In Joe Lunardi's latest bracket, just under four weeks from Selection Sunday, our resident bracketologist has seven teams outside of the RPI top 50 receiving at-large bids to the tournament. With the expansion of the tournament to 68 teams, these teams have more of a cushion than ever before. (Soft bubble!) But since we love historical comparisons here at Bubble Insider, we decided to take a look at those at-large teams that made the tournament despite having RPI 50+ rankings four full weeks before the Selection Committee filled out the brackets.
We limited our search to the past five years, during which time 20 such teams made it to the Big Dance. Particularly interesting to us were the teams' records over the last four weeks, their wins against RPI top-50 teams and their performance in conference tournaments. The results (see the chart below) are somewhat expected, but there are a few interesting nuggets.
For example, just one team, the 2009 Maryland Terrapins, had a losing record in the season's last four weeks. Also, all but two teams (the 2007 Old Dominion Monarchs and the 2006 Utah State Aggies) had at least one RPI top-50 win down the stretch; the 2006 Bradley Braves and last year's Notre Dame Fighting Irish squad both led with four top-50 wins late. Finally, more teams lost in their conference tournament's quarterfinals (six) than those that finished as runners-up (five).