Saturday, March 2, 2019

Bubble Breakdown March 02

Note: After consultation with marketing and legal,  I'm rebranding Bubble Banter as Bubble Breakdown™.

Here's a look at the bubble through the robotic yet strangely beautiful eyes of TourneyCast:

The nice thing about this view, as opposed to the current T-Ranketology bracket, is that this includes simulations of conference tournaments. So a team like UNC Greensboro, which might reasonably considered on the bubble as of today, fades to extreme long-shot as an at-large when you factor in a loss in the conference tournament. It also is the best way to look at bubble teams who are projected auto-bids in the same view as bubble teams who are not.

Let's do this.

Probably safe: Ohio State, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Washington, TCU

These teams generally just need about one more win, at least according to my algorithm. The big mark against several of these teams is poor conference record. Oklahoma and TCU are both currently projected to go 7-11 in Big 12 play, and Oklahoma would be projected to be fine even at 6-12. It's certainly possible that the committee will balk at those figures, as it's pretty much unprecedented for teams with those kinds of records to have tourney credentials otherwise.

Getting sketchy: St. John's, UCF, Clemson, VCU, Belmont, Texas

St. John's has 6 Q1 wins (though FWIW I'm projecting Georgetown will fall below the Q1 cutline eventually) but also has home losses to the likes of DePaul, Providence, and Xavier. Now they have two road games left: at Xavier and at DePaul that T-Rank sees as tossups. If they win at least one of those, they'll probably be okay heading into the Big East tourney in their backyard (note that home-court gives them a 1 in 5 chances of getting the auto-bid). But losing both those games is a real possibility, in which case they'd be squarely on the bubble.

UCF isn't worth discussing too much because their resumé remains largely to be written: three Q1 games still left in the regular season. Sweep those, and they might be wearing home jerseys in their first game of the tourney. Get swept and say sayonara. Anything in between and they'll be on the bubble.

Clemson is a team my algorithm likes more than most bracketographers. They lack the top-line wins (just projected to have one Quad 1) but have a good NET, good power ratings, no bad losses, SOS is fine. Their profile comps are all in, though never by much:

Obviously a win today over UNC will seal the deal. But if they just win the games they're supposed to, my algorithm will likely continue to favor them. I'd generally trust the conventional wisdom over my algorithm, but this could end up being an interesting test.

VCU and Belmont are both mids with a decent enough shot to get in even if they're knocked out in their conference tourney, as at least one of them likely will be (both projected at about 50% to win). All bubble teams should be rooting for them.

Texas is here, as I mentioned last week, because it is projected to be 16-15 at the end of the regular season. My algorithm starts punishing a team once its projected record is less than five games above .500. The punishment is pretty severe at a one game over .500, so it's pretty remarkable that Texas is still being projected on the right side of the cutline. If Texas gets two more wins, they will vault out of the bubble zone, but this is another sort of unprecedented case brewing, so it's hard to really say what would happen if Texas finishes at, say, 16-16 with five Quad 1 wins.

The Genuine Bubble: 

Minnesota needed two wins last week to feel safe, but they got one. They remain on the bubble with two Quad 1-A games remaining. One upset would likely do it for them. If not, they'll need two Big Ten tourney wins to be safe, I think.

Utah St. I still think Utah State needs to beat Nevada once, and that's basically where this 50% chance of an at-large comes from: they've got a tossup against the Wolfpack tonight. Win it, and they're in. (By the way, my algorithm's early projection of Utah State as an at-large contender, when no one else was even considering them, is why it is a cool thing.)

Alabama, like UCF, has three big Q1 games left in the regular season, so their profile is incomplete. All three are projected by T-Rank as tossups. Tune in next week, but in all likelihood they'll be on the bubble heading into their conference tournament.

Why does everyone hate Saint Mary's? This has vexed me for a while, and Ken Pomeroy mentioned it on a recent podcast. Even people who tend to root for mid majors root against Saint Mary's for some reason. I don't get it at all. People hate Saint Mary's resumé because they ain't beat nobody. I like Saint Mary's because they are, objectively, a good basketball team. They also have a great player in Jordan Ford. If they beat Gonzaga tonight, their profile will look good enough. If they don't, it won't.

Seton Hall is a team that projects in the field as of today, but they have three tough games upcoming (at Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova), and could very easily lose their first game in the conference tourney. They can definitely win their way into the field, but T-Rank foresees losses.

Furman and Lipscomb are alive. Technically. Better not to chance it though.

Temple is a team that I think many have been overrating, in terms of tourney chances. They have just one Q1 win, and only one more regular season opportunity: a Bracket Buster game against UCF on the last day of the regular season. The loser of that game could be in trouble, especially if it's Temple. That said, Temple's profile comps are 9/10 in the tourney:

Lastly, Arizona State. Bracket Matrix contributors refuse to budge on this team, despite their 28-point loss to Oregon the other night. Yes, they have a few Q1 wins (though many are giving them credit for a win over Washington that doesn't currently qualify as Q1). But they have, in the Committee's parlance, a fuckton of bad losses. And they are bad (67th at Kenpom). And their NET sucks 68th. And they'll be underdogs in their last two games, Oregon State and Arizona, both on the road. Only one team in my database has made the tourney with a sub-60 NET/RPI and a sub-60 Kenpom/Power ranking: Boston College in 2009. (That team had wins over Duke and at (eventual champ) North Carolina. Put it all together, and the profile comps are not pretty:

Now, to be fair, the comps for last year's teams were just as bleak, and the Committee decided to let that team in. As far as I can tell, that selection was based exclusively on the win at Kansas. Will a win over Kansas at home be enough this year? Maybe, but it shouldn't be—unless ASU wins a couple more games.

Bye for now!

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