Breaking Down The Bubble

Submitted by smwilliams on March 2nd, 2017 at 2:19 PM

After last night's loss to Northwestern, I got a little panicked about the thought of Michigan blowing their next 2 games and missing out on the tournament. To help assauge my fears, I took a look at all the bubble teams (based on Bracket Matrix) and how they fared in the categories we know the Committee tends to weigh heavily in their decision making process. Those categories are: Record, RPI, Non-Conference SOS, Wins vs. Top 50 RPI, Wins vs. Top 100 RPI. Apparently, they have added some emphasis on advanced metrics (my guess is KenPom) to aid in their decision-making process. 

Here are the "Bubble Teams" at the moment:

Atlantic 10: VCU, Rhode Island

American: Houston

ACC: Syracuse, Wake Forest

Big Ten: Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State, Illinois

Big East: Xavier, Seton Hall, Marquette, Providence

Big XII: Kansas State

Pac-12: USC, Cal

SEC: Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Georgia

Mid-Majors: Wichita State, Illinois State, Middle Tennessee, UNC-Wilimington, Texas-Arlington

TEAM RECORD RPI NCSS VS. TOP 50 VS. TOP 100 (L vs. 100+)
Michigan 19-11 48 84 4-8 11-11 (0)
VCU 23-7 23 83 2-3 7-4 (3)
Rhode Island 20-9 42 20 2-3 4-7 (2)
Houston 20-9 51 85 1-5 3-6 (3)
Syracuse  17-13 78 201 6-7 8-10 (3)
Wake Forest 17-12 38 13 2-9 7-12 (0)
Northwestern 21-9 45 160 4-6 10-9 (0)
Michigan St 18-12 46 21 6-7 11-11 (1)
Illinois 17-12 55 50 5-8 10-12 (0)
Xavier 18-12 31 24 3-8 8-11 (1)
Seton Hall 19-10 50 200 3-6 9-9 (1)
Marquette  18-11 59 249 7-6 9-10 (1)
Providence 19-11 54 171 5-7 10-8 (3)
Kansas St 18-12 58 220 3-8 5-11 (1)
USC 22-8 35 168 2-5 5-7 (1)
Cal 19-10 53 34 1-7 4-9 (1)
Arkansas 22-8 27 39 3-6 10-6 (2)
Vanderbilt 16-14 47 1 4-8 9-13 (1)
Georgia 17-12 49 17 1-7 9-11 (1)
Wichita St 26-4 41 221 1-4 2-4 (0)
Illinois St 24-5 33 139 1-1 2-3 (2)
MTSU 25-4 39 27 2-1 4-1 (3)
UNCW 24-5 36 88 0-1 5-3 (2)
UTA 22-6 37 43 1-2 2-3 (3)

Based on Bracket Matrix, 18 of these 24 teams are currently in the field. Obviously, that # could drop if the mid-majors lose in their conference tournament. If neither WSU/ISU, MTSU, UNCW, or UTA win, there would be at minimum 14 spots for these 24 teams. Where does Michigan stand in each category?


If Michigan were to lose out and end up at 19-13, they'd be playing with fire. A list of teams with less than 20 wins to garner at-large bids in the last 5 years is as follows:

2016: Vanderbilt (19-13, Play-In), Oregon State (19-12, #7), Texas Tech (19-12, #8), Syracuse (19-13, #10)

2015: Oklahoma State (18-13, #8)

2014: Nebraska (19-12, #11)

2013: N/A

2012: West Virginia (19-13, #10)

2011: Tennessee (19-14, #9), Penn State (19-14, #10), Illinois (19-13, #9), USC (19-14, Play-In), Michigan St. (19-14, #10)

Some years are more leniant than others to teams with less than 20 wins, but picking up that 20th win would make us all feel much safer on Selection Sunday. Not only does that 20th win represent an important benchmark, but it avoids the stigma of Michigan being in a freefall and finishing the year with 3 consecutive losses. That said, you may realize that half of these teams currently have less than 20 wins. I'd root against all of them as hard as you possibly can. 


Michigan is currently dead center in terms of RPI with the 12th best RPI among bubble teams. Again, the concern with losing out is that two more losses to average-or-worse teams would probably see their RPI end up in the high 50s or so, which would put them towards the back of the pack depending on what other teams do. I believe last year, Michigan went into Selection Sunday with a RPI in the low-60s and barely made it in. 

Non-Conference SOS:

This is much better. 85 isn't eye-popping, but this stat will remain static (ha!) until Selection Sunday. Michigan sits 14th, but some of these teams have truly dismal numbers. The Valley teams and the Big East might suffer from not having played many good teams outside of their conference (or in-conference in the case of Wichita St. and Illinois St.)

Michigan is in good standing here.

Record vs. RPI Top 50:

And here we get to the good stuff. Michigan currently has the 7th most wins against teams in the RPI Top 50. The mid-major teams are hard to gauge because they haven't had many opportunities, but when you look at teams like Wake Forest, Cal, and Georgia, Michigan is a cut above. This may not matter much for a team like VCU, but UNC-Wilmington has played 1 game against a Top 50 opponent all year. The Committee will not look favorably at that. 

Record vs. RPI Top 100:

And here's our shining star. Michigan is tied with State for the most wins against Top 100 teams of anybody on the bubble. Last year's team had 4, count 'em, 4 wins against Top 100 teams. And much like last year, they have zero losses outside of teams in the Top 100. They have as many wins as almost half the teams have games played. Also, even if they lose their last 2, they'd still be Top 100 opponents (Nebraska is currently at 85). 


Of the 37 brackets updated after last night, Michigan is in all of them and is an 8 or 9 seed in 32 out of the 37. They are actually the highest ranked team on the Matrix out of all 24 teams. Even if they lose out, it seems unlikely that 14-18 of these teams will do enough to pass Michigan within the next two weeks. 

That said, beat Nebraska and all of this is moot and the Big Ten Tournament becomes about whether they can climb to a 6-7 seed (if they make the semifinals/finals) rather than spending next Thursday worrying about winning or getting left out. If you'd like to watch some games with an eye towards eliminating some competition, here are my recommendations:

Houston at Cincinnati [7:00 p.m., ESPN2] (root hard for Cincinnati)
Tulsa at SMU [8:00 p.m., CBSSN] (root for SMU who is currently a Top 25 win on a neutral floor)
FIU at Middle Tennessee [7:30 p.m., ESPN3] (a loss to FIU would pretty much kill their at-large hopes)
Cal at Utah [11:00 p.m., ESPNU] (Utah isn't bad, but Cal needs to avoid losses)
UT-Arlington at Louisiana-Monroe [No TV] (same deal at MTSU, lose and say good-bye to an at-large bid)
MVC Quarterfinals [ESPN3] (root for Wichita State, against Illinois State)
Illinois at Rutgers [12:00 p.m., ESPNU] (GOOOOOO SCARLET KNIGHTS)
Providence at St. John's [12:00 p.m., No TV?] (Johnnies win would severaly damage the Friars chances)
Texas Tech at Kansas St. [1:00 p.m., ESPN News] (a home loss to Texas Tech would put Kansas State on the outside looking in)
Georgia at Arkansas [2:00 p.m., ESPN2] (both bubble teams, but Arkansas is probably in whereas Georgia needs to do some damage)
Florida at Vanderbilt [2:00 p.m., ESPN] (another good win for Vandy would make them very viable)
Michigan State at Maryland [2:00 p.m., BTN] (root against State just because)
Cal at Colorado [2:00 p.m., PAC-12] (if they don't lose to Utah, a loss here would be great)
George Mason at VCU [2:00 p.m., No TV] (VCU is closer to in, but a loss could help Michigan's seeding)
Xavier at DePaul [2:00 p.m., No TV] (DePaul is the Grim Reaper for bubble teams)
Seton Hall at Butler [2:30 p.m., ?] (a road win at Butler could bump the Pirates ahead of Michigan)
Creighton at Marquette [2:30 p.m., ?] (the Blue Jays are in, but sliding down seed lines. Marquette is right on the bubble. I'm torn)
Georgia Tech at Syracuse [4:00 p.m., ACC Network] (I left GT off my list with a RPI in the 80s, this is a weird game and I'm not sure how to feel)
Memphis at SMU [4:00 p.m., ESPN 2] (keep rooting for SMU)
Wake Forest at Virginia Tech [4:30 p.m., ACCN] (VT is technically a bubble team, but they'll make it. Don't let the Demon Deacons get another big win, also the better the Hokies look, the less worse our home less to them is)
Davidson at Rhode Island [6:00 p.m., No TV] (a loss at home to Davidson would send the Rams to the NIT)
FAU at MTSU [6:00 p.m., ESPN3] (see above, any loss is a bad loss for our favorite Sparty-killers)
Washington at USC [6:30 p.m., PAC-12] (Washington is the DePaul of the west this year)
UT-Arlington at Louisiana-Lafayette [8:15 p.m., ESPN3] (any loss is a bad loss, again)
MVC Semifinals
Purdue at Northwestern [4:30 p.m., CBS] (a win here seals the deal for Northwestern)
MVC Championship Game


Everyone Murders

March 3rd, 2017 at 8:48 AM ^

I suppose I can bring myself to do this.  If we somehow gack against Nebraska (the "N" is for knowledge!), we would really have to make some noise in the B1G tournament.  Unfortunately, the Ohio State, Minnesota, and last minute of NU games have put us in a disfavorable seed for the B1G.

Howevah, Walton, Moe Wagner, D.J. and Co. have got this.  When "on" this team can play with any team in the B1G.  And I get the sense that Walton will light the necessary fires under the necessary asses to get this done.


March 3rd, 2017 at 10:46 AM ^

You nailed what is the most frustrating aspect of this year's model for me: when they are on, they can play with any team in the Big Ten.  

Unfortunately, it's been a 50/50 proposition against good teams.  Being generous, this team's chances of winning the NCAA Tournament are the same as those of a coin coming up "heads" six times in a row.  That would be 64-1, which for many is accurately called "once in a lifetime."

Blue Bunny Friday

March 5th, 2017 at 11:28 AM ^

Syracuse over Ga Tech 
Wake Forest over Virginia Tech
Rhode Island over Davidson OT
USC over Washington
Wichita St won semifinal
EDIT To finish Saturday's results:
Louisiana-Lafayette over UT-Arlington in last reg season game
Also, Murray State over Illinois State never happened, or at least didn't happen on Friday. I have no idea what I was looking at. Illinois St plays Wichita St today (Sun.) at 2 on CBS.


March 3rd, 2017 at 11:54 AM ^

I think they are a factor. If I had to boil down the Committee's mantra it would be: Who did you play, who did you beat, and who did you lose to than you shouldn't have? That sounds simplistic (isn't that basically wins and losses), but if teams don't play anybody in the non-conference, don't beat any of the good teams they do play, and lose to bad teams, they probably sit lower on the bubble than others.