Friday, December 13, 2013

Bubble Watch 2014: Yes, Already

Everybody has a Bubble Watch, but most that are out there seem to be of the subjective variety. Even more frustrating, most seem to be written from an "if the season ended today" perspective, which is absolutely insane. The regular season ends on March 8, and we know who everyone's going to play up until then. We have the ability to predict, with reasonable accuracy, how everyone will perform over the remainder of the season, and we should use every bit of that knowledge when projecting the NCAA Tournament field.

With that in mind, I'm beginning what should be a semi-regular feature keeping tabs on how teams are looking. This is a mathematical exercise, not a subjective one. There shouldn't be wild fluctuations in the field from one week to the next. Teams are rated in one of 8 categories:
  • Locks (4 teams as of today) are those teams with at least a 95% chance of earning an at-large bid.
  • Near-Locks (4 teams as of today) are those with between a 90% and 95% chance of being comfortable on Selection Sunday.
  • Teams in Good Shape (14 as of today) have between a 75% and 95% chance of comfortably reaching the NCAA Tournament.
  • Teams On The Bubble (38 teams as of today, competing for 25 spots) are the teams whose at-large chances are the most sensitive.
  • Teams with Work To Do (22 as of today) still have a realistic hope of reaching the Tournament, but they need to get hot over the remainder of the season to do so; these are teams with a 10% to 25% chance of receiving an at-large bid.
  • Long Shots (19 as of today) still have a non-zero chance of receiving an at-large bid, but would have to significantly outperform their first month's work in order to do so.
  • Almost Hopeless teams (132 as of today) could still earn at-large bids, but would probably have to win out to do so.
  • The remaining teams (118 as of today) have No Chance to earn at-large bids to the Tournament, either because they can't win enough games to merit consideration, or are ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA rules.
Now and through mid-February, the standard I'll use for determining teams' chances is earning a top-40 end-of-season RPI rating. Historically, teams that reach that threshold are nearly always included in the Dance. Come Mid-February, I'll switch the algorithm over to a more nuanced model that will do a better job of predicting this year's field.

One thing that's important: These percentages are not each team's chances of making the field, nor are they the teams' chances of earning an at-large selection. They represent each team's chances of feeling comfortable on Selection Sunday. Some teams with percentages as low as the 30s would probably be in the field if their season trajectories hold true.

The conference-by-conference breakdown is after the jump.

Atlantic Coast (6 projected bids)

Good Shape: North Carolina (84%)
On The Bubble: Syracuse (75%), Duke (71%), Pittsburgh (67%), Virginia (46%), Florida St. (33%), Clemson (30%)
Work To Do: Maryland (18%), N.C. State (14%)
Long Shots: Notre Dame (3%), Wake Forest (3%), Virginia Tech (3%)

Big Ten (6 projected bids)

Locks: Wisconsin (100%), Ohio St. (95%)
Near-Locks: Iowa (92%)
Good Shape: Michigan St. (79%)
On The Bubble: Michigan (57%), Penn St. (36%)
Work To Do: Minnesota (22%), Indiana (19%), Illinois (10%)
Long Shots: Nebraska (4%)

American Conference (5 projected bids)

Good Shape: Memphis (86%), Louisville (81%)
On The Bubble: Connecticut (53%), Cincinnati (39%), SMU (38%)
Long Shots: Temple (8%)

Big 12 (5 projected bids)

Near-Locks: Baylor (91%), Oklahoma St. (90%)
Good Shape: Kansas (87%), Iowa St. (76%)
On The Bubble: West Virginia (42%), Oklahoma (33%), Texas (29%)
Long Shots: Texas Tech (3%)

Southeastern (5 projected bids)

Good Shape: Florida (79%), Kentucky (77%)
On The Bubble: Arkansas (65%), Missouri (64%), Tennessee (43%), LSU (34%), Alabama (32%), South Carolina (30%)
Work To Do: Mississippi (14%)
Long Shots: Texas A&M (2%)

Atlantic 10 (4 projected bids)

Near-Locks: Massachusetts (92%)
On The Bubble: Saint Louis (67%), Dayton (59%), VCU (52%), Geo. Washington (31%)
Work To Do: Richmond (23%)
Long Shots: St. Joseph's (3%)

Big East (4 projected bids)

Locks: Villanova (95%)
On The Bubble: Creighton (56%), Georgetown (45%), St. John's (34%), Marquette (26%)
Work To Do: Xavier (15%)
Long Shots: Butler (8%), Providence (3%), Seton Hall (2%)

Pacific 12 (4 projected bids)

Locks: Arizona (99%)
Good Shape: Oregon (89%), UCLA (89%), Colorado (80%)
Work To Do: Utah (18%), Arizona St. (17%), Stanford (15%), California (10%)

West Coast (4 projected bids)

Good Shape: Gonzaga (85%)
On The Bubble: BYU (70%), St. Mary's (61%), Pacific (41%)

Mountain West (3 projected bids)

Good Shape: New Mexico (76%)
On The Bubble: San Diego St. (43%), Boise St. (35%), Utah St. (34%)
Work To Do: UNLV (11%)

Everybody Else (22 projected bids)

Good Shape: Wichita St. (77%)
On The Bubble: Harvard (39%), Drexel (33%), Belmont (31%), Drake (26%)
Work To Do: Louisiana Tech (24%), Ohio (20%), UAB (17%), Indiana St. (15%), Princeton (15%), LA Lafayette (13%), Akron (11%), Oral Roberts (11%)
Long Shots: East. Michigan (9%), North Dakota St. (9%), Green Bay (5%), Bucknell (4%), New Mexico St. (4%), Kent St. (2%), Evansville (2%)

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