College Basketball Bubble Watch

Updated: February 14, 2014, 11:20 AM ET
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com


Sometimes, a schedule's strength isn't all it's cracked up to be

Editor's note: This file has been updated to include all games through Thursday, Feb. 13.

On Wednesday afternoon, one day before the start of the 2014 media mock selection, new men's basketball committee chair Ron Wellman sat down for the customary media teleconference. One question, about Wichita State's schedule strength, led to a particularly worthwhile answer.

After reiterating the usual talking points -- the committee looks at overall and nonconference schedules, and different members will draw different conclusions -- Wellman went even further.

"Oftentimes schools will develop a schedule thinking that it is a very strong schedule, only to have their opponents fall on their face," he said. "And the schedule isn't nearly as strong as what they thought it might be originally. Those are some of the factors that we look at beyond just the RPI. There are many, many metrics that we use beyond the RPI. The RPI does a good job of capturing all those metrics, but again, the various metrics can be used by the conference members."

The first part is a fascinating bit of situational philosophy. Let's call it "schedule intent" -- what a team sets out to do with its schedule, as opposed to what that schedule eventually becomes. Wellman's response might be the first time a committee chairman has explicitly discussed this kind of next-level hypothetical consideration.

On the one hand, it makes sense, for the same reasons the committee no longer weighs late-season games more heavily than nonconference ones: The NCAA wants to encourage teams to play good games. On the other hand, who cares what a schedule was supposed to be? What does that have to do with anything? Shouldn't the schedule itself -- the actual objective strength of the actual opponents -- be the only thing that matters?

The second part, thankfully, is just a handy reminder. The committee comprises a variety of human beings who value a variety of criteria when analyzing teams. Those members will weigh different factors differently. Some might even subscribe to this whole "well, they tried" scheduling idea, which was a concept we didn't even know existed two days ago. How do you adjust your expectations for that?

This is the crucial reminder as we dig into another edition of the Bubble Watch: At some point, these are just educated guesses.

Note: All RPI data via ESPN RPI is updated through Friday, Feb. 14.