Let’s play a modified version of blind resume for a moment.
Suppose you’re a No. 4 or No. 5 caliber NCAA Tournament team.
You’re Wichita State, an upstart mid-major that’s playing their best basketball at the right time.
You’re elated that you’ve shot up the dozens of bracketology boards.
You’re a real team! A Regional Final contender!
On Selection Sunday, a few hours before the brackets are released, a tipster comes up to you, head coach Gregg Marshall, and says he knows who the Shockers have been paired with for their first round NCAA Tournament game. He can’t reveal the opponent’s name, but can say they possess the following characteristics:
- Two five-star recruits.
- Four four-star recruits.
- Two NBA lottery picks.
- Winner of three national championships since 1999.
If you’re Gregg Marshall, you’d probably respond with something like, “OK, Mister, that smells a lot like UConn!…Wait, I thought we were going to be a five seed?”
As confounding as it may sound, this is the type of pairing we could see on Selection Sunday.
The UConn Huskies are bad; bad in the dysfunctional sense. From playing uninspired basketball down in Bahamas, to getting laughed out of the KFC Yum Center a month ago, to not even really getting one correct answer during ESPN College Gameday’s “Know Your Teammate” segment, the Huskies have looked like anything but a defending national champion.
Following tonight’s loss at Providence, in which they blew a 10-point second half lead, the Huskies are now truly on the wrong side of the bubble. Because of their name, we’ve given this team a number of chances to redeem themselves by calling every next game in February the “must win” game.
Saturday, their regular season finale at home to Pittsburgh, is a “can’t lose.” I can promise you that there is zero wiggle room available.
But let’s say that UConn does make the tournament. With a losing record in the Big East, no impressive non-conference victories outside of Florida State to speak of, and only two wins against top 25 teams, the best at-large berth they could earn would be an 11 or 12 seed.
While the First Four has created two extra at-large spots, it’s still the bottom of the barrel for non automatic qualifiers. A place where teams put on a front about their excitement to be part of the Big Dance all while knowing they and have plenty to prove.
This land would be uncharted territory for such a successful program, but that’s where the Huskies may find themselves two weeks from now: matched-up against a higher seeded team that possesses far less talent.
How would a team like Wichita State feel?
Surely they would tell the media they embrace the challenge, but deep down they would have to be ticked that the tournament committee did them no favors.
This was a pre-season top 10 team! And with good reason!
A team like the Shockers could conceivably play a team like the Huskies, a complete flip of the script when it comes to early round NCAA Tournament match-ups.
The Huskies may lack fight, but they’ll be a challenging knock-out if they hear their name called on March 11th.