Bubble Math v3.0

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.

Bubble Math v2.0

Welcome to version 2.0 of my weekly review of the NCAA Tournament bubble.  This week’s data includes 21 teams (welcome Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Southern Miss).

Colorado has moved itself into the prestigious category of “Non-Bubble Seed”, becoming the first (and only) member of this data set to play it’s way firmly into the NCAA Tournament field (for now).

Four teams have since played their way out of bubble contention (Clemson, Florida State, LSU, and Ole Miss). As mentioned in the first version of this update, they will continue to be updated given the possibility of their re-inclusion at a later date.  With Louisiana Tech losing @ East Carolina this week, you can expect them to fall off the bubble in Lunardi’s upcoming bracket projection as well, and I’d be surprised to see them become a factor moving forward.

Here’s what the data tells us:

– Here are the records of the 21 teams in the data vs…

  • RPI Top 50: 47-106 (30.7%) — Colorado: 3-6 (33.3%)
  • RPI Top 100: 114-152 (42.9%) — Colorado: 9-7 (56.3%)
  • RPI Top 200: 241-184 (56.7%) — Colorado: 17-7 (70.8%)
  • On the Road: 74-101 (42.3%) — Colorado 4-4 (50.0%)

– Florida St is currently the highest ranked team left out of the field using either KenPom (41) or RPI (60) as your metric of choice.  The Seminoles are just 4-10 vs. the RPI Top 100, the worst such record among all teams in the data.

– Southern Miss remains the only team in the data without an RPI top 50 win.  In fact, they’ve played just one team (Louisville) ranked among the top 50, and just five games vs. opponents in the top 100.  Only them, and Louisiana Tech (6), have played less than 11 games vs. RPI top 100 opponents.

– Colorado, now 4-4 on the road, ranks fifth in the data set in road win %, and first among the 16 high-major teams in the data.

– Oklahoma St, once considered to be one of the nation’s elite teams, has now lost seven straight games, and their numbers don’t reflect an NCAA Tournament team. They are just 12-10 vs. the RPI top 200, and sit just 6-9 vs. the RPI top 100, in the bottom half in both categories among teams in the data.

– According to Sagarin’s predictor model, Colorado will not be favored in any of their four remaining games, and the Buffs have a 20.11% chance to finish the regular season 0-4.  But don’t jump off the cliff just yet Buffs fans, the model also suggests that scenario would see the Buffs finish 35th in the RPI.  Why is that significant?  No high-major conference team ranked that high has EVER been excluded from the NCAA Tournament.  Cincinnati (40) is the highest team to be excluded since the RPI formula was tweaked in 2004-05.

– So what does Colorado need to do in order to 100% solidify their NCAA Tournament berth? The answer is simple, win a game. That scenario suggests that Colorado will finish with an RPI in the 20s, and only Missouri St (21) has been excluded from the tournament with an RPI below 30.  Of course, Colorado being in a high-major conference makes that possibility virtually unfathomable.  Not to mention Colorado would be at worst 10-8 in the nation’s 3rd best conference this season.  Buffs fans can celebrate in style if we find a way to win any of our last four ball games, you have my word.

– Who is the most overrated team in the data from an overall resume perspective?

To me, the answer is St. John’s, sitting in Lunardi’s “Last 4 Byes” and here’s why.  They are just 1-4 vs. the RPI top 50, and 5-7 vs. the RPI top 100.  Two of their three wins vs. teams currently in the field are against Providence and Georgetown, both of whom are in the “Last 4 In” category for the moment.

– Who owns the most difficult resume to break down?

BYU, who has wins vs. Texas, Gonzaga, and @ Stanford, while also playing Oregon, UMass, and Iowa State in their non-conference schedule.  They are 3-5 vs. the RPI top 50, and 7-5 vs. the RPI top 100, both placing them in the top 5 among teams in the data. So what’s the issue?  The Cougars have also lost five games vs. opponents ranked outside the RPI top 100, no other team in the data has lost more than three.

Have any questions, comments, or discredits to throw my way?  Find me on Twitter at @TZiskBuff





Arizona State has quickly become my least favorite Pac-12 opponent.

Led by Herb Sendek, one of the whiniest coaches in the history of history, the Sun Devils are an extremely physical group, throwing malicious elbows at every single turn.

Last year in Boulder, Jordan Bachynski did this… they called a foul…on Josh Scott.

Needless to say, the Coors Event Center was not pleased, and the Pac-12’s infamous reffing legend grew one chapter longer.

Despite being largely irrelevant on a national scale, the Sun Devil fan base has developed quite an arrogance over the past few seasons.  They’ve made the NCAA Tournament exactly 0 times since we joined the Pac-12, yet leading up to the game, their mouthy student base took to Twitter, claiming their girls’ team could beat us, and that we should have joined the Mountain West conference if we wanted to compete.

Of course, the Sun Devils had beaten Colorado three straight times, including winning in Boulder last season on a buzzer beater.  Their team deliberately celebrated in front of the student section, taunting an already irate fan base who had to watch ASU reverse clothesline Josh Scott.

Their student section has now made the news twice in recent weeks, for spitting on an Oregon assistant coach and for throwing this “fat head” at the Arizona bench.

Simply put, they’ve accomplished nothing, unless of course, you ask them. This year’s group is pretty talented, and will likely earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009, but for now, they need to look up to find us in the standings, just thinking about that fact gives me a bit of a grin.

Colorado controlled the game throughout, especially after withstanding a quick start to the half from ASU, which put them up 6.  To put it kindly, the game was an offensive struggle, as neither team surpassed 40% shooting. Askia Booker salted the game away from the free throw line, and the Buffs earned their most important victory of the season 61-52.

Why was this win so vital for Colorado?  For starters, that win marked the first win in conference against an opponent with a record above .500 in league play.  It was their first win over a quality opponent with an NCAA Tournament resume since losing Spencer Dinwiddie for the season. This win filled the biggest hole in the Buffs tournament resume to date, and now we’ve positioned ourselves well to earn a berth.

I’ve said repeatedly on Twitter and throughout blog posts that I felt the Buffs needed to finish the season 10-8 in the Pac-12 to lock in a berth to the Big Dance. With four games to go, the Buffs now have 9 conference wins, and despite facing a daunting finishing slate, they’ve given themselves a legitimate opportunity to make that dream a reality.

Further helping the Buffs is the fact that the bubble has grown increasingly weak over the past 2 weeks, very few teams are playing their way into the Tournament.  While the Buffs have won five of six, many of their fellow members of the Bubble talk have stumbled down the stretch. I always suggested that finishing 2-5 down the stretch would put the Buffs at the mercy of the Committee, which I still believe, but it also can’t be ignored that this year’s Bubble is increasingly soft, further increasing Colorado’s chance of sneaking in.

We’ll talk about this more in the second version of Bubble Math, which comes out tomorrow, but here’s a quick snap of our resume vs. BYU, who currently would be the last team to make the field according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

BYU: 18-10 (10-5)

  • RPI: 37
  • vs. Top 50 RPI: 2-5
  • vs. Top 100 RPI: 6-5
  • on the Road: 4-7
  • 100+ RPI Ls: 5 (@ Utah, @Loyola Marymount, @ Pepperdine, @ Portland, @ Pacific

Colorado: 20-7 (9-5)

  • RPI: 23
  • vs. Top 50 RPI: 3-6
  • vs. Top 100 RPI: 9-7
  • on the Road: 4-4
  • 100+ RPI Ls: None

That said, we win any remaining game down the stretch, and the argument isn’t necessary.  The Buffs have officially reached win and in territory, and they’ve got four opportunities to get it done.

GameDay on Saturday, can’t wait to see electricity in the Coors Event Center!



Bubble Math v1.0

It’s that time of year.

You know, when Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm, and the rest of the Bracketology gurus start to pop up all over your favorite network and dominate your Twitter feed with mock selections.  The nation anxiously awaits the newest version of the bracket, and those on the bubble spend hours debating why their basketball program deserves the nod over the next.

After starting the season off hot, Colorado looked poised to be able to avoid that debate this season, worrying only about WHERE they’d be seeded, and not IF they would be. A few, shall we say, unfortunate incidents later, and here we are, back in familiar territory.

For years, I’ve maintained a spreadsheet comparing nearly every valuable metric that the committee may use to compare it’s tournament teams, and this year is no different.

A few tidbits before we start:

1. The teams chosen for the data are dependent upon Joe Lunardi’s bracketology updates, where he breaks teams into categories as follows: Last 4 Byes, Last 4 In, First 4 Out, and Next 4 Out. Once the data set is built, if a team appears in ANY of these categories, their resume will be compared for the remainder of the season, even if they play their way off the bubble (either positively or negatively).

2. v1.0 of Bubble Math has a data set involving 18 teams, listed here: Colorado, Minnesota, Richmond, Oregon, Missouri, St. Joseph’s, BYU, Tennessee, Georgetown, Providence, Dayton, St. John’s, Ole Miss, Florida St, LSU, West Virginia, Clemson, and Louisiana Tech.

3.  Colorado currently holds the top spot among these bubble squads, as they are listed as the highest ranked team among the “Top 4 Byes” category, so be wary, their numbers should exceed the remainder of the field at this point from an overall resume perspective.

Without further ado, here are the most interesting facts Bubble Math v1.0 revealed:

– Colorado currently ranks 25th in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI)…easily the highest among bubble teams (Minnesota currently is 2nd among the data set, ranked 39th in RPI).

– Louisiana Tech, although 20-5, has a noticeably uninspiring resume.  At this point in the season, they are the only team in the data field that hasn’t played someone in the RPI Top 25, in fact, they’ve played just five opponents in the RPI Top 100. 13 of their wins come from teams with an RPI rating of 200+, no other team in the current data set have more than 7 such wins.

– Among the 18 teams in the data, only 3 currently have winning records on the road (Louisiana Tech, Saint Joseph’s, and Dayton). Among the 13 teams in high-major conferences, Colorado actually has the 2nd-best road record at 3-4 (Ole Miss is 4-5).

– Colorado has more RPI Top 100 wins than any other team in the data, with 8. In fact, Tennessee is the only other team that has more than 6 such wins.  Additionally, the Buffs have the most RPI Top 200 wins, with 15. No other team has more than 13.

– The spread between the Buffs ranking in RPI (25) and KenPom (59) represents the 2nd-largest among all of the teams in the data.  Only Saint Joseph’s (RPI: 45, KenPom: 81), has a larger difference of opinion.

– The 18 teams have lost a combined 28 games vs. opponents ranked outside the RPI Top 100 (Dayton and LSU have the most, with 3 apiece).  Only Georgetown and West Virginia have dropped games to opponents ranked outside the RPI Top 200.

– In road games vs. the RPI Top 50, the 18 teams in the data are a combined 2-43.

Have any other question on my data?  I’d love to discuss it with you, find me on Twitter @TZiskBuff!

I hope you enjoyed Bubble Math v1.0.



Closing Time

As you may remember, in my basketball season preview, I broke out our schedule into seven “groupings” designed to show the important stretches throughout the grind of the season.

The three game home stretch the Buffs just survived was labeled “The Rebound”, highlighting an opportunity for Colorado to gain some ground on the field within the conference. While the season has had some rather noteworthy bumps in the road, Colorado was able to successfully navigate that portion of the schedule. They now sit in a 3rd place tie with Arizona State, a half game behind their upcoming opponent, UCLA, and a half game ahead of both Stanford and California.

Welcome to grouping 7: “Closing Time.” Few teams around the country will have a more difficult stretch to close the season.  The Buffs have seven games remaining, five of which are against likely NCAA Tournament teams, and five of the games are on the road. In all likelihood, the Buffs will be favored in just two of these games (@ USC, Arizona St).

The problem, of course, is that a 2-5 mark down the stretch would likely put Colorado at the mercy of the NCAA Tournament committee, who will have to decide if this Colorado team sans Spencer Dinwiddie is worthy of a berth. Should the Buffs season play out as the numbers would suggest, they’d finish Pac-12 play with a 9-9 conference record, while limping to a 6-9 overall mark without their floor general.

To put that in perspective, it’s somewhat rare for a team with a sub-.500 conference record to get into the bracket, and that’s what the Buffs would be without Dinwiddie. Working in the favor of the Buffs, is the fact that the Pac-12 is regarded as one of the nation’s top three conferences by most, meaning a top six finish would keep us in the consideration of the committee most likely.

Colorado can make it easier on themselves by finding a way to add another victory to their resume. Despite the loss of Dinwiddie, the Buffs remain 15-1 at home, and with Gameday in town, the atmosphere for the Arizona match-up should rival the mayhem from December 7. If the Buffs could find a way to steal that game, or escape their final road trip with a win at Utah/Stanford/Cal, the Buffs would likely be in good position to make the Dance.

The Buffs have proven to be a resilient bunch that has overcome a significant piece of adversity to remain alive in the NCAA Tournament race. With a daunting slate ahead, the Buffs know what they must do to earn their berth, and I doubt they’d want it any other way.

One thing I can promise, is that this team will need Coors rocking for Arizona St/Arizona on Feb 19/22… I don’t want to hear any excuses, administration, weather, homework, or family obligations.

Get to these games, period.


P.S. Just because…why wouldn’t you want to watch this 100 more times.


Buffs Staying Alive

Following a crippling road trip through Arizona where the Buffs failed to even compete, many fans threw in the towel and lost hope that this team could survive the season and find themselves in the NCAA Tournament.  Fortunately, the Buffs returned home to the Coors Event Center, a venue capable of curing even the most depressing of ailments.

Many forget that even with Dinwiddie, Colorado has routinely struggled away from home, and without him, those issues will only be amplified.  Coors Event Center, however, remains this program’s reliable ally, and with the new-look Buffs seemingly settling into their new roles, that advantage can be put to good use as we hit the final stretch of the Pac-12 marathon.

It would be fair to call the previous two home games successful, but they were far from flawless.  The Buffs failed to put either team away despite chances, especially Washington St, who turned a 19 point deficit with 6:42 remaining into a one possession ball game in the final seconds. With Utah and Washington St successfully dispatched, the Buffs sit in a third place tie with Arizona State, Stanford, and Cal at 6-4, with Oregon St and Washington nipping their heels at 5-5.

Washington arrives in Boulder on Sunday night, and the Buffs should have a score to settle.  Their home court proved to be the graveyard for Spencer Dinwiddie’s junior season, and frosh reserve TreShaun Fletcher also remains sidelined from a knee injury that day.  Washington rode their fortune to a dominating second-half and a victory over the Buffs.  The Buffs will look to enact some vengeance this weekend in what most certainly will be another must-win home affair for Colorado.

A victory would launch Colorado into a 7-4 Pac-12 mark, and a reasonable chance at finishing with a .500 or better conference record. Colorado’s final seven games consist of five road games, as well as five games vs. the conference’s top opponents, including both home games vs. Arizona and Arizona St.  Wins down the stretch will come at a premium, making this match-up with Washington all the more vital.  Through ten Pac-12 games, Colorado has failed to find victory against any opponent with a winning record in conference play, somewhere along the line that must change if the Buffs hope to play in the Big Dance and earn a bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.

What else must the Buffs do to find themselves in the NCAA Tournament?  Let’s take a look:

  • Beat Washington at home and USC on the road
  • A 10-8 Pac-12 record would essentially book their ticket to the dance
  • A 9-9 Pac-12 record would leave the Buffs vulnerable, but they’d remain in the running, especially if they found a way to beat either Stanford or Cal on the road, or by taking out Arizona at home on their way to that record.

Currently, the Buffs are squarely on the bubble according to most bracketologists around the country.  ESPN’s Joe Lunardi released his latest update yesterday, with the Buffs occupying a 10 seed. Additionally, his S-curve calculations, last released on Feb. 1, place the Buffs 38th, meaning they are the second of four 10 seeds. Since that date, Colorado is 2-0 while Florida St (#36) and Tennessee (#37) have lost games.

CBSSports’ Jerry Palm also has the Buffs slated for a 10 seed currently, with his bracketology update coming in earlier this morning.

There’s no question about it, the Buffs have a lot of work left to prove they are a tournament quality team without Spencer Dinwiddie and TreShaun Fletcher, but the opportunities are there, and they’ve been able to stay alive while reinventing themselves thus far.  The longer they stay alive, the more momentum they gain.

See you in Coors on Sunday for the Lu-Out!