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Comparing Bubble Teams: The Case For Baylor
11:55 P.M., FRI., MARCH 15, 2013
DAVID KAYE
Twitter: @BaylorMBB, @BaylorAthletics | Facebook: Baylor Athletics

According to ESPN bracketology expert Joe Lunardi, Baylor is one of 12 bubble teams among the last four in, first four out and next four out. Below is a comparison of those 12 teams fighting for the final at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

LAST FOUR IN
Kentucky
Boise State
La Salle
Middle Tennessee

FIRST FOUR OUT
Virginia
Ole Miss
Alabama
Tennessee

NEXT FOUR OUT
Southern Miss
Iowa
Baylor
Maryland

Looking at the strength of schedule of those 12 teams, Baylor (No. 14) is the only one with a SOS in the nation's top 40. In fact, only four of the teams have schedules ranked in the nation's top-80 toughest. While Baylor's 18-14 win-loss record may not look great, the Bears could've put together a lighter schedule and with just two more wins would be sitting at 20-12 and almost certainly in the tournament field. Instead, they stepped up and played a much more difficult schedule than any of the other bubble teams.

Strength of Schedule:
Baylor (14)
Tennessee (46)
Boise State (57)
Kentucky (63)
Southern Miss (84)
La Salle (86)
Alabama (93)
Maryland (122)
Iowa (129)
Virginia (131)
Middle Tennessee (135)
Ole Miss (149)

Baylor's argument isn't just its strength of schedule - the Bears also have more quality wins than most. Among the 12 bubble teams, only Boise State has more wins against RPI top-25 teams (3) than Baylor (2). Five of those teams have no RPI top-25 wins (Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, Alabama and Iowa), and three of the 12 have only one RPI top-25 victory (Kentucky, Tennessee and Maryland).

Baylor has also played the fewest games against teams outside the RPI top 150 (8). Tennessee (9) is the only other bubble team to have played single-digit games against RPI 150+ teams, and the 10 other bubble teams all played at least 10 games against those teams.

Those arguments are all based on the RPI, but if you're looking for another metric, check out ESPN's BPI (Basketball Power Index). It factors in scoring margin, key players missing, etc. Here's an explanation of the BPI.

Current BPI rankings:
Ole Miss (40)
Kentucky (43)
Baylor (44)
Iowa (46)
Boise State (47)
Virginia (48)
Middle Tennessee (49)
Maryland (51)
La Salle (54)
Southern Miss (59)
Tennessee (61)
Alabama (62)

One of the great things about the BPI is there's a ranking for each game. Here's a breakdown of how Baylor scored in each contest.

Baylor has three wins against teams in the BPI top 20: at Kentucky, vs. Oklahoma State and vs. Kansas. Two of those wins were by double digits, something no other team from the Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 or ACC can claim.

BU could easily have two additional BPI top-20 wins, having lost twice to Oklahoma State on the final possession of a game, and those games were on the road in Stillwater and at a neutral site in the Big 12 Championship in Kansas City.

Baylor’s best win in the BPI was its final home game against Kansas, which scored a 99.7. That game score was the sixth-best performance by any Division I team this season, and the 23-point margin of victory was more than Kansas’ four other losses combined (21 points).

Games with BPI ranking of 90+:
Virginia (15)
Kentucky (11)
Baylor (10)
Iowa (9)
Boise State (9)
Ole Miss (8)
Middle Tennessee (7)
Tennessee (7)
Maryland (6)
La Salle (6)
Southern Miss (6)
Alabama (4)

The 10 games with BPIs in the 90s show that the Bears are more than capable of making a deep NCAA Tournament run.

Losses with BPI ranking of 75+:
Iowa (4)
Baylor (3)
Boise State (3)
Virginia (1)
Kentucky (1)
Tennessee (1)
Alabama (1)
Ole Miss (0)
Middle Tennessee (0)
Maryland (0)
La Salle (0)
Southern Miss (0)

Baylor (3) is one of only three bubble teams to score 75+ more than once in a loss, with five of the 12 teams not doing so a single time and four teams having only one game score of 75+ in a defeat. That ties in with Ken Pomeroy's "Luck" statistic, which ranks Baylor as the nation's fourth-most unlucky team this season. A major part of that is Baylor's 1-8 record in games decided by 5 or fewer points.

If the Bears won only three more of those close games and were 4-5 in games decided by 5 or fewer points, they'd be sitting at 21-11 and likely looking at a single-digit seed.

The Bears also have a historic fact on their side - Baylor is the only team ever to defeat Kentucky at Rupp Arena and win against Kansas in the same season. If the selection committee is looking for teams capable of pulling off major upsets and making deep tournament runs, Baylor needs to be included.