JOHNSON: Breaking Down The Bubble

With the Pack sitting precariously on the bubble, here's a look at the team's to root for (and against) as we get closer to Selection Sunday.

NC State finished the regular season with a 20-11 record and a 9-7 finish in the ACC, good for the fifth seed in this week's ACC tournament. That record is not, however, good enough to get the Pack off the dreaded NCAA tournament "bubble."

That leaves Pack fans scanning box scores and reading every 'bracketology' expert to try to find out where they stand and what they need to do.

In that spirit, I've created this handy color-coded chart comparing some of the teams battling the Pack for the final spot. After that, I've created a guide for who to root for and against over the next six days. Obviously, what really matters is what NC State does in the ACC tournament - but that doesn't mean we can't speculate about the bubble.

Basically, for this chart, I've included every team listed by's Jerry Palm or ESPN's Joe Lunardi as either a "Last Four In" or "Last Four Out/Next Four Out."

Those teams have been sorted by RPI, and I have tried to highlight the positives and negatives on their resume (my cut-off are admittedly arbitrary).

We have included their performance on the road and in neutral environments, along with a look at their Strength of Schedule (SOS), and records vs. the RPI Top 50, 51-100, 101-200, and 201+.

RPI Team Road Neutral SOS 1-50 51-100 101-200 201+
22 Colorado State 3-9 2-0 8 3-5 5-4 6-1 4-0
37 California 5-6 1-1 91 2-3 5-3 7-2 9-0
43 Iona 11-4 4-2 145 1-1 4-2 8-2 12-2
45 South Florida 5-8 0-2 24 1-9 5-0 8-3 4-0
48 Northwestern 4-7 3-0 14 1-10 4-2 9-0 4-0
50 Oregon 7-4 0-1 90 0-5 5-2 7-1 10-0
52 Texas 4-7 0-2 21 3-9 1-1 9-2 6-0
54 Saint Joseph's 5-8 2-1 43 2-4 4-5 9-3 4-0
55 Miami 4-8 1-0 40 2-7 1-3 9-1 6-0
56 NC State 5-4 2-1 29 0-8 5-1 8-2 7-0
57 Xavier 5-7 1-1 48 2-7 4-3 7-0 6-1
58 Ole Miss 4-8 2-2 38 1-6 6-5 8-1 3-0
60 Seton Hall 4-7 2-1 49 4-7 3-1 8-3 4-0
66 Drexel 11-3 3-3 210 1-2 3-1 8-3 15-0
75 Tennessee 3-8 0-2 33 4-7 3-2 6-4 4-0
77 Arizona 7-5 0-2 117 1-4 4-4 8-1 8-1

For Pack fans I think you have to hope that the committee places equal rate on SOS and road/neutral record as it does on performance against the top 50. Failing that they at least look at top 100 cumulatively because the Pack's combined 5-9 record in those games would compare favorably with its direct competition.

To me, there is no question that Miami ranks behind State - nothing on their resume is good and their combined 3-10 record against the top 100 is worse than the Pack.

That said, if you are only picking four on this list I don't think the Pack makes it right now if the selections were made today. It does, however, suggest that two wins in Atlanta could be enough - if luck keeps working on the side of bubble teams and mid-majors keep winning their respective conferences.

Here is a look at the teams to watch just a few days before Selection Sunday.

Teams To Root For - The Small Conference Party Crashers
These are the teams that will steal at-large bids if they don't win their conference tournaments.

Harvard, Ivy (no tournament so needs to win regular season title)
Long Beach State, Big West
Temple or St. Louis, Atlantic 10
Southern Miss or Memphis, Conference USA

Teams To Root For - The Fringe RPI Threshold Teams
The NCAA selection committee uses something called the Nitty Gritty Report, basically a quick glance evaluation of teams. The last four columns of this report deal with record against certain categories of the RPI. Specifically it divides it up into 1-50, 50-100 and 100-200 along with a cumulative 1-100 column.

The Pack has played several teams that are on the cusp of either dropping out of or into one of these categories. A good stretch run by these teams could give the Pack some padding on those metrics, which would help its overall profile.

Maryland – 109th currently (probably not happening)
Princeton – 93rd
Stanford – 96th
St. Bonaventure – 95th

Note: I pulled Georgia Tech off of here because Miami beating them is just as important to NC State's bubble hopes than Tech staying in the top 200. State needs to hope that Miami wins against Georgia Tech & loses to Florida State but somehow makes it into the top 50 RPI in the process.

I also yanked Virginia Tech because they fell too far away from the top 100 to get back in.

Teams To Root Against - Everyone Else On The Bubble
It's a long list, so its not likely that everyone here will lose, but it's nice if you can out-play the majority of these teams down the stretch run.

Colorado State
South Florida
Saint Joseph's
Ole Miss
Seton Hall

The Special Cases - Miami and Texas
Miami and Texas are fellow bubble teams that the Pack currently has wins against. In addition, they are both on the fringe of the top 50 in the RPI. So while them winning would help the Pack's resume, it would also put two more teams in front of them in the bubble pecking order.

The question becomes what's worse - having zero top 50 wins or having two fewer teams to go against on the bubble?

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