Yes, Virginia, there is a bubble; you're just not on it -- yet
Virginia is 7-3 and in third place in the ACC, but not on my bubble watch yet. Here's the breakdown.
Virginia fans have taken up their pitchforks and torches and come after me on Twitter because not only do I not have them in my bracket, I don't even have them on the bubble. They have a very strange profile, so, let me explain. Virginia fans probably won't put down their pitchforks and torches after reading this.
Let's start with the good. The Cavs have a win at Wisconsin, which is easily their best of the year. They also beat UNC and North Carolina State at home. Their win at Maryland is good because that is a team the Wahoos may eventually be competing with for a spot in the field. Add in home wins over non-tourney teams Florida State and Tennessee, and Virginia is 6-0 against the RPI top 100.
Still, the Cavs' overall RPI sits at 81. Now, RPI alone won't get a team in or leave them out, and it's not a perfect measurement, but think about that for a second. Do you know how bad Virginia has to have been in its other 17 games to have an RPI of 81?
Let me tell you how bad.
Virginia has not one, not two, not even three, but SIX bad losses (RPI 100+). Every single loss the Wahoos have is a bad one. They lost to Old Dominion. No. 319 Old Dominion. There may be only two teams to win at Wisconsin so far this year, but only three can say they lost to the Monarchs anywhere.
The Cavs also played one of the worst non-conference schedules. It ranks 320th as of Monday. Only Iowa played a worse one among today's RPI top 100. The committee has a long and storied history of leaving bubble teams out of the NCAA tournament for this reason alone.
Virginia is also something of a home-court hero. Despite the wins at Wisconsin and Maryland, the Cavs are only 3-5 away from home. After their home game with Virginia Tech this week, four of their next six are on the road.
Finally, let me answer some of the questions Virginia fans have been asking me on Twitter.
Q: What about the fact that we lost three games without our PG (Jontel Evans)?
A: Doesn't matter. The committee does give some consideration regarding roster issues like injuries, suspensions, etc., but they don't ignore losses that happened with missing players. They won't assume Virginia would have won if Evans had played. In fact, the Cavs have proven to be just as capable of a bad loss with Evans as they were without him. A team has to put together a resume good enough to get selected regardless of roster issues. If any consideration is given, it's usually with seeding, not selection.
Q: We're in third place in the ACC. They won't leave out the third-place team.
A: That's not a question. However, conference record and standings are irrelevant. Unbalanced conference schedules make some league standings a joke. They aren't good for anything but seeding a conference tournament, if even that. Teams are judged on their entire season, not just part of it. Teams can just as easliy make the tournament (or ruin their chances to make it) in November and December as they can in January and February.
Q: Who cares about RPI? Sagarin and Kenpom like us!
A: The committee does. You may not like it. It's not the most sophisticated metric to be sure, but it's the one that guides the selection process. Until Sagarin and Kenpom get on the committee, their ratings are not useful in bracketology.
So, in terms of the bad news, only one team has received an at-large bid in the last 19 years with six bad losses (USC 2011 -- don't count on the committee making that mistake again) and only one team with a non-conference SOS of 320 or worse has received one as well (GW 2006, which finsihed 26-2). The Cavs are going to have to do a lot more good to overcome those factors. But take heart. There are still five weeks left to do something about it.
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