The enormity of Tuesday night’s win for Creighton (KenPom: 39, RPI: 98) probably cannot be overstated.
Simply put, Creighton’s résumé entering the day was not close to strong enough for an at-large bid. They had just one top 50 win (at Seton Hall), a 3-8 record against the top 100, a non-conference strength of schedule in the 300s and a loss to Loyola (IL), who currently sits at 235th in the RPI. That’s not pretty. At all.
But the Bluejays are a perfect example of why the RPI is flawed. You see, the RPI doesn’t factor in margin of victory, and margin of victory matters. You lose to a team by 30, that team is probably way better than you. You lose to them on a shot at the buzzer, and that’s a totally different story everyone except for the RPI. That’s why KenPom’s rankings are a valuable tool, and KenPom has Creighton slotted in at 39th. That different is the result of four one-possession losses that the Jays have suffered, three of which came against RPI top 75 opponents … and one of which was against Loyola (IL).
In other words, Creighton is roughly four shots away from being on the right side of the bubble.
And after Tuesday, they’re far closer to the right side of the bubble than they were before. Xavier is a top ten RPI win, one that they can pin at the top of their profile. It certainly doesn’t mean their work is done, not by any stretch. I’d wager that Creighton needs, at the very least, five wins in their last six games and the Big East tournament to have a real shot on Selection Sunday. That’s what happen when you play a bad schedule and lose too many close games.
It won’t be easy — they still have to play at Marquette, at Butler, at Providence and at Xavier — but the chances are there.
- No. 25 Wichita State (KenPom: 12, RPI 41): The Shockers did what they needed to do on Tuesday, blowing out a bad Drake team on the road. Wichita State is good, but given the lack of quality wins on their profile, I’m not sure they can afford two more losses.
- Florida (KenPom: 28, RPI: 23): The Gators finished off their sweep of Ole Miss on Tuesday, picking up their seventh top 100 win of the season in the process. With just one sub-100 loss (at Tennessee, who may not be outside the top 100 by Selection Sunday) and terrific schedule numbers, the Gators likely just need to win the games their supposed to win to get a bid. In other words, they’re playing seeding more than they are for a bid.
- Cincinnati (KenPom: 63, RPI: 31): The Bearcats beat UCF on Tuesday, a win that does nothing for them beyond guaranteeing they won’t lose to UCF. Cincinnati does have three top 50 wins, two of which came on the road, but a 4-6 record against the top 100 is not great. Like Creighton, Cincinnati’s KenPom numbers are far more impressive than their RPI numbers.
- Georgia (KenPom: 80, RPI: 64): The Bulldogs better hope that no selection committee members were watching on Tuesday as they were absolutely manhandled by Kentucky. Embarrassed. Georgia has just one top 75 win (South Carolina) and a 4-9 record against the top 100. The good news? A top ten non-conference strength of schedule gives Georgia some margin for error.
- Pittsburgh (KenPom: 53, RPI: 41): The Panthers blew a chance to land a key road win on Tuesday night, losing by two at Miami. A win would have been huge for a team that still is trying to fill out the top of their profile. They do have four top 50 wins, three away from home, but they’re 5-6 against the top 100 and they’ve lost five of their last eight games. More than anything, this group needs to simply turn that trend around.