Popping the Bubble: TSL’s One-Man Selection Committee

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The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will be spending their day making up the field of 65. A great portion of their day will be deciding which of the bubble teams deserve to be in the Big Dance. That sounds like a fun afternoon, so I decided to do the same, though I doubt they’ll be calling me for my advice.

If you’re watching ESPN, you’re seeing a lot of numbers being thrown around. Those RPI numbers, SOS numbers, quality wins, etc. will all be factors for the Selection Committee, and I’ll use them as well.

In the end though, the Selection Committee is a group of people, not computers. They all have biases. So do I. I’m going to come clean and admit mine before we get into the main part of this article.

I’m pro-big conference, anti-smaller conference. If a team from a power conference and a mid-major look the same on paper, I’m going to go with the power conference team more times than not. I’ll also look at how teams have performed towards the end of the season, and their conference record. I don’t put a huge amount of weight on overall record, because November was five months ago. Teams get better, and some teams even get worse. And finally, if you are below .500 in your conference, it will take a special circumstance to get you into my field of 65.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s take a look at the teams. The way I see it, after you include all of the conference champions and at-large locks, we have 19 teams competing for nine spots in the NCAA tournament. Those teams are: Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Syracuse, Dayton, Florida, Illinois State, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Ohio State, Ole’ Miss, South Alabama, St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s, Villanova, Virginia Commonwealth and Virginia Tech.

Considering my criteria above, I think the first thing to do is take a look at all those teams on the bubble that did not finish with a .500 or better record in conference play. Records include what the team did in its conference tournament. Let’s examine those teams, and see if any of them have a special case to stay in consideration for an at-large berth.

The first team is Arizona, who went 18-14 overall and 9-11 in the Pac-10. At