Bubble Math 2015 v3.0


With March now just four days off, tensions have risen among programs on the bubble.  Each minute, each half, each game carries heavy significance, and those who can shoulder the load will separate themselves and earn their way into the NCAA Tournament.  Match-ups against high-level opponents, especially road games, now become crucial down the stretch.  Earn yourself one of those on the resume, and you are likely to find yourself a step ahead of the competition.

The bubble has started to dwindle as several teams in our data set have fallen out of contention.  The data set now includes 34 teams, but not all of them have survived the gauntlet of the previous few weeks.  Some have fallen off the bubble but aren’t quite finished yet (Old Dominion, UMass, Wyoming), but others are likely going to have to earn an NCAA Tournament bid by winning their conference tournament in a few weeks:  Clemson, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan, Kansas State, Richmond, and George Washington.

Let’s break down the numbers.


There are 8 teams who have safely made their way into the field, for now:

Colorado State, Iowa, NC State, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, St. John’s, Texas A&M, and Xavier.


Of those eight, who has the weakest resume? 

I’m going to let you decide.  There are three candidates, Team A, Team B, and Team C.

(Don’t cheat).

Team A:  RPI:  26 — KenPom:  72 — SOS:  143

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  2-2 — vs. RPI Top 100:  5-4 — vs. RPI Top 200:  11-5
  • 11 wins vs. opponents with 200+ RPI, 6-3 road record, 1 loss vs. 100+ RPI

Team B:  RPI:  56 — KenPom:  27 — SOS:  40

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  4-6 — vs. RPI Top 100:  6-9 — vs. RPI Top 200:  12-10
  • 5 wins vs. opponents with 200+ RPI, 5-3 road record, 1 loss vs. 100+ RPI

Team C:  RPI:  34 — KenPom:  41 — SOS:  15

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  0-6 — vs. RPI Top 100:  7-8 — vs. RPI Top 200:  14-8
  • 5 wins vs. opponents with 200 + RPI, 5-5 road record, 0 losses vs. 100+ RPI


The 34 teams in the data set are a combined:

  • 86-171 (33.5%) vs. RPI top 50 opponents.
  • 205-247 (45.4%) vs. RPI top 100 opponents.
  • 390-314 (55.4%) vs. RPI top 200 opponents
  • 140-177 (44.2%) on the road


The only team in the data set to own a winning record vs. RPI top 50 teams? 

Old Dominion at 1-0.  There are 8 others who are .500 against such opponents.


Let’s play another blind comparison game… Team A is considered to be on the right side of the bubble according to Joe Lunardi, among the “Last 4 In”.  Team B is considered to be on the outside looking in, among the “First 4 Out”.  

Team A:  RPI: 44 — KenPom:  22 — SOS:  16

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  1-10 — vs. RPI Top 100:  5-11 — vs. RPI Top 200:  12-11
  • 4-6 on the road
  • Bad Losses:  None — in fact, no losses to anyone outside the RPI top 60

Team B:  RPI:  53 — KenPom:  40 — SOS:  63

  • vs. RPI Top 50:  2-5 — vs. RPI Top 100:  9-6 — vs. RPI Top 200:  13-9
  • 5-6 on the road
  • Bad Losses:  3 — on the road to RPI: 128, RPI: 144, RPI: 147

Which do you prefer?

Now…what if I told you that Team A lost to Team B…at home.  Does your mind change?

Now…what if I told you that of Team Bs 9 Top 100 wins, 7 came against opponents ranked 80th or worse?  Does your mind change again?

The bubble is a fickle, fickle process.  Its all in how you view the numbers.


Who can take care of business away from home?

Only four high major programs in the data set have winning records on the road:

LSU, Ole Miss, Iowa, and Miami FL.


There are 6 mid major programs who have winning road records:

Davidson, Tulsa, Colorado State, BYU, Rhode Island, and Boise State.


The most inconsistent team in the data?

There are two noteworthy candidates.  Kansas State and LSU.

Kansas State leads the entire data set with 4 Top 25 wins and 6 Top 50 wins, yet they aren’t even considered on the bubble.  They are just 9-15 vs. RPI top 200 opponents, worst among the teams in the data set, and have 4 losses to teams with 100+ RPIs, also worst in the data.  They are also a horrific 1-9 on the road.

LSU is an impressive 10-5 vs. the RPI top 100, 2nd in the data set, and own a 7-3 road record, the best among the bubble teams.  Included among those, are big time wins @ Ole Miss and @ West Virginia.  Unfortunately, they also own neutral court losses to Old Dominion and Clemson, along with road losses at Missouri and Miss State, along with a home loss to Auburn.  That loss to Missouri represents one of only two losses in the data set to 200+ RPI teams among teams currently projected to make the field.

Be on the lookout for Bubble Watch 2015 v4.0, due early next week!  Want to look back at our previous versions of this piece?  You can find them here:

Bubble Watch 2015 v1.0

Bubble Watch 2015 v2.0


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