March 9, 2004
We're at the magical point of the season where we'll hear the phrase "ON THE BUBBLE" over and over again. That's right, it will be screamed out all over, on sports radio shows, in the newspapers, on the tube!
It's "ON THE BUBBLE" time ... and the following seven schools may be a bit worried: Missouri, Maryland, Colorado, Washington, Florida State, Southern Illinois and Vanderbilt.
Yes, they're a bit nervous about what will transpire come Selection Sunday.
ESPN's on-air talent recently had a conference call with NCAA Tournament selection committee chairman Bob Bowlsby, and he said that his committee will pick the best teams to fill the 34 at-large slots. Wins and losses in conference play will not be the top priority in figuring out this difficult at-large equation.
Selection committee chairman Bob Bowlsby has said that his committee will pick the best teams to fill the 34 at-large slots.
If that's the scenario, then those seven clubs on the edge don't really have to worry. They can relax a bit more when the committee looks at all the factors. It always amazes me how the committee looks at a team's last 10 games and weighs them more heavily than the first 10. The strength of opponents should be more of a factor.
A closer look at my seven on the edge shows: Florida State has wins over North Carolina, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Maryland and Virginia. Then think about some of the tough losses: twice to Duke, once each against North Carolina, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh ... 95 percent of the teams in America would struggle against those teams.
The VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) tells me the ACC was the toughest conference in America, and Maryland went 7-9 in ACC play (plus wins over Wisconsin and Florida). Maryland had a pair of big wins at the end of the year over Virginia and NC State. I hope that justice is served and the Seminoles and Terps go dancing.
You have to salute coach Lorenzo Romar and Washington. The Huskies opened the Pac-10 season 0-5 but came on strong, winning 12 of their last 13 league games. There shouldn't be a doubt about this team after the sweep of Arizona and the win over then-unbeaten Stanford. Relax and enjoy your moment, Lorenzo!
What about a team like Vanderbilt, which finished .500 in SEC play? The Commodores have wins over Kentucky and Florida as well as LSU and Michigan. They have been competitive in the tough SEC.
Southern Illinois lost in the Missouri Valley Conference semifinals, but how do you not reward a team that went 17-1 in league play during the regular season and 25-4 overall?
Missouri came on strong at the end of the season, winning six of its last eight games. The loss to Kansas was a real heartbreaker, but it showed the Tigers can play with the créme de la créme of the Big 12. If the Tigers beat Texas A&M and play tough against the Jayhawks, you can count coach Quin Snyder and Co. in.
Missouri came on strong at the end of the season, winning six of its last eight games.
Missouri's win over Oklahoma State was big. That was the lone setback in the last 15 games for the Cowboys.
Colorado has won five of its last six games and had a big win over Texas Tech. In my book, coach Ricardo Patton's team deserves to go. The Buffs can breath a little easier with a 10-6 record in Big 12 play.
As far as I'm concerned, these teams are hanging by a thread and need to make major noise in their conference tournaments: Purdue, Oklahoma, Notre Dame and the Michigan-Iowa winner.
These teams must come on strong. The Boilermakers closed with a pair of home losses. The Sooners went 2-4 in their last six games. Notre Dame won three straight games to end the season, but none of them came against winning clubs. The Irish likely must beat West Virginia and Connecticut to have any shot of making the field of 65. I feel Notre Dame needs three wins to move up the ladder.
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit in the 1970s before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979 (he's been an ESPN analyst ever since). Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.