The Boston College women’s basketball team is rolling right now. Yesterday, they rode a dominant fourth quarter performance to a 79-66 win over Miami. This came on the heels of an upset win over #19 Notre Dame last week.
BC has now won 6 of their last 7 games, including 5 ACC wins in that span, with the lone loss a very competitive defeat against #2-ranked Louisville.
With the Eagles sitting at 14-5 (5-3 ACC), what do they need to do from here on out to make the NCAA tournament? And what might that path look like?
In order to find comparable data for the selection process we probably have to go back to 2019, due to the cancellation of the 2020 tournament and the weirdness of 2021.
In 2019, 8 ACC teams made the field, with the lowest-ranked being UNC (18-14, #38 in RPI) and Clemson (19-12, #51 in RPI).
In 2018, 8 ACC teams qualified. UVA was a 10-seed at 18-13 (#33 RPI), while Miami (21-10) got in as an 8-seed with a #53 RPI.
Since last year, the NCAA has switched to the NET rankings instead of the RPI which uses a slightly different formula. FSU (#48 NET) was the lowest-rated ACC team to qualify last year - and once again, 8 teams from the ACC made the field.
So the recent evidence is pretty clear - being among the top 8 ACC teams in NET should probably be enough to do it, especially if BC ends up in the top 50 (which would probably be a given if they stay in that top 8).
Another helpful factor is that the tournament is expanded to 68 this year, so that should give the Eagles and other power-conference bubble teams a tiny bit more cushion to work with.
BC is tied for 6th in the ACC right now at 5-3. They sit a half-game behind 5-2 Notre Dame, and a full game behind 6-2 Georgia Tech; while both of these will be tough games against ranked opponents, a win in either or both could rocket BC up the standings. They also have a little bit of ground over the teams just behind them who still conceivably could get back in to the mix.
5 Notre Dame 5-2
6 UNC 5-3
7 BC 5-3
8 Duke 4-3
9 Miami 3-4
10 FSU 3-4
11 Wake 2-7
Nationally, BC sits at #47 in the NET rankings, which would probably be good enough if the season ended today to be on the right side of the bubble.
ESPN’s most recent bracketology, which was posted prior to the Miami win, had BC in as a 10-seed and one of the last four “byes,” avoiding the play-in round.
What will it take over the course of the rest of the season for BC to stay in that spot?
The good news and bad news is that there are plenty of tough games left on the schedule.
RealTimeRPI (which hasn’t updated post-Miami yet) is still bearish on BC, projecting them to go 2-7 in their final 9 regular season games, which would bring them to 18-12 (8-10 ACC) and around ~60th in RPI (this site doesn’t calculate NET).
But even a collapse like that, which feels unlikely, wouldn’t put BC too far out of the mix.
The remaining games and the opponent’s RPI:
@ Georgia Tech (#45)
@ Notre Dame (#19)
@ Virginia Tech (#14)
NC State (#4)
@ Florida State (#120)
Wake Forest (#99)
@ Duke (#25)
@ Syracuse (#132)
Stipulating that there’s no such thing as an easy game in the ACC for any team, you can probably bucket these games into three groups - upset bids (NC State, @ Virginia Tech), games you’d expect to win (FSU, Wake, ‘Cuse, UVA), and then three very difficult but winnable road tossups against GT, ND and Duke.
If BC runs the table against the four teams below them, loses the two upset bids, and goes 1-2 in those three tossup games, that would bring them to 19-8 (10-6 ACC) going in to the ACC tournament. That would almost certainly be enough to get in barring a ton of crazy upsets out of conference, and a one-and-done effort in the conference tourney.
Even only winning the FSU, Wake, Cuse and UVA games would probably have BC in bubble range with them having a chance to push in via the tournament.
Getting to 20 wins in the regular season would surely make them a lock regardless of what happens in conference tourney szn.
All this essentially means that the two most important games of the season are probably the next two coming right up on the calendar - Thursday @ Georgia Tech, and Sunday @ Notre Dame. Win one of those games and BC is lining themselves up to be in pretty good shape. Win both, and they’ll really be cooking.
Now’s a good a time as any to climb aboard if you haven’t yet, as Joanna Bernabei-McNamee looks to steer BC women’s basketball to its first NCAA tournament appearance since Cathy Inglese’s tenure as head coach.