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Bubble Watch: Richmond has a slim margin for error down the stretch

The Spiders are on the wrong side of the bubble as conference tournaments near.

NCAA Basketball: Dayton at Richmond Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

That’s right, it’s “what does my favorite mid-major team need to do to get an at-large bid” season. Every few days, we’ll take a different team and dissect its resume to see what it needs to do to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Today’s featured team is the Richmond Spiders, who are trying to reach the tournament for the first time since 2011.


Record: 20-7 (10-4 Atlantic 10)
NET: 50
Strength of Record: 49
KenPom: 52
Torvik: 52
KPI: 44
Strength of Schedule: 81
vs. Quad 1: 3-4
vs. Quad 2: 1-2
Good Wins: at Rhode Island, vs. Wisconsin (neutral), at Davidson
Bad Losses: vs. Radford (neutral)
Bracket Matrix: First Four Out (2/25)

Richmond Team Sheet
Warren Nolan

With just under two weeks to go until the end of the regular season, Richmond finds itself on the wrong side of the bubble. The most recent Bracket Matrix projections as of Tuesday have Richmond as the second team out of the field.

The results based metrics like the NET, KPI and Strength of Record as well as the predictive metrics like KenPom and T-Rank are pretty much all in lockstep. The Spiders are as bubbly as the bubble gets. Their status in the field changes on a daily basis depending on the results around them.

As it stands, Richmond is relying on the strength of their wins over two tournament teams: Rhode Island and Wisconsin. Those are going to be the pillars of their resume, and the three Quadrant I wins are as many as other bubble teams like Virginia, Rutgers, Stanford and Xavier. The neutral court loss to Radford is an obviously red flag, but the Spiders have managed to go unscathed against the bottom of the A-10 to minimize bad losses.

Using T-Rank’s resume comparison tool, we can see that teams with Richmond’s current resume usually fare well on Selection Sunday:

Bart Torvik

While their opportunities to really boost their resume before the conference tournament are limited, the remaining regular season schedule has a pair of games on the docket that can help strengthen it a little bit.

The remaining schedule — as well as the Quadrants that they fall in — are as follows:

At George Washington (NET: 193, Q3)
Vs. UMass (NET: 146, Q3)
Vs. Davidson (NET: 73, Q2)
At Duquesne (NET: 95, Q2)

The potential to move up the S-Curve rests in that final pair of games to close out the season. Both KenPom and T-Rank project the Spiders to close out the season 3-1, with the lone loss coming against Duquesne. So let’s plug in those results to T-Ranketology’s TeamCast simulator:

That scenario does not move the needle nearly enough for Richmond fans to feel comfortable about the Spiders’ chances. However, let’s see what happens to the projection if Richmond wins out:

That gets them on the right side of the hypothetical bubble (at the expense of Rhode Island nonetheless, who drops to the second team out) heading into the A-10 tournament. They’d be sitting at 24-7 overall with a combined 6-6 record in Q1 and Q2 games.

Right now, Richmond is a strong position to receive a double bye, which has a good chance of leading to another Q2 opportunity in the quarterfinals, and presumably a Q1 or Q2 each subsequent round if the Spiders advance.

This all goes to say that the further Richmond advances in the A-10 Tournament, the better their resume will look, which, DUH. Their odds will also depend on what happens around them with other teams on the bubble. By the time the conference tournament rolls around, it’s likely that the bubble looks significantly different than it does right now.

One thing to keep in mind as it pertains to the bubble is the looming threat of bid stealers in league’s like the Mountain West, SoCon, or even the A-10 (looking at you, Davidson). The more bid stealers there are, the thinner the margin for error gets for teams on the cut line.

The Verdict: Despite being just outside of the cut line, Richmond has the benefit of being able to control its own destiny with quality opportunities remaining. However, unless they win the A-10 Tournament, the Spiders are likely to be sweating it out on Selection Sunday. They’ll need to perform well down the stretch and have a little bit of luck on their side, but it’ll be interesting to track their standing in the field every day until then as we get a better feel for how close they really are.