As basically a Mid-Major. You often hear of the term “signature win” in college hoops, a win over a ranked team that announces that a team is good enough to qualify for the NCAA. St. John’s drubbing of Duke was just the just the opposite, a signal that Dook, and by extension the ACC, is rather overrated.
Ordinarily, it’s dangerous to read too much into any one basketball game. Not in this case though. St. John’s is a middling Big East outfit but based upon RPI (rank: 28), they are still the best team Duke has played so far this year. And Duke, ranked number 3 in the country in the AP poll at the time, was destroyed.
So yeah, maybe Duke isn’t the third best team in the country. Actually, there was good reason to think they weren’t that even before Sunday. Who exactly did Duke beat this season to earn that number three ranking? Based upon RPI, they’re best win is at home over Boston College (RPI: 34). Don’t believe in RPI and prefer the polls? OK, Dook has played exactly two currently (as of Monday morning, just before the weekly poll update) nationally ranked teams, topping #25 Michigan State and losing to #22 Florida State. Not exactly an endorsement.
This year, much of the ACC’s claims of quality are derived from Duke’s quality as the conference overall only ranks 5th in RPI. So when Duke lost big in NYC, with it went some of Florida State’s claim on a ticket to the Big Dance. After all, their biggest achievement was a win over Duke.
Still, there are 37 a large bid, of which only 10 or so will go to the Big East. So there are bids to be had. Hard to see the ACC getting more than four — if the season ended now, Duke, UNC, Boston College and maybe Florida State — would make it. Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and Maryland all came into Sunday’s play with RPIs of between 65 and 78. That sort of RPI pretty much amounts to “win the ACC tourney or go the NITs.” So figure 10 or 11 conference wins as the minimum need to make the show.