Another day, another Deacs win. That’s now four in a row for Wake, and the Matrix is starting to catch up. Here’s the updated chart, back in one graphic now as I’ve significantly cut down the number of teams:
Big Picture for Wake Forest
The Bracket Matrix currently includes 135 brackets. All 135 include Wake Forest.
Not only are the Deacs in every bracket, but we are now five teams removed from the cut line, meaning we would avoid Dayton (MTSU is between us and the cut line as well, but is currently projected as an auto-bid). Moreover, with no more potential for “bad” losses, it’s hard to see any reason we would drop, aside from teams behind us making a move. As I result, I feel quite confident saying that we will be in the tournament come Sunday. Tonight’s game is more about avoiding the First Four, and anything in Brooklyn beyond that is a chance to improve seeding.
In terms of the Dayton bubble, focus on the teams right around us in the Matrix. It will likely come down to the quartet from the Big East (Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, Xavier) as well as teams like Michigan State and USC in particular.
Also, remember that we still want to root against bid thieves. If an off-the-radar team steals an auto-bid (e.g. Richmond wins the Atlantic 10 Tournament), that effectively moves Wake Forest one slot down in the at-large pool. It seems unlikely that that type of scenario would cost Wake a bid to the tournament, but could very well send Wake to Dayton. Our best-case scenario the next few days is for auto-bids to go to teams safely in the field, while the bubble teams around us lose.
Tuesday Bubble Recap
Bubble teams who were supposed to win, and won:
Clemson (vs. NC State)
Wake Forest (vs. Boston College)
Bubble teams who were supposed to lose, and lost:
Georgia Tech (vs. Pittsburgh)
This may have been an upset based on seeding, but this was not an upset per Kenpom. Yellow Jackets flickering at-large hopes are now officially extinguished.
Bubble teams landing upset victories:
Bubble teams suffering upset losses:
Yesterday was also a big night of conference tournament finals. Mount St. Mary’s captured the Northeast crown on their home floor. They project as a 16 seed, and are likely headed to Dayton. Meanwhile, Northern Kentucky ended Milwaukee’s Cinderella run, punching a ticket to the dance in their first year eligible. The Matrix likes the Horizon champ as a 15 seed.
Later in the evening, Gonzaga easily dispatched St. Mary’s in the West Coast title game, likely earning a #1 seed on Sunday. And finally, the Jackrabbits of South Dakota State defeated Omaha in a tight Summit League final. Expect the Jackrabbits to be a 15 seed.
Wednesday Bubble Schedule
12:00 ESPN: #44 Syracuse (43%) vs. #31 Miami <— ACC Second Round
2:00 ESPN: #35 Clemson (32%) vs. #15 Duke <— ACC Second Round
5:30 P12: #272 Oregon State vs. #55 California (90%) <— PAC 12 Opening Round
7:00 ESPN2: #30 Wake Forest (59%) vs. #47 Virginia Tech <— ACC Second Round
7:00 BTN: #131 Rutgers vs. #70 Ohio State (70%) <— B1G Opening Round
7:00 ESPNU: #63 Oklahoma vs. #45 TCU (57%) <— Big 12 Opening Round
9:00 ESPNU: #76 Texas vs. #36 Texas Tech (64%) <— Big 12 Opening Round
9:30 FS1: #179 DePaul vs. #43 Xavier (83%) <— Big East Opening Round
11:30 P12: #171 Washington vs. #61 USC (79%) <— PAC 12 Opening Round
As you would expect, it’s a loaded day of bubble action as all the major conference tournaments begin action. If watching bubble teams play “can’t lose” games against conference bottom-feeders is your thing, tonight is the night for you. All six non-ACC games on this list — including California, Ohio State, TCU, Texas Tech, Xavier, and USC — fall into this category. Those six combine for a 4.4 win expectancy, meaning one devastating bad loss is likely and two (or more) is realistic. For Wake, the two most helpful upsets would be at the expense of USC and Xavier.
In the ACC, root for Miami in the opener, as Syracuse is much closer to the cut line. Then in the second afternoon game, (if you can stomach it,) root for Duke to end Clemson’s bubble hopes.
Tonight also features the Patriot League final, with #81 Bucknell favored by seven hosting #118 Lehigh. The Bison have been the best team in the league all year, but Lehigh did sweep the season series. The Matrix sees Bucknell as a 14 seed.
Finally, we have a number of conference tournaments getting underway without any bubble-relevant games today. Here’s a quick roundup:
Southland: Picked at the bottom of the preseason polls, New Orleans came from nowhere to earn the #1 seed. They are a modest favorite in a wide-open league. The winner here will almost certainly be a 16 seed. This will be a one-bid league, and is not bubble relevant.
Mountain West: Nevada sits at #57 in Kenpom, but does not have the resume for an at-large bid. They’ll almost definitely need to cash in on the #1 seed in this conference tournament. Should they make the Big Dance, the Matrix likes them as a 12 seed. This league will most likely be a one-bid league, and is probably not bubble-relevant.
Sun Belt: The Sun Belt is in a similar position this year. UT-Arlington is the #1 seed and clear favorite, and has an impressive Kenpom rank for a mid-major (#72). Even with wins vs. St. Mary’s and @ Texas, they’ll almost definitely need the league’s auto bid though. This league will most likely be a one-bid league, and is probably not bubble-relevant.
CUSA: This will definitely be a tournament to keep an eye on. As discussed previously, MTSU is one of the key storylines to watch these next few days. Ranking around the Kenpom top 50 for much of the year, MTSU dominated in conference play, and has a decent shot at an at-large should they stumble. Kenpom puts their auto-bid odds right at 50/50. Bubble team fans should root for MTSU throughout the tournament, to make sure the league does not steal any at-large slots.
Atlantic 10: The A10 is another tournament to watch. This is the tournament most at-risk for a bid thief. Dayton and VCU are safely in the field, but combined are only about 57% to win this conference tournament. Rhode Island is squarely on the bubble, and their games will appear in the daily viewing guide throughout their run in the tournament. Should any other team win this league (e.g. Richmond, Davidson), a bid will disappear from the bubble.
SEC: A good number of games in this tournament are potentially bubble-relevant, once we get past today’s 11/14 and 12/13 opening round. Kentucky and Florida are playing for an elite seed, while South Carolina and Arkansas are also safely in. Will the conference earn a fifth bid? Vanderbilt is the best shot, but a deep run from Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee or Ole Miss could be worth monitoring as well.
That’s all for now. Let’s beat Virginia Tech (again). Go Deacs!