Cleveland Rocks...Unless You're On The Bubble
By Jeff Falconio
Cleveland State's surprising win over Butler last night is good for the Horizon League but bad for teams firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Butler has accomplished enough to be a lock for the tourney, so now the Bulldogs will take away an at-large spot from one of those bubble teams.
Just how much does Cleveland State's win hurt the bubble teams? Well, here's a simple explanation: there are way too many teams fighting for way too few spots. Let's crunch the numbers here. Assume for a moment that all the regular season champions go on to win the conference tournament. That means the likes of North Carolina and Louisville get automatic bids. Based on all the criteria the selection committee will use, there should be about 21 teams that are locks to get an at-large bid.
Locks: Dayton, Wake Forest, Duke, Florida State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse, West Virginia, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Butler, Utah, UCLA, Arizona State, California
That leaves 13 at-large bids left and of course, we're assuming Memphis, Utah State, BYU and Xavier all win their respective tournaments. As it stands now, there are 26 teams that should receive major consideration from the committee to fill the remaining spots.
Under Consideration: Rhode Island, Boston College, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Providence, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Tulsa, UAB, Niagara, Creighton, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, Arizona, USC, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, Davidson, St. Mary's
Finally, with enough luck and a deep enough run, there are seven more teams that might receive consideration.
In Need Of A Miracle: Miami, FL, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Mississippi State
So in all, there are 33 teams fighting for 13 at-large bids over the next four days. Obviously, for a team like Butler to grab an at-large bid is very costly for the nearly three dozen teams with hopes of making the tournament. The flip side is this creates some powerful matchups that might serve as "elimination" games over the next 24 hours. Virginia Tech-Miami, Minnesota-Northwestern, and San Diego State-UNLV are right at the top of the list. But that's why this week is the best of the year, the pressure is on all over the place. Look for more bracketeering late tonight at the conclusion of the NEC and Big Sky championship games.