An overly extensive look at the bubble

Submitted by mfan_in_ohio on March 13th, 2016 at 3:02 AM

Michigan should be in the NCAA tournament.  For proof, let’s compare their resume to some other bubble teams. Warning: this is a REALLY long post.

First things first: who are those bubble teams?  Well, among power 5 conferences, you have Vanderbilt, Syracuse, and South Carolina; among mid-majors, you have San Diego State, St. Mary’s, Monmouth, Temple, and Wichita State.  Along with Michigan, that’s nine teams, with (currently) five spots available, four if UConn loses to Memphis.  So if we can show that Michigan is more deserving than at least five of these teams, they should be in. 

If you don’t want to read it all, here is a summary:

Last bye (for now): Wichita State.

Next three spots: St. Mary’s, Temple, Michigan

Bubble spot: Syracuse

First four out (for now): South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Monmouth, San Diego State


We are all familiar with Michigan’s resume at this point, but a quick recap:

· 4-11 against NCAA tournament locks, with the four wins against teams expected to be seeded in the 3-6 range in the NCAA tournament, and the loss to Connecticut being the only one of that group to a team expected to be seeded 8 or below.

· 0-1 against NIT-level competition, a loss at Ohio State

· 8-0 against teams 101-200

· 9-0 against teams 201+


We’ll start with Wichita State, a team that most bracketologists have in the field.  The Shockers (giggle) have a 23-8 record in a solid mid-major conference, with an RPI of 49.  While they have a very strong nonconference win at home against Utah (a probable 3-seed in the NCAA tournament), they lost their other three efforts against the RPI top 50.  In addition, they are only 3-4 against teams 51-100, and two of those three wins are against #93 Evansville.  To put it another way, Wichita State is 2-7 against the top 75 (NCAA/NIT teams), a good comparison point for Michigan, since all of our top 100 teams are in that range.  Finally, Wichita State has a “bad” loss, at #114 Illinois St. To sum up:

· Both teams have approximately the same winning percentage against both the RPI top 50 and against NCAA/NIT competition.  In both instances, Michigan’s opponents were, on average, of a slightly higher caliber, and they had a slightly better winning percentage.

· Michigan has a better “best” win, as Indiana and Utah are roughly equivalent, but Michigan’s win was at a neutral (road, really) site.

· Wichita State has a bad loss that Michigan doesn’t.

· Wichita State was the regular season champ in their conference (a conference which would have only had one bid had the Shockers won their tournament). 

Verdict: Without the loss to Illinois State, these two profiles are pretty even.  That loss should place them below Michigan, but I bet the committee has the Shockers higher (though not as high as Lunardi does). So we'll give Wichita State the nod.


Vanderbilt's resume is pretty similar to Wichita State's, but a little worse. The Commodores are 2-7 against RPI top 50 teams, versus Michigan’s 4-11.  Granted, all of their games are against the top 27, so their competition was (very slightly) more difficult.  Vanderbilt racked up five wins against three losses against NIT-level teams (and Stony Brook).  They also have three bad losses. They played five non-conference games against the RPI top 50, but lost them all.  Summary:

· Michigan has a better RPI, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much.

· Michigan has a better record overall, and a better record against top teams.

· Michigan has no bad losses, while Vanderbilt has three.

· The only thing Vanderbilt has going for it is a better record against NIT teams, which will bode well for them in the NIT.

Verdict: Michigan should be ahead of Vanderbilt.  19-13 in the SEC, with no big nonconference wins and three bad losses, doesn’t deserve a bid. 


Let’s stay with the SEC and discuss South Carolina.  The Cocks (more giggling) have a weird resume for a power 5 team.  They only have 2 games against NCAA locks: they were crushed at home by Kentucky and eked out a road win at Texas A&M.  They were undefeated in their nonconference schedule, but the best teams in that schedule were bubble team Tulsa and NIT-bound Hofstra.  The other 10 were composed of 4 against the RPI 101-200 and 6 against the RPI 201+.  The Gamecocks also have two losses in the RPI 101-200 and one to #221 Missouri, who went 3-15 in the SEC (for comparison, think Minnesota).  Summary:

· Michigan has a better RPI.

· South Carolina has a better record, but played a ridiculously weak nonconference schedule.

· South Carolina has the better “best” win, and is 5-4 against NIT teams (Florida, Hofstra, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Alabama)

· South Carolina has three bad losses, one of which is awful.

Verdict: South Carolina’s schedule is basically what you get if you take Vanderbilt’s schedule, take out all the losses to top 50 teams, and replace them with wins over tomato cans. I don’t think the Gamecocks deserve to be in the tournament based on their weak nonconference schedule. Had they beaten Missouri but lost to Texas A&M, they wouldn’t even be discussed.  I don’t think that a single game should take them from middling NIT team into the tournament, and Michigan has better proven the ability to compete with good teams and has no bad losses.  South Carolina is probably ahead of Vanderbilt based on head-to-head, but Michigan should be ahead of both.


Next: Monmouth.  The Hawks got a lot of hype early this year from some high-profile wins over UCLA, Georgetown, USC, and Notre Dame.  Unfortunately for Monmouth (and its entertaining bench), UCLA and Georgetown proved to be Penn State-level competition. This leaves their RPI just above Michigan’s, at #53. The Hawks are 2-2 against the RPI top 50, with all games against teams expected to be seeded around the 7-8 spot.  They are 1-2 against Iona, the only team they played in the RPI 51-100. Critically, however, they have three losses in the RPI 201+.  Those aren’t “bad” losses, they are “horrible” losses.  By comparison, the teams on Michigan’s schedule closest to those three losses were Houston Baptist (an 82-57 home win) and Charlotte (a 102-47 win in the Bahamas).  Summary:

· Monmouth has a better winning percentage than Michigan against the best teams on the Hawks’ schedule.

· Michigan is 4-7 against teams better than anyone Monmouth played.

· Monmouth’s three horrible losses should negate their best wins.

· Low- to mid-major teams with RPI’s above 50 never get into the tournament.  By comparison, Akron has an RPI of 36, and they’re not getting in either.

Verdict: I understand the Bilas types saying that Monmouth did what the committee would ask by scheduling good nonconference teams away from home.  However, the committee also asks teams not to lose to Army and Canisius.  Maybe Lunardi is right, and the committee will let them in, but I don’t think so.  Michigan should be ahead of Monmouth.


While we’re talking about mid majors with few big wins, let’s talk about St. Mary’s.  The Gaels boast a gaudy 26-5 record, but against a schedule that includes 18 RPI sub-200 teams, five of which were on their nonconference schedule (by comparison, Michigan’s oft-maligned nonconference schedule included six such teams).  The five losses include their only game against a top tournament team (California), going 2-1 against Gonzaga (who would have been a bubble team without the autobid), a split with NIT- or Vegas 16-bound BYU, and two bad losses, both to Pepperdine.  The problem that St. Mary’s has is that their best nonconference results are wins over UC Irvine, Stanford, and Grand Canyon. 

Verdict: Theirs is a hard resume to figure, and I like their resume better than Monmouth’s due to its lack of horrible losses.  Also, Monmouth played just as many 200+ teams as St. Mary's, but St. Mary's at least beat them all.  I’m going to put them just ahead of Michigan, and I think the First Four is a good place for a team like St. Mary’s that really hasn’t had a good enough chance to prove their worth.


Up next: Temple.  The Owls are the regular-season champ of the American conference, a multi-bid league.  They should be in, right?  Well, they also went 6-6 in their non-conference schedule and got beat pretty bad by a Connecticut team that had just played a 4 OT game the day before.  Temple played six NCAA tournament teams in their non-conference schedule – and lost all six games. Their next best nonconference win was against Fairleigh Dickinson, a sub-200 RPI team.    While they finished with a 21-11 record (Michigan is 21-12), 14 of those games are against the RPI 201+, including six nonconference games.  They also split with NIT teams Tulsa and Houston, and RPI #136 Memphis.  Finally, they have a “horrible” loss at #217 East Carolina.  Summary:

· Temple has a better record against NCAA teams, but four of their 5 wins were against bubble-ish teams Cincinnati and UConn.  Against teams seeded 1-8 (and SMU), they are 1-6.  Michigan is 4-10 against the same group, for double the winning percentage. 

· Temple beat SMU and was 2-1 against UConn, while Michigan lost to both.

· Temple has a bad loss to Memphis and a horrible loss to East Carolina, while Michigan has none.

Verdict: This is close, but I give a slight edge to Temple.  This is a tough call, because Michigan has an excellent win over Texas and the near-road win against Indiana is at least as good as Temple’s home win over an SMU team that had recently lost its best player to a transfer.  Also, the teams have almost the exact same record, but Michigan’s schedule is significantly harder. However, Temple has a better record against top 50 and top 100 teams, and against tournament teams, and the bad losses might not negate that. 


Speaking of conference champs that lost in their tournament, Steve Fisher’s San Diego State appeared on the bubble with a loss to Fresno State.  The Aztecs are 1-4 against the top 50, with a neutral site win vs. Cal, and losses to Kansas, West Virginia, and Utah (all top teams) to go with a home loss against Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt champ, RPI 46, seeded around 12th if they win their tournament). They went 1-2 against Fresno State (RPI 66), won at #72 Long Beach State, and lost to #92 Grand Canyon at home.  San Diego State also has a bad loss at home against Boise State, and a truly horrible loss against RPI 302 San Diego.  That’s really bad, and easily the worst single loss by any bubble team. For comparison to teams on Michigan’s schedule, San Diego falls somewhere between Northern Kentucky and Bryant, and is worse than Rutgers.

· Michigan has a better record against the RPI top 50, and a better “best” win (Indiana > Cal).

· San Diego State is 2-3 against the RPI 51-100 (which is pretty weak for a bubble team). That puts their record against the top 100 at 3-7, and, unlike Michigan, half those games are against NIT-level competition.

· Their two bad losses include a truly horrible loss, while Michigan has no bad losses.

Verdict: The Aztecs should not be in the field.  Like South Carolina, they have just one win over a top 50 team, but they had 5 tries to do it, one of which was a home game against Arkansas-Little Rock in which they scored only 43 points.  Their record against the RPI 51-100 suggests that they would struggle in the NIT, and they have a horrible loss that negates their one good win. They shouldn’t be in, and, personally, I don’t think they should be close.


Lastly, Syracuse.  This is a team that most bracketologists are leaving out, but I am not so sure.  They are 5-9 against likely tournament teams (and Louisville), though five of those games are against near-bubble teams (including losing three to Pitt).  They are 3-1 against NIT-type competition, and have two bad losses (one of which was at home) and a horrible loss by double digits at #245 St. John’s (The Red Storm’s next best win was over #184 Wagner).  Summary:

· Their record against NCAA-level teams is roughly equal to Michigan’s.  They have more wins, but had the benefit of playing more bubble teams than Michigan did.

· 3-1 against the NIT is better than what Michigan mustered, though Michigan only had one road game in that group.

· The two bad losses and the one awful loss more than negate that advantage.

Verdict: Slight edge to Michigan, but it’s close. 


Overall, this bubble is a mess, and there will be people putting forth lots of combinations of these nine teams to fill the final four or five spots in the tournament.  As for me, here’s how I see it:

Last bye (for now): Wichita State.

Next three spots: St. Mary’s, Temple, Michigan

Bubble spot: Syracuse

First four out (for now): South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Monmouth, San Diego State

We'll know how wrong I am by 7 pm.



March 13th, 2016 at 9:21 AM ^

I believe was mentioned  was after Purdue game I believe Michigan had played 16 or maybe 17 games against the tournament teams...Id like to know how that stacks up against other Bubble teams...St Marys for example...Yeah you can have a sparkling 26-5 record but if you only played 3 or 4 games against tournament teams then that shouldnt cut it....Basically its do we stack against the other bubble teams...Seems like for years the committee has emphasized SOS so lets see if this year they stick to it...I do not have a good feeling as it seems ike their is alot of Anti Michigan commentary out there from the talking heads which is infuriating seeing as 16-17 games against  the tournament teams is STRONG, no bad losses, 4 top 30 wins...Texas neutral site, and Indiana basically a road game..I believe we should be in...maybe just barely...The other day Joe Lunardi said we had two many losses while he had Syr and Vandy ahead of us....If 11 losses (at that time) was to much how can 13 losses be better? I hate inconsistency which then makes me belief its bias


March 13th, 2016 at 9:33 AM ^

What we are lacking is games against NIT-level opponents, which the SEC teams in particular have in spades (Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Vanderbilt, and South Carolina are all NIT-level teams, though South Carolina might sneak into the NCAA field.  

Also, our SOS is hurt by the fact that a lot of our non-conference games were against really bad teams instead of just bad ones.  Personally, I think that once the opponent's RPI is past 150, it shouldn't matter, since NCAA teams should beat all of those teams anyway, so I basically just throw out any win over 150, and treat losses in that area pretty harshly.


March 13th, 2016 at 10:20 AM ^

I don't think the Purdue-MSU game affects us at all. The change to our RPI will be minimal. UConn winning is by far the most important. The only other game that could matter is the Sun Belt championship. I don't think Arkansas-Little Rock would grab an at-large if they lose today, and their resume is similar to (but a clear step below) that of St. Mary's, but who knows?


March 13th, 2016 at 12:02 PM ^ the committee ignores it entirely and if they have to they mumble something about "entire body of work" to explain why they didn't bump one team or the other.

By the time that game's over it's too late in the day to recalculate the metrics and redraw the bracket. If the two teams were on adjacent seed lines they might flip them, but that's about it.


March 13th, 2016 at 12:04 PM ^

...but I don't understand this Monmouth thing at all.

I keep flashing back to that Valparaiso/Iona game in November. Valpo crushed them--by the second media timeout I think they had blocked more shots than Iona had points. And Iona had their full squad--Much had gotten his waiver by then. Ordinarily I wouldn't read so much into a single game but that was a complete physical mismatch. Men against boys.

That's the same Iona that won Monmouth's league, beat them twice, once by 16 at Monmouth.

If we're going to give one of those bubble spots to a mid-major I could make a case for Valpo, maybe a better one for Wichita St. Those teams are double-digits better than Monmouth. But Monmouth has a photogenic bench.


March 13th, 2016 at 4:02 PM ^

Taking a dispassionate look, I think our winning record in a tough conference and large number of wins vs. top-50 should put us in.

That said, three things scare me.

1. "Cute" mid-majors like Monmouth and St. Mary's seem to be darlings of the committee.  St. Mary's came up big against their big-name rival (Gonzaga), and Monmouth has their entertaining bench-warmers and did play a solid non-conference schedule.

2. SEC - they really do suck at basketball, but I worry that the committee won't leave a power five conference with only two bids. ESPN was lobbying hard (and that shouldn't be discounted).

3. Syracuse - they are one step below "blue blood", and their reputation helps them.

Gonna be interesting...