Virginia Tech Basketball Bubble Watch 2017 (February 6th Edition)

By: Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP | Feb 08, 2017
[caption id="attachment_5390" align="aligncenter" width="700"] Virginia Tech's NCAA Tournament are looking quite good at this point. [Credit: Harley Taylor][/caption]The Virginia Tech Hokies haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2007 but after getting to the NIT in year 2 of the Buzz Williams era, expectations rose for the 2016-2017 season with the belief that the Hokies could end the drought this season. Now, the Hokies seem to be on track to make the NCAA Tournament at 16-6 overall and 5-5 in ACC play with 8 ACC regular season games to go in a year in which the ACC is seen as the best conference in America with a chance as many as 10 or 11 teams in the field. However, Virginia Tech isn't completely safe just yet and has a little more work to do to lock themselves in the NCAA Tournament. At this point, the Hokies are projected on the 8 seed line by both Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports with Lunardi tweeting out on Saturday that the Hokies were 30th on the S-curve, a very good position to be in at this point especially with their being 14 at-large bids behind them on Lunardi's S-curve. Based on those numbers, the Hokies definitely are comfortably in the NCAA Tournament at this point with there not being any reason to currently be sweating it out based simply on the top two bracketology experts. However, while the committee won't evaluate different bracket projections, they will take a look at the numbers that show how the Hokies are in solid position at this point. (All numbers as of February 6th)
  • RPI: 40
  • BPI: 55
  • KenPom: 55
  • Record vs. RPI top 50: 2-4
  • Record vs. RPI top 100: 8-6
  • Record vs. RPI top 150: 9-6
  • Record vs. RPI outside top 150: 7-0
  • ESPN SOR: 30
  • SOS: 86
The BPI and KenPom numbers are a little low for now, but the Hokies have a solid finishing stretch with 9 more games against ACC opponents guaranteed. That not only should help with some of the metrics (should they have a solid stretch finish), but will undoubtedly improve the Hokies' slightly low strength of schedule. The Hokies' 86th-ranked strength of schedule is due in part to the fact that their non-conference SOS is ranked 303rd in the nation. However, ACC play has significantly helped the Hokies' strength of schedule and is giving them their fair share of quality opponents to improve that strength of schedule. However, most of the other numbers are good starting with how the Hokies' strength of record (SOR) is 30th in the nation. The strength of record metric evaluates the performance of a team compared to how an average team would fare against the same schedule so the Hokies' high ranking is a great sign that they are comfortably in the NCAA Tournament with that ranking also being equal to their spot on Joe Lunardi's S-curve. Some of the best signs that the Hokies are comfortably in right now come from the RPI as they have a solid RPI ranking of 40 but they also have fared relatively well against quality opponents while also not having a bad loss. The one thing that kept Virginia Tech completely out of the bubble discussion last year was the fact that the Hokies had a terrible loss to Alabama State, a team that was well outside the RPI top 150, to start the season. This year, the Hokies have taken care of business in the games that they are supposed having gone 7-0 against teams outside the RPI top 150 with only one game left against a team currently outside the RPI top 150 at Boston College. While the Hokies have done what you have to do to, they've also gotten the job done against quality competition and while they may only be 2-4 against RPI top 50 teams, they are an impressive 8-6 against teams in the RPI top 100 including two wins over top 100 RPI teams on the road (at Clemson (#45), at Michigan (#79)). The win over Duke also continues to loom large as the Hokies' only win against a team ranked in the top 20 of the RPI. The Hokies have a tough slate ahead with 3 of their next 4 games on the road and their only home game against Virginia but even one win in this slate will be huge as all four of their opponents are in the top 60 of the RPI including two in the top 20 (Virginia, at Louisville). If the Hokies can take two in these next four, it'll become extremely hard to see them missing the NCAA Tournament, especially with a closing four-game stretch that includes three home games against unranked teams and a road game at Boston College. While the Hokies may seem like they're closer to the bubble than the bracket projectors say, they're seeding actually makes a lot of sense. Last year, Colorado went 21-11 overall with a 10-8 conference record in a weaker Pac-12 while also going 4-9 against the RPI top 50, 9-11 against the RPI top 100, and finishing 34th in the RPI. Their reward for that regular season performance was an 8 seed with a resume that is starting to have a similar look to the one that the Hokies are putting together. Virginia Tech has the potential to end up with more RPI top 50 wins than the Buffaloes with home games against Virginia, Wake Forest, and Clemson remaining along with a trip to Louisville while Virginia Tech is only one win away from tying and two wins away from surpassing the same number of RPI top 100 wins as Colorado. Colorado's SOS also ended up being 53rd in the nation and while the Hokies may not end up that high due to their weak non-conference slate, the fact that they're playing tougher competition consistently in the ACC should push that number higher and higher over the next 6 weeks. At this point, the Hokies are comfortably in with a resume that is starting to look similar to that of a different at-large 8 seed from last year's NCAA Tournament, the Colorado Buffaloes, and a schedule that presents some opportunities to get another signature win in the next couple of weeks along with adding more quality wins.

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