In a lot of ways comparing teams across seasons does not work. Rosters change dramatically, schedules are always different, traveling is not the same, home crowds care more or less, and myriad other variables come into play as well. But I wanted to take a simple approach — for better or worse — to see where Kentucky stands among bubble teams from years past.
It’s an unfamiliar position for Kentucky fans. Being on or near the bubble is not something the Wildcats are accustomed to dancing around. By the final week or two of the season, Big Blue Nation is typically looking ahead to possible Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight match-ups But now it’s all about a potential play-in game.
But there is good news. In doing my research, it appears Kentucky is in good shape as we head into March. If the previous two season’s worth of numbers hold true, UK will have no trouble finding their way into the Big Dance.
I took the 15 most talked about bubble teams from 2011 and 2012 and threw them in a spreadsheet. Plugged in the RPI, Pomeroy, and Sagarin ratings each team had at the last week of February, and averaged out the data. I also considered win-loss record, but did not include that data because it all averaged out to be very similar and was indistinguishable of any patterns.
As it stands, Kentucky checks in like this
Now compare it to the 2011 averages of 15 bubble teams
Of those 15 bubble teams in 2011, 11 of them made the tournament with these numbers
Moving into 2012 now, the 15 bubble teams looked like this
But only seven of those bubble teams made the tournament with these numbers
In total, 2011 and 2012 teams who made the tournament had numbers that averaged out to this
And compare that to the teams who missed the tournament with much worse numbers
There are a lot of variables not included in this breakdown, including strength of schedule, and how close teams came to winning their conference. But this is a simple look at how teams shake out on the bubble. Comparing the ratings for Kentucky, just about any way you break it down the Cats are better than year’s past bubble teams; the numbers are a lot closer to the teams who made it than the teams who missed it.
And when you consider how wild and crazy college basketball has been this season, every team’s resume has a few bumps and nicks in it. As long as Kentucky take’s care of business in the next three games, the bubble talk should fade away completely.