Blog Entry

Me whining about people whining about the bubble

Posted on: February 15, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: February 15, 2011 12:44 pm
Posted by Matt Norlander

The bubble will always be the bubble will always be the bubble.

I've been stewing on something for a few weeks now, and Ken Pomeroy's tweet prompted me to idle no longer. Where does this annual desire to rip on the at-large field come from? Aren't we all fans of the game, the month of March? We're in the middle of February, and here we go again: talk of how weak the field is now abounds. It's become a rite of passage for those within and outside the sport.

It's the tone of the conversation that's bothersome, predictable and entirely too short-sighted. This is the weakest bubble, perhaps ever! No, it probably isn't, and even if it was, what does that matter? (I'll get to that in a sec.) The debate over teams is part of February fun. Need I remind you, there's three more weeks left. I've got this radical notion that most teams will iron out the wrinkles and leave but a few on-the-fence cases come Selection Sunday.

But, nevertheless we go through this every year.

And I hope you're ready for the coda, that tune which matches in melody to that old, familiar song that gets played each March — that of this year's tournament is set up to be the most unpredictable in memory! Wide-open field! Anything can happen! There're 52 teams that can win this thing!

No, Gregg Doyel, my esteemed and nicer-than-he-wants-people-to-belie
ve colleague, this isn't going to be the Worst. Tournament. Ever.

I very much look forward to the usual crop of eight or nine teams fighting for three or four spots on Selection Sunday, then seeing the seeding, largely hold to form. When the Elite Eight arrives and we're looking at at least six of those eight teams being 1-, 2- or 3-seeds, I will laugh and laugher's laugh. The bracket will not be a wild free-for-all; it never has been. There will be upsets, but they won't be the dominant pattern, even if they're the dominant story line (and I've no problem with that) in the first weekend.

Nick Fasulo correctly points out on his blog, Searching for Billy Edelin, that it's silly to try and compare the collective bubble from year to year. Is 2011 weaker than 2008? There are cases to be made on both sides of the aisle. But I know one thing definitive: people were lamenting the soft bubble with the same muddlement that year as they are this year as they were seven years prior and three years prior to that.

And here's the incredible thing: the teams so many are decrying unworthy or too unattractive for the Big Dance, those are teams that won't play beyond the Sweet 16, and most of the time, fringe squads don't even flirt with the second weekend at all. They could be heard from, but not in the grand scheme of The Tournament.

Is there a lack of terrific teams? Sure. Is that bringing the collective talent in the tournament down? Yes. Is this motif, where I ask questions to myself and answer them a writing crutch? Absolutely. So let's progress to the end of this post, which is about as insufferable as the things I'm moaning about.

It is no news flash that a bracket involving 68 teams will have more than its handful of ugly pageant participants. Fortunately, come April, we're dealing with 9s and 10s, and this conversation that floods up our time in February is largely forgotten and seen as fleeting. If only most could have such perspective right now.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB

Since: Apr 3, 2007
Posted on: February 16, 2011 11:37 am

Me whining about people whining about the bubble

wow Cleveland1, that was a long post.  Unfortunately length doesn't equal quality and nowhere in your lengthy recitation of the conference contenders did you ever make a single argument or point to support your thesis that the field is horrible.  You listed a lot of teams with commentary on who will or won't get in the tournament from each conference, but didn't discuss the quality of these teams.  The strength of the field is not in how many teams get in from each conference.  It is in the ability of the teams.  And while many might say that no team or teams completely stand out from the rest, I have a really hard time believing that is due to a lack of talent, but rather parity in the NCAA.  We are even seeing it in the ascent of far more mid majors than usual.  I would put this field against most others historically and say that the talent level is comparable and that this field can play with any.  People always seem to make the mistake of analyzing a particular field or bubble by comparing it to itself and rating it against the rest of college basketball that year.  That is a big mistake.  The ebb and flow of how many good teams there are and what conferences they come from will shift from year to year so you can't simply look at numbers to rate the field.  You must look at the basketball being played, and there is some darn good basketball being played this year.

Since: Oct 13, 2006
Posted on: February 16, 2011 10:15 am

Me whining about people whining about the bubble

I totally agree. We hear it every year. The fact is, we don't know how strong the bubble is until the very end. Last year was considered weak, but after some conference tournament upsets stole a few bids on Saturday night, it got much stronger and arguably deserving teams like Va Tech, Illinois and Mississippi State got left behind.

I think the bubble is unusually strong right now. Look at some of Palm's 'bubble' teams: St John's, Tennessee, Michigan State, Marquette, Illinois, Kansas State, Washington, UNLV. Heck, Gonzaga is not even in the bracket. Alabama is 8-2 in the SEC and it's not in the bracket either.

If you're a 5 or 6 seed, you're not excited to see any of those teams in the first round. In fact, there's a decent chance some of those teams would be favored in a 6-11 or 5-12 game.

And isn't it odd that St. Johns is considered a bubble team and yet they have a 6 seed in Palm's bracket. I realize that selection and seeding are different steps and I'm not saying that Palm is wrong. I'm questioning the committee's criteria and process. From a common sense perspective, if a team is good enough to get a 6 seed, that team should not be in danger of missing the tournament.

Since: Apr 16, 2007
Posted on: February 15, 2011 8:34 pm

Me whining about people whining about the bubble

I agree and disagree. 
I agree that the bubble teams will always be argued over, this isnt an exact science, teams will always be left out when they should have been put in, and vice versa. 
But the field, as in not the bubble teams, as in our good mid-major teams, strong middle of the conference, etc. if not there this season. 
the Pac 10 is an embarassment to college basketball, just like the Big east is to college football. the PAC will get 3? teams in the tournament. horrible. 
The SEC is also horrible this year, Florida is the closest thing to a good team the SEC can throw out this year. the next best team is up for debate, kentucky currently has a 5-5 record in the SEC (currently losing to Miss St) only 3 teams in the SEC have winning records in the SEC, 2 of them are 6-4 (Georgia, Vandy) the other is florida with 2 losses (5 overall) so the SEC will be sending 5 teams, no more no less. 
The big 10, after starting out with a lot of potential, has tanked. Purdue was out of contention last year when hummel went down, i didn't expect them to do too well. MSU was preseason #2, and kicked out lucious and has had horrible chemistry. If the tourny started i wouldn't put them in it today. I will say that the big 10 also has 3 teams with winning conference records (OSU, wisconsin, purdue) but at least the latter 2 have 6-3 records. the big 10 following the top 3 in the conference is a mystery, the gophers were plagued by injury to their PG, NW and PSU have been inconsistant, Michigan is mediocre at best, Illinois has been up and down. OSU seems to be the only thing carrying the big 10. The big 10 will likely get 5 or 6 tourny teams. (OSU, Wisconsin, Purdue, Illinois, Gophers, maybe MSU) but I dont expect any team other than OSU and maybe Purdue to get far. 
The Big 12  has jumped up because of the big 10 woes. Texas is playing the best basketball right now, Kansas (even though they just loss) is a good team, KSU is tough at home (like the badgers) baylor is an okay team, mizzou is decent at best, AM is a good team. That is about it, and the cliff falls off after that. the big 12 will likely get 5 or 6 teams as well, depending on baylor. 
the MWC is the premier mid major conference this season. BYU, SDSU, Colorado St, and UNLV are expected to be tourny teams this season. BYU and SDSU will very likely have a 1 seed and 2 seed, or two 2 seeds. Apart from these 4 the MWC is bad. nuf said. 
the ACC is having a "down" year. kinda. Duke is duke, and will be challenged at UNC later on. UNC has pulled it together, FSU has surprised a lot of people after an iffy beginning to the season, BC and VT should also join the tourny. I would throw in Maryland as a bubble team. I expect this set of teams to do pretty well in the tourny, well as in better than big 10, big 12, sec, and Pac. 
The Big East has become the only "great" conference. I am interested to see how well they do, or if it is just hype. Example would be Pitt struggling against rutgers because rutgers is good, but OSU struggling against Michigan is because OSU is bad. SO has the big east had a little double standard? we will see. But right now, they are taking up almost all of the spots usually awarded to mid-major non-conference winners. i am not going to name them all, haha. But a lot of them will be 2 and 3 seeds, and 6 or 7 seeds. They should go pretty far because of their seeds, but how will they do in the sweet 16 and elite 8? 
the other mid-majors worth discussing (apart from MWC)?
Horizon will get 1 team, its not even Butler or CSU! It will be Valpo, dark horse? possibly. Atlantic 10 will get a few. Xavier, Richmond, Temple. The usuals from this conference, i like richmond to pull an upset. Colonial? wth VCU, OD, and George Mason. Will any of these teams pull a george mason? not likely this year. CUSA, Memphis is a bubble team this year, and UTEP will likely win it. WCC, without zaga, now has St. Mary's. Decent team. 
The bubble will always be the bubble, but the field is horrible. Looking past the top 10, what is there? 

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