Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Bubble: 7 Minutes in Heaven or …

As we welcome the entrance of the “mid-major” conference tournaments and the final weekend of play for the “big timers” [Duke/UNC anyone?], there are more than enough teams clinging to desperate hopes of a bid on Selection Sunday .

Some have seen their entire conference struggle down the stretch (that’s you, A-10), others have watched promising seasons wash away (Syracuse), while others have seen the highest of the high and lowest of the low (Texas Tech beats Texas and loses to Oklahoma & Kansas by over 100 points combined in the span of a week).

Nevertheless, there are plenty of schools out there – from those aforementioned “power conferences” – which need as many as 3 or 4 more wins to secure a selection.

While it remains to be seen if teams like Syracuse, Villanova, Texas Tech and St. Joe’s have put themselves in a position to only secure a bid via the automatic circuit (i.e. winning their conference tournament), at least, we have drama.

Along with that drama are the anticipated performances of star players. For, as you will soon see, X-factors on the bubble are not your key swingman off the bench or even your third option.

It’s the #1 guy, stud or dud, who might have to pull a Gerry McNamara and will their team into the NCAA Tournament.

Maryland – Grievis Vasquez

Capable of a triple-double most nights...with turnovers likely the third statistic.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Remaining Game(s): March 9 - @ Virginia
Comment: Vasquez has the unique ability to keep both teams on the floor in the game (thanks Kevin Sheehan of Redskins Radio for that gem). The Terps can ill afford a letdown on the road in Charlottesville, as they don’t have the playmaking ability required to make a deep ACC Tourney run.

Syracuse – Donte Greene

Three straight seasons on the bubble has fans grimacing more than Boeheim.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Remaining Game(s): March 5 - @ Seton Hall, March 9 – Marquette
Comment: Sadly, it took Greene nearly 30 games into his freshman year in upstate New York to abandon the idea of chucking up sixteen 3-balls a game. Unfortunately, Cuse’s 6-man rotation has reeked [sic] havoc on their play in conference. Likely needing to sweep this week and make as many as 2 or 3 major statements in New York in two weekends, it may be two years in a row Syracuse is toiling with NCAA tournament talent in the NIT.

Ohio State – Jamar Butler

From star to role player to star again. The circle of college basketball life.

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Remaining Game(s): March 9 – Michigan State
Comment: Pay and I made sure to target in our talking points that Ohio State was afforded a tremendous opportunity drawing ranked-Purdue and Michigan State in the final week of the regular season
. Holding serve at home against Purdue Tuesday night went a long way in affording the Buckeyes a crucial banner win. Pulling the upset at home on Saturday versus the Izzos would almost assuredly secure them a tournament bid. Jamar Butler’s 25 against Purdue will need to be repeated, at least, for the Spartans to fall on Saturday.

St. Joseph’s – Pat Calathes

You can't spell A-10 without hustle. Oh wait, maybe you can.


Remaining Game(s): March 6 – Xavier, March 8 – @Dayton
Comment: Their 1-point loss to Temple on Sunday night hurt the entire conference potentially. Even worse, the Hawks may wind up on the wrong side of every conceivable bracket projection after losing two games this week they’re more than likely not favored to win. In fact, their showdown at Dayton will almost assuredly knock one of at-large bid contention. That is, unless the Hawks can strike down the top-10 Musketeers and potentially expose their #2 or #3 seed potential.

Kentucky – Joe Crawford

Now that he's hurt (
Patterson), we can mention the "other" Kentucky Wildcats.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Remaining Games: March 5 - @South Carolina, March 9 – Florida
Comment: You’ll notice more than a little symmetry with the next two teams. Kentucky lost Patrick Patterson for the season and still played Tennessee to a close 3-point game in Knoxville. Suddenly, that 39-point loss to Vanderbilt back before Valentine’s Day seems a distant memory (or does it?). Much like Maryland and their UVA game, Kentucky can’t afford to fall into the trap-door game at South Carolina tonight. As for Sunday’s matchup with Florida, it’s going to be for more than just positioning in the SEC Tournament. Already losers in OT over a month ago in Gainesville, the Wildcats may not be on the smiling side of the bubble if they drop two of their next three (or worse).

Florida – Marreese Speights & Nick Calathes

So wait, you're telling me that we don't get an automatic bid despite being two-time defending champs?


Remaining Games: March 5 – Tennessee, March 9 - @Kentucky
Comment: Almost a mirror image of Ohio State (ironically last year’s national title game opponents), the Gators have plenty of upcoming opportunities this week to impose their will on the Selection Committee. The two-time defending champs have only faced four ranked opponents this season, yet face a potential #1 seed tonight and another bubble team from the SEC East on Sunday. Two losses and even an upset in the SEC Tournament might not be enough for Billy Donovan’s crew.

Dayton – Brian Roberts

Okay, not THAT Brian Roberts. But come on! Catch the fever of O's Baseball!!!

Remaining Game(s): March 5 - @ St. Bonaventure, March 8 – St. Joseph’s
Comment: 14-1 seems so long ago. In fact, too long ago (Come back, Chris Wright). One of the ultimate arguments behind closed doors must focus on the Flyers (who at 6-8 in conference right now) own victories @ Louisville and over Pittsburgh (then ranked #6). However, they also have damaging in-conference losses and may end up losing a critical season finale to St. Joe’s. Suppose this team is out by the A-10 semi-finals … good luck keeping them in or out in under three hours of deliberation.

…also considering attention…
Oklahoma State – Byron Eaton
Virginia Tech – A.D. Vassallo

Southern Illinois Randal Falker
Texas Tech – Martin Zeno
Villanova – Scottie Reynolds

Who is MISSING? It’s not Waldo. However, we’d like to hear YOUR teams and YOUR impact x-factor PLAYERS that will make our jobs as bracket projectionists easier…or much more difficult.

Until next time…


Anonymous said...

Syracuse made a nice statement tonight rebounding and more importantly holding on to a nice lead down the stretch. I agree it'll take either a win Sunday vs. Marquette and at least one win with two making them on the correct side of the bubble. But remember, they're young and kind of got screwed last the tourney committee may cut them a little slack. Boy that South Florida loss hurts.

Clement said...

Interesting perspective. The South Florida loss hurts, but not as much as the choke-job at home against Pitt.

Their road record is rather abysmol, the win at then-ranked UVA doesn't mean diddily now.

Even a win over Marquette only bumps them to two really legit wins (the G-Town split is always expected anyways).

Likely, Cuse needs to win two tourney games.

Good luck with that one.
9-9 in the Big East is a step down from last year's 10 wins before the tourney.

2 for 2 for Boeheim and company.
Man, we miss Devendorf and (even) Rautins.