NC State Wolfpack basketball bubble analysis.
basketball Edit

Updated look at the bubble

The updated average from BracketMatrix.com on Monday afternoon shows a pretty good consensus among the 122 mock fields out there with the exception of the final four teams. Seven programs seem to be vying for those four spots.

The good news for NC State basketball is that it is in contention, but the bad news is it had the least support among them, making the field in only 37 of the 122 projections. The others under consideration were Stanford (101), Richmond (88), Wichita State (81), Cincinnati (78), UCLA (52) and Texas (42).

While those seven teams are competing for the final four spots, there is a chance that teams like Arizona State, Indiana, Xavier and Texas Tech could slide back. Those four lacked unanimous support among the mock brackets and have questions in their own respective cases, but for now they appear to be in a better spot.

Here is an analysis of the aforementioned seven teams, and the strengths and weaknesses of each:

NC State Wolfpack

NC State Wolfpack basketball guard Devon Daniels goes up for a dunk at Syracuse.
Devon Daniels and the Pack are hoping to have a slam-dunk case for the NCAA Tournament by Sunday. (USA Today Sports)

NC State’s bid starts at the top: it boasts three wins that rival any team's — home victories over Duke (NET of No. 6) and Wisconsin (NET 24), and a road triumph at Virginia (NET 41). All three of those squads are expected to be seeded seventh or higher in the brackets, according to BracketMatrix.com, with the first two among the top 16 seeds overall.

The other plus for NC State is that in many other metrics, the Wolfpack may not be the best, but they aren’t the worst either.

Its four quad-one wins cannot match UCLA’s six or Texas’ five, but only Stanford also has that many, and NC State’s win-loss percentage in quad-one games (4-5, .444) is only exceeded by UCLA (6-7, .462). Only two teams have more quad-two wins (Wichita State and Cincinnati), and those two squads plus UCLA are the only teams that have more Q1/Q2 combined wins than the Wolfpack.

The Pack’s strength of schedule (SOS), both overall (No. 65) and non-conference (No. 90), is only bettered in both categories by Cincinnati, although both UCLA (51) and Texas (43) have a better overall SOS. Richmond is slightly tougher in non-conference (85).

NC State’s average NET win number of 139 is better than three other teams (Wichita State, Stanford and Richmond), and its average loss of 61 is lower than Richmond, Cincinnati and UCLA.

That’s not to say NC State’s profile does not have some weak data points. The overall NET ranking itself of No. 54 is only better than Texas (69) and UCLA (76). Computers in general are not that kind to the Wolfpack. Only the Sagarin ratings do not rank NC State among the bottom three of the seven teams listed.

Also, only Cincinnati has more quad-three losses (four) than NC State’s pair, although a closer examination of worst losses show that the Wolfpack's “bad defeats” are not an outlier.

The Pack’s 5-8 record away from home ties UCLA for the worst such win percentage.

Stanford Cardinal

Stanford is a NET darling, checking in at No. 30. That means the Cardinal counts as a quad-one game for any team it plays regardless of venue. Interestingly, though, only KenPom also is generous among the computers. Stanford’s strength of record (SOR) of No. 61 is the worst among the seven teams, and only Richmond has a lower average NET win than Stanford’s 150.

The Cardinal also have a bad non-conference SOS of No. 219, worst among the teams being considered here.

That said, Stanford has four quad-one wins and a nice group of victories that include home wins over Oregon (NET 12) and Colorado (NET 23), and a neutral-court victory over Oklahoma (NET 46). It only has one quad-three loss, a setback at California (NET 148). Ironically, the two will play again in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament in a must-win matchup for Stanford.

Stanford is 7-10 in combined Q1/Q2 games, and only Texas has a worse percentage. Its away-from-home record of 5-7 is only slightly better than the Pack and UCLA, too.

Richmond Spiders

Richmond tests fairly well among the computers, including boasting a No. 37 ranking in the NET. Of the computers, only Sagarin does not have Richmond among the top four bubble teams. Richmond has also been very good away from home, going 10-5 entering the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

That said, its combined Q1/Q2 record of 6-6 marks the fewest wins of all the teams being considered, and it has only one victory over a surefire NCAA Tournament team. That was an impressive neutral-court win over Wisconsin, but its average NET win of 161 is the lowest of the seven teams. Furthermore, its average NET loss of 72 is second highest.

Richmond has just one quad-three loss to its credit, a neutral-court setback to Radford. But it also lost at St. Bonaventure, which is 121 in the NET, and the 10 quad-four games it played were the most of these teams. That said, Richmond’s SOS numbers are fine (No. 85 both overall and non-conference).

Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State’s case is built upon an impressive 7-3 quad-two record, which helps them have a 9-8 Q1/Q2 mark. The Shockers are also really liked by the computers. Its NET of 41 is third highest among these bubble teams, but all the others have Wichita State either first or second. Its SOR of 34 is also the best of the squads being compared.

But Wichita State lacks the big wins. Its average NET win of 145 is only better than Stanford and Richmond. Its best win is a home victory over Oklahoma, but it owns no other wins over a likely NCAA Tournament team and was swept by fellow bubble team Cincinnati.

Wichita State, though, has not taken many bad losses. Its worst defeat is at Temple (NET 116), and it is 14-0 in Q3/Q4 games. The average NET loss of 51 is third lowest among the teams, although it will not win points for its non-conference schedule (SOS of 139).

Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati is a difficult case, but it has a bit of an albatross on its résumé it must overcome: bad losses. Cincinnati has four quad-three defeats. It joins UCLA and Richmond as the only teams to have multiple losses to teams ranked 100 or lower in the NET, and it has a whopping four of them. The Bearcats' average NET loss of 80 is the worst of all the teams.

It also does not have many great wins. Cincinnati is just 2-6 in quad-one games with only one victory over a solidly-in NCAA Tournament team, a home triumph over Houston, currently projected as a seven seed.

So where does Cincinnati build its case? It is 7-0 in quad-two contests and its average NET win of 118 is tied with UCLA for being the best. The nine combined Q1/Q2 wins are tied for the most of any team, and the computers like the Bearcats. It ranks top four among the bubble teams in all those metrics.

Lastly, it by far played the best schedule. Its non-conference SOS of 27 and overall SOS of 21 are résumé enhancers.

UCLA Bruins

UCLA is another profile that goes on both ends of the spectrum of good and bad.

On the plus: its six quad-one wins are the most of all teams considered, and that includes three wins in the upper tier of quad one. That’s one more than Texas, and those are the only teams to have multiples of those (NC State, Stanford and Richmond each have one).

The average NET win of 118 is tied for the best, and its three best wins come close to rivaling NC State: a sweep over Arizona (NET 14) and a win at Colorado (NET 23). Those two teams are currently forecasted to be seeded eighth and seventh, respectively.

On the minus: UCLA’s NET is 76, which means it would not count as a quad-one game for any opponent it plays. In fact, the computers across the board have UCLA last among the seven teams except for SOR, in which Stanford is slightly lower.

The Bruins will also get dinged for a non-conference SOS of No. 202, and it has three losses to teams ranked 100 or lower in the NET. That includes the lone quad-four loss of any team: a home defeat to Cal State Fullerton (NET 262).

Texas Longhorns

Texas has made a late surge for the field and has done the best job of avoiding the bad losses. Its current worst defeat is at Iowa State (NET 98), and the next worst may be a home loss to Oklahoma State (NET 61). Its average NET loss of 32 is, by a good margin, the lowest of these seven teams.

The Longhorns also have good wins. They have two upper-tier quad-one wins and can boast a sweep of West Virginia (NET 17) plus a win at Texas Tech (NET 22). WVU is projected as a six seed and the Red Raiders as one of the last four byes. Ironically, Texas and Texas Tech will play in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament in a crucial game for both teams’ at-large bids.

The issues for Texas? Its overall Q1/Q2 record of 7-12 is the worst of all the teams, and only Richmond (six) has fewer victories in those quads. The Longhorns have a low NET of 69 and are bottom two in BPI and KenPom, but other computers like them. Texas’ SOR is No. 36, second best among the bubble squads.

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