2018 Virginia Tech Bubble Watch Valentine's Day Edition

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Feb 15, 2018
This time last week, Virginia Tech was right on the bubble needing to beat NC State while everyone doubted the Hokies' chances against UVA. One week later, Virginia Tech has moved into a relatively safe spot inside the NCAA Tournament field after beating NC State and shocking now #1 Virginia in primetime on ESPN. Because of Virginia Tech's shocking upset win over UVA, many college basketball analysts are falling in love with VT and their NCAA Tournament hopes. The Hokies' strong week has them making a significant jump in most major bracket projections with Jerry Palm of CBS Sports and Shelby Mast/Scott Gleason of USA Today both having the Hokies as an 8 seed. Others had VT around the 9 or 10 seed line while ESPN's Joe Lunardi surprisingly had VT as an 11 seed, something that I disagree with even when looking at his explanation focusing on VT's weak non-conference schedule. https://twitter.com/ESPNLunardi/status/963247584981803008 VT's weak non-conference schedule is a major problem for the Hokies' seeding but after the win over UVA, it's hard to make an argument that VT is close to the bubble even with the poor non-conference schedule. For this week's bubble watch, we've included some of the other metrics that the NCAA Tournament committee will get to see when they look at the Hokies' resume. These metrics will help give us a little clearer picture on how the Hokies' NCAA Tournament hopes really look after the big win over Virginia. The addition of these metrics are a part of the NCAA's transition as they develop a new system to replace the RPI system that helps some, but has some significant flaws that aren't easy to fix. With that said, here's the Hokies' current resume. That's a lot of data there but most of it is favorable for the Hokies outside of the RPI and non-conference strength of schedule. VT has risen nine spots in the RPI from last week's Bubble Watch while they have risen four spots in the KenPom rankings over the past week. Overall, the metrics are favorable for the Hokies with Virginia Tech being in the top 40 of all non-RPI advanced metrics. BPI and strength of record are both big fans of VT with the Hokies' BPI of 27 being the only top 30 metric for VT. In general, VT's metric ranking equate to what the average bracket appears to be of a 9 or 10 seed for VT, a great sign that VT is in very good shape now to make the Tournament thanks to their big win over Virginia. The most important thing about this past week for the Hokies is the fact that they've seen their number of quadrant 1 wins doubled this past week. The big win over Virginia obviously gave VT a significant boost that has the focus of this on where VT will be seeded and not on whether the Hokies will make the Tournament. That win also gives the NCAA Tournament committee something to think about as VT has shown that they go into a tough environment and take down the team that the committee said is currently their #1 team. In addition to that quadrant 1 win, Notre Dame has jumped into the top 75 of the RPI for the time being, making the road win over the Fighting Irish a quadrant 1 victory. This could change again next week even if the Hokies don't pick up a quadrant 1 victory in what would be a shocking upset at Duke with Boston College currently being ranked 76th in the RPI, one spot below the cutoff for a quadrant 1 road victory. The non-conference schedule remains the one problem for Virginia Tech's resume that will have a significant effect on the Hokies whether they end up near the bubble or safely in the field. Non-conference strength of schedule appeared to cost the Hokies a seed or two last year and could push VT down the seed lines once again in this year's Big Dance. The Hokies' weak non-conference schedule strength was also mentioned as the reason why VT was still an 11 seed for ESPN's Joe Lunardi. However, VT has the strength of record statistic to counter which is 32nd in the country. Though the Hokies' non-conference schedule was weak, VT has performed at a very high level still that you would expect from a NCAA Tournament team. While VT has played well enough to put themselves in position to not wonder if this will keep them out of the field, Buzz Williams and his staff will have to look at how they schedule non-conference opponents and find ways to put together a deeper schedule that includes fewer games against teams outside the top 200 of the RPI (7 this season). Based on the current data, Virginia Tech currently looks like a 9-10 seed with plenty of opportunities looming to add another big victory that can push them a little higher. The weak non-conference schedule limits VT's ceiling, but the advanced metrics are unanimously clear pointing towards the Hokies as a NCAA Tournament with three metrics having VT as one of the top 36 teams in the country. After the best two-game stretch of Virginia Tech's 2017-2018 season, the Hokies have gone from being the prototypical bubble team to being safely in the field. However, VT can push themselves back towards the bubble if they get upset by Georgia Tech on the road especially with the Yellow Jackets being 13th in the ACC and 143rd in the RPI. If VT can avoid an upset, they should avoid suffering any more bad losses unless they lose a surprising game in the ACC Tournament to one of the ACC's bottom 3 teams (GT, Wake Forest, Pittsburgh). Virginia Tech drastically improved their NCAA Tournament hopes last week, but VT still has some work to do to ensure they go to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments for only the third time in program history.

Photo Credit: Harley Taylor

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