Who's On The Bubble For March Madness, And What Do They Need To Do?
Penn State (RPI 65 and SOS 50) - Penn st. is about as borderline as they come. They are currently 20-9 overall, and 9-7 in the Big 10. Also, they have a very low RPI, which is a result from a weak non-conference schedule. Their best nonconference win is against Georgia Tech (RPI 131) on road, and lost to both Temple (RPI 67) and Rhode Island (RPI 52). However, they have beaten both Michigan st. (RPI 5) and Illinois (RPI 15) on the road, and have beaten Purdue (RPI 12) at home. As a result, they are 3-2 against teams in the RPI Top 25, which is better winning percentage than most teams in the RPI Top 25. On the other hand, they are just 6-4 in their last 10 games, and just 3-4 in their last 7 games. Therefore, I believe they have to win their last 2 regular season games (Illinois and at Iowa), and at least one game in the Big 10 Tournament to safely receive a bid in the NCAA Tournament.
Providence (RPI 68 and SOS 43) - Providence is currently on the outside looking in with an overall record of 18-11, and are 10-7 in the Big East. Their best nonconference win was against Rhode Island (RPI 52), but lost to Baylor (RPI 66) St. Mary's (RPI 50) and at Boston College (RPI 39). Also, they did not capitalize on a tough conference schedule with a record of 2-5 against the RPI 25, with wins against Pitt (RPI 3) and Syracuse (RPI 24), and are only 4-9 against the RPI Top 50 by only adding 2 wins against Cincy (RPI 43). Furthermore, their 10 conference wins looks good on paper, but are a result from a very favorable conference schedule. When one breaks down their schedule, then they notice that 6 of their 10 conference wins are from Seton Hall, St. John's, South Florida, Rutgers (twice), and Depaul. Furthermore, Providence is just 5-5 in their last 10 games, with only one regular season game left against Villanova (RPI 11). Therefore, I do not expect Providence to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament unless they can make a run to the Finals of the Big East Tournament.
Maryland (RPI 52 and SOS 28) - Maryland is currently one of the last team's receiving an invitation to the NCAA Tournament with an overall record of 18-10 and are 7-7 in thee ACC. Maryland has played a quality out of conference schedule. They hold wins against Michigan St (RPI #5) and Michigan (RPI #35), and have lost to Gonzaga (RPI 13) and Michigan (RPI 36). During conference play Maryland has had a favorable schedule by only having to play UNC (RPI 2), WFU (RPI 10), and Clemson (RPI 18) one time, but at the same time that limits their ability for big wins. Maryland did beat UNC, lost to Clemson, and play WFU on Tuesday. There is one stat that really helps out Maryland, and that is that no team that has gone at least 9-7 in the ACC has been left out of the NCAA Tournament. Also, the majority of teams that go at least 8-8 in the ACC make the NCAA Tournament as well. Maryland's remaining schedule consists of a home game against WFU, and at UVA. Therefore, it is very likely that Maryland should at least beat UVA (RPI 102 and Overall Record 9-16), and finish 8-8. Furthermore, in order for Maryland to hold onto one of the remaining invitations, they need to win at least one of their last two conference games, and win at least one game in the ACC Tournament.
Creighton (RPI 38 and SOS 107) - Creighton is a very interesting case if they do not win the Missouri Valley Tournament, with an overall record of 25-6 and are 14-4 in conference play. The Missouri Valley is probably the toughest Mid Major Conference. Both Northern Iowa and Illinois St. will give Creighton a run for their money, and each team could win the Missouri Valley Tournament. Creighton's regular season is over, and finished tied with Northern Iowa for 1st place in conference play, but will receive the #1 seed in the conference tournament for winning the tie breaker (both teams split in conference play, but Creighton has less overall losses). Let's assume that Creighton loses in the Finals of the Missouri Valley Tournament, and examine if they have enough to receive a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Creighton did not play the best nonconference schedule, but did take advantage of the opportunities when they very good teams in small conferences by beating New Mexico (RPI 69), Dayton (RPI 55), George Mason (RPI 89), and at St. Joe's (RPI 105). They got off to a slow start in conference play with a 2-3 record, but have won 10 straight games. In my opinion, if Crieghton loses in the Finals of their conference tournament, then they should still make the NCAA Tournament because they have taken advantage of their nonconference opportunities, and ended the regluar season in 1st place with a 10 game win streak in toughest Mid Major Conference.
Penn St., Providence, Maryland, and Creighton are just a few of the bubble teams. I choose these teams to illustrate that each bubble team is a different case than the other. Penn St. did well in a weak Big 10, but played a very weak nonconference schedule in which their best win was against Georgia Tech (RPI 131). Providence is 10-7 in the Big East, but played a very easy conference schedule due to the unbalanced schedule in the Big East. Therefore, just how meaningful are their 10 conference wins? Maryland is .500 team in the ACC, but has played a very good nonconference schedule, and have wins against Michigan St. (RPI 5) and Michigan (RPi 35). Finally, Creighton has not beaten a team in the RPI Top 50, but have beaten some very good teams in smaller conferences while dominating the best mid major conference.