At this pace, let’s give NJIT an NCAA Tournament bid. Since the word “bubble” is becoming a four-letter word, why not give it to a four-letter team?
In perhaps the most atrocious collection of mediocrity seen on the bubble yet, teams are dropping like flies left and right down the stretch. Conference tournament sites have become mass graveyards for aspiring NCAA Tournament contenders.
That stench, coming from the collective rotting carcasses and bursting bubbles of teams nationwide, has left a rhetorical question on the minds of self-proclaimed bracketologists and college basketball fans alike: “does anyone want a bid?”
And the answer, at least based on the first three days of conference tournament action, has been a resounding “No!”
If history has taught us anything with regard to the final at-large selections by the NCAA selection committee on an annual basis, it’s that a few undeserving teams are likely to make it. This year will be no exception. But unlike most years, relatively speaking, no team is likely to have a solid argument against being left out should the selection show not call their name Sunday evening on CBS – unlike Syracuse last season and Missouri State the year before.
Beginning Thursday afternoon, the selection committee checked in an Indianapolis hotel, and amid no fewer than 24 laptops in the corresponding conference room, began making lists and checking them twice to find the 65 best teams in the country.
That committee, which is comprised of 10 conference commissioners and directors of athletics, six from football sub-division institutions and four from smaller Division I colleges, is represented by at least two individuals from each of the four geographical regions that conferences are split-into. The Midwest region, which includes the Big Ten, Conference USA, Horizon League, Mid-American Conference, Summit League, Big 12 and Missouri Valley Conference, includes Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith, Kent State Athletic Director Laing Kennedy and Horizon League Commissioner Jonathan LeCrone this season.
As the committee got settled in yesterday, they started by submitting two ballots: the first a list of no more than 34 teams that, as of that moment deserved an at-large bid based on successful play to date. Any teams that had already clinched an automatic bid by virtue of a conference tournament championship or (in the case of the Ivy League) a regular season championship were excluded. The second ballot lists any other team deserving of at-large consideration, regardless of the possibility they may, at some point this weekend, clinch an automatic bid.
To accurately gauge the less-than-blissful bubble landscape, one must first depict the teams whose fates are secure. In other words, it’s best to take a look at the teams who knows their names will be called later this weekend.
That list, most likely looks something like this today:
1. Xavier (Atlantic 10)
2. North Carolina (ACC)
3. Duke (ACC)
4. Clemson (ACC)
5. Miami FL (ACC)
6. Kansas (Big 12)
7. Texas (Big 12)
8. Kansas State (Big 12)
9. Oklahoma (Big 12)
10. Georgetown (Big East)
11. Notre Dame (Big East)
12. Louisville (Big East)
13. Connecticut (Big East)
14. Marquette (Big East)
15. Pittsburgh (Big East)
16. West Virginia (Big East)
17. Wisconsin (Big Ten)
18. Indiana (Big Ten)
19. Purdue (Big Ten)
20. Michigan St. (Big Ten)
21. BYU (Mountain West)
22. UCLA (Pac-10)
23. Stanford (Pac-10)
24. Southern California (Pac-10)
25. Washington St. (Pac-10)
26. Tennessee (SEC)
27. Vanderbilt (SEC)
28. Kentucky (SEC)
29. Mississippi St. (SEC)
30. Arkansas (SEC)
31. Gonzaga (West Coast)
32. St. Mary’s (West Coast)
Sure, there are other teams that are closing in on bids, but more than likely, it’s those 32 teams that should have little to no worries just 24 hours from now when the field of 65 teams is announced.
That list would leave room for one additional at-large bid. In addition, the ACC Champion, the Big 12 Champion, the Big East Champion, Big Ten Champion, Pac-10 Champion and SEC Champion may still yet be removed from this list thanks to automatic bids. So in total, as many as eight (8) more bids may open up to the proverbial “bubble” the rest of the weekend.
And there are a whole slew of teams fighting for those eight spots.
To see what the committee sees, let’s stack those teams up complete with accompanying profile information.
Of course, on Sunday, Illinois looks to steal a bid from someone by beating Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship. But beyond that, the bubble teams look to be unscathed after Virginia Tech lost to North Carolina early Saturday afternoon and Memphis won the Conference USA Championship in convincing fashion.
As of this writing, both Saint Joseph’s and Temple are fighting it out for the Atlantic 10 Championship so one of those two teams off the list of 23 possible at-large bids will not need the gratuity of an at-large selection.
For those wondering, my picks of these eight would be: Arizona, Ohio State, Baylor, Texas A&M, Villanova, South Alabama, UNLV and either Illinois State, the loser of the Atlantic 10 Championship, Oregon, Arizona State or Mississippi.