Our Virginia Tech Basketball Bubble Watch has returned for a second year as the Hokies sit right on the NCAA Tournament bubble entering the closing five weeks of the season.
Right now, the Hokies are one of the last four teams in the NCAA Tournament by most of the well-known bracketologists. Virginia Tech has exactly the type of bubble resume that you’d expect this time of year with a clear weakness with their non-conference strength of schedule and a not so great loss. However, VT also has a pair of very good wins and a strong record in America’s best conference that helps their resume a lot.
VT’s resume has the type of flash and glaring holes that is befitting of a NCAA Tournament bubble team with four weeks left in the ACC regular season.
As we begin our bubble watch, there is one major change to how the NCAA will use RPI data. In past years, the selection committee would receive a team’s record against the RPI top 50, RPI 51-100, and record against schools outside the top 100. This year, the NCAA has shifted to a four-tier system that puts a greater premium on road victories. Here’s the four-tier RPI grouping breakdown via CBS Sports:
With that said, here’s the Hokies’ resume with eight games to go in the regular season. RPI numbers based on RealTimeRPI.com and non-conference SOS based on CBS Sports.
- Tier 1 Record: 2-5
- Tier 2 Record: 4-1
- Tier 3 Record: 2-1
- Tier 4 Record: 8-0
- RPI: 68
- SOS: 95
- Non-Conference SOS: 292
- KenPom: 42
The non-conference strength of schedule is the biggest reason why Virginia Tech is right on the bubble instead of having some breathing room. In addition to the fact that their non-conference schedule wasn’t expected to be that hard anyway, some of the teams on that non-conference scheduled have underperformed with Iowa having a RPI of 146 while Ole Miss has a RPI of 82.
Looking at the resume, the Hokies have two tier 1 victories including their win over Washington, something no one would have expected back in November. Washington’s breakout season in the Pac-12 has turned the Hokies’ non-conference slate from a complete dud into something that is giving at least some help even if their non-conference SOS is atrocious.
The Hokies’ RPI has surged significantly over the past couple of weeks while their strength of schedule projects to climb significantly over the next month as they go through ACC play. While their non-conference SOS will be poor, their SOS should help balance that out thanks in part to a tough ACC schedule in which VT plays Duke, Virginia, Miami, and Louisville twice; all four of which project to be in the NCAA Tournament.
Right now, it’s hard to argue against the Hokies being right on the bubble. VT needs to take care of their business tonight against fellow bubble team NC State that has a few more losses than the Hokies, but also has some additional high-quality wins helping them out.
If VT can pull off a massive upset at UVA, then we may be talking about how safe this team is rather than being too worried about the bubble. However, that seems unlikely given how impressive UVA has been this season.
For now, the Hokies are your typical bubble team, but their resume is getting a major boost for an unexpected source in Washington, a victory that you would have expected to end up in tier 3 and not tier 1.