There will undoubtedly be some statements made regarding how weak this year’s bubble is. It’s the same deal every year. Comparing 2013 to 2014 is a good start. I will reference a few of the Crotistics metrics which are great predictors of seeding in the post below including Win Strength and Strength of Schedule.
WIN STRENGTH: This is a formula that is a recursive calculation based on teams you have played to date. Currently there are 351 teams in Division 1. If you have beaten the #1 ranked team you get 351 points. This is a declining score, so if you beat the #351 team, it is only worth 1 point. Losses work in reverse. A loss to the #1 ranked team is only -1 point, while a loss to the #351 team would be worth -347 points. The average of the sum of these points is a team’s “Win Strength”. This correlates extremely highly with seeding
SOS: I use a geometric average instead of an arithmetic average. What does this mean? This means that if you’ve played the #1 team and the #100 team, your strength of schedule is viewed as being more difficult than a team that has played the #30 team and the #40 team. An arithmetic average views the second example as the more difficult schedule.
Let’s take a look at a few:
The Mustangs are trying to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over 20 years. For a while, it looked like they would be in pretty good shape, but a recent loss at bottom feeder Temple has changed things. SMU has done well at home, but they haven’t proven much away from home. They still travel to UCONN and Memphis and play Louisville at home. The opportunities will be there to get it done.
Best 2013 Comparison: Middle Tennessee
This may seem surprising, but SMU is virtually identical to Middle Tennessee’s 2013 profile right now. They have a Tier 2 SOS and a Tier 4 Win Strength, just as Middle Tennessee did last year. SMU has a worse win % against a somewhat tougher Schedule. SMU has some better wins, but overall these two teams end up with virtually identical numbers. The Cro-Curve projected Middle Tennessee as the last team to miss the field of 68, which was only 1 spot off from their true position on the seed curve. The current Crotistics projection has SMU as one of the final 4 teams in.
There’s really not much talk about the Razorbacks as a legitimate at-large contender. In the most recent Bracket Matrix, only 2 of 89 brackets had Arkansas in the field. They sport a solid, yet unspectacular 17-9 record, and have won only 3 games away from home. These are typical bubble team numbers. They got a home win against Kentucky, as well as a home win against the aforementioned SMU. Other than that, they pretty much beat the teams they should have and lost to the teams they should have. Losses at Texas A&M and Georgia don’t help their case.
Best 2013 Comparison: Maryland
No team with a Tier 5 Win Strength in 2013 received an at-large bid. Likewise, Maryland played a tough schedule but did not have enough. At some point, you have to beat someone, and win some solid games on the road. Minnesota and Vanderbilt are nice wins away from home, but they probably will need more. Winning at Mississippi St. and Alabama are probably musts if this team wants to get an at-large bid. Crotistics had Maryland as one of the last 4 out last year, and they missed the tournament. Likewise, we currently project Arkansas as one of the final teams to miss the field.
The Ducks are another team that has kind of a funky profile. They cleaned house in the non-conference slate and were ranked in the top 10 in the country! Now they’re on the bubble, despite staying healthy. This certainly will be yet another interesting case to see how much conference record comes into play, as Oregon is currently only 5-8 and in 10th place in the Pac-12. Some have Oregon in while others have Oregon out. But their conference losses aren’t terrible. They lost by 2 at Arizona, by 9 at Colorado, by 2 at Arizona St., by 2 at home to UCLA, by 4 at Washington, by 2 at home to Stanford. They’re in virtually every game, but just can’t seem to pull off a big road win.
Best 2013 Comparison: North Carolina St.
No team with a Tier 3 Win Strength missed the tournament in 2013. The Wolfpack’s 2013 profile compares very similarly to Oregon here, only without a marquee win. Oregon’s best win to date is a home win over BYU. Crotistics projected NC St. last year at #31 on the seed curve, which is just one spot away from their true placement. Right now, Crotistics has Oregon at #36, which may be a little bit high. Regardless, the Ducks last 3 losses have come against 2 top 25 teams and another projected in the field by a combined 6 points. They should be one of the best at-large teams on Selection Sunday, and barring a collapse, it would be surprising not to see Oregon in the field.