Improvements for bubble teams 

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
11:08
AM ET
Ferrell/CreanJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesTom Crean, Yogi Ferrell and Indiana, a No. 1 seed last season, could miss the NCAA tournament.
There’s no debating that Joe Lunardi is America’s unquestioned bracketologist. Joey Brackets eats, breathes and sleeps RPI, BPI, strength of schedule and every other variable involved in the process. He was the S-Curve when it was a straight line.

That said, it’s one thing to study the ever-changing models of the selection committee and another to be living it as a coach. I can comfortably say I spent close to 48 consecutive months on the bubble as the head coach of Virginia Tech. During that time I started off sane, had a few out-of-body experiences, had Dick Vitale order me dancing shoes and unfortunately needed to inform players multiple times that despite all of their hard work, they would not have the opportunity to participate in the NCAA tournament.

Life on the bubble is not easy for players, coaches or fans. Every game takes on a life of its own. Winning is a relief and losing is agony. Every win makes the next game that much more important and every loss shrinks the margin of error.

Typically a team will have a staff member or player who takes on the role of resident bracketologist. The best remedy is to keep winning, but as league play begins it is hard to get away from Joey Brackets and other analysts discussing the tournament chances of your team.

Among the lessons I've learned:

Road wins -- Road wins are to be cherished. Beating a top 100 RPI or BPI team on the road gets the NCAA tournament selection committee’s attention.

Eliminate the bad -- Bad losses are like a cold you can't get rid of. The committee is looking for reasons to eliminate teams. A bad loss on the road could be the difference between earning a bid and not.

Every game is treated differently -- When you get into league play, you need to treat every game as a separate entity. However, you must understand that nonconference losses will be evaluated as bad losses no matter how well you are playing at the end of the season.

Beat tournament-level teams -- Wins against top-100 teams are good in the big picture, but doing it against teams that will be in the tournament field is like gold. Your record against the field can be your pass to the postseason.

What place you finished in league play has no bearing on earning a bid -- At Virginia Tech, we finished in the top four in the ACC multiple times and didn't earn a bid. Whether it’s an unbalanced schedule or perception, where you finish in a BCS conference holds very little weight.

Here is a look at five teams currently on the bubble that have work to do going forward, and the improvements they can make to get there.

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