Bubble Banter: The margins on the cut line are as fine as ever
I wanted to take a second today to walk you through just how fine the margins are on the bubble right now.
Let’s start with N.C. State. The Wolfpack, depending on where you look, are somewhere are a No. 7 or No. 8 seed right now. Our Dave Ommen has them slotted in an 8-9 game, which seems a bit low for a team that is currently sitting at No. 23 in the AP Poll. It makes sense, however, when you take a closer look at their resume -- the Wolfpack have just one Q1 win this season and their non-conference SOS is an abysmal 349th out of 353 teams.
The one Q1 win that N.C. State has landed came against Auburn at home. The Tigers have lost three in a row themselves and, as of Tuesday, were sitting at 0-5 in Q1 games. They won’t get a chance to improve on that mark until Feb. 9th when they pay a visit to LSU. Auburn’s best win -- and their only top 50 win of the year -- came on the fourth day of the season, when they beat Washington at home. Washington has not beaten a top 50 team this year. Their two best wins of the season came last week, when they swept the Oregon schools on the road, and with the way the Ducks have been trending of late, there’s no guarantee that they will finish the year as a top 75 team and thus a Q1 win.
Ommen has Washington, like N.C. State, has a No. 8 seed and Auburn slotted in as a No. 9 seed, which is why it’s so hard to rule anyone out of the NCAA tournament picture at this point. Hell, UCF played their first Q1 opponent on Sunday, lost by 20 points on the road and they are the third team out of the field.
It isn’t going to take much for anyone to play their way from the wrong side of the cut-line into the tournament.
Just ask Baylor.
The Bears have won five in a row and six of their last seven, beating the likes of Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma (on the road by 30) to vault themselves fairly comfortably into the field despite having possibly the two worst losses of any potential at-large team in Stephen F. Austin (277) and Texas Southern (233), both at home.
Anyway, here is tonight’s action on the bubble:
TEXAS (NET: 44, SOS: 2): The Longhorns landed another nice win, picking off Kansas at home on Tuesday. That’s the fourth Q1 win for Texas -- North Carolina on a neutral, Purdue and Kansas at home, at Kansas State by 20 -- and while they do have nine losses on the season, only one of those nine came against Q3 competition (Radford at home). That’s what happens when you play the second-toughest schedule in the country.
LIPSCOMB (NET: 40, SOS: 55): Lipscomb had just one chance left this season to add another Q1 win to their profile, and they got it -- they went into Liberty (46) and won by 20. The Bisons are now 2-3 against Q1 competition (at TCU) and have beaten Vermont at home and won at SMU. This is a really good team that will deserve serious at-large consideration in their take care of business in their league.
ALABAMA (NET: 43, SOS: 13): The Crimson Tide picked up another solid win on Tuesday night, boucning back from a loss at Baylor by beating Mississippi State in Tuscaloosa. That’s now three Q1 wins for Avery Johnson’s club, which is the exact same number as the Q3 losses they’ve amassed. Their win over Kentucky is going to continue to look better and better, however, and with the cut line looking as funky as it does right now, that is going to carry some weight.
N.C. STATE (NET: 27, SOS: 218): It’s hard to criticize a team too much for losing by one in overtime against the No. 3 team in the country, but that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night when the Wolfpack hosted Virginia. We talked about it at length, but the issue for N.C. State is that their non-conference SOS is atrocious, and the selection committee does not like that. They also have as many Q2 losses as they do Q1 wins. That’s a precarious spot.
NEBRASKA (NET: 24, SOS: 68): The Huskers lost their fourth straight on Tuesday, falling at home to Wisconsin by double-digits, and they now sit at 12-8 overall. The Huskers do have a double of Q1 wins -- at Indiana, at Clemson -- but their issue is that they now have to find a way to turn around their season without their second-leading scorer and rebounder in Isaac Copeland, because the committee is going to take into consideration the fact that Copeland is no longer on the roster.
OHIO STATE (NET: 37, SOS: 35): The Buckeyes landed a massive win on Saturday, going into Lincoln and picking off Nebraska. That win was so important because they had just lost five straight games and we knew they were heading to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan tonight. As expected, they lost on Tuesday. With three Q1 road wins and nothing on their profile worse than a loss at Rutgers (124), they’re in good shape as their schedule eases up -- they get Rutgers, Penn State, at Indiana and Illinois in their next four.
PITTSBURGH (NET: 62, SOS: 66): Pitt being a thing was fun while it lasted, but just three weeks after wins over Louisville and Florida State thrust the Panthers into the bubble conversation, they’re now lost their last four games. Three were on the road, however, and the home game came against Duke. Syracuse on Saturday is going to be a big one.