Monday, February 20, 2006

Thoughts on the ACC Bubble

Conventional wisdom has it (and I think has it generally right) that the ACC is split into 3 groups of 4 with respect to the NCAA tourney - 4 in (Duke, BC, NC State, UNC), 4 out (G.Tech, V.Tech, Clemson, Wake) and 4 on the bubble (Maryland, Miami, Florida State, Virginia). Let's take a look at the tourney chances of each one:

Florida State - without question, on the court, this is the best team of the 4 on the bubble. They're at the top of the group in efficiency margin, and are a very good shooting team - in the top 4 in the conference in eFG%, 2pt%, 3pt%, and PPWS. They have some big shortcomings on offense - they don't share the ball well, turn it over too much, and don't rebound well - but on the whole the plusses are better than the minuses. Their schedule closing out the season is favorable - V.Tech and Miami on the road, Maryland and Duke at home. The two road games are against weaker teams, and FSU has done alright on the road, at least until the NC State blowout: 2-4, with three of the four losses by 6 points or fewer. Their two home losses were also very close games - a 1 point defeat at the hands of the Heels, and an overtime loss to Miami. If they can get three of the last four and a win in the conference tourney, they'll have 20 wins and fewer than 10 losses with a 9-7 mark in conference. That should get them in, even though they had a weak non-conference schedule and don't have a marquee win. Of course, I happen to be of the opinion that the one regular season game Duke is most likely to lose is at FSU, and that would certainly be a marquee win very close to selection time that could give the Noles a big boost. If they do get left out, they'll be a big threat in the NIT

Maryland - sports the best RPI (courtesy Pomeroy) of the group at 45, but has been struggling without McCray - just 2-5 in their last seven, including two home losses and losses to Clemson and Temple. The remainder of the schedule does them no favors - at FSU, at UNC, home against Miami, and at UVA. None of those are even close to guaranteed wins, and the Terps need two (if one of them is at UNC) or three wins in those four games to have a chance. Maryland had some solid wins early in the season, but I think the committee will largely disregard those, and focus on the performance of the McCray-less Terps, since that's who would be in the tourney. When it comes down to it, those Terps just don't have enough to warrant getting in.

Miami - It's going to be difficult, but not impossible, for the Canes to make it. They had a decent non-conference schedule, but scored no wins against their tougher opponents. Home losses to NC State and UNC as part of their current four game skid really hurt their chance to pick up a second marquee win to go along with their victory in the Dean Dome. Still, at 6-7, and with a favorable remaining schedule (vs V. Tech, at Maryland, vs. FSU), 9-7 is not out of the question. Even so, that would leave their overall record at 17-12 going into the ACC tourney, and their RPI likely hovering in the 50s. Miami might need two wins in the tourney even if they win out to get consideration.

Virginia - Raise your hand if you thought back in December that we could even be having this discussion about the Cavs. Coach Leitao has pulled a lot out of this group, especially considering they are 9th in offensive efficiency, 6th in defensive efficiency, and 9th in margin (behind even Virginia Tech). They're the worst shooting team in conference, and are 10th in PPWS only because they have succeeded at getting to the free throw line. Still, they have a chance to pick up some big wins (Boston College at home, Carolina on the road) and have two other actually winnable games (at Clemson, vs. Maryland). Still, the poor performance of the team in the non-conference season and their correspondingly bad RPI (72, worse than Clemson's) means that there's zero margin for error here - the Cavs absolutely have to win out.

Best case scenario (ignoring the fact that I really don't want Duke to lose): FSU wins its next three, gets the marquee win over Duke at home, but loses to Miami. Miami wins out, and Virginia wins out (Maryland, of course, loses 3 of its games, but we'll toss in a win at UNC just because it's fun to think about the Heels losing). Virginia would be at 10-6, the two Florida schools at 9-7 (ideally with UNC). NC State would be 11-5, and BC also 10-6. Virginia would actually be the three seed in that scenario since it would hold the head to head tiebreaker with BC. I'm not 100% sure how Miami, FSU, and UNC would be split up among the 5, 6, and 7 seeds, but let's just say they fall in that order. Each bubble team would then need to win at least one game in the tourney (feasible in this scenario). That just might make it possible for 7 teams to get in. Now, the odds of this happening are infinitesimal - there's just no way Virginia can win out - but it just shows that, as we sit today, there's still a shot for three more teams to get in from the ACC. Of course, the most likely scenario is that only FSU gets in and the conference gets 5 bids - not a terrible showing, but certainly a far cry from what was hoped for at the start of the season.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Well Virgina got the first one with BC. I never expected such a lopsided win! While I wouldn't put it past the Cavs to win out, if they do, Leitao in my opinion takes coach of the year. (Even without winning out, he should still get serious consideration. While I admit that Williams has done a commendable job, they at least had a core group of supporting players who played in the championship last year. Leitao built that team up from absolutely nothing into the suprise of the conference!)