Monday, March 12, 2007

Bubbles Bubbles Bubbles

With selection Sunday now in the books, it strikes me that the two biggest gripes with the selection company come to us courtesy of Syracuse and Drexel. In actuality, it shouldn't matter much. It's not as if team 66 or 67 really had much of a chance of winning the tournament. After all, that we are talking about the 66th and 67th best teams now not having a chance at the national championship should be a moot point. They aren't going to win anyway. It's not like football where the nation's third best team had a legitimate chance at capturing the title and is denied the opportunity.

Generally speaking, I think bubbles bursting is a bunch of hubbub about nothing. The top 65 have a shot, and if people are whining outside of those 65, then they should have played better during the season to avoid being on the bubble. The George Masons of the world that make a surge to the final four are rare at best. Many cling to that the long shot, thinking their squad is going to get hot and make that improbable run, but said run is just that - improbable. If you can't establish yourself as a top 65 team after 30+ games, what makes someone think that they are going to catch fire and win the six games in a row against the nation's best to win it all? Bottom line: it's a fantasy and there's no real reason to feel too much pain for those headed to the much less desired NIT.

Then there's a case like Drexel. One win in the NCAA tournament can do wonders for a relatively unknown school. After all, my alma mater was put on the map by a dramatic first round win. Win two games in a row, and you have press coverage unlike anything the school has ever seen. Money and recruits are bound to follow, all from having won two basketball games at the opportune time. Jim Boeheim probably won't be affected by coaching Syracuse in the NIT, as he has a resume and established program that can shrug off an off season.

But a school like Drexel may not have an opportunity like this again. The window for many mid-majors is tiny. George Mason isn't even in the tournament this year, just one season removed from making the Final Four. If they hadn't even made the field last year, the exposure that has made them a household name would never have happened. Everyone probably is still familiar with Syracuse regardless of this near tournament miss.

In all, I'm not sure that Drexel should have made the tournament. The arguments are out there they should and shouldn't have, and I'm not much concerned about them. But the bubble bursting for two different schools can hold two completely different repercussions for the following seasons. Mid-majors have so much more to lose by being denied a bid than their major conference counterparts. Not that it should affect the selection committee's criteria in rounding out the field of 65, but the relevance in being selected is worth considering.

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