Bubble Banter: We need to talk about N.C. State, Auburn and UCF
The most recent NBC Sports bracket projection can be found here.
For my money, the three toughest resumes to figure out -- at least when discussing teams in, on and around the bubble -- are N.C. State (NET: 37, SOS: 262), UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 101) and AUBURN (NET: 20, SOS: 30).
All three played on Wednesday night.
Only one of the three lost, so we’ll start with Auburn, who have great computer numbers -- they’re not only top 20 in the NET, they’re 17th in KenPom -- and just one loss to a team outside the top 40, but there is a total and complete lack of quality wins to their name. They are 0-6 against Q1 opponents this season. Their best win came against Washington (31) at home on the fourth day of the season. Since then, the only two teams they’ve beaten with a puncher’s chance at getting an at-large are 13-11 Florida and 15-9 Alabama. They are just 1-5 on the road, and the one win came against a bad Texas A&M (82) team.
They’re not on the bubble right now because their computer numbers are too good to ignore, but how high can you seed a team without a Q1 win?
It’s the same question that we have to ask about UCF, who, as of Valentine’s Day, has played just two Q1 games and lost them both. One of those two losses was by 20 points to a thoroughly mediocre Memphis team. The Knights have actually won a few road games -- UConn (79), SMU (110), Tulane (293) -- but they do have an ugly home loss to FAU (164) on their resume as well. Their win over South Florida on Wednesday night is their fifth Q2 win of the year.
Our Dave Ommen is the best in the business when it comes to bracketing, and he has UCF in the tournament as of today. If he says it, then I’ll believe it, but more than anything, it’s evidence of just how bad the bubble is this year.
Which brings us to N.C. State.
The Wolfpack’s profile isn’t all that different from UCF or Auburn, with the one exception being that they have one Q1 win ... which came at home against Auburn. They are 18-7 on the season, and just one of those seven losses -- at Wake Forest (194), without Markell Johnson -- is not a Q1 loss, but the issue for N.C. State is that they, quite literally, have the worst non-conference SOS in the country, according to the NET.
The committee has proven, over and over again, that is something they will punish you for.
We just don’t know how much.
N.C. STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 262): See above.
UCF (NET: 45, SOS: 101): See above.
SETON HALL (NET: 69, SOS: 47): The Pirates picked up their seventh Q2 win of the season when they beat Georgetown at home on Wednesday. With a neutral court win over Kentucky and a win at Maryland, the Pirates do have two really good wins, which are off-set by a pair of Q3 home losses. Their bid is going to come down to whether or not they get wins against Marquette and Villanova at home in the last week of the regular season.
UTAH STATE (NET: 38, SOS: 114): The Aggies bounced back from their loss at San Diego State by knocking off Wyoming at home on Wednesday. I think they need to win out -- including Nevada at home -- to have a real chance at an at-large.
FLORIDA (NET: 42, SOS: 39): Florida won! They beat Vanderbilt, snapping a three-game losing streak and getting them to within a game of .500 in league play. They have good computer numbers, just one bad loss -- South Carolina (100) at home -- and four more Q1 games left on the schedule, which should help offset their current 1-9 mark against Q1 opponents.
VCU (NET: 43, SOS: 34): VCU smoked city rival Richmond on Wednesday night, continuing to do what they need to do to keep themselves on the right side of the bubble -- don’t lose to bad teams. And based on the way their schedule shakes out, VCU probably would not be able to sleep comfortably if they lose to anyone other than Dayton on the road before the A-10 tournament starts.
TEMPLE (NET: 55, SOS: 58): Temple is right there with UCF when it comes to their profile, but I think they’re in slightly better shape right now for two reasons -- 1. They have a win over Houston (5), and 2. their bad loss is a Q3 loss to Penn (92). That said, Temple’s only chances to land Q1 wins come at South Florida, at Memphis and at UConn. None of those teams are in the top 65 of the NET.
AUBURN (NET: 20, SOS: 30): See above.
ARIZONA STATE (NET: 72, SOS: 69): The Sun Devils picked the wrong time to make the toughest road trip in the Pac-12. Firmly on the cutline, they had lost two of their last four games -- including a 21 point loss to Washington State (176) last Thursday -- before going into Colorado (80) and losing to the Buffaloes. All in all, it’s not a terrible loss, but with a Q3 loss and two Q4 losses to their name, they need all the help they can get.
CLEMSON (NET: 39, SOS: 25): Clemson went down to Coral Gables and took a loss to a Miami team that is now 11-13 overall and just 3-9 in the ACC. This loss does not look as bad on a resume as it does in real life -- the Hurricanes are 90th in the NET, so it’s just a Q2 loss -- but the Tigers are not in a great spot as of today. They need to keep building on a profile that doesn’t include a bad loss but that only has one Q1 win on it -- Virginia Tech (13) -- and features a 4-9 record against Q1 and Q2 opponents. This isn’t a killer, but this is another step in the wrong direction.
MINNESOTA (NET: 58, SOS: 62): The Gophers are in a good spot because of the strength of the league that they play in. There are no bad losses in the Big Ten right now, but it’s time for Minnesota to turn this thing around. They lost their fourth straight on Wednesday at Nebraska, but as bad as the Huskers have been, that is comfortably a Q1 loss. As it stands, Minnesota is 3-7 against Q1 and 4-2 against Q2, and their worst loss is at Boston College (128). They’ve won at Wisconsin and beat Washington on a neutral.
LIPSCOMB (NET: 30, SOS: 226): The Bisons lost at home on Wednesday night, which typically would be a killer to their at-large profile except that this loss came to Liberty, who is now 20-5 on the year, tied for first in the Atlantic Sun with Lipscomb and -- most importantly -- 61st in the NET. This hurts because this was the last time Lipscomb had a chance to land a Q2 win during the regular season.
GEORGETOWN (NET: 78, SOS: 79): The Hoyas lost at Seton Hall by 15 points on Wednesday, dropping them to 3-4 against Q1 opponents. They’re also 4-4 against Q2 and they have a pair of Q3 losses. They’re firmly in the bubble conversation, but they need to start winning. They have a week off until they get Villanova at home. That’s as close to a must-win as it can get in mid-February.
CREIGHTON (NET: 57, SOS: 10): Creighton lost their third straight on Wednesday, falling in overtime at Xavier. They are now 12-12 on the year and 4-8 in the Big East. They probably need to win out to get an at-large at this point.
PROVIDENCE (NET: 74, SOS: 65): The Friars lost at Villanova (21) on Saturday in a game that was brutal for their at-large chances. It’s not because losing at Villanova is a bad loss, it’s because Providence is on the bubble of being on the bubble. They have quite a bit of ground to make up, and this was their best chance to do that. They whiffed.