Who’s gonna get in?

It’s the time of year when college basketball fans, at least those of us who follow middling teams, go into power geek mode. We look at various ratings, we read articles about who’s on the bubble and who’s not, and we overanalyze the last few games on the schedule.
Well, count me in!
I’m going to just look at the three ACC bubble teams though, because I just don’t have the interest or stamina to follow the bid arguments of the 3rd team in the Moutain West or the 7th team in the Big East.
So, the three teams I’m looking at are Florida State, Maryland and Virginia, who all stand at 6-9 in the ACC with one game left. FSU and MD have been listed as bubble teams for a few weeks now, while UVA just snuck up there with their last few upsets.
The key indicator that most people look at for NCAA bids is a team’s RPI ranking. The NCAA says it uses the RPI to help select it’s teams. I’m going to include some other more sane rating systems though, because first, those systems do a better job of ranking teams on merit, and second, the selection committee really seems to follow those standards more than the RPI. If you don’t believe me, compare the ratings to the bids and seedings that come out on Selection Sunday. The ratings I’m going to use are those by Sagarin, Ken Pomeroy and Mike Greenfield. You know the first, but you may not know the others. Check them out though, they have outstanding sites.
First, remember that 65 teams get bids and there are (I believe) 31 automatic bids, leaving 34 at-large bids. Basically, it makes sense to figure that the top 40-50 rated teams are going to get it. If you’re in the top 40, you’re gold. 40-60 and you’re iffy.
So here are the ratings for those three teams:

Maryland Florida State Virginia
RPI 32 45 46
Pomeroy 24 21 63
Greenfield 24 25 38
Sagarin 22 26 49
Last 10 4-6 4-6 4-6

So what does that tell us? Well, it’s pretty clear that Maryland should be in. They are solid in all the rankings, and it’s unlikely that a loss to Virginia this weekend would kill that. If they lose to UVA and again in the first round of the ACC tourney, they might be in some trouble. But, of the three teams, they have the best shot, even if they finish at 6-10 in the conference.
Florida State looks surprisingly strong as well. A bit better than I expected. They are one of those teams whose strength ratings look better than their RPI. That’s how teams like New Mexico in 1999 and Minnesota in 1995 got bids with RPIs of 74 and 66 respectively. The RPI didn’t do a good job of rating those teams. So, I think FSU is in good shape, although their numbers will likely drop a bit after they play (and lose) to Georgia Tech this weekend. Like Maryland, a loss this weekend and again in the first round of the ACC tourney could do them in (and keep them out).
Last is Virginia, the late-comer to this party. It looks like they have some work to do. They are solidly on the lower part of the bubble, but they probably can’t afford a loss to Maryland this weekend. If they do lose that game (and they would be expected to), they’ll need to win at least one ACC tourney game, and possibly two. Win at Maryland, and they’ll be tough to keep out. Remember that Pete Gillen’s Virginia teams have never won an ACC tournament game, so they’re probably NIT-bound if they need wins next week to get in.
Should be an interesting (as always) last week of the season.

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