The ACC and the March “Bubble”
It’s that time of year, again. Mediocre basketball teams all across the United States are making the case as to why their 10-loss season is superior to someone else’s 10-loss season. It was an annual ritual for Virginia Tech, until they decided to fire Seth Greenberg and avoid the whole hassle altogether. Expected disappointment is better than shocking disappointment, perhaps. In any event, with March Madness around the corner, there are plenty of ACC “locks”: Louisville, Duke, Miami, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Notre Dame. That is a TON of talent. So who is left on the proverbial “bubble,” right now?
ESPN believes that there are two, but only two, ACC teams on the bubble:
Virginia [20-10 (10-7), RPI: 63, SOS: 132] The Cavaliers are good. They just seem determined to prove otherwise. That is the best explanation I can come up with for Virginia’s past three games, which began with as promising an RPI victory as a bubble team can get in last week’s win over Duke. UVa looked great against the Blue Devils, not only controlling pace but playing some really deep, smart defense, and all of the positive efficiency trends we’ve seen from Virginia for so much of the season were on full display. And then, of course, the Cavs lost at Boston College, and followed that up with Thursday night’s loss at Florida State. That all but deletes whatever positive profile boost they got from the Duke win, and will keep them mired in the bubble mess even with a win over Maryland in the ACC regular-season closer Sunday.
Maryland [20-10 (8-9), RPI: 84, SOS: 121] As soon as Maryland fell to UNC at home Wednesday, the pronouncements started coming far and wide (OK, maybe just on Twitter): Maryland’s done! They’re going to the NIT! Loud noises! I wouldn’t discount them so fast. Sure, the Terps’ profile isn’t great and they were already on the wrong side of the bubble before Wednesday’s loss. But I’m not sure how much a loss to UNC hurts you at this point, and the bubble doesn’t really operate on opportunity cost. Is Maryland really in worse shape now? Either way, the Terps weren’t in a great spot before the night started, and now they almost certainly need to win at Virginia this weekend in what could end up being a do-or-die bubble showdown. It’s a race to the finish.
Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, unfortunately, has Virginia and Maryland on the wrong side of the bubble. Joe Lunardi of ESPN had Virginia in, but Maryland out. But then Virginia lost to Florida State on Thursday, apparently causing them to drop out.
Interestingly, Maryland plays Virginia on Sunday–a 6:00 pm start and a great way to finish the ACC regular season. What do you think? Is this essentially a “play-in” game?
Or do both teams need to each do serious damage in the ACC tournament to have a chance? Or are both doomed, absent winning an automatic bid?