ESPN.com released its latest version of the Bubble Watch and Utah State is still listed as one of the teams with ‘work left to do.’
But based purely on numbers, Utah State should be in the Big Dance unless it completely tanks its next two games.
The Aggies, which ESPN.com lists as having an RPI of 32 and a strength of schedule of 97 is one of the strongest candidates left on the bubble — a place the folks behind the ESPN.com Bubble Watch currently claim has 27 teams.
The shame in this is numbers seem to matter little to many of the national ‘experts’ who rank, discuss and theorize on at-large possibilities.
Take UTEP, for example. The Miners are a very good basketball team, are ranked and are the C-USA regular season champs with a 23-5 record and a 14-1 conference mark. They are considered a ‘lock’ by most. But, their RPI is 44 and their strength of schedule is 135. I certainly feel UTEP is deserving of a spot in the NCAA Tournament over teams such as a 18-12 Illinois or a 16-13 Cincinnati.
But are the Miners more deserving than a 24-6 Utah State? According to most, yes.
Let’s look at the numbers, though.
UTEP has a solid RPI, Utah State’s is better. UTEP has a 1-1 record against teams in the top 50 of the RPI and 6-4 against the top 100. Utah State, on the other hand, is 2-1 against top 50 and 8-4 against the top 100 with No. 64 New Mexico State coming to the Spectrum on Saturday.
With no disrespect to UTEP, which deserves to be in the field of 65, Utah State’s resume is deeper and more complete.
But the national writers still pen sentences such as this: “Even if UTEP loses to UAB at home on Saturday, it’s hard to imagine it being left out of the NCAA tournament’s 65-team field.”
And then follow it up with this: “The Aggies probably have to win Saturday and win at least a couple of games in next week’s WAC tournament to have a decent chance on Selection Sunday.”
Erase the school names next to the numbers and you’d probably come up with a different conclusion.
What would truly be interesting to see is what the results would be if the NCAA selection used a system for selecting at-large berths based only on the numbers instead of conference affiliation and national prestige.