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Which bubble teams are best prepared to compete in the 2013 NCAA Tournament?

As we looked at with the candidates for two and three seeds in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, we look at the field of bubble teams through the lens of which teams are best equipped to compete in the post-season in terms of their statistical strengths and weaknesses.


Once again, this is not necessarily "bracketology" in the conventional sense as much as a finer grain look at which teams on the 2013 NCAA Tournament bubble would best be able to compete were they to make the field of 64.

Given that every team has strengths and weaknesses, the question we're going to tackle is which teams are best prepared to overcome those weaknesses on a consistent basis?

I started with the ratings of teams considered to be on the bubble based on a) Charlie Creme's Bracketology, b) The S-Factor's projections, and c) top seeds from conferences that were expected to have only one or two bids who lost in their conference tournament. You can click here for that list of ratings, but I narrowed it down to teams to teams that there seemed to be some "consensus" about.

But for the sake of simplicity, let's begin with Creme's list of teams that would be the last four in.

Team Stats

Opp. Stats
Team eFG% Tov% Oreb% FTR eFG% Tov% Oreb% FTR
S. Florida
42.36 17.98 38.38 28.91 40.11 23.28 31.57 34.23
W. Virginia
42.67 19.34 39.01 30.96 42.27 24.25 34.23 45.65
Creighton 49.89 18.78 28.60 21 42.32 20.22 33.65 28.52
Duquesne 41 18.08 37.07 25.09 38.82 28.30 35.70 34.87

Four Factors for offense and defense for nine teams in the mix for 2 & 3 seeds.

Of those teams, South Florida certainly looks the strongest - they're not the most efficient scoring team, but they can make up for it with second chance points and forcing turnovers with their athleticism at the guard spot. Their free throw rate suggests a team that could go to the basket more often (and they took 623 3-pointers this season), but they have ways to make up for that and the ability to scrap for points in a tournament setting is valuable.

As noted at the S-Factor today, West Virginia is a difficult case and their actual numbers add to that uncertainty: just as a surface-level description, they're a team that just about breaks even with opponents in terms of scoring efficiency but creates additional scoring opportunities in the form of offensive rebounding and turnovers. The problem is that they then give points back to their opponents with that extremely high free throw rate, which could be seen as a byproduct of aggressively creating turnovers but could also simply be seen as an inability to defend effectively. West Virginia might be able to get by with that and their results from the season reinforce that idea, but Duquesne has a very similar profile against weaker competition and not nearly the same offensive rebounding margin.

Creighton confronts an even larger problem: although they score very efficiently they're an undersized team that gave opponents second chance scoring opportunities in a relatively slow-paced style and put their opponents on the free throw line. Meanwhile, their 794 3-point attempts and low free throw rate reflects a team that can live and die by the three. Sure when they shoot 55% from beyond the arc against South Florida or Nebraska's 3-point shots fail them they can knock off tournament caliber teams, but shut down the Blue Jays' long-range attack and you get a pair of losses to Illinois State.

Ultimately, like the S-Factor, I'm uncertain about Creighton and West Virginia but also Duquesne. So let's find three additional teams that might be deserving of the opportunity to compete in the tournament.

Team Stats

Opp. Stats
Team eFG% Tov% Oreb% FTR eFG% Tov% Oreb% FTR
Charlotte 45.43 19.08 44.87 28.68 39.18 20.70 34.99 25.96
San Diego State 46.99 16.22 40.36 23.36 36.39 20.36 34.12 32.28
Toledo 45.73 18.17 34.18 26.24 38.39 24.58 26.38 30.19

Four Factors statistics for three additional teams on the bubble.

Here's what's interesting about these three teams, especially in comparison to Creighton and Duquesne: Charlotte doesn't have a major statistical weaknesses and both SDSU and Toledo have a relatively minor weakness (free throw rate). Of all these teams mentioned so far, San Diego State's Chelsea Hopkins is probably the best player and the one out of any of these teams who can single-handedly carry her team to a win. The problem: strength of schedule. And for Charlotte there's an additional problem of lacking depth - they really go six deep and the sixth is a sophomore guard shooting 26.8% from the field.

So if you were to evaluate them strictly on this basis, the question becomes whether you choose teams with strong statistics against weak competition or statistical gaps against stronger competition?

And as long as you're considering teams with a suspect strength of schedule, then you have to throw in a couple of teams with much stronger schedules.

Team Stats

Opp. Stats
Team eFG% Tov% Oreb% FTR eFG% Tov% Oreb% FTR
Kansas 47.98 19.45 35.02 30.71 45 18.20 33.80 28.68
Ohio State 47.81 19.10 31.40 32.01 41.04 20.82 34.01 26.61

Four Factors statistics for two additional teams on the bubble.

Here's the thing about Kansas: the vast of majority of their losses happen to be against tournament teams, but the losses really started to pile up with the loss of Natalie Knight as a perimeter scorer. And that combined with a negative turnover ratio is probably just too much for Kansas to really deserve a shot. Ohio State can score efficiently but relies heavily on Tayler Hill to generate points.

But then there are also a couple of other teams with stronger schedules that should come under question as well.

Team Stats

Opp. Stats
Team eFG% Tov% Oreb% FTR eFG% Tov% Oreb% FTR
Iowa 47.49 19.46 33.16 29.51 42.10 19.13 34.05 28.26
Texas Tech 43.88 17.54 37.43 36.03 45.19 24.53 35.18 28.48

Four Factors statistics for two additional teams on the bubble.

Everybody assumes these two teams will make the field and indeed their ratings are solid across the board. Yet Iowa is a team that gives up a ton of second chance scoring opportunities and TTU lives off forcing turnovers but doesn't score terribly efficiently themselves.

The fact that both of those teams have some solid wins will get them in the tournament; neither of their profiles suggest they'll go very far. In comparison, OSU seemed to be turning a corner in the second half of their season.

Ultimately, here's how I'd evaluate the bubble teams based on their ability to compete:


South Florida: The most well-rounded of any in this group, including Iowa and Texas Tech.

West Virginia: Again, if Iowa and Texas Tech are in, WVU deserves the shot even though they lost to TTU twice. 6-foot-3 center Ayana Dunning and their positive offensive rebounding differential gives them a chance that some teams won't have.

San Diego State: The combination of scoring efficiency, a post presence, and an elite point guard is enough to think that SDSU can compete even though they don't have the strongest strength of schedule. But if we're comparing them to Charlotte, Creighton and Duquesne they have an edge.

Toledo: Yes, Toledo lost twice to Central Michigan, the second keeping them from winning the conference's automatic bid. But there's a reason they're rated higher across the board than most of these other teams: they're deep and, outside of Central Michigan and Dayton, they managed to render the vast majority of their opponents inefficient. The fact is that when you compare them to the rest of the field, that's as good an argument as any.