State Now

February 24, 2014

Bubble watch: Where Wolfpack stands with UNC coming up next

NC State’s trying for a third straight NCAA tournament appearance, how it compares to the other teams on the bubble.

Half of the four games left on N.C. State's schedule are, like Saturday's win at Virginia Tech, "appendix" games.

Home games with Miami and Boston College can't help the Wolfpack's pursuit of a third straight NCAA tournament bid, but they can certainly hurt them.

Wednesday's home game with North Carolina, and the trip Pittsburgh on March 3, are on the opposite end of the spectrum for N.C. State.

After Saturday's win at Virginia Tech, the Wolfpack improved to 17-10 overall and 7-7 in the ACC. The road win actually dropped the Pack one spot in the RPI, to No. 58, from where it was after a loss to Clemson last Tuesday.

N.C. State's tournament resume has a glaring hole at the top with an 0-7 record against the top 50 teams in the RPI. The Pack's record against the top 100 is 3-1 with its best wins over Florida State (56) and Tennessee (60).

The problem for N.C. State is most of the other teams on the bubble have better marks against the top 100. FSU has three wins over top 50 teams: UMass (15), VCU (25) and Pittsburgh (44). Even though N.C. State beat FSU in the only meeting between the two teams this season, it's difficult to imagine the committee taking N.C. State over FSU, based on FSU's "good" wins. (Not that FSU is a lock for an at-large bid).

The good news for the Wolfpack is it still has at least two chances to improve its stock. UNC, after beating Duke and Wake Forest at home last week, is up to No. 22 in the RPI. Pitt, which has only one top 50 win (40, Stanford) on its resume, might be in a similar situation in terms of need when the Wolfpack visits next Monday.

The Panthers, who have four top 100 wins, are presumably safely in the field for now. FSU probably has some work to do, even after Saturday's win at Pitt. The Noles close the regular-season at home with Syracuse on March 9, which could be a make-or-break proposition, depending on what happens in the ACC tournament.

In general, a bubble team needs a significant win in its conference tournament — i.e. Syracuse, UNC, Duke, Virginia — to impress the committee, not just a win — i.e. Virginia Tech, Miami, Boston College. An opening-round loss in the conference tournament, regardless of opponent, can and has worked against ACC teams on the bubble. Just ask Seth Greenberg.

A look at where N.C. State compares to the other teams on the bubble. There are probably six spots for 14 teams. Weekly reminder: Total wins and conference record aren’t an essential part of the selection process, and the actual RPI ranking isn’t as important as the record against the top-50 and top-100 teams. The committee weighs the strength of schedule (SoS) from outside conference play – i.e. the games a team controls on its schedule – more than overall SoS.

Team RPI SoS vs. 1-50 vs. 51-100 BYU 33 4 3-5 4-1 Missouri 45 117 1-2 7-5 Minnesota 46 42 3-7 2-2 Richmond 47 107 2-6 5-2 Nebraska 48 91 3-7 3-0 OK State 49 94 3-9 3-0 Xavier 50 139 1-3 5-4 St. John's 53 130 1-5 4-3 FSU 56 110 3-7 2-3 Dayton 57 102 2-5 5-0 N.C. State 58 118 0-7 3-1 Tennessee 60 45 1-5 5-4 Providence 62 148 1-4 5-5 Georgetown 64 32 3-4 3-4

All RPI numbers from CBS Sports

Fourteen teams based on bracket projection by Patrick Stevens

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