The Best College Basketball Teams Without 20 Wins
In college basketball, wins aren’t everything. If they were, Wichita State would be everyone’s favorite to win this year’s championship, and every major conference team would strive for a weak out-of-conference schedule.
But a quick glance at a team’s record can still provide a glimpse of how that team has performed. Traditionally, any squad with 20 or more wins has been considered a solid one – if they’re in a competitive conference, there’s a good chance they’re at least an NCAA Tournament bubble team. Hitting below the coveted 20-win mark could mean trouble.
So I was curious – according to our nERD rankings, which teams with fewer than 20 wins are best? You know these squads’ chances are slim to get into the Big Dance, but perhaps their true talent level – which, in the end, is what nERD shows us – just didn’t show up in the win column. Close games and heartbreaking losses can force that to happen, after all.
If you’re a fan of one of these teams, there’s a chance you know what I’m talking about. And while your favorite team may not be called on Selection Sunday, at least you can brag to your friends that they might have based on mathematical modeling and in-depth analytics.
That, or you can look forward to making a run in the NIT.
If you like close games, then you should’ve been watching Maryland over the last couple of weeks of the season. Starting on February 24th, the Terps lost by two to Syracuse, lost a double-overtime thriller against Clemson, beat Virginia in a ridiculous overtime game and then, just yesterday, lost to FSU in the final seconds. And that doesn’t even include their two-point loss to Duke two games prior to the ‘Cuse contest.
Unfortunately, as you can see, their 1-4 record in these nail-biters didn’t exactly help their NCAA Tournament cause.
Maryland comes in as our 52nd nERDiest team, just behind Colorado. Their 17-15 record (9-9 in conference) is led by their 30th-ranked defense - their offensive rating of 108.80 places them as the 85th-best offensive team in the country, worse than teams like Denver and Fresno State.
It would have been interesting if the Terps weren’t as unfortunate. But with ACC teams seeing better NCAA Tournament resumes, the Terps won’t be dancing this year after being knocked out in the ACC Tournament.
West Virginia Mountaineers
With 17 wins, the Mountaineers find themselves as the 50th-ranked team in terms of nERD, ahead of 20-plus win teams like Colorado, Providence and Clemson. But with their loss to Texas yesterday, it’s almost a certainty that WVU is NIT bound.
Even still, West Virginia’s resume is filled with impressive wins and close losses. During the first half of the season, the Mountaineers lost to Wisconsin by just seven, Gonzaga by only four, and Oklahoma State by a single point. And during the second half, West Virginia used their 19th-ranked offense in terms of efficiency to beat Oklahoma, Iowa State and Kansas.
In the end, WVU’s three losses to Texas, a two-point fall to an underrated Baylor team and a 2-5 record to close the season will keep the Mountaineers out of the bracket, despite being a top-50 team according to our metrics.
Earlier in the week, our own Bryan Mears had Georgetown as one of the five teams needing a good conference tournament run in order to play in the NCAA Tournament. But Georgetown’s hopes faded yesterday with their devastating Big East Tourney loss to DePaul, a team that went 3-15 in the conference this year.
As Bryan noted, Georgetown was a roller coaster of a team this year, and very hard to understand. They saw an impressive win against Creighton – our number seven power-ranked team – just before the season ended, but followed up that game with an 18-point loss to the Big East’s best, Villanova.
They were streaky, winning six games in a row during the first half of the season, following it up with a five game losing skid, then winning another four in a row.
But a 43rd-ranked offense and a 61st-ranked defense made them a fairly balanced squad, and one that could’ve been interesting to watch in the NCAA Tournament. But as our 53rd nERDiest team, Georgetown won’t be playing with the big boys.
Florida State Seminoles
Florida State currently sits at 19-12, and is coming off a much needed win against Maryland in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Their resume boasts no true impressive win, though they did beat UMass in December and Pittsburgh in late February at the Petersen Events Center.
The Seminoles went 9-9 in conference play this year, which is fairly unimpressive given the ACC’s general mediocrity compared to some of the other big conferences. But they’re much better than the teams they finished around, such as North Carolina State and Clemson.
Florida State ranks 40th in our nERD rankings, and would be projected to beat an average team on a neutral court by over 10 points. Compare that to the rest of the ACC, and instead of being the eighth-best team by record, the Seminoles are actually the sixth-best.
Even though they could compete, the Seminoles are currently out of our tournament field, but are certainly on the bubble. A win over Virginia today at noon could put them in, and it would help them hit that special 20-win mark.