Understanding the bubble: How trustworthy is Joe Lunardi?


Morgan Anderson

Wichita State’s Jamarius Burton and Tulsa’s Darien Jackson wrestle for the ball during the game on Sunday, March 8 inside Charles Koch Arena.

Every year, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi gets slander for his bracket predictions. People say he doesn’t get them right that he doesn’t know anything when it comes to who should make the tournament.

This year, with Wichita State on the bubble, some Shocker fans are now giving Lunardi grief on Facebook for where he has the Shockers placed.

Boycott Lunardi, let him know this is BS. Just saw Lunardi’s bracket, WSU is out – it doesn’t matter anyways. Who cares what Lunardi thinks about Bracketology? Lunardi is trying to drive eyes to his employers website, he’s not the committee.

But one comment from a Wichita State fan stands out amongst the rest: Don’t pay attention to Lunardi, he is always way off on picks.

Is Lunardi always wrong? Where do the Shockers stand on the edge of the bubble? Here’s an inside look at WSU’s chances at the big dance:


Lunardi’s bad wrap

It’s not just WSU fans who get upset about their team being on the bubble it’s a natural fan response. But Lunardi is not a fan, and he doesn’t care about pleasing fanbases. He’s an analyst.

Overall, the bracketologist tends to get a bad wrap. The numbers show he’s not as wrong as everyone says he is. Last season, Lunardi correctly predicted 67 out of the 68 teams in the NCAA field only missing TCU. Of those 68, Lunardi correctly seeded 47 of them. That’s six more correct seeds than fellow bracketologist Jerry Palm correctly guessed.

But what about being way off? Well, he’s not. Lunardi blew only four predictions, meaning he seeded a team two or more spots off from the selection committee. He was efficient.

With WSU on the outside looking in, and with Lunardi’s history picking teams, it’s safe to say the Shockers have some work to do in the conference tournament before Selection Sunday if they want to secure a bid to the big dance.


Where does WSU stand?

Lunardi does not have the Shockers in his final bracket prediction of the regular season, listing them as the third team in the First Four Out. As of Wednesday morning, he moved them in the second slot of the first ones out.

But Lunardi isn’t the only bracketologist out there. Palm, who works for CBS, did put the Shockers in his latest bracket prediction, playing in the First Four in Dayton. Out of the 141 credible bracketologists out there, 94 currently have the Shockers in the tournament. The Shockers are averaging a 10.4 seed in these brackets..

What’s putting the Shockers on the bubble is their metrics their numbers simply don’t jump off the page. WSU does rank in the top 64 in NET one of the main systems the selection committee uses to select teams but they’re also just 2-5 in Quadrant-I games. 

WSU did their due diligence in their non-conference slate, going 12-1, but that was largely due to their No. 136 strength of schedule.

Even though the numbers don’t point to a tough non-conference slate, Head Coach Gregg Marshall said he believes the team’s performance during that stretch deserves recognition on Selection Sunday.

“It was pretty good. We played Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, VCU, South Carolina, West Virginia. That’s about as good of schools as we want to play,” Marshall said. “Abilene Christian and Gardner-Webb have both been to the tournament. Generally, if you take those teams in a given year, you’re going to have a good strength of schedule.”

In the first half of the year, wins against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, VCU, and Memphis seemed to turn heads, but those teams have faded down the stretch. The Shockers rose all the way up to No. 16 team in the country at one point, but their average opponent’s NET per win is just 144.

The Shockers have some work to do. With just two Quad-I wins, Lunardi and other bracketologists believe the team needs to win two games, including one Quad-I game, in the AAC Tournament to go dancing.

But Marshall said he isn’t worried about what the bracketologists have to say.

“You really don’t know,” Marshall said. “I’m not going to set the bracket and these so-called experts aren’t going to set the bracket. The bracket will be set next Sunday.”


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