2014 NCAA Tournament Bubble Watch: Are We Wrongly Forgetting Belmont?

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of love given to Green Bay, stating that the Phoenix deserve a spot in the NCAA Tournament. But have we all forgotten about a very comparable Belmont squad?

We are less than 30 hours away from knowing who is going dancing in the NCAA Tournament. We might already know some of the teams but we still have to deal with that bubble.

Right now, BYU looks like it has clinched a spot in the field. Dayton might be going too. But in the past couple of days, ever since a tough loss to Milwaukee in the Horizon semifinals, Green Bay has gotten a lot of internet love for getting a spot.

This is similar to the love that followed Drexel and Middle Tennessee State in years past. It worked for the Blue Raiders, but not so much for the Dragons.

There is a team that isn't getting that love that might compare favorably to that Green Bay team, and also surprise tournament teams Iona and Middle Tennessee from the last two seasons. That team is NCAA Tournament regular Belmont.

Making a case for the Bruins, a team that has a history of making the Tournament might not be en vogue. After all, they aren't trying to end some long drought. They are just trying to make it in for the fourth year in a row.

People have forgotten that Belmont beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and have good wins against Indiana State and Middle Tennessee State. But that is likely not going to be flashy enough. It is the full slate of numbers we will have to use to make the case for inclusion.

Let's get the bad out of the way to start. Belmont's average win isn't great, thanks to the bottom two-thirds of the Ohio Valley conference. And the average loss took a hit because of a loss to Tennessee Tech, the "bad loss" that is going to stick out for anyone looking at the Bruins. Of the teams we compared Belmont with this season, they are the only team with a mark against them in that category.

But let's start with years past and the Iona and MTSU resumes.



Belmont

Iona 2012

MTSU 2013

Record

23-9

25-7

28-5

RPI

59

40

30

NCSOS

21

43

20

NC Record

9-7

10-4

9-4

R/N Record

12-8

15-6

13-5

vs. 1-50

1-2

0-1

1-3

vs. 51-100

2-2

5-2

0-0

200+ losses

1

2

0

Best wins

25 (R)

None

43 (H)

Avg. win

206

181

188

Avg. loss

100

120

65


Belmont has favorable marks in nonconference strength of schedule. They compare well in road and neutral record. They have the one good win, which Iona did not and two in the next level down, which MTSU was lacking. And that one win, it came on the road.

The RPI is slightly lower, but not out of the realm of possibilities. The Bruins could easily be that surprise team if they were playing in either of these two seasons.

What doesn't help the Bruins' chances though? Both Iona and Middle Tennessee couldn't survive to advance out of Dayton. That is going to stick in the minds of the committee, or at least after two seasons in a row of this, has to be a factor up for consideration.

So what about this season?

Well, let's start with Green Bay and see which team deserves more attention.


Belmont

Green Bay

Record

23-9

21-6

RPI

59

62

NCSOS

21

55

NC Record

9-7

7-4

R/N Record

12-8

11-4

vs. 1-50

1-2

1-2

vs. 51-100

2-2

3-1

200+ losses

1

0

Best wins

25 (R)

11 (H)

Avg. win

206

172

Avg. loss

100

103

Green Bay has the better win overall, but it came at home. They are also missing that bad loss which Belmont has to certainly be kicking itself for. Yet overall, these two teams look very similar and Belmont actually had the tougher road out of conference. You could easily make the case that the internet should get behind the Bruins just as much as Belmont, except that again, Belmont isn't trying to break any streak.

OK, so then let's talk the rest of the bubble. We chose teams based on Chris Dobbertean's latest Bracketology and the Last Four In and Last Four Out.


Belmont

Nebraska

Dayton

Florida State

Cal

Record

23-9

19-12

23-10

19-13

19-13

RPI

59

46

44

51

60

NCSOS

21

103

102

87

99

NC Record

9-7

8-4

12-3

9-3

9-4

R/N Record

12-8

4-11

10-6

10-8

6-9

vs. 1-50

1-2

4-7

4-6

3-9

4-10

vs. 51-100

2-2

4-2

6-1

3-3

4-10

200+ losses

1

0

0

0

0

Best wins

25 (R)

5 (H), 21 (R)

22 (N), 20 (H),
27 (R)

12 (N), 20 (H),
39 (R)

1 (H), 29 (R)

Avg win

206

134

138

158

142

Avg loss

100

52

69

34

47

What hurts Belmont is not having 10 to 12 chances to get Top 50 wins. Playing in the Big 10, or ACC would have been a much better place for the Bruins this season, as you can see from Nebraska and Florida State's slate here.

Go head to head with Belmont and Nebraska. The Bruins had the tougher nonconference schedule. They did better on the road and at neutral sites overall. They had their best win on the road. And they did pretty well against the 50-100 range when you consider the number of chances they had.

Yet people consider Nebraska in the field at this point, despite only coming through on four of its 11 chances to get top 50 wins. In 11 chances, it is very conceivable that Belmont might have the same number of victories. They might even have a win at home against the No. 5 team.

Belmont just looks better than the Cornhuskers.

Against Dayton, it is close for the Bruins. Dayton padded its stats against a decent conference in the Atlantic 10. They had a soft nonconference slate that put them into the national eye, and garnered a lot of attention with their play in Maui. But since then? The best neutral win is on par with the Belmont win. And again, this comes down to how many chances the Flyers had to get those impressive wins.

It looks like Belmont should be on par with the Flyers, or at least getting just as much consideration as Dayton.

The next two teams are both listed as out by Dobbertean. Belmont looks really good against Cal. The Bears don't have the great road record, the best win came at home, and while the average numbers look good, a lot of that comes from the PAC-12 and having the best team in the country in the league. I would pick Belmont over Cal.

And Florida State is basically an extrapolated version of the Bruins. The Seminoles have the same winning percentage against the top teams. They have the slightly better RPI, but a worse nonconference schedule. They were slightly worse on the road, and the best wins look similar to Belmont's single victory.

It is going to come down to chances, and Belmont didn't have as many chances to get the resume that will stick out against the big boys.

But if you just look at what the chances were, Belmont is very much on par with the rest of the bubble teams, and even Green Bay who is getting the love.

It just takes a little bit of effort to put the Bruins back into the conversation so that someone will take a second or third look at this team. The NCAA selection sheet should point this out on Sunday, and perhaps we will have the third season of surprises in the final spot in the NCAA Tournament.

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