I, probably like many of you, have been trying to figure out how much to invest in this basketball season. I was really excited going into the year and thought we would be back on the bubble and the fact that Henderson would sell some tickets and draw some eyeballs would put us over the hump.
Kansas State and Oregon were hard to stomach, but nothing bad about losing to them. Mercer wasn't a bad team, but one that a bubble team has to beat. Against Dayton, we missed our last chance at a resume builder in non-conference. Then, we shat the bed in classic AK fashion against MSU. I really want to stay excited and engaged, but I've been trying to figure out how realistic it is that we make a run to get in the tournament.
Last year, I got in tuned with SBNation's Washington State site, Coug Center. They did a really good job detailing the bubble teams leading up to the tournament using a simple formula - KenPom rating + RPI. You can have a bad record and still have a decent KenPom number if you play pretty well in your losses and teams can rig RPI somewhat by scheduling lots of teams with RPIs right around 100 and racking up wins while not really playing anyone. However, the combination of the two factors has proven pretty reliable as an at-large predictor.
Coug Center hasn't started up the bubble watch yet, so I played around with the numbers a little to see where we stood and how much we have to do to get back in the field.
I counted 23 conferences that look to me to be 1 bid leagues. However, 3 of those have teams that would get in on their merit should they be upset in their conference tournament: MVC & Wichita State (9 KP, 9 RPI) MWC & San Diego State (21 KP, 12 RPI), and Ivy & Harvard (29 KP, 36 RPI). That leaves 20 1 bids and 48 at large spots. Obviously this would change if there are any bid stealers from those 3 leagues or a non tournament team from any of the multi-bids.
I won't bore you with all of who got in and who didn't, but here are some highlights:
Providence(51 KP, 49 RPI), Dayton(52 KP, 52 RPI), North Carolina(48 KP, 57 RPI), and Saint Mary's(56 KP, 50 RPI) are the last 4 in
New Mexico(63/43), Clemson(32/78), Missouri(55/55), and Boise State(59/53) are the first 4 out
Indiana State(46/68), Louisiana Tech(38/83), LSU(62/65), and Richmond(68/60) are the next 4 out.
Ole Miss is 29 spots away from being in the last 4 in. That's a steep hill to climb (I think), but it's not completely insurmountable. 3 teams are SEC teams, so we have the chance to take care of them ourselves. Several of them are probably from 1 bid leagues (Mercer is in there) so they wouldn't count.
Basically, it's possible. Which means that AK will win 1 game short of it and blow it most likely. The good news is that a lot of teams are like that. Last year, no one wanted to make the tournament. As soon as a team got on bubble watch, they would promptly lose an important game. Also, KenPom is an outlier on us this year. He has us rated at 92 - most computer rankings have us closer to the mid 60s which would put us right up with the final group.
I'll keep an eye on this and make a post if we start to sniff the bubble.