Believe it or not, Selection Sunday for the 2018 NCAA Tournament is less than 7 weeks away. There’s still a lot of conference games to play, but things are starting to take shape. As of today, here’s how the picture looks in the ACC.
***Author’s note: In parentheses next to each team I have included their current RPI and KenPom ranking, in that order. I included both because both will be included on team sheets received by committee members this year (and it’s fun to see how different they often are). However, the RPI is still the only official metric to be used by the committee, it’s the only metric that will be used to determine the win quadrants, and thus it’s the only number that really matters this year.
Essentially locks: Duke (RPI: 1; KenPom: 4), UNC (3; 8), UVA (5; 3)
All three have top 5 RPIs and all three would basically have to lose out to miss out on a bid. The only real thing they are playing for at this point is seeding.
In really good shape: Clemson (6; 13), Louisville (15; 34), Miami (19; 28)
Clemson is currently 6th in the RPI and would likely be an essential lock had they not just lost Donte Grantham for the season. That’s such a tough blow for the Tigers and you hate to see it for a senior like Grantham who has done everything right. Nonetheless, with him out, I could at least see the potential for a Tiger tailspin. And the committee would, in theory, have to evaluate Clemson without Grantham. I’m not saying they will get left out, but things don’t look quite as solid for the Tigers as they did a few days ago.
Kudos to Louisville for manipulating the RPI and the Cardinals also seem to have found something under Padgett, as they have been playing much better ball (the last 3 minutes of the Boston College game notwithstanding). It’s hard to see them not finishing strong enough to earn a bid.
Miami is here because of their top 20 RPI. They really don’t have too much else to hang their hat on--Jim Larranaga hasn’t done a great job with this very talented bunch and their best win is arguably a neutral site victory over Middle Tennessee. But would the committee really leave out a top 30 RPI team from the ACC? I don’t think so...unless the FBI investigation lurches forward with more bad news for the Hurricanes.
More likely than not to make it, but lots of work left: FSU (41; 24)
A top 45 RPI, several really good wins, no terrible losses—FSU looks like a classic 9 or 10 seed. Honestly, if the schedule was smarter, the Seminoles would probably be in the next tier up, as they own better wins than Miami. Alas, FSU’s OOC schedule is awful and the committee (along with the RPI) still really puts a premium on schedule strength. A 9-9 finish in ACC play will have the ‘Noles right on the bubble, while 10-8 likely earns a bid. As of today, KenPom projects a 10-8 finish for Florida State.
Outside looking in: Syracuse (42; 49), Notre Dame (63; 31), BC (65; 75), NCSU (86; 68) Virginia Tech (105; 54)
Syracuse has a top 45 RPI, a win over Maryland, and...not much else. Honestly, they just need wins. If the Orange finish 10-8 in ACC play they will probably make earn a bid. However, KenPom currently projects them at 8-10. The home game against BC on Wednesday is probably as close to a must win as you can get in January.
ND would almost surely be in with Bonzie Colson healthy all season, but they’ve now lost 4 straight and their RPI is dropping. They do own a neutral site win over Wichita State, but that can only carry them so far. If the Irish can find a way to finish at least 8-10 in ACC play, get Colson back by the ACCT, and then win a couple games with him...I think that would do it. But that’s just a guess.
Boston College is here because of their win over Duke, but they have virtually no chance at earning a bid unless they can find a way to win on the road. The Eagles have one road win this season and it’s against Hartford.
North Carolina State has some great wins (Arizona, Duke, Clemson) but a couple of terrible losses (Northern Iowa, UNC-G) and an awful OOC SOS are dragging them down. If the Wolfpack can get to 10-8 in ACC play, maybe, but can they play that consistently? I doubt it.
VT...I’m really not sure why they are here. The Hokies have no real marquee wins. An absolutely atrocious OOC schedule drags their RPI outside the top 100. And they are projected to finish 6-12 in the league. But they have a decent amount of talent and everyone loves to talk about how Buzz Williams is an excellent coach, so we’ll see. They play UNC at home tonight—if they can pull the upset that would be a nice step in the right direction.
Auto bid or bust: Wake Forest (128; 92), Georgia Tech (141; 111), Pittsburgh (160; 214)
The only way these teams will factor in is if they upset teams above them and cause one of their bubbles to burst.
What are your thoughts? Can the ACC get more than 7 bids? More than 8? What’s with some teams damaging their chances year after year with poor OOC schedules?