NCAA tournament 2011: Is the bubble vanishing?
(Really busy day, but I'd love to hear which team you're thinking of picking to win the national championship this season and which team could be a sleeper. Drop me a quick email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The delirium usually sets in around this time, with a few days left until the bracket is unveiled. This is when you start seeing Bill Raftery in your sleep and RPI numbers in your morning oatmeal. This is when logic becomes twisted by the craziness of this mind-numbing process. I always chuckle at the memory of a colleague, someone who has been deemed a bracket "mad scientist" by the NY Times and someone whom I greatly respect, trying to convince me a couple years ago at the ACC tournament that UNLV would be hurting itself by beating San Diego State for the third time in one season.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because UNLV would be devaluing the previous two wins by giving San Diego State another loss," the reporter said. "UNLV would be cannibalizing itself."
I still laugh out loud at that. Well, here's my crazy thought for the day: I think this season's bubble is vanishing. I don't root for teams; I root for stories. And one of the stories I am rooting for this season is a truly watered down pool of final at-large teams because I want the NCAA and the public to realize it was a bad idea to tinker with this tournament and let mediocrity get a crack to play for the national title. So I am rooting for no upsets in conference tournaments and I invite the truly middling to grab the final at-large slots.
I don't think a lot of fans really grasp how soft (weak) the bubble is this season. A lot of debate has centered on whether teams like Colorado or Georgia, Virginia Tech or Michigan State, St. Mary's or Richmond deserve a berth. Guess what? Maybe few deserve a berth. But maybe all will get one this season. ESPN's Joe Lunardi had a great line about Richmond yesterday: "Never seen a team gain so much by standing still. Everyone - everyone - they are competing with has blown a tire." Teams are falling flat left and right. All you need to do is avoid ghastly losses at this point and there is room for you in this 68-team field.
Colorado nearly lost to Iowa State for a second time this season, and there is still room for Colorado. Virginia Tech could not have done worse in its final two regular season games, and there's still room for the Hokies. St. Mary's has all of three wins over top 100 teams and there's still room for the Gaels. Villanova has not won a game since Charlie Sheen went haywire, and Nova is still in and NOT in Dayton. How is Michigan State still in the field? Because you can't get these teams out. Is there a team on the outside looking in that really deserves a berth at this point? Alabama? Penn State? Texas-El Paso? I challenge anyone to cite a positive from UTEP's resume.
For the most part, teams on the bubble seem to be moving backward at various speeds. Those who are moving backward the slowest will make the field. But few, if any, are playing their way into the field at this point. Nebraska and Baylor eliminated themselves yesterday. The bubble is shrinking. By the time Virginia Tech plays Florida State on Friday, if the Hokies lose, will there be anyone left standing to take their place in the field?
| March 10, 2011; 10:45 AM ET
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Posted by: skinfan2k | March 10, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse