Bubble Banter: A rant about Wofford and paying attention to what the NET is telling us

Lance King/Getty Images
1 Comment

February is here!

And now that we are nearly halfway through conference play, it is time for us to get fully invested in the “who’s-in-who’s-out” discussion. Bubble Banter has never been more important!

Some quick housekeeping before we dive into it:

  • This page will be updated throughout the night. 
  • We’ll update them best that we can, but the NET rankings will be accurate through Thursday morning. 
  • If you see something we missed, if you have an issue with a team we left out or if you want to congratulate us on a job well done, drop a comment below or hit us up here: @RobDauster.
  • This morning, our Dave Ommen released an updated bracket. It is the only bracket you need to be up to date on. 

Onto Thursday’s action.

As of this very moment, Wofford is a top 30 team in the NET rankings, and that is before they play a road game at East Tennessee State (65) on Thursday night, a mid-major battle between two of the SoCon’s best that could play a major role in whether or not the Terriers get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The issue with Wofford this year, the reason why they are not ever going to be viewed as a lock for the NCAA tournament, is because of the lack of high-end wins on their resume. They only have one Q1 win, they haven’t beaten any teams ranked in the top 50 in the NET and they are just 4-4 in Q1 and Q2 games. Even with a Q1 win over ETSU on Thursday, they will only have two Q1 wins to their name, and both of them came on the road against league opponents. They have beaten South Carolina on the road, but the Gamecocks are not currently a top 100 team.

Put another way, Wofford does not have a marquee win.

This brings me to a point that I think we haven’t discussed enough, but one that has to be considered in a year like this when evaluating the dregs of the bigger leagues vs. the powerhouse mid-majors.

When the Selection Committee is evaluating programs that don’t get a dozen chances at Q1 wins, they should feel an obligation to put more stock into where those teams are slotted in the NET, especially if they are ranked as high as Wofford (29) — or Buffalo (23), or Lipscomb (31), or Utah State (33) — is ranked. Those mid-major programs are not going to get anywhere near the same number of chances to pick off the big boys that teams in power conferences will. Their resume is not going to look anything like the resume of, say, Oklahoma, or Indiana, or N.C. State. High-majors are going to get chance after chance after chance to land Q1 and Q2 wins, and it is because of their conference affiliation.

Wofford won’t.

Which is why the selection committee has to heavily weigh the NET. I know that metric was meant as a sorting tool, but the point of that sorting is so that we can accurately determine just how good a win is, no? So if Wofford is considered a better win than Kansas State, Baylor, N.C. State, Ohio State, Nebraska, Texas, St. John’s, TCU (should I go on), then doesn’t that mean we should consider them a better team?

If that’s not what the NET is saying, then please, enlighten me.

As long as there is a committee of human beings in a room picking out who is the best team based on the quantity of quality wins on a resume, mid-major teams are never going to get a fair shake. That is the entire point of having metrics that are built efficiency-based and scheduled-adjusted. It is the great equalizer. It allows us to compare what Wofford is doing in the SoCon to what Florida is doing in the SEC in ways that our puny human brains can’t comprehend.

The NCAA invested all this money in coming up with a metric to determine, as accurately as possible, who the best teams in college basketball are.

They should probably pay attention to it when it’s telling them these mid-major teams are really damn good.

WINNERS

WOFFORD (NET: 29, SOS: 128): The Terriers kept their at-large hopes alive by knocking off ETSU on the road. That is now two Q1 wins, with their only losses coming to high-major tournament teams.

OHIO STATE (NET: 35, SOS: 42): The Buckeyes tried to give this one away. In the final minute, Penn State’s go-ahead basket with 33 seconds left was waived off for coming after the shot clock and the game-tying layup with 19 seconds left rolled off of the rim. The Buckeyes are in good shape right now. They have three Q1 wins — all of which came on the road — and while they had a bit of a losing streak to start Big Ten play, their worst loss is at Rutgers (124), which is just a Q2 loss.

LOSERS

ARIZONA STATE (NET: 61, SOS: 63): You have got to be kidding me. Not only did Arizona State lose the game they couldn’t afford to lose, they got run out of their own gym. By Washington State. Who ranks 230th in the NET, a Q4 loss as bad as any that you’ll see for a team on the bubble to couple with Q3 home losses to Utah (91) and Princeton (159). We had Arizona State as a No. 9 seed entering the day, and I’d probably still have them in without being in a play-in game now, but this is the kind of loss that can drop them multiple seed lines, it’s that bad.

Take it away Khaled:

INDIANA (NET: 44, SOS: 41): After snapping their seven-game losing streak by going into East Lansing and picking off Michigan State, the Hoosiers followed that up by … taking a loss at home to Iowa in a game they never led in the final 30 minutes. The Hoosiers continue to have a resume that makes no sense. They have already played 11 Q1 games, and while they’ve lost eight of them, the Hoosiers also have a trio of wins that can match anyone — at Michigan State (9), Louisville (15), Marquette (21). They are 5-10 in Q1 and Q2 games and their worst loss — at Rutgers (124) — is just a Q2 loss.

The truth is that Indiana’s tournament future is going to be determined by whether or not they can fully turn this thing around. They actually played better against Iowa, but they missed some shots on critical second half possessions that stalled their comeback. We’ll see where this leads, but I do think that Indiana is still pretty comfortably in the tournament as of today.

ARIZONA (NET: 64, SOS: 66): After losing at home to Washington on Thursday, Arizona has now lost four in a four and five of their last six. They have just one win against a top 70 team — Iowa State (13) in Maui — and sit here today with a 4-9 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents. The biggest issue is that this was the last time that the Wildcats play a top 60 team, and their only two remaining Q1 games are road games against the Oregon schools, who are currently sitting outside the top 70.

UCF (NET: 42, SOS: 119): The Knights missed out on another chance to land a Q1 win, dropping a home game to Houston (7) in a game that wasn’t as close as the 77-68 final. It’s simple for UCF: they have the resume of a mid-major team. They are 0-2 against Q1 opponents, they are 3-4 in Q1 and Q2 games and their best win is Alabama (45) at home. Oh, and should I mention the Q4 home loss to FAU (166)?

SAN FRANCISCO (NET: 50, SOS: 138): It was probably a stretch keeping the Dons in bubble contention entering today, but after a loss at Gonzaga on Thursday night — their third straight loss — USF now officially needs to win the automatic bid to dance.