The Lede. The story of this week so far appears to be just how difficult it is for us to find 37 at-large teams to fill out this year’s bracket. Can you imagine how this would look if they NCAA had expanded to 96 teams? We’d be discussing teams like New Mexico, Cal and Ole Miss as serious candidates for inclusion, a specter that nobody would want to face. Memo to all the bubble teams — give us a reason to support your selection, will you?
Your Watercooler Moment. Bubble, Bubble, Toil & Trouble. On Saturday night, after Virginia Tech successfully vanquished the Dookies and RTC’d with reckless abandon, we wrote: “Did Virginia Tech Finally Get Over the NCAA Hump? Of course, it’s hard to say for certain with these guys. After vanquishing #1 Duke for its most important win in years, the Hokies will probably turn around and lose to Boston College at home on Tuesday. Let’s hope not.” Sigh……… And Seth Greenberg dares to argue year after year why his team is left on the outside of the NCAA Tournament looking in? His team didn’t show up tonight, falling behind by as much as 30-12 in the opening minutes and only making half-hearted runs the rest of the way — put simply, BC appeared to be a team that wanted to play in the NCAAs, while Tech seemed to play like they were already guaranteed a bid. The Hokies now sit at 19-10 (9-6 ACC) with a tough trip to fellow bubbler Clemson over the weekend on the horizon. It’s going to be another one of those Marches for the Virginia Tech fanbase, as even with a bubble softer than Greenberg’s midsection, the Hokies are no lock for the NCAAs and are generally unlikely to make things easy on the Selection Committee.
In other Bubble trouble, several teams hurt their case in what is rapidly becoming a race to the dirty bottom in terms of finding enough legitimate teams to fill out this year’s 68-team bracket.
- Baylor – The Bears were already on a bit of life support with only a handful of bracketologists having Baylor as a part of the 68-team field based on their current resume. Getting a road win against a middle-pack Big 12 team would have helped, but a terrible shooting night from their backcourt of LaceDarius Dunn and AJ Walton (combined 5-26 FGs) did them in. The Bears host reeling Texas over the upcoming weekend, but it’s looking more and more that, with a weak RPI and few quality wins of substance, that the only way Baylor finds its way back into the Dance is by making a run in the Big 12 Tournament.
- Alabama – For a half, it appeared that maybe, finally, inexorably, Anthony Grant’s team might get the kind of marquee win that would make all the bracketologists stand up and take notice that they’re playing some pretty good ball down in Tuscaloosa this winter. It wasn’t to be. Florida blistered the Tide with a 48-21 second half, breaking open a tied game at the half and clinching the Gators’ first SEC regular season title since the Oh-Fours left campus in 2007. For Bama, its rough non-conference schedule is likely to act as an NCAA albatross two Sundays from now — the Tide needs to win the SEC Tournament, more than likely, to Dance this year.
- Illinois – The Illini competed with Purdue tonight, but they simply weren’t going to beat the Boilermakers in their building where they were 16-0 this season. This loss won’t hurt them much, but they do not want to enter the Big Ten Tournament next week with an 8-10 conference record and absolutely needing a win, do they? Beating Indiana at home is a security blanket that they cannot afford to drop (Illinois lost to Indiana in Bloomington, remember).
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Louis Farrakhan as College Hoops Patron. Yes, you read that correctly. We don’t usually think of the elderly Nation of Islam leader and college basketball at the same time, ever, but Farrakhan attended tonight’s NC State-Virginia game to represent for his grandson, Cavalier guard Mustapha, during his Senior Night. Farrakhan the Younger dropped 15/4/3 assts in an 11-point win for Virginia, a key victory as the Wahoos attempt to keep an overall winning record to become NIT-eligible this season. The Cavs are currently 15-14 with a road game at Maryland and the ACC Tournament upcoming, so they still have some work to do. We suppose this might be the first and only time that Farrakhan will ever attend a college hoops game.