BUBBLE BANTER: Florida’s big win, Butler in some real trouble following loss

(Matt Stamey/The Gainesville Sun via AP)
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WINNERS

Florida (Kenpom: 26, RPI: 25) wasn’t in a bad position to earn themselves an at-large bid entering this weekend. In fact, most bracket projections have them slotted somewhere around the 8-9 games. The issue with Florida’s profile was that the Gators didn’t have any marquee wins. They beat Saint Joseph’s, a team with great computer numbers that may not actually be a top three team in the Atlantic 10. They also picked wins over LSU, Georgia, Auburn and at Ole Miss, all of which are, as of Saturday, top 100 wins.

On Saturday, the Gators not only beat No. 9 West Virginia, they blew the Mountaineers out in the O-Dome. Scoring difference is irrelevant when it comes to the RPI, but it matters in KenPom’s formula — which the committee is slowly but surely paying more attention to — and it matters for perception. We didn’t know what to think of the post-Billy Donovan Gators. Great computer metrics only mean so much when you lose to the five best teams you play. A dominating win over a top ten team is a good way to make a statement.

  • South Carolina (KenPom: 46, RPI: 28): The Gamecocks improved to 18-2 overall with a win over Alabama on Saturday, but here’s the crazy thing about their profile: that win over Alabama is their best win of the season, at least in terms of the RPI. South Carolina now has one top 50 win. One. They play at Texas A&M and get Kentucky and Florida at home. That’s it. Frank Martin is going to have to land two of those wins to feel safe, assuming South Carolina doesn’t get upset.
  • Syracuse (KenPom: 33, RPI: 41) picked up a home win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, a win that moved the Orange to 7-7 against the RPI top 100. The Orange have some quality wins this season — Texas A&M, at Duke, Notre Dame — and if it wasn’t for that horrid loss to St. John’s, this group probably wouldn’t need to be mentioned here.
  • Florida State (KenPom: 44, RPI: 43): The Seminoles have a stronger profile than I realized: Three RPI top 50 wins, including Virginia and at Florida, and no RPI sub-100 losses. A weak non-conference schedule means that games like Clemson at home, which Florida State won on Saturday, are critical; their margin for error is minimal.
  • Seton Hall (KenPom: 42, RPI: 54): The Pirates picked up a win against Creighton on Saturday meaning that they are still looking like they’re land right on the cut-line. Barring a loss to Marquette, St. John’s or DePaull, Seton Hall’s NCAA tournament status is going to get decided by the last week of February, when they get Providence and Xavier at home.
  • Kansas State (KenPom: 39, RPI: 42): The Wildcats knocked off Ole Miss, which is critical because it’s exactly the kind of game that they cannot afford to lose at this point. K-State’s profile is interesting: They’re 0-8 against the RPI top 25 but those are their only eight losses this year. They have one top 50 win (over Texas Tech, who is 29th in the RPI) and they beat Georgia and Ole Miss. Not exactly a Murderer’s Row. They have six more games against the top teams in the Big 12, so they’ll have chances. They need to start capitalizing on them.
  • UCLA (KenPom: 67, RPI: 58): The Bruins are only winners in the sense that they didn’t lose to Washington State … again. It’s tough to know what to make of UCLA’s profile at this point, but with nine games left and all of them against teams ranked in the top 60 of the RPI, what their profile looks like now is irrelevant. They need to start piling up the wins.
  • San Diego State (KenPom: 74, RPI: 59): The Aztecs kept their bubble hopes alive by beating UNLV, but with just one top 50 win, one sub-300 loss and no teams in the MWC ranked in the RPI top 50, it’s going to be tough to put together a profile worthy of that at-large bid.
  • Gonzaga (KenPom: 40, RPI: 79): Like SDSU, Gonzaga avoided a loss that could have been a killer. Their status as an at-large team still hinges on whether or not they can beat SMU at SMU next month.
  • Saint Mary’s (KenPom: 20, RPI: 38): The Gaels avoided a bad loss, meaning that they’re still in the same boat. They’re going to have better computer numbers than the Zags come Selection Sunday, but they only have two RPI top 100 opponents left, and neither of them are in the top 75.

LOSERS

Butler (KenPom: 38, RPI: 60) is suddenly in a very worrisome position in terms of their bubble standing. Prior to last weekend, the reason to be bullish on the Bulldogs was that they didn’t have a bad loss on their résumé, with all five of their losses at the time coming against RPI top 25 teams. Throw in the neutral court win over Purdue and a win at Cincinnati, and there was enough in their profile to slot them in favorable at-large position.

Fast forward two weeks, and Butler has dropped roadies to Creighton and Marquette. Granted, winning on the road is a difficult thing to do in league play, but for a team that has just one top 50 win, losing to teams with sub-90 RPIs is risky business. Here’s the other concern: Butler only has two games left against the top three teams in the conference: they play Xavier at home on Feb. 13th and visit Villanova a week after that. They do get Seton Hall and Georgetown twice apiece, so it’s not like Butler’s schedule is devoid of good wins, but if they can’t land a win against Providence or Xavier, they are likely going to be heading into the Big East tournament with quite a bit of work left to do to get an at-large bid..

  • Vanderbilt (KenPom: 31, RPI: 56): The ‘Dores lost at Texas, which isn’t exactly the kind of loss that will hurt a résumé. Hell, a road game against an RPI top 25 opponent might actually bump their RPI up a bit. The missed opportunity hurts — Vandy is 2-7 against the top 50, albeit without a sub-100 loss — but the way this group played is perhaps more concerning. For a team with a potential first round pick at the point and at center, a slew of shooters and a coach with the reputation of Kevin Stallings on the offensive end of the floor, Vandy managed just 16 first half points and will likely slide out of the KenPom top 100 in offensive efficiency. This group is trending towards the cut-line. Are they actually going to be good enough to pick up the wins they need? They get Texas A&M twice, Kentucky at home and Florida on the road. My guess is they need at least two of those.
  • Georgetown (KenPom: 53, RPI: 70): The Hoyas missed another opportunity to land a quality win on Saturday, falling to Providence by four at home. Georgetown has one of the best wins any team will land this season — at Xavier — but with just four top 100 wins and loss to UNC Asheville and Radford, this group needs to start landing some of the marquee wins. The good news? They’ll have plenty of chances.
  • St. Joseph’s (KenPom: 49, RPI: 32): Like South Carolina, the Hawks have a terrific record (18-3) but no real substance in their profile. They’ve lost to the three best teams they’ve played and can count Princeton and Temple as their best wins. A visit from Dayton next month is looking like a must-win.
  • LSU (KenPom: 63, RPI: 74): Losing to Oklahoma is a killer for LSU. not because a loss to the No. 1 team in the country hurts their profile, but because a win over the nation’s No. 1 team — a win that LSU would’ve had until Buddy Hield went crazy — would have put the Tigers on the right side of the bubble.
  • Creighton (KenPom: 35, RPI: 93): The Bluejays are a better team than their at-large profile says, but moral victories don’t get factored into the NCAA tournament selection process. Creighton lost to Seton Hall on Saturday, and having lost four games by one possession this season, the Bluejays cannot afford to lose winnable games.
  • Clemson (KenPom: 52, RPI: 81): The Tigers lost at Florida State, which isn’t exactly a killer considering that FSU is a top 50 RPI team right now. Clemson has an interesting profile: Six RPI top 50 wins but two RPI sub-150 losses. The biggest issue? A non-conference strength of schedule of 335.
  • Stanford (KenPom: 96, RPI: 50): The Cardinal are another one of these teams with just enough good wins to keep them in the picture because they don’t have a bad loss on their résumé. Losing at Utah certainly doesn’t qualify as a bad loss, but if Johnny Dawkins’ club is going to go dancing, they need to start landing some of these quality wins. Right now, they’re 2-9 against the top 50.
  • Oregon State (KenPom: 84, RPI: 52): The Beavers lost at Arizona, meaning that they are without a bad loss this season. Barring a loss to Washington State next month, they’ll end the season without a sub-100 loss. The problem? They’re just 4-8 against the RPI top 100.