BUBBLE BANTER: Wichita State is going to be Selection Sunday’s most interesting test

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This post will be updated throughout the day.

And now it gets really interesting for Wichita State (KenPom: 10, RPI: 41, CBT Bracketology Seed: 8).

The Shockers lost in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley tournament on Saturday afternoon to a Northern Iowa team that beat North Carolina, Iowa State and won at Wichita State earlier this season. That’s not a bad team that just picked off Gregg Marshall’s club, but it’s not a loss that the Shockers could afford.

Because they unequivocally do not have a profile that’s deserving of an at-large bid. Entering the day, they had just a single top 85 RPI win this season with three losses to sub-85 RPI teams. That’s never going to be enough to get a bid. Ever.

But there’s two factors at play here. For starters, Wichita State’s chances to land elite wins during non-conference play were lost when their star point guard Fred VanVleet went down with a hamstring injury in November. How does the Selection Committee account for that?

The other part of it is that Wichita State, prior to Saturday’s loss, sat at No. 10 in KenPom’s efficiency ratings. KenPom’s numbers, for those that are unaware, are widely regarded as the most accurate rating system when it comes to college basketball teams, and it’s also worth noting that there has never been a team ranked in KenPom’s top 15 that has missed out on the NCAA tournament.

There has been a pushback against the RPI in recent years, as new and better and more accurate metrics have begun to pop up all over the place, and the Selection Committee has said that they are going to be putting more of an emphasis on those metrics when bracketing. Wichita State will likely end up being the perfect test case.

Personally, I want the committee to let Wichita State in. I’ve loved watching VanVleet and Ron Baker turn Wichita State into a nationally-relevant program. The Gonzaga of the Plains, if you will. But winning and losing matters, and the Shockers just haven’t won enough.

WINNERS

  • Providence (KP: 35, RPI: 38, CBT: 8): The Friars avoided losing at St. John’s today, which means that they’re going to the NCAA tournament. More importantly, a team that was struggling now has won three straight to close the regular season. Will that right the ship as we head into March?
  • Butler (KP: 56, RPI: 47, CBT: 10): The Bulldogs beat the breaks off of Marquette on Saturday, putting them in a position where they can probably feel pretty comfortable about getting into the NCAA tournament. I still think they want to beat Providence in their Big East tournament opener, but that wouldn’t be a bad loss. My guess is they can survive it.
  • St. Bonaventure (KP: 74, RPI: 29, CBT: Play-in Game): The Bonnies avoided a loss to Saint Louis on Saturday, which was not a loss they would have been able to overcome. I think they’ll be fine as long as they avoid losing to one of the landmines that they’ll run into in the Atlantic 10 tournament.
  • Oregon State (KP: 61, RPI: 31, CBT: 10): The Beavers did themselves a favor by winning at UCLA on a night where so many other bubble teams lost. One win in the Pac-12 tournament should lock them into the field.
  • Tulsa (KP: 42, RPI: 45, CBT: Play-in Game): The Golden Hurricane are super-bubbly right now, meaning that they certainly could not afford a loss to South Florida on Saturday. They did not lose to South Florida on Saturday, and they got an added bonus of seemingly every bubble team losing. Tulsa needs to win a game or two in the AAC tournament to really feel comfortable.
  • South Carolina (KP: 57, RPI: 52, CBT: 10): South Carolina won at Arkansas on Saturday, putting them in a position where they should probably feel pretty comfortable about their tournament standing. I think they can probably withstand a loss early in the SEC tournament, but as always, I’d strongly recommend not doing that.
  • Florida (KP: 46, RPI: 54, CBT: First Four Out): Florida beat Missouri on Saturday, which is not going to help their profile but certainly means that the Gators won’t have another landmine to their name. Florida, unfortunately, does not currently have enough good wins on the résumé. They need to win one or two games in the SEC tournament to have a real chance at this thing.
  • Saint Mary’s (KP: 34, RPI: 39, CBT: 10): I’m going to go ahead and assume that they only reason I’m seeing Saint Mary’s in brackets is because they are the top seed in the WCC tournament. I have no idea how they can be a projected at-large team. They beat LMU tonight.

LOSERS

  • Vanderbilt (KenPom: 24, RPI: 46, CBT Bracketology Seed: 9): The Commodores had a chance to win a share of the SEC regular season title and all-but lock up a tournament bid with a win at No. 20 Texas A&M today. They lost, and while that is not the kind of loss that is going to drop them to the wrong side of the cut-line, it does affect their margin for error in the SEC tournament. They need to win at least one to feel comfortable, I believe.
  • Pitt (KP: 41, RPI: 44, CBT: 9): After knocking off Duke last Saturday, all the Panthers had to do to avoid becoming bubble fodder again was win one of their last two games. They couldn’t manage that, and as a result, here we are. On Saturday, Pitt lost at Georgia Tech, just a couple of days after they lost at Virginia Tech. Wins over Duke and at Notre Dame are nice, but the Panthers are not quite as safe as that No. 9 seed might indicate. I’d recommend winning a game or two in the ACC tournament.
  • VCU (KP: 38, RPI: 42, CBT: 11): VCU had a great chance to win at Dayton on Saturday night, a win that would have locked up their at-large status and given them the outright Atlantic 10 regular season title. The Rams lost, however, and while that’s not going to be a killer for their profile, it’s a step in the wrong direction. They’re on the right side of the bubble as of today, but it would be nice to see them add a win or two in the A-10 tournament to avoid the stress.
  • USC (KP: 51, RPI: 35, CBT: 10): The Trojans are probably still safe after losing to Oregon at home on Saturday, but they certainly didn’t do themselves any favors from a seeding standpoint by losing six of their last eight games. Four top 50 wins, an 11-11 record against the top 100 and no sub-100 losses should allow them to avoid the play-in game at minimum.
  • Michigan (KP: 49, RPI: 59, CBT: Play-in Game): Michigan lost to No. 16 Iowa at home on Saturday, which is the loss that I think relegates them to the NIT. Without Caris LeVert, this Michigan team just hasn’t been that good.
  • George Washington (KP: 69, RPI: 60, CBT: Next Four Out): The Colonials lost at Davidson on Saturday, putting them in a position where they probably need to earn the Atlantic 10’s automatic bid to go dancing.
  • Alabama (KP: 88, RPI: 63, CBT: First Four Out): The Crimson Tide lost at Georgia on Saturday, meaning they’ve now dropped four of their last five games. I think they need to get to at least the SEC finals to really have a chance at an at-large.
  • Ohio State (KP: 64, RPI: 76, CBT: Next Four Out): The Buckeyes needed to win at Michigan State today to really have a chance at an at-large. They lost.
  • LSU (KP: 77, RPI: 85, CBT: Next Four Out): The Tigers lost at Kentucky. They’re going to need to get that automatic bid if they want to dance.