We are only a month away from selection Sunday, and we are legitimately in the bubble discussion. While we are probably on the outside looking in at this moment, we have a very realistic chance of playing our way in. I've decided to start a new, hopefully daily series that will explore our current position and things that can help us. This post will be longer than future editions, as I want to explain a bit of what goes into it. Also, I hope everybody enjoys this, because I don't think we will be in this position very often in the future. We will more likely be having "Seed projection" watches instead in upcoming years.
First, let's remember this team was picked to finish 13th in the SEC. I thought we would be on the NIT bubble at best. Barring a total collapse, we will at least be in the NIT tournament, and likely hosting a couple of games as the higher seed. If we somehow fight our way into the NCAA tournament, Coach Johnson should receive serious Coach of the year considerations, and I'm not just talking about the SEC award.
There are several bracketology and RPI sites out there, but I will primarily use the official NCAA RPI Ranking as that is what the selection committee will be looking at. In addition to RPI, the committee will consider things like record versus the RPI top 25 and 50, "bad losses" to teams outside the RPI top 100 or 150, ability to win away from home, and strength of schedule. If you are interested in all the nuts and bolts of this complicated process, here are the NCAA's official guidelines and rules. Also, here is a great article from a few weeks ago breaking down the recent of history of team's chances depending on their RPI at season's end.
The best known bracketologist are Jerry Palm at CBS and Joe Lunardi at ESPN. As of now, Lunardi has us in his "next 4 out," behind Vandy, Wisconsin, George Washington, UCLA, and Oregon State. In other words, those are the 5 teams ahead of us for the last spot in the play-in game in Dayton.
Jerry Palm breaks down his bubble watch as "in for now," "on the fence," and "work to do." He currently has us in the top position in the "work to do" category, but that was before the win over Texas A&M. It will be interesting to see where we fall when his new projected bracket comes out.
Note, I've listed our RPI as 50, but that comes from CBS rather than the NCAA official site. Although the NCAA site claims it was updated today, it fails to reflect our win last night, so I'm trusting CBS's analytic s for now.
As for our resume, we are 2-5 against the top 25, but 4-5 against the top 50. We have a respectable 3-5 road record and 2-1 on neutral sites, including quality wins over Wichita State and Notre Dame. We have only one loss outside the top 100, and that was to auburn on the road. Thank God we pulled out those close games against number 301 Jacksonville State and number 314 Southern Miss, otherwise we are not having this discussion.
It's a good year to be on the bubble, as two teams that would normally qualify, SMU and Louisville, are ineligible for post season play, opening the door for two more teams that normally would not get in.
Looking ahead, we have no margin for error at home. A loss to auburn, mississippi $tate, or Arkansas in Tuscaloosa would almost assuredly kill us, assuming we don't miraculously win 3 of 4 road games. It's possible we could get in just by winning those 3 home games, but we would probably need a lot of other things to go our way. While not a lock, if we can win just one of the 4 road games and take care of business at home, we should be in assuming there's not too much crazy stuff happening elsewhere.
Finally, here are our friends today: I will try to do this on a daily basis, posting games that impact our RPI or other teams we are competing with on the bubble.
ROLL EAGLES! Root for Kennesaw State, Winthrop, and Southern Miss to beat, North Florida, Mike's old buddies at Longwood, and our sister school from my hood, UAB, respectively.
ROLL DUCKS! We really like birds today, as we need Oregon to beat Cal.
ROLL RAGIN CAJUNS! Lafayette needs to beat Arkansas State.
ROLL MINUTEMEN! UMass could knock VCU down a notch.
ROLL WAVES! Pepperdine over St. Mary's would be nice.
ROLL PILOTS! Portland could pop Gonzaga's bubble
ROLL HAWKEYES! Iowa needs to beat Indiana.
ROLL PRIDE! Hofstra can help with William and Mary
ROLL CATAMOUNTS! A Western Carolina upset of Chattanooga would be helpful.
ROLL CARDINAL! Stanford can help us against Oregon State.