BUBBLE BANTER: What should we make of the Atlantic 10’s bubble teams?

(AP Photo/Skip Rowland)
1 Comment

Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 57, RPI: 30) is in a bit of a precarious position as we head into the second half of conference play. For a team with excellent computer numbers — particularly in the RPI — the Hawks have a total lack of quality wins.

Regardless of whether you use KenPom’s metrics or the RPI, as of this very moment, Phil Martelli’s club has a single win over a team ranked in the top 75. That would be Princeton, whose numbers are almost assured to go down as the Tigers work their way through the Ivy League schedule. And here’s the other problem: They only have one more chance to land a marquee win during regular season play. That would be a home date with Dayton on February 17th, and depending on how the rest of the season plays out, George Washington, St. Bonaventure and Davidson could all end up being RPI top 50 opponents.

But the bottom-line is that Saint Joseph’s is in the conversation as a bubble team simply because their profile is devoid of bad losses. That’s what tends to happen when you have just three top 100 wins, and that’s what makes Wednesday night’s loss to St. Bonaventure concerning. The Hawks can only survive so many league losses, and dropping a home game against a top 100 opponent makes their margin for error just that much more thin.

And it also brings up an interesting debate: The Hawks don’t have the profile of a surefire NCAA tournament team, but according to the RPI, they’re the best win that both VCU (KenPom: 27, RPI: 31) and St. Bonaventure (KenPom: 61, RPI 60) have landed this season. In fact, the only top 50 wins that any of those three teams have this season are when the Rams and the Bonnies won at St. Joe’s.

What do you make of a team whose profile is built around beating a team that figured out a way to game the RPI?

It’s worth noting that none of those three teams have lost to an opponent ranked outside the top 100 — and there’s something to be said for avoiding ugly losses — and VCU has managed to cobble together six top 100 wins in total and currently sit all alone at 9-0 atop the Atlantic 10 standings. But at the end of the day, it’s not difficult to envision a situation where all three of these teams end up sweating out Selection Sunday if they can’t land that marquee win against Dayton.

WINNERS

  • Florida (KenPom: 21, RPI: 20): The Gators followed up their blowout win against West Virginia by adding another top 100 win over Arkansas at home. The Gators have terrific computer numbers — bolstered by a non-conference schedule that ranked second nationally — but they’re just 6-7 against the top 100 with a single top 50 win against teams not named Saint Joseph’s. The Gators are in a great spot, but their work isn’t done yet.
  • George Washington (KenPom: 81, RPI: 52): The Colonials added a nice home win over Davidson on Wednesday night, upping their record against the top 100 to 5-2. The problem? They have three sub-100 losses, including DePaul and Saint Louis. That win over Virginia keeps GW right there on the cutline, but they need to add a couple more quality wins. Saturday’s trip to Richmond to take on league leader VCU is enormous.
  • Seton Hall (KenPom: 32, RPI: 45): The Pirates picked up a win over Marquette on Wednesday, which helps them in the sense that a loss would have really hurt them. The Pirates have a win at Providence and are the last team to beat (a then-healthy) Wichita State. A non-conference strength of schedule and just four total top 100 wins means that Kevin Willard still has some work left to do to ensure his first trip to the NCAA tournament.
  • No. 23 Arizona (KenPom: 19, RPI: 35): By beating Washington State on Wednesday, the Wildcats avoided a loss in the only game they have left on their schedule that could be considered a “bad loss”. But, as I wrote earlier today, the Wildcats’ only two top 50 wins came against the teams ranked No. 49 and No. 50 in the RPI and their marquee wins from the non-conference — at Gonzaga, UNLV, Boise State twice — all look far more mediocre than they did win those wins occurred. This win means Arizona should be OK. But their margin for error is smaller than you may realize.
  • Washington (KenPom: 75, RPI: 50): The Huskies picked up a nice home win over Arizona State in overtime, overcoming a double-digit deficit in the first half for the win. Washington’s profile is very much strengthened by Texas and USC continuing to get better, but with losses to Oakland and UC Santa Barbara, the Huskies have some work left to do. They’ll have the chance — six of their next seven games are against RPI top 50 teams, with the seventh coming against RPI
    No. 55 Stanford.

LOSERS

  • Notre Dame (KenPom: 31, RPI: 33): The Irish fell on the road against Miami on Wednesday, which is anything-but a bad loss. In fact, Notre Dame doesn’t have one of those on its résumé as of today, as all seven of their losses have come to teams ranked in the RPI top 50. (That will likely change unless Alabama makes a crazy turnaround.) They also have a win over Iowa, that keeps looking better and better, and a win at Duke. They do need to add to their collection of top 100 wins to fill out their profile, but with all eight of their remaining games coming against top 100 teams, they’ll have chances to do just that.
  • Creighton (KenPom: 45, RPI: 103): The Bluejays were blown out by Villanova in Philly on Wednesday night. Between their current RPI, the loss to Loyola (IL) and their non-conference strength of schedule (284th), it may be time to remove Creighton from the conversation.
  • Kansas State (KenPom: 41, RPI: 47): I still think Kansas State has a chance to dance. Between their solid computer numbers and the myriad of good wins left on their schedule, they’re not out of it by any means. Losing at Kansas on Wednesday didn’t help their cause.