I spent some time on the podcast this week lamenting how week the bubble is this season and how this year, more than any other year that I can remember, the bubble is particularly atrocious.
You can hear that around the 18:00 mark below.
But I wanted to elaborate on it, because I found some data that can back this up more than just anecdotally.
Torvik, which is a college hoops analytics database similar to KenPom and KPI, has a metric that he calls “bid%” that, based on things like the NET, a team’s resume and their power rating, determines a number that projects how likely it is that team will get into the NCAA tournament. It’s not a crystal ball, but it is a way to objectively compare and contrast just how good teams are, year over year, on the bubble.
So let’s take a look at it, shall we?
In 2018, there were three teams with a bid% of at least 69 that did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and five total with a bid% over 45 that were relegated to the NIT: USC (75.4), Louisville (69.3), Saint Mary’s (69.3), Middle Tennessee (47) and Marquette (45.1).
If the tournament started today, there would be as many as five projected at-large teams with a bid% under 45.
Now, some of that depends on teams like Nevada, Gonzaga, Wofford and VCU winning their automatic bid, which would eliminate bid thieves from the equation. Assuming that does happen, the bid%s for the last five teams projected by NBC Sports to receive at-large bids to the tournament this season are: Seton Hall (38), Butler (20.8), UCF (52), Oklahoma (68.1) and Temple (15.7). Georgetown (5.9) and UNC Greensboro (9.7) are projected as the first two teams out.
There’s your objective evidence.
The bubble, mathematically speaking, sucks.
To the action:
ST. JOHN’S (NET: 49, SOS: 64): The Johnnies picked up another Q2 win on Tuesday, beating Butler in overtime at home. They re now 4-4 against Q1 and 4-1 against Q2 with a pair of Q3 losses. As of today, they are in a pretty good spot, but they’ll get their last shot as beating one of the Big East’s elite on Sunday when they host Villanova.
BUFFALO (NET: 22, SOS: 95): I’ve put Buffalo in the conversation here simply because they play in a league where a loss would really hurt them, and one of their big wins during non-conference play — at West Virginia — has become pretty unremarkable. The Bulls have some margin for error, but not as much as they did two months ago.
ALABAMA (NET: 43, SOS: 23): The Crimson Tide got smoked on the road by Mississippi State on Tuesday night, dropping them to 2-6 in Q1 games. They do have six Q2 wins, but a trio of Q3 losses weighs their profile down. A win over Kentucky is going to hold value the rest of the season, however, and Avery Johnson’s team will get two more chances at Q1 wins at home in the last week of the season.
ARKANSAS (NET: 62, SOS: 44): When you’re trying to make up ground on the bubble, the last thing you want to do is lose to a team like Missouri, but that’s exactly what the Razorbacks did on Tuesday night. That said, a win at LSU is going to look even better after LSU won at Kentucky, but just two Q2 wins is not going to be enough. For comparison’s sake, Alabama has two Q1 wins and six Q2 wins. Arkansas has just three Q1 and Q2 wins total.
BUTLER (NET: 53, SOS: 29): Butler missed on a great chance to add another Q1 win to their resume on Tuesday night when they lost in overtime at St. John’s. As it stands, they just don’t have much at the top end of their profile to talk about. Butler is 1-7 against Q1 — with the one being a neutral court win over a Florida team that beat them by 34 on the road — and they lost to Georgetown at home. Winning at either Marquette or Villanova is a requirement.
TEXAS (NET: 33, SOS: 7): Texas fell at home to Kansas State (27) in a game that would have been really nice for their resume. As it stands, the Longhorns are now 14-11 overall and 6-6 in the Big 12. The fact that they have four Q1 wins (including North Carolina, Purdue, Kansas and at Kansas State by 20) and have playing the No. 7 schedule in the country helps. Their remaining schedule is: Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma, at Baylor, Iowa State, at Texas Tech, TCU. I think 3-3 will be enough to get them in, even with a loss in the Big 12 tournament. Are you ready for a 15 loss Big 12 team to dance? Because it’s probably going to happen.