This is the 66th year for the NCAA Division I college baseball championship, more commonly referred to as "The Road to Omaha." It's a nod to the city that has hosted the College World Series for the past half century. At least "The Road to Omaha" is the phrase used by 63 of the 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament. For Creighton, it's "The Road to Home." The Bluejays play their home games at Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park, site of the CWS. That wouldn't make it any less special being one of the eight teams that will play for the national championship. Here's a few things to watch for as this year's journey begins:
In realignment politics, college basketball programs are the constituents with less cash, and therefore the constituents with little-to-no juice. They are forced to operate within the conference framework that football has wrought -- and football does not care about the quality of any other sport. All of this short-sighted gerrymandering is bound to have a serious effect on the hoops landscape.
Twenty-five seasons have elapsed since college basketball added the three-pointer, and still, there is no consensus on the optimal way to defend it.
With the NCAA tournament wrapped, we have almost three weeks until we know precisely who is going to the NBA and who is returning to school. Another couple of weeks after that, and we should have a final tally of which recruits are going to which schools.
NASHVILLE -- In December, they brawled. In March, they balled.
NASHVILLE -- As a member of the ACC not named Duke or North Carolina, Florida State is accustomed to playing the underdog role, as it did in winning its first-ever ACC tournament last weekend. But it didn't take long into the third-seeded Seminoles' NCAA tournament opener against 14th seed St. Bonaventure on Friday for Bernard James to realize how drastically the roles had reversed.
Say the name out loud three times.
Which teams could be working with a little less star power as the 2012 NCAA tournament kicks off? Here are some of the most notable injuries that could greatly affect teams in the field.
State Of The No. 1: North Carolina
ATLANTA -- Five things we learned from the ACC Tournament:
ATLANTA -- The final memorable moment from a dramatic doubleheader at the ACC tournament came not in front of thousands of roaring fans with the clock running down. The Philips Arena floor saw plenty of those on Saturday, as No. 4 North Carolina snuck past NC State 69-67 and No. 17 Florida State outfought No. 6 Duke 62-59. No, this moment took place in the quiet Florida State training room about 45 minutes after Seth Curry's desperate game-tying attempt just bounced off the rim.
With just days until Selection Sunday, the bigger boys get their conference tourneys underway. Here's a primer to this week's biggest conference tournament action, and how each could impact the Field of 68:
Championships of top 10 conferences are considered gold in terms of NCAA tournament selection, but since 2000, six teams have won at least a share of a top 10 league (in Conference RPI terms) and not made the NCAAs. The victims include 2001 Wyoming and Utah (Mountain West), 2001 Southern Mississippi (Conference USA), 2005 Miami, Ohio (MAC), 2007 Massachusetts (Atlantic 10), 2009 Creighton (Missouri Valley) and 2009 New Mexico (Mountain West).
Here are a few thoughts from Saturday's slate of college hoops:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- As Mike Krzyzewski walked off the floor Thursday, he allowed himself the tiniest moment of celebration. The Duke coach punctuated his team's 74-66 win at Florida State with a low, tight-to-the-body fist pump.
Note: Bubble Watch updated as of Tuesday Feb. 21 games.
While we're deep enough into league play to see the shape of the Field of 68 starting to come into focus, any "as of today" projection is going to have its quirks and flaws. There are no conference tournament upsets budgeted into the picture, which makes the at-large pool as large as possible, and more importantly, there are still schedule imbalances that will be resolved and evened out over the upcoming weeks.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- It's a glorious time to be a Duke-hater.
It's about this time every year when public overreaction becomes the rule rather than the exception when it comes to the bubble. Experts and viewers alike are certain teams are in or out -- "They're not an NCAA team!", they state authoritatively -- without actually going through a process of selecting 37 at-large teams and comparing the resume of that specific team with other realistic options.
Kansas-Missouri, the so-called "Border War," has been one of the truly special rivalries in college basketball. That's why the Tigers' 74-71 victory on Saturday night felt so bittersweet. Beginning next season, Missouri will compete in the SEC, meaning that Saturday's game was the last scheduled meeting to take place in Columbia. They will play again in Lawrence on Feb. 25, and possibly a third time in the Big 12 tournament. Beyond that, however, the future is uncertain.
My biggest annual complaint with BracketBusters is that the games between the best teams are set for TV purposes and/or geography rather than what most helps the teams in their quest for NCAA tournament bids. Generally speaking, the games become net losses for the mid-majors, with the losing team often being hurt (or completely KO'd) more than the winning team gains in profile cred.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State guard Luke Loucks still cringes at the memory of the meltdown. The Seminoles, a preseason darling, had lost for the third time in four games, but "loss" doesn't accurately describe what Clemson did to Florida State on Jan. 7. The Seminoles got mauled, and they didn't fight back.
Last night on Twitter, I posted the Pac-12's updated nonconference records: 1-23 against the RPI top 50 (the one is Stanford over Colorado State) and 8-41 against the top 100.
A few thoughts on Saturday's crop of college hoops:
One game is usually just that -- a single data point in a team's overall resume. Bad nights happen, which is why small-sample bias exists (and should be ignored). Sometimes, though, a result is so shocking that it hints at something more to come.
Here's a roundup of Saturday's upset-laden day of college basketball:
As a remarkable number of at-large candidates continue to have "None" as their best win of the season, the big bubble question of the week is ... where have all the good wins gone?
How high can they go? That's one of the most frequently asked early bracket questions this year about Murray State and Harvard, both of which are poised to post gaudy records for consideration.
Bubble Watch is back! And while it's awfully early to make concrete judgments about many individual teams, there are some definitive trends from nonconference play that will significantly shape the real bracket you see in March:
NASSAU, The Bahamas -- Blowing past defenders is Ryan Boatright's specialty, but the one opponent he couldn't get around was uncertainty.
Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 5. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by an SI writer.
In the weeks leading up to the 2010-11 season, one of the preview pieces I worked on was a list of the game's 16 biggest "Impact Defenders." Some of the rankings were based on my opinion from watching the previous year's games, some were based on input I solicited from scouts and coaches, and some were based on tempo-free statistics for rebounds, blocks and steals. It was a fun list to compile, and Florida State's Chris Singleton was my choice at No. 1, but the level of subjectivity bothered me.
Most conferences would be overjoyed to have a national title favorite (North Carolina), another top-10 team (Duke) and the country's best defensive squad (Florida State). But the nation's most venerable basketball league is facing serious depth issues in 2011-12; after the aforementioned trio, there are no sure-fire NCAA tournament teams. The biggest question is not who will win the ACC -- I'd be shocked if it's not the Tar Heels -- but rather, will any sleepers emerge from the middle of the pack?
Nevin Shapiro basically paid for an eight-year party for anybody who was anybody in the Miami football program. Read the excellent Yahoo! Sports report and it's obvious. Nobody stopped Shapiro. Evidently, nobody tried, despite obvious signs that something was amiss. Cash payments, alcohol, strippers, hookers -- no wonder the Hurricanes haven't won much lately. They're exhausted.
The last time North Carolina had this much NBA talent returning, the season was 2004-05, and there was little doubt that the ACC was the best conference in the land. UNC and Duke were both No. 1 seeds that year, as they could very well end up this March. But the ACC of seven years ago had depth. Its third powerhouse, Wake Forest, had Chris Paul at point guard and was ranked No. 1 in the nation that November. Its fourth power, Georgia Tech, had the core group back from a trip to the '04 national title game. In N.C. State it had a sleeper Sweet 16 team, led by Julius Hodge, and even on the roster of the last-place team, Florida State, there were two future NBA players, Von Wafer and Al Thornton.
SAN ANTONIO -- On Selection Sunday night, VCU senior guard Ed Nixon was glued to his television. Despite the weeklong insistence of Nixon's roommate, point guard and team bracketologist Joey Rodriguez, that the Rams would make it into the NCAAs, VCU was a very borderline at-large case.
SAN ANTONIO, Tex. -- In the week leading up to VCU's Sweet 16 appearance, the Mason Magic drumbeat thumped louder and louder. The upstart Rams were coming from the same exact spot in the bracket -- 11-seed, upper-right corner -- as their CAA Final Four forebearers after both teams used BracketBusters wins at Wichita State to bolster borderline at-large credentials.
What's the biggest moment in Richmond history?
CHICAGO -- Chris Singleton had a hunch what his team might be able to do against second-seeded Notre Dame from watching the tape. It's not that he didn't respect star shooters Ben Hansbrough or Tim Abromaitis. It was more a case of the teams they'd played.
Andy Glockner offers his NCAA seed- or bubble-related thoughts from Friday's conference-tournament games. All times are ET.
There were dramatic auto-bid snatches (hello, UALR!), one-game playoffs forced (well done, Princeton) and bid thieves subdued (the bubblers thank Butler!), and all anyone wants to talk about is ... Villanova?
Monday night's slate wasn't heavy with games, but it was with meaning for the bubble. The biggest development came in the Colonial, where Old Dominion may have saved someone an at-large spot by holding off VCU. The Rams aren't completely dead as an at-large, but it's hard to imagine their profile will hold up for another week as teams around them win extra games.
This part of the season's final week is always fun, as major-conference bubble teams sit and watch and hope smaller-conference teams don't hose them. There are fewer bid thieves than usual this season, but the next couple of days will have some tournament results worth watching:
If the NCAA tournament is supposed to be such an exclusive ticket, why does no one want to make it?
Consistency and reliability are a way of life in bucolic Blacksburg, Va., in particular when it comes to Virginia Tech sports. Each fall, Hokies fans can count on coach Frank Beamer's football team to contend for an ACC title and BCS bowl berth. And each March, like clockwork, coach Seth Greenberg's hoops team gets left out of the NCAA tournament.
In the classic 1983 film WarGames, the WOPR computer learns after numerous iterations of Global Thermonuclear War that "the best move is not to play." So when are mid-majors going to learn that lesson?
Every year at this time, there's moaning about how soft the bubble is. This year, though, those gripes may have merit.
Just when it looked like the Duke-North Carolina game wouldn't have luster, the Tar Heels went on a tear and the Blue Devils floated back to Earth. North Carolina has now won 10 of its last 11 games, and it came within a Cory Joseph jumper of winning 14 out of 15. Duke, meanwhile, has won two straight since that shocking pratfall at St. John's, but that loss, combined with the lingering uncertainty over whether Kyrie Irving will return, has punctured this team's aura of invincibility.
If things are like this a month from now, I do not envy the selection committee.
Here's a fun little parlor game: If the 2010-11 college basketball season were a movie, what would you call it? Open Season? Upset in the Air? Lack of True Grit? The Kids Are Not All Right? The Mid-major Strikes Back? The Hurt Locker Room? How about ... Gone With the Wins?
Five years ago, Doug Elgin and Tom Yeager were the talk of college basketball.
Cold weather got you down? Or are you just feeling an uncomfortable chill because you know your favorite team doesn't quite have the pieces it needs to mount a run in the NCAA tournament?
If bracket life were 100 percent objective, San Diego State would be a No. 1 seed this week. Losses by Duke and Syracuse caused a thorough re-evaluation of the top two seed lines and yielded some fairly interesting results. The chart to the right lists the 1-seed candidates in RPI order.
Five thoughts on Florida State's 66-61 upset of No. 1 Duke on Wednesday night, which was the Blue Devils' first loss since March 3, 2010 ...
I'm not sure if it's the end of the holidays or the constant pummeling from winter storms, but when I opened my mailbag this week, I inhaled a strong whiff of gloom. Is there no end to this darkness? Where is the proverbial light at the end of this long and ominous tunnel? Didn't John Lennon promise us that it's getting better all the time?
The Pac-10 and SEC were expected to be somewhat down this year, but at least the pecking orders and possibilities in those two leagues are moderately clear. This year's ACC? Not so much.
When you check this week's bracket, you may notice something. Like a pesky double-digit number of bids for a certain megaconference that many of you outside the Northeast think is overrated.
We begin, appropriately enough, with a query from Sin City asking me to predict the future.
Whether top-end quality or overall depth is more important in defining a conference as strong is debatable, but the best have ample quantities of both. Which leagues have the right balance to do the most damage in March? Using the categorical framework of Bubble Watch, here's a breakdown of the top 10 conferences this season:
Selection Sunday isn't quite around the corner, but it's definitely on this block. As we get closer to the big day, you'll start to see more references to the RPI, but at this relatively early stage it's hard to figure out just how much attention we should pay to all those numbers. Reading the RPI rankings in mid-January is like reading the voting returns early on election night. Yes, the numbers tell you what trends might be forming, but it's far too early to make a projection.