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ACC Selection Sunday Outlook: Did FSU’s loss to ND put them on the Bubble?

Bubble, bubble, toil, and trouble.

NCAA Basketball: Florida State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Well, folks, we are officially one month from Selection Sunday. The time of year when some random team in the Pac-12 might impact your team’s tournament hopes/seed line nearly as much your own team’s wins and losses. With that in mind, let’s dive in.

***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.

###Author’s note number 2: This was written prior to the Sunday night Duke/Georgia Tech game because, honestly, that game is meaningless with regard to these tiers.

Essentially locks: UVA (RPI: 1; KenPom: 1), Clemson (4; 15), UNC (6; 10), Duke (10; 5)

All four of these teams were included in the Selection Committee’s one month away top 16—and all of them were a 3 seed or better.

In really good shape: Miami (25; 35)

Last week I mentioned that Miami needed to prove to the committee it could win games without 5 star guard Bruce Brown, who’s missing the next month with a foot injury. They are now 2-1 without Brown, with the loss coming Saturday to Boston College (The Hurricanes failed to score over the final 6+ minutes and lost by 2). Miami’s advanced metrics actually aren’t all that impressive, but smart scheduling is elevating their RPI and that’s the most important number. With Brown out, the ‘Canes can’t afford to completely collapse down the stretch. However, with 4 of their final 6 games at home and only two more games against the top tier of the ACC, it seems pretty likely that Miami will do enough to earn a bid.

More likely than not to make it, but work left: Louisville (41; 28), FSU (43; 25)

Louisville’s advanced metrics have actually improved in the last week, but their RPI plummeted 15 spots. That’s what home losses against mediocre teams—in this case, Syracuse—will do to your RPI and it results in the Cardinals dropping back a level. Even worse, the RPI drop caused me to take a deeper look at the Louisville resume...and there’s a surprising lack of high quality wins. In fact, the Cardinals have just two quadrant 1 wins (@FSU and @Notre Dame). On top of that, Louisville’s final 5 games are brutal: UNC, @Duke, @VT, UVA, @NCSU. Win any two of those games and the Cardinals are probably in, and three surely locks it up. But it’s not that hard to foresee a 1-4 finish, or possibly even 0-5. Louisville could easily be on the bubble this time next week and frankly, if factoring in future win-shares I could see an argument for them to be on the bubble right now.

Florida State continues to have the 5th best KenPom rating in the ACC, but the awful OOC schedule looms large. The committee has demonstrated time and time again that how you schedule in games you control weigh heavily in their decisions—especially when it comes to leaving broderline teams out. I noted last week that if the Seminoles beat either UVA or ND they would move up at least one level. They lost both. Now, FSU still has 5 quadrant 1 wins (though the home win against Miami is hanging on by a thread), which is a very nice number, and no quadrant 3 or 4 losses as of this writing. However, because of the poor OOC schedule (and its subsequent impact on the RPI), the margin for error just isn’t very big. It’s looking like the Seminoles need to get to 21 wins in order to truly feel safe, which would mean finishing 4-1 if they want to wrap things up prior to the ACC Tourney. That’s not to say 20 wins wouldn’t result in a bid, but it certainly would leave me feeling very good on Selection Sunday.

Truly on the bubble: Syracuse (39; 46), Virginia Tech (56; 40) NCSU (72; 59)

Well, this level experienced some growth in the last 7 days. Can the ACC get 10 teams into the Dance?

Syracuse hasn’t been playing that much better—their KenPom ranking has hovered between 45 and 50 since New Year’s Eve. But road wins are gold in the RPI and Syracuse got a big one over Louisville last Monday. The Orange followed up that performance with a near-must home win over Wake Forest to get their ACC record back to .500 after a 1-4 start in league play. Unfortunately for Syracuse fans, the Orange only have two quadrant 1 wins, and one of those is over RPI-darling Buffalo. The closing stretch is manageable, but it feels like Syracuse will have to win one of their games against Duke, North Carolina, or Clemson to have a legitimate tourney-worthy resume.

Virginia Tech has won 5 of 6 since dropping a home game to Florida State back on January 20th. But none of them come anywhere close to their road win over Virginia on Saturday. Honestly, that just might be the best win in the entire country this season. Couple the UVA result with a home win over UNC and an RPI that’s moved from 100+ up to the mid-50s, and the Hokies have made up a serious amount of ground in the last three weeks. But an abysmal OOC SOS (319...for comparison, FSU is 288), means there is still work to be done. Virginia Tech travels to Duke on Wednesday and a win there would shoot them up at least two levels. But without a second straight road upset the Hokies likely need to finish at least 3-2 over their final 5 to really feel good, and it’s a very difficult closing stretch.

Fresh off their road win over rival UNC, NC State was the team with all the momentum. Then the Wolfpack last two straight last week and their status remains an enigma. State probably has the best collection of wins out of any bubble team in the country, with four victories over teams listed in the Committee’s top 16. Unfortunately—gee doesn’t this sound familiar—they have a terrible OOC SOS (278) and two bad losses to boot. The Wolfpack play at Syracuse this Wednesday in what could end up being a bubble elimination game. After that, they head west on I-40 for a tricky roadie against Wake Forest. A 1-1 split likely keeps them right on the bubble. 2-0 would move NCSU up a level. However, 0-2 this week and State moves to the outside looking in.

Outside looking in: Notre Dame (70; 37) BC (81, 81)

Notre Dame, after losing 7 straight thanks to a multitude of injuries, got Matt Farrell back healthy and promptly won two consecutive games. Which is exactly what ND needs to do—win enough games to keep them in the conversation, then get Bonzie Colson back healthy and win a couple in the ACC Tourney. It would also help if Wichita State and LSU keep winning down the stretch, as the Irish own neutral site wins over both. The closing stretch features road games against UNC and UVA, which would obviously be massive. But even with losses to both there are still several opportunities for wins against Miami, Wake, BC, and Pitt. It’s going to take some work but Irish fans still have hope.

Boston College pulled the home upset over Miami, keeping their prosciutto thin at-large hopes alive. But the Eagles just have not been able to win away from home and there is zero chance of a bid if they finish conference play 0-9 on the road. BC plays at Pitt on Tuesday and the takes on the Irish at home on Saturday. If they don’t win both they will drop down to auto bid or bust territory.

Auto bid or bust: Wake Forest (bad), Georgia Tech (worse), Pittsburgh (good gracious, Pitt)

Nothing has changed with these teams. Their only impact will be if they burst another team’s bubble.

A series of upsets, several of which came on the road, has the ACC looking at the potential of double digit bids. Will the league do it? Will Louisville or FSU go from looking good to falling all the way out? Will any of the other locks join UVA on the 1 seed?