loss is included.
Illinois (@ Rutgers): This was no surprise for those that follow Kenpom — we expected a close game. Illinois now has real work to do in the B1G Tournament.
Also of note yesterday, Jacksonville State won the Ohio Valley Tournament, following a surprising upset of Belmont in the semifinals. The Gamecocks project as a 15 seed.
Today’s Bubble Schedule:
1:00 BTN: #82 Penn State @ #68 Iowa (70%)
2:00 CBS: #11 Wichita State (74%) vs. #42 Illinois State <— MVC Final
2:00 CSN: #129 William & Mary vs. #63 UNC Wilmington (73%) <— CAA Semifinal
4:00 CBSSN: #198 East Carolina @ #44 Houston (91%)
4:30 CBS: #13 Purdue @ #35 Northwestern (43%)
8:00 BTN: #27 Michigan (63%) @ #94 Nebraska
The most interesting bubble game of the day is certainly the MVC Championship. The obvious rooting interest from a Wake Forest perspective is to root for the team with the stronger resume (so that the team with the weaker resume needs the at-large). Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer to that question. Both Illinois State and Wichita State have similar resumes, most notably lacking in major wins (each has one top 50 win - each other!). Wichita State has better losses, and better advanced metrics, so forced to choose, I would lean in that direction. Personally, I think the loser is likely NIT-bound either way. The best case scenario is probably a blowout, where the loser does not “look” like a tournament quality team.
Elsewhere, an upset by Penn State or Nebraska would be nice, but not all that important. Iowa is a fringe bubble team, while Michigan is likely safely in.
In addition to the Missouri Valley final, we have two more conference tournament finals, albeit with much less (read: no) bubble relevance. First, the Big South Tournament Championship is at 1:00 on ESPN. #290 Campbell faces host #114 Winthrop. Thanks to an upset loss by UNC-Asheville, Pat Kelsey’s Winthrop squad is now a 91% favorite to make the NCAA Tournament. They currently project as a 14 seed. Then at 3:00 on ESPN, #111 Florida Gulf Coast hosts #250 North Florida in the Atlantic Sun final. Dunk City is an 86% favorite to win, and they also project as a 14 seed currently.
That’s all for now, but I’ll be back with more tomorrow. Go Deacs!