WASHINGTON, D.C. — This is the win that Saint Joseph’s (KenPom: 48, RPI: 30) needed.
Entering Wednesday night, the Hawks were a paper tiger, a team with terrific computers numbers despite the fact that they hadn’t actually accomplished much of anything this season.
Well, that’s not exactly true. They are now 20-4 on the season and 10-2 in the Atlantic 10. They haven’t lost to anyone ranked outside the RPI top 50, and while that seems like it should be a simple thing to do, upsets happen all the time in college basketball. Not losing to anyone that stinks is one of the marks of a good team.
The problem, however, is that prior to their trip to Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, the best win that St. Joe’s had on the season … Princeton? At Temple? They were without an RPI top 50 win and, if you factor in Buffalo, the Hawks and three top 100 wins on their résumé.
That’s not exactly the stuff of at-large bids.
And then Wednesday happened, and the Hawks went into the Smith Center and hammered a good George Washington team by 18 points, the same GW team that went into Richmond on Saturday and handed VCU their first loss of the conference season.
It looks like nothing more than a top 50 road win on their profile, but for at least one person that was in attendance (Hi!), it was something of a statement win. I had my doubts about the group, and while the eye-test is totally subjective and probably the worst way to gauge whether or not a team is a tournament team, they certainly passed my eye-test today.
- Butler (KenPom: 41, RPI; 67): The Bulldogs landed a critical win on Wednesday night, as they went into Newark and knocked off a Seton Hall team that is probably better than you realize. That’s an RPI top 50 win on the road that’s getting added to a résumé that, entering the night, had just a single top 50 win. Period. The Bulldogs still have plenty of work to do, but with their only two bad losses coming on the road against league competition and five wins against the top 100 with four coming away from Hinkle Fieldhouse, Chris Holtmann’s club has positioned themselves nicely to not only get a bid but get a solid seed as well.
- Texas Tech (KenPom: 59, RPI: 51): The Red Raiders kept their hopes of an at-large bid alive by beating an undermanned Iowa State team in Lubbock. The Cyclones played without Jameel McKay, but that isn’t going to be discussed by the selection committee, at least not in regards to Tech’s profile. They still have some work to do, and a home win over Oklahoma next week might be what does the trick.
- Wisconsin (KenPom: 51, RPI: 62): Don’t look now, but the Badgers have won six straight games. Included in that stretch? Michigan State and Indiana. Greg Gard’s group is still a ways away from really being a bubble threat — that’s what happens when you have four sub 100 losses, two of which are sub-150 and one of which is against Western Illinois and their 272nd RPI. But Wisconsin, after beating Nebraska, is now firmly back on the bubble of the bubble. So good for them, I guess.
- Marquette (KenPom: 103, RPI: 106): The Golden Eagles knocked off Providence despite 42 points from Ben Bentil in Milwaukee, giving them a sweep of the Friars. This puts Marquette back in striking distance of the bubble, but they still have quite a bit of work left to do. Their 6-8 record against the top 100 isn’t bad, the loss to DePaul is and that 306 non-conference strength of schedule is a major black eye on their profile. Between the regular season and the Big East tournament, I think Marquette needs seven more wins to get in.
- Tulsa (KenPom: 61, RPI: 65): The Golden Hurricane are also back in the conversation after they landed their third top 50 win of the season, going into Dallas and picking off SMU.
- South Carolina (KenPom: 45, RPI: 28): The Gamecocks beat LSU in Columbia on Wednesday night, a win that probably is better in real life than it looks on an NCAA tournament profile. The reason that South Carolina is even in the bubble conversation is that they have just one top 50 win. But this will be their eighth top 100 win, compared to just three losses, none of which are sub-100.
- Michigan (KenPom: 46, RPI: 56): The Wolverines just needed to avoid losing to Minnesota to keep themselves on the right side of the bubble. They did that, although the final score was much closer than any Wolverine fan would have liked.
- Vanderbilt (KenPom: 35, RPI: 58): Like Michigan, Vanderbilt just needed to avoid the résumé disaster that would be a loss to Missouri. They did just that. Kudos.
- LSU (KenPom: 53, RPI: 76): LSU’s NCAA tournament profile will remain one of the most intriguing in college hoops after the Tigers lost to South Carolina on the road. This was a chance for the Tigers to make a statement, to go into Columbia while in sole possession of first place in the SEC and beat a South Carolina team that is currently sitting in the top 30 of the RPI. They didn’t, which means that the Tigers are now 15-9 on the season with just one of their six top 100 wins coming against the top 50. That said, LSU’s terrible losses don’t look so terrible these days; from an RPI perspective, Marquette — who is currently 106th in the RPI — is their worst loss. And that non-conference strength of schedule that was one of the ten worst in all of college basketball? It’s now right around 200 after playing Oklahoma, which isn’t good but also isn’t embarrassingly bad. I think the Tigers are in, and fairly comfortably as of today.
- Seton Hall (KenPom: 31, RPI: 37): Losing to Butler certainly doesn’t help Seton Hall’s cause, but this isn’t a bad loss. The Pirates are still without a sub-100 loss, although this does drop them to 6-7 against the RPI top 100 with a pair top 50 wins. They’re still in the tournament as of today, and probably with some room to spare.
- Washington (KenPom: 80, RPI: 57): Relatively speaking, even with a road loss to Utah, the Huskies are still in decent shape. They have three top 30 wins, they’re 7-8 against the top 100 and they really have just won terrible loss. Combine that with the fact that they still play at Colorado, get the Bay Area schools at home and have the Oregon trip coming up, and the Huskies will have the chances to earn their bid. The problem? Each of those five games are losable as well.
- George Washington (KenPom: 71, RPI: 34): There are two positives to take out of GW’s loss to Saint Joseph’s on Wednesday night: 1) The Hawks may end up being an RPI top 25 team once the numbers are crunched overnight, so this is anything but a bad loss, and 2) This 18-point drubbing will look exactly the same as a one-point loss at the buzzer in the eyes of the selection committee.
- San Diego State (KenPom: 65, RPI: 49): The Aztecs lost to Fresno State at home last night. That might be the end of their at-large bid chances.