Well folks it’s late February, and that buzz in the air you’re feeling is the looming presence of Selection Sunday. It’s a mere 3 weeks before the field is selected for the most entertaining of American sporting events. Over the past 4 years, as we’ve been bitching about seeding and 1st round match-ups etc., we have always added the caveat of: “Well, it’s better than being on the bubble.” But this year Marquette finds itself in that unfamiliar position: on the bubble. It’s been a while since MU was a legit bubble team. The 04-05 season was the last time Marquette missed the tourney, and I’m not even sure that team even qualified as a bubble team. So, it’s understandable if MU Nation is having a little trouble remembering the rules of the bubble. I hear it all the time, “Master Reid, it’s all so confusing. Who do I root for? Who do I root against?” Well fear not kiddies, thanks to a 7+ hour drive and the miracle of wireless internet, D3, VJJ and I were able to hash out exactly who we need to be keeping an eye on as we come down the home stretch of the college hoops season.
-The second tier of the Atlantic 10
Let me begin by declaring that I think the A-10 is bullshit. But people who make tourney fields don’t give a damn what I think. As of Monday, Lunardi has 5 teams in his bracket from the A-10. It appears that Temple, Xavier, and Richmond (Yes, Richmond) are pretty much locks barring any unforeseen bed-shitting down the stretch. But the next 3-4 teams are all kinds of bubblicious. As of today, Rhode Island and Dayton are amongst the last 4 teams in the tournament, and Charlotte is one of the first teams out of the tournament. Even SLU is sneaking into the discussion. Any fan of a bubble team needs to be rooting against these 4 teams. A run by any of these teams could propel them to darling status and get them in ahead of a potentially more deserving high-major team.
Okie State is starting to get rolling at the best possible time, for them. Not the best possible time if you’re a team that will be competing for an at-large tournament berth, however. They have won 3 in a row, and just beat No. 22 Baylor in Stillwater, to improve to 7-5 in the Big 12. In their next 3 games they have @Texas, Kansas, and @Texas A&M. Wins in one or more of those games would nudge OK St. closer to “lock” status. Unless of course D3’s Huskers can beat ‘em and totally fuck up the works. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for that one.
-Teams in your own conference with better non-conference wins than you
Read: UCONN. As I write this UConn is putting the finishing touches on a victory over No. 7 West Virginia. That should put them on the right side of the bubble now. And with only Louisville, Notre Dame and South Florida left on the schedule, winning out to finish 10-8 in the Big East is looking pretty likely. And since they are also one of the biggest names on the college hoops landscape, you probably do not want the selection committee to be debating you vs. UConn for the 65th spot in the tourney; even if you’ve beaten them head to head.
-The SEC West
This is conceding that the 4 big teams from the SEC East (Kentucky, Vandy, Tennessee and Florida) will get in. However, if you still want to root against Florida, be my guest. And sure, the SEC West is fucking atrocious this year. But that’s been the case for the past few years and they always seem to get an extra team into the tournament. Whether it was Mississippi State stealing the conference tourney last year, or Arkansas inexplicably sneaking in the side door in 2007, the SEC West always seems to nab an undeserved bid. Mississippi St. is the only team that is even in the discussion this year. They mostly play the dregs of the SEC (Bama, South Carolina, Auburn), before finishing with Tennessee. But they damn near got beat by 0-12 LSU Saturday, and have already been taken to OT by Auburn this year, so there’s always the possibility of the disastrous misstep in Starkville.
As a Wisconsin native, and hater of the Big 11, this is just something I do anyways. But this year it has the added benefit of perhaps pushing the FIBs out of the tournament and clearing one more spot for my team. The Illini have some good wins, but they also have some horrendous non-conference losses. And their good wins have holes in them too; beating Michigan St. w/o Lucas, Ohio St. w/o Turner and Wisconsin w/o Leuer. I was surprised to realize that they already have 10 losses! A late season loss against the likes of Minnesota or Michigan (especially Michigan), would add another bad loss to their resume. Add in a game at tOSU and one more loss in the conference tournament and all of a sudden you’ve got a 12-13 loss team. That might make it awfully difficult for the committee to put Illinois in over a team with a better record from…oh I don’t know… the Big East say.
The Monarchs are currently in line for a potential at-large berth according to the latest Lunardi bracket. They are tied for the lead in the CAA, but Northeastern (18-10) holds the tie breaker over them. If you’re a fan of a power conference team on the bubble, you want ODU to win out, and we’ll only have to waste one tournament bid on those mid-major bastards.
-The rest of the favored mid-majors in the conference tournaments
This is true every year. Bubble teams will all be rooting for the Gonzagas and the Butlers of the world to hold serve, and not spit the bit in their conference tournaments. You can probably even throw Cal (or whoever is leading the dreadful Pac-10) in there too. If they do, they’re still getting in and that increases the chance that those living on the bubble will be heading to the consolation bracket.
-Most importantly, root for your team to keep winning.
For us MU fans, it’s good to know that, after Sunday, we pretty much control our own tournament destiny. Keep winning and we’re in. But, as has been stated many times, the margin for error is very slim. Joey Brackets gives us a 55% chance of remaining in his tourney. One bobble down the stretch and get the antacids ready, it’s could be a long, ulcer inducing Selection Sunday. Step one: bitch smack the Johnnies Wednesday night.