By Brendan Loy
The latest bubble update from Mike Scullin’s NIT-ology is instructive, both for thinking about this year’s NCAA Tournament, and for thinking about how an expanded, 96-team field would change the nature of the discussions that we have at this time of year.
With respect to the current state of the NCAA bubble, Scullin writes:
I’m sure this is a common theme you’ll see on all of the NCAA bracketology sites this week as they digest the results of the weekend — there are simply not enough deserving at large teams right now, so the door is absolutely wide open for any of the [currently projected] top 3 seeds in the NIT to jump into the four-letter tournament.
That includes teams like UConn, Rhode Island, Ole Miss and Memphis: not exactly world-beaters, but still serious NCAA contenders because the bubble is so weak. And in a 96-team field, forget “contenders,” they’d be locks. The UConns and URIs would be playing for seeding next week, while the NCAA bubble debate would instead focus on those teams presently on the NIT bubble, teams like — I kid you not — North Carolina (16-15 overall, 5-11 in the ACC, tied for 9th place), which would, according to NIT-ology, still be in the field despite its eleventy-bajillion-point loss to Duke the other day.
Here are the current “last 10 in” to a hypothetical 96-team tourney, if we extrapolate from NIT-ology’s list:
Tulsa (21-10 overall, 10-6 C-USA, 5th)
North Carolina (16-15 overall, 5-11 ACC, T-9th)
Illinois St. (22-10 overall, 11-7 MVC, 3rd)
Northeastern (20-12 overall, 14-4 CAA, 2nd)
Boston College (15-15 overall, 6-10 ACC, 8th)
Alabama (16-14 overall, 6-10 SEC, T-4th in the West)
South Carolina (15-15 overall, 6-10 SEC, 5th in the East)
Portland (21-10 overall, 10-4 WCC, 3rd)
Iona (21-10 overall, 12-6 MAAC, 3rd)
Northwestern (19-12 overall, 7-11 Big Ten, T-7th)
And those are the teams on the right side the bubble! The first 4 out? Louisiana Tech (22-9, 9-7, 4th in the WAC), Wright State (20-11, 12-6, 2nd in the Horizon), N.C. State (17-14, 5-11, T-9th ACC) and Harvard (21-7, 10-4, 3rd Ivy). Could college basketball survive the utter tragedy of excluding such worthy and wonderful teams from the Big Dance? Can’t you feel the heat of Billy Packer’s outrage already, after Iona gets a bid over N.C. State — or conversely, Brendan Loy’s outrage when “deserving mid-major” Louisiana Tech is excluded in favor of BCS bully South Carolina? OH THE HUMANITY!!! I mean, if you can’t earn a shot at the national championship by going 5-11 in the ACC or 9-7 in the WAC, there is no justice in the world!!! [/sarcasm]