Bubble Banter: Did Virginia Tech just lock-up their NCAA tournament bid?

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
1 Comment

As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

WINNERS

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 71, KenPom: 42, NBC seed: 10): The Hokies landed the best win that you can possibly land on Saturday, going into John Paul Jones Arena and knocking off Virginia, No. 2 in the country and No. 1 in the RPI. And with that, the Hokies will no longer be on the bubble when we do this again next week. Not only do they now have four Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-6 record against the top two Quadrants, they now have two top ten wins and of their six remaining games, three more are against top ten teams and a fourth is against a top 25 opponent. Put another way, those losses are not necessarily going to hurt their profile. It’s too early to call Virginia Tech a lock for the tournament, not when they have a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS of 312, but it is not too early to say they’ll be dancing so long as they don’t do anything dumb the rest of the way.

OKLAHOMA STATE (RPI: 107, KenPom: 71, NBC seed: Out): For the second time this season, Oklahoma State went on the road and knocked off one of the best teams in the Big 12. On Saturday, it was West Virginia that the Cowboys picked off. The Pokes are just 15-10 on the season, but they are 4-7 against Quadrant 1 with just one loss outside the top two Quadrants. That was against Baylor at home. Frankly, the Pokes still have work to do, but a top ten road win and a top 25 road win keep them in the mix, and “in the mix” is far more than anyone expected out of OSU this season.

MISSOURI (RPI: 25, KenPom: 38, NBC seed: 9): The Tigers are slowly but surely playing themselves into a place where they won’t have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday. On Saturday, they blew a 12-point lead in the final 90 seconds and ended up having to head to overtime, but Kevin Puryear hit a huge three and Jordan Geist drew a critical charge as the Tigers got a win over Mississippi State. The Tigers are 5-6 against Quadrant 1 opponents and now 9-7 in Quadrant 1 and 3 games. Their only Quadrant 3 loss came on a neutral against Illinois in the Bragging Rights game.

BAYLOR (RPI: 62, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: Out): A win over Kansas at home means that we probably should talk about the Bears. They are now just 2-8 against Quadrant 1 foes with no losses to teams outside the top two Quadrants. Every game they play the rest of the way would be a Quadrant 1 win: at Texas, Texas Tech, West Virginia, at TCU, Oklahoma, at Kansas State. This thing is doable for the Fighting Scott Drews.

ARKANSAS (RPI: 35, KenPom: 44, NBC seed: 10): Arkansas did what they needed to do on Saturday, beating Vanderbilt at home. Now they need to go out and get a win at Ole Miss this week, because the end of their season is a killer: Texas A&M, Kentucky, at Alabama, Auburn, at Missouri. That’s five Quadrant 1 games.

TCU (RPI: 25, KenPom: 22, NBC seed: 10): TCU snapped a two-game losing streak and added another Quadrant 2 win to their name on Saturday night as they picked off Texas at home. The Horned Frogs are just 3-7 against Quadrant 1 foes, but they are now 4-1 against Quadrant 2 and do not have a loss beyond that.

NEBRASKA (RPI: 55, KenPom: 56, NBC seed: Next four out): The Huskers did what they needed to do: they won. If Tim Miles wants a real chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the cannot lose until they win at least one, if not two Quadrant 1 games in the Big Ten tournament. They have not won one yet this season and will not play another one during the regular season. Beating Rutgers does not help them.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 47, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bonnies handled their business against Richmond on Saturday evening, although the only reason that win helps them is because it doesn’t hurt them. The Bonnies are 3-2 in Quadrant 1 games but they also have two Quadrant 3 losses. I think they need to win out, but I think they have a shot to make up the ground if they do. They only play one top 100 team the rest of the year, but that is Rhode Island (5) at home.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (RPI: 28, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: 11): It’s simple with Middle Tennessee: They cannot lose a game unless it is to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA tournament if they want a real chance at being an at-large team. On Saturday, they beat North Texas (193).

TEMPLE (RPI: 38, KenPom: 88, NBC seed: Next four out): The Owls are still in the mix because they have some unbelievable wins — Auburn, Clemson, Wichita State — but they also have four Quadrant 3 losses. That’s not good, and that’s why they had to beat South Florida (290) on the road today. They did. I think Temple needs to go at least 4-1 down the stretch to get a bid.

LOSERS

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 47, KenPom: 73, NBC seed: 10): The Friars have six Quadrant 1 wins this season, which, in theory, should mean that they can handle taking some bad losses. But just how many can they survive? On Saturday, they suffered their third Quadrant 3 loss of the year, getting absolutely pummeled at home by DePaul. They’ve also lost at UMass and at home to Minnesota; there should be an asterisk for the Minnesota game, as the Gophers fell off a cliff thanks to injuries and off-the-court scandal. The Friars are still in a good spot, but they have more work to do than they did 24 hours ago. Their remaining schedule: Villanova, at Butler, Seton Hall, at Georgetown, at Xavier, St. John’s. They probably need at least three of those, but four would make life a lot less stressful.

WASHINGTON (RPI: 38, KenPom: 99, NBC seed: 10): It was a disastrous road trip this week for Washington. They lost at Oregon by 25 points on Thursday night and followed that up by losing in overtime at Oregon State on a Stevie Thompson buzzer-beater. That’s problematic for Washington. They have five Quadrant 1 wins, but they also now have a pair of Quadrant 3 losses. What’s worse is that they play no more Quadrant 1 games, and only three of their remaining six games come against Quadrant 2 opponents.

USC (RPI: 48, KenPom: 46, NBC seed: First four out): USC is in a much more difficult spot than many might imagine. As of today, they are probably not an NCAA tournament team. A home loss to Princeton (204) just keeps looking worse and worse, while the only two Quadrant 1 wins to their name came against mid-major foes — Middle Tennessee State and New Mexico State. I have a feeling that giving away a win at Arizona State on Thursday night is going to end up hurting this team more than people think.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 60, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: First four out): Marquette dropped to 14-11 on the season losing at St. John’s on Saturday. The Golden Eagles have now lost five of their last six games and sit at 3-9 against Quadrant 1 teams; believe it or not, after starting Big East play with 11 straight losses, St. John’s is now a Quadrant 1 loss. So this isn’t the killer for Marquette you might think it is, but the Golden Eagles certainly need to start stacking some wins and quick.

BOISE STATE (RPI: 34, KenPom: 48, NBC seed: First four out): Boise State is in trouble after losing at Utah State on Saturday night. They don’t have a Quadrant 1 win and have just five Quadrant 2 wins. The good news? Beating Boise means that Utah State is now a Quadrant 2 loss (130), so I still think winning out — which would include beating Nevada at home — might be enough.

MISSISSIPPI STATE (RPI: 56, KenPom: 61, NBC seed: Next four out): The Bulldogs had their four-game winning streak snapped at Missouri in a tough way. After coming back from 12 down in the final 90 seconds, Mississippi State was whistled for an offensive foul on a would-be game-winning three that went in. As a result, they still have just two Quadrant 1 wins and a non-conference SOS in the 300s.

UCLA (RPI: 50, KenPom: 49, NBC seed: Last four in): The Bruins were playing with house money on Saturday after they picked off Arizona in Tucson on Saturday, and it looked like it. Arizona State was in control throughout as the Bruins dropped to 2-4 against Quadrant 1 opponents. The big issue right now for UCLA is that four of their eight losses come outside Quadrant 1 — including one Quadrant 3 loss — but the good news is that their last three games are all Quadrant 1 games: at Utah, at Colorado, at USC.

KANSAS STATE (RPI: 65, KenPom: 57, NBC seed: 11): Losing to Texas Tech, the current leaders in the Big 12 title race, is hardly a bad loss. But where this might end up costing the Wildcats is that this was their last chance to land a Quadrant 1 win at home. Their remaining three home games: Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State. If they can’t win at Oklahoma or at TCU, then K-State will be heading into Selection Sunday with four Quadrant 1 wins, a Quadrant 3 loss and a non-conference SOS in the 320s.

BUTLER (RPI: 34, KenPom: 21, NBC seed: 9): Butler is sitting in a pretty good spot right now. All nine of their losses are to Quadrant 1 opponents, but they have just a 3-9 record in Quadrant 1 games after blowing a 13-point lead at Villanova on Saturday. If Butler goes 2-3 down the stretch, they should probably be in with room to spare.

N.C. STATE (RPI: 71, KenPom: 60, NBC seed: Play-in game): Like Butler, where N.C. State really hurt themselves was opportunity cost. They had a chance to land a marquee win against North Carolina and just could not get enough stops down the stretch. The Wolfpack have a number of great wins (at North Carolina, Duke, Clemson, Arizona) but are in a bit of a tough spot because of three Quadrant 3 losses and a less-than-stellar non-conference SOS. Four wins down the stretch should get the job done.