Determining Which Bubble Teams Get In

Over the last few days, I’ve been listening plenty to “experts” talking about which teams are on the bubble, and which of those teams should get in.  They talk endlessly about RPI rankings, strength of schedule, wins against the RPI top-50, and the “eye-test,” which is basically their way of saying that nothing else matters if you look at 2 teams and feel strongly that one is better.

For what it’s worth, if I’m ever on the committee, here’s how I’ll decide:

  1. The teams’ records.  For whatever reason, this stat seems to get overlooked.  Of course, a team that plays in a lousy conference and puts up, say, 25 wins, has not accomplished as much as a team that plays in an excellent conference and puts up, say, 23 wins.  But, when talking about bubble teams, the record says a lot.  If a team puts up 23 wins in an excellent conference, that team probably isn’t on the bubble; it’s already in.  Thus, if we’re comparing 2 bubble teams, we don’t have to worry about an excellent team from an excellent conference getting bounced.  Once you take those teams out of consideration, the record is the best indicator of who should go.  If I’m choosing between 2 bubble teams, and one of them has 3 or more wins than the other, my analysis is just about over.
  2. Wins over RPI top-50.  Assuming that the teams have similar records, wins over the RPI top-50 is, in my opinion, the only other measurement that matters.  The team with more wins over the RPI top-50 should be in, assuming that the records are comparable.  I don’t care how many games they played against the RPI top-50, I care about the win total.  If the teams did not play the same number of games against the RPI top-50, that fact will be reflected in the records, which I would have already made the most important factor.  For example, if 1 team played 10 games against the RPI top-50, and the other only played 5, that fact would be reflected in their records.  In other words, if two teams have similar records, and one team is 3-7 against the RPI top 50 while the other is 1-2, I’m going with the team that is 3-7.
  3. The “eye test.”  When all else fails, go to the eye test.

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