Oh, life on the bubble. It's college basketball's own version of "thin ice." With no margin for error, one slip could change everything.
This season, St. John's (15-10, 7-6 Big East) is quickly getting acclimated to this new pressured lifestyle. The Johnnies are wavering on the cusp of reaching its season-long goal - making the NCAA Tournament. With five games remaining, St. John's is a big win (or big loss) away from sealing its postseason fate.
But who doesn't like high stakes?
In recent years, the NCAA has hosted a "mock selection" in which a committee similar to the one that ultimately makes the decisions in mid-March uses quantitative analysis to formulate a projected tournament bracket. The process is communicated to fans, allowing for a glimpse into how the selection committee tirelessly works to obtain the fairest 68-team field possible.
The mock selection committee spent 15 hours weighing options, discussing team resumes, considering geographic elements, etc. before releasing its projected bracket on Friday.
So, where did St. John's get placed? Did they even get admitted into the mock NCAA Tournament field? Spoiler alert: the bubble is still intact.
The first thing that the committee did was rank the teams, one through 68, to obtain seeding and eliminate the bursting bubbles from consideration. St. John's was ultimately ranked 34th, between Middle Tennessee and Wichita State, and surprisingly ahead of teams like UCLA, UNLV, and Creighton.
Then came the bracket itself. The end product placed St. John's as a 10-seed, travelling to San Jose to face off with 7-seeded Colorado. Waiting in the wings would be Gonzaga. Haven't the Johnnies seen them somewhere before?
[View the mock selection committee's final bracket here].
The seeding, the opponent, the destination city - they're all moot points. The main point is that the mock selection committee, which (supposedly) uses the same calculations and data analysis processes as the real committee, has St. John's projected as in the tournament. Somewhat comfortably, in fact.
According to ESPN, the Red Storm is ranked 53rd in the RPI and stands 13th in the strength of schedule category. Both measures are considered heavily come March.
In Joe Lunardi's most recent Bracketology released on Friday, St. John's in one of the "First Four Out" along with Arizona State, Temple, and Villanova. The Wildcats got a convincing win on the road at UConn on Saturday afternoon.
There has been much discussion about what St. John's has to do going forward to have a chance at making the NCAA Tournament. The Red Storm's five remaining games are against South Florida, Pittsburgh, Providence (road), Notre Dame (road), and Marquette.
The prevailing feeling is that the Johnnies will have to win at least three of these games, yet no threshold number is set in stone. But one thing is for certain. If the young Red Storm wants to go dancing next month, they will do so by earning it the old fashioned way.
Such is life on the bubble.