Welcome to this week’s installment of Bubble Math, our third edition dedicated to bringing a comprehensive viewpoint comparing the resumes of all of the teams sitting on the NCAA Tournament bubble, including our beloved Colorado Buffaloes.
With another week in the books, Colorado still remains the lone team from the data to have vaulted comfortably into the tournament field, while the rest have shuffled this way and that without much sustained forward momentum. As expected, Louisiana Tech has now fallen out of bubble contention, along with West Virginia, while Florida State has played their way back into the fold.
The data set has increased by just one team this week as well (welcome, Nebraska) bringing the total number of teams to 22. With Arkansas’ big win @ Kentucky last night, you can fully expect them to join the fray in the next update, and honestly, their resume is vastly underrated, they could find themselves moving up significantly and maybe even into the field.
Speaking of big wins, a few other teams were able to notch quality victories within the past week. Minnesota re-ignited their tourney dreams with an important home win over Iowa, while the aforementioned Florida St resurrected their hopes with a road win @ Pittsburgh. The biggest win of all, though, belongs to Oregon, who went on the road and survived UCLA. Even without UCLA’s two best players available, this win pushes Oregon back into the NCAA Tournament picture.
Baylor has quietly positioned themselves nicely for a bid after a brutal 1-7 stretch in the middle of Big XII play. They’ve since won 4 of 5, and can now boast the most RPI top 50 wins (5) of any team in the data set. Additionally their 5-8 (38.5%) record vs. the RPI top 50 ranks 4th among the 22 teams in the data, and their SOS (12th nationally according to KenPom), ranks 2nd among the teams in the data.
West Virginia, while playing themselves out of bubble contention, has one of the more interesting schedule quirks of the data. The Mountaineers are 4-11 vs. the RPI top 50…which represents the most games played against teams of that caliber in the data. Interestingly, however, they own that exact same mark vs. teams in the RPI top 100, because they’ve played exactly 0 games vs. teams ranked within 51-100 in the RPI.
Colorado’s resume has taken a bit of a hit over the course of the last week. Both UCSB and Wyoming suffered losses that threw them out of the RPI top 100, and Oregon St is now teetering on the edge as well, currently 99th. Without those three RPI top 100 wins, the Buffs have regressed back to the field slightly.
Still, only Oregon owns more RPI top 100 wins, and Colorado still possesses 17 top 200 wins, the most among the teams in the data. Additionally, with Harvard sneaking back into the RPI top 50, the Buffs now own 4 RPI top 50 wins, 2nd among teams in the data, and their 4-7 (36.4%) record ranks 7th in the data set.
Speaking of Oregon, they now represent the highest ranked team to not be included in the tournament field by Lunardi using either RPI (33) or KenPom (30). That will likely change in Lunardi’s upcoming edition, it would be difficult to imagine Oregon staying out of the field after winning @ UCLA.
There’s been a lot of talk about the Buffs finishing out the regular season 0-4, finishing the Pac-12 at 9-9, and potentially missing the NCAA Tournament. This scenario is entirely possible, as the Sagarin predictor suggests there’s a nearly 30% chance the Buffs will, in fact, finish the regular season on an 0-4 skid. However, that same predictor suggests that Colorado’s RPI will remain somewhere in the 34-36 range, which would make them the highest rated RPI team to be left out of the field from a high-major conference since the RPI changed it’s formula in 2005.
In fact, here’s a look at the highest rated high-major RPI schools to be left out each season since the formula was adjusted:
- 2013: 57 – Kentucky (49th rated UConn was ineligible for the postseason)
- 2012: 57 – West Virginia
- 2011: 58 – Boston College
- 2010: 55 – Mississippi St
- 2009: 54 – Florida
- 2008: *39 – Mississippi
- 2007: 41 – Florida St
- 2006: 40 – Cincinnati
* Note: I haven’t been able to locate RPI data for the end of the regular season in 2008. Ole Miss at 39 is the lowest RPI rated school to have missed the tournament but that rating is boosted by a run in the NIT Tournament. It would be reasonable to assume that their RPI rating at the conclusion of the regular season was somewhere in the mid-40s.
As you can see, recently, teams from high-major conferences ranked within the RPI top 50 have been granted NCAA Tournament berths with extreme regularity over the past decade. Of course, the Dinwiddie injury makes Colorado’s case a little more curious, as his presence no doubt aided the Buffs throughout the early portion of the year. Without him, the Buffs have been solid, but not spectacular, and while the committee maintains that injury affects seeding rather than inclusion, Buffs fans are justifiably nervous given our recent history with the Committee.
While it would be unwise for the Buffaloes to leave their fate up to the Committee, it can’t be denied that currently, the Buffs sit in a pretty comfortable place seeding wise, and history suggests Colorado’s chances remain high for a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.