Bubble Watch: You Pick ‘Em!


The men’s college basketball season is white hot, with teams jockeying for position as they finish up the regular season and prepare to enter their respective conference tournaments. A number of teams are a lock for post season play including those from high powered conferences who have already won 20 games.

Power Conferences

Final Four31 conferences get automatic bids leaving 34 spots to fill. But that group of 34 is trimmed further when you realize that the power conferences will snap up as many as 30 of those spots leaving four, perhaps eight, positions to fill.

And that is what the bubble watch is all about: determining which schools have a chance of cracking the tournament if things bounce their way between now and March 14, which is Selection Sunday.

The power conferences include the Big East, Big Ten, ACC, PAC 10, SEC and Big 12. Each one should have at least four teams in the NCAA tournament, with some including the 16 team Big East having at least 7.

Some may argue that the SEC doesn’t quite carry the power conference mystique as it may end up with just three teams in this year’s tournament. The SEC may be the best football conference, but they are generally a half step behind in men’s basketball. Still, I can see the SEC securing as many as five spots this year with Florida and Mississippi State grabbing two additional spots.

Bubble Teams

So who are the bubble teams? I have a better question to ask: what day is it today?

Bubble teams puff up, pop, disappear and suddenly make a return. I’ve been looking at lists posted on ESPN, USA Today and CBS Sports websites and concur with most of the findings, but with one caveat: those lists can be blown to pieces quickly.

Over the coming weeks, take a look at some of the things that raises one team’s visibility while dashing the hopes of another one:

  • Upset win – Beat a team that is a lock for the tournament can be extremely beneficial. In fact, when the selection committee meets to determine the field of 65, they’ll look at “quality wins” to determine who has those.
  • Last ten – You can start the season at 19-3, but lose eight of your final ten games and finish 21-11 and miss the tournament. Even earlier quality wins may not help you if your team experienced a late season collapse. It is better to have a winning record down the stretch!
  • Win your conference tournament – Any team that wins its conference tournament is an automatic bid, so if you’re 10-18 at the end of the regular season and put three straight wins, then you are in. Lots of small conferences place a “loser” in the tournament which means that a quality 25-7 team could end up going to the N.I.T.  instead of  “representing” their conference.

There are other fudge factors no one can put their finger on which determines who gets in and who misses the dance. Usually, the top teams in the N.I.T. Tournament are much better than at least half of the teams in the NCAA which brings up another point: why not expand the field to 128 teams and leave it at that?


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