Wolfpack on the outside of the NCAA bubble and looking in

Posted by Joe Giglio on February 6, 2014 

At No. 62 in the RPI, N.C. State is on the fringe of the NCAA tournament conversation. For all of its problems on the road in the Triangle, the Wolfpack is a couple of late free throws against Missouri and a competent second half against Pittsburgh away from being squarely in the at-large field.

As it is, six Sundays from Selection Sunday, N.C. State finds itself in a group of about 20 teams hoping to fill the final 11 at-large spots (there are 36 total spots, in Patrick Stevens' estimable projections for the Syracuse Post Standard, about 25 of those are "safe.").

As a reminder, the hard RPI number isn't as important as the records vs. the top 50 or top 100. The nonconference strength of schedule — ie the games a team can control — is also weighted heavily by the selection committee. "Good" wins help more than "bad" losses hurt. Overall number of wins and conference records are not factored. Ultimately, there's no single formula. Teams are put on a board and the committee compares them and selects them.

In chart form below, you can compare the Wolfpack to other at-large hopefuls. N.C. State has wins over two top-50 teams — Tennessee and Florida State — most people project to make the tournament but not too much stands out in its favor. In 2012, when N.C. State made the field as one of the last at-large teams, it had nonconference strength of schedule (No. 23) on its side. This year, the Pack's SoS ranks No. 109, which can change with some help.

One team to keep an eye on: Northwestern. The Pack's 69-48 win over the Wildcats on Dec. 4 didn't seem like much at the time. Honestly, former Duke assistant Chris Collins looked like he was in for a very long season after that performance in Raleigh. But since Big Ten play has started, Collins' first team has gone 5-5 in the league with impressive wins over Wisconsin (on the road), Minnesota and Indiana.

State has more control over what it does. Five of its final nine ACC games are against top 100 teams, with Miami (103) as another potential helper. The way the Wolfpack has played in the league, which can be best described as inconsistently, it can finish the ACC schedule at 9-9 without moving the NCAA needle (or really beating anyone better than Clemson).

But games against Syracuse (5), Pittsburgh (24) and UNC (38) might be the deciding factor of whether State can move from the fringe into the at-large pool.

CBS Sports RPI Record NCSoS vs. Top 50 vs. Top 100
38. Stanford15-7833-56-7
39. Florida State14-8532-64-8
40. BYU15-952-55-5
44. SMU17-52772-33-4
44. Oregon15-6711-36-6
46. Tennessee14-8362-46-7
47. Missouri16-61131-25-5
48. Arizona state16-62131-43-5
50. Xavier15-7892-46-5
51. Providence16-71362-36-6
52. Cal15-81153-56-7
53. LSU14-6972-35-4
55. Georgetown13-9303-54-7
57. Ole Miss15-71060-43-6
59. Baylor14-8583-64-7
61. Dayton15-8852-35-5
62. N.C. State14-81092-64-7
69. Indiana14-81632-44-7
70. Clemson15-62922-43-5
72. West Virginia14-91602-73-7

All RPI numbers and records from CBS Sports

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