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Breaking down the bubble and where N.C. State stands

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Updated: Wednesday, 1:04 p.m.

N.C. State has plenty of company on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, but there's not enough room for all the teams.

Sixty-eight teams make the tournament, with 37 at-large bids. Twenty-eight teams look relatively safe (see list below). That leaves nine spots for a consensus (from projection sites) of 18 teams. N.C. State is currently considered to be at the bottom of the bubble, with a chance to move up in the ACC tournament.

The better question than, "Will N.C. State get in?" is, "Which teams will N.C. State be compared with by the selection committee?"

The Wolfpack, with wins over fellow bubble teams Texas and Miami (two, actually, over the Hurricanes), would welcome a chance to be put up on the committee's "big board" with either of those teams. In theory, head-to-head results matter. They did last year between Virginia Tech and Clemson, but there's no guarantee N.C. State will be compared with Miami or Texas.

If the committee sorts the teams by top 50 wins, the Pack (zero) is at the bottom of the list. If the committee goes by top 100 wins (five), the Pack would be in the middle, and if the committee goes by strength of schedule (23rd), the Pack would be at the top.

If I had to guess — and that's all anyone is doing other than the actual committee members — just based on top 50 and top 100 wins, Colorado State, Seton Hall and BYU should feel good. For recent ACC bubble teams anyway, three top 50 wins has been a magic number, and those three teams hit that number.

N.C. State needs to win as many games at it can in Atlanta. Two would help but three (which would probably mean a win over North Carolina) would be the safest way into the NCAA tournament.

A comparison of the 18 teams on the bubble:

  RPI W-L SoS top 50 top 100
Colorado State 22 18-10 30 3-5 8-9
Saint Louis 30 23-6 185 0-2 7-4
Iona 43 25-7 44 1-1 5-3
South Florida 45 18-12 52 1-9 6-9
BYU 47 23-8 58 3-6 5-6
Northwestern 48 18-12 62 1-10 5-12
Oregon 50 22-8 124 0-5 5-7
Texas 52 19-12 96 3-9 4-10
Miami 55 18-11 103 2-7 3-10
N.C. State 56 20-11 23 0-8 5-9
Xavier 57 19-11 47 2-7 6-10
Ole Miss 58 18-12 122 1-6 7-11
Seton Hall 60 19-11 127 4-7 7-8
Miss. State 64 21-10 190 3-4 8-8
Drexel 66 27-6 218 1-2 4-3
Dayton 72 19-11 91 3-2 8-7
Tennessee 75 17-13 138 4-7 7-9
Arizona 77 21-10 85 1-4 5-8

Note: SoS is nonconference strength of schedule

And, the "best" wins by the bubble teams:

Colorado State: UNLV (14), San Diego State (26)
Saint Louis: Washington (53), Xavier (57, twice)
Iona: Nevada (46), St. Joseph's (54)
South Florida: @ Louisville (28), Seton Hall (60)
BYU: Gonzaga (23), Nevada (46)
Northwestern: Michigan State (5), Seton Hall (60)
Oregon: Washington (53), @ Arizona (77)
Texas: Temple (13), Iowa State (31)
Miami: @ Duke (4), FSU (24)
N.C. State: Texas (52), Miami (55, twice)
Xavier: @ Vanderbilt (27), Purdue (40)
Ole Miss: Alabama (32), Miami (55)
Seton Hall: Georgetown (10), UConn (34)
Mississippi State: @ Vanderbilt (27), Alabama (32)
Drexel: VCU (38), George Mason (81)
Dayton: @ Temple (13), Saint Louis (30)
Tennessee: Vanderbilt (27), Florida (29, twice)
Arizona: @ Cal (37), New Mexico State (69)

And the list of the 28 "safe" teams (note: for counting purposes, the regular-season conference winners — Syracuse, Ohio State, Kansas, UNC, Kentucky, New Mexico, Washington, Memphis — presume their respective conference's automatic bid; Creighton and St. Mary's have already won their respective conference tournaments):

Big East (7): Marquette, Notre Dame, Georgetown, Cincinnati, Louisville, West Virginia, UConn
Big Ten (5): Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Purdue
Big 12 (4): Missouri, Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas State
ACC (3): Florida State, Duke, Virginia
SEC (3): Florida, Vanderbilt, Alabama
Mountain West (2): UNLV, San Diego State
Pac-12 (1): Cal
C-USA (1): Southern Miss
Missouri Valley (1): Wichita State
West Coast (1): Gonzaga

All RPI numbers and records according to


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things could change in a

things could change in a hurry, especially if Texas knocks off Iowa State tomorrow night, and Miami wins against both GT and FSU. in that scenario, as long as NC State gets to the semi-finals, State could own 4 wins against top 50 RPI teams...coupled with OOC SOS & a boost from even stepping on the court against UNC, NC State would be IN.


I understand what you are saying. But with both Texas and Miami "ahead" of State, would it not help their own cause if they were to win against Iowa State and FSU, respectively?


It helps State by improving their RPI and hurts by improving Texas and Miami, who are in direct competition with the Pack. It could help if all three leapfrog other teams that didn't help themselves. There are so many teams on the bubble this year that it is impossible for anyone to predict. Suffice it to say that if State doesn't win two, none of this matters. If they win two, but lose on Saturday, they still are at the mercy of the committee, but they have done what they can since they can't change the past.

Doo be doo

State has had a very good season with their first year coach. I don't see them beating UNC if they meet them in the tournamend. Not the way UNC is playing right now. And I don't care. They have had a 20 win season with a good chance at 22 before it is over. If that doesn't get them to the big dance that's fine. There is always the slim chance that they could play perfectly against UNC and UNC could have an off night but that is like wishing for 1983 to repeat itself. Which is something I think a lot of Pack fans (mysyelf included) do a lot of these days. But I don't see it happening. It's been a good year for the Pack either way.

We have a great shot at

We have a great shot at getting in if we beat UVA.  I don't see us beating UNC.  They are a horrible matchup for State.  If we do play UNC we need to follow the same formula as last time and hope that UNC doesn't shoot 70% again on three's.  If Marshall has a second "game of his life" then the result will look the same.  If not we might be able to keep it close.


UNC shot 52.6% from three and Marshall has had plenty of great games over the last year and a half.

True, but

4-5 from behind the arc from a guy who averages less than one made 3 in 2.1 attempts per game qualifies as an unusual accomplishment. Not sure if all those open looks were the result of a strategy or just bad perimeter defense, but I am not sure anyone expected that to be a key factor in the game.


Yep, open looks. Reminded me of a shoot around. Doubt that they would leave him that open, that often again. Of course guarding him close presents a lot of problems, as well.


You are correct. This is why nobody that has posted on this thread so far is suggesting that State will upset UNC if they get that far. The Pack just doesn't match up well enough with the Tar Heels.

Miami and Texas

Can both win their way back into the top 50 giving us 3 top 50 wins.  Beat BC and then UVA and that will be 4.  That should be good enough.

They can (maybe, no idea)

But you're asking for best case scenario. That rarely plays out.

SOS is nc states best play, but unfortunately they have zero wins against anyone worth a crap. So back to the drawing board and pray.

Very informative article

from the writer; obviously took some time and research.  I hope selection Sunday doesn't end in despair; gotta' get it done in the ACCT.

I hope that NCSU will get in...

but not by beating the Heels. It is good to have NCSU in the conversation and it will be even better when they are solidly in the tournament. With the new ACC conference landscape, a strong NCSU would be good for the conference (IMHO).


"solidly in the tournament" means they would have to beat the Tar Heels. There's no other way for it to happen like that.


I would almost rather get  sharp stick in the eye, but I have to agree with GatorBait. As far as I can tell, very few, if any, of the people on this blog were students when Thompson, Burleson, Towe, Rivers, and Stoddard HAD to to the WIN the ACCT t even get to the Dance.  We need to win three to be sure, but I think (hope) two will get us in. steve'73

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About the blogger

Joe Giglio covers the ACC for the News & Observer, where he has worked since 1997.