Breaking the bubble divide between big schools, mid-majors

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As Selection Sunday looms the ongoing discussion will get louder:

Is bubble team X more deserving of an NCAA Tournament bid than bubble team Y?

The blind résumé game is a bit played, but when it involves a mid-major and a member of a BCS-conference, the argument can get contentious (and fun to observe for some).

Teams will carry similar RPIs, records against the RPI top 100, strength of schedules, etc. They have many of the same characteristics, but peel back the curtain and if one team is from a major conference, and the other is not, favoritism usually ensues.

Either you’re a big brand guy or you subscribe to MidMajority.com. You usually never waver.

The argument when deciding whom to favor doesn’t really involve numbers, even though when you argue over one mid-major vs. a BCS-conference team, it has everything to do with numbers.

Personally, I don’t really lean either way. I think that taking a stand and picking a side is ignorant.

If you think that NC State should get in over, say, Iona 10 times out of 10, you’re probably refusing to lend any credence the personnel of the Gaels. Sure, Iona shot themselves in the foot by losing a few regular season games, but put them up against the Wolfpack on a neutral court, roll the ball out on the court and let them go at it? I guarantee you the game would be close and interesting.

The problem is you don’t get to do that. Instead, you have to establish a hierarchy of what is most important to you when weighing the information on a team’s resume sheet.

If you back the little guy, you probably refuse to think a middling team from a major conference would run away with a mid-major conference tournament

If you can’t stand the little guy, you’re convinced they would wilt at playing 18-games against “real teams”.

I understand the arguments, but what I look for in distinguishing a tournament team from a non-tournament team, regardless of their conference membership, is finding something that jumps out at me. Something that their peers did not do.

For my argument, Drexel is the perfect example. The Dragons had a 19-game winning streak this season. Regardless of who they played, that’s impressive. To weather unforeseen injuries and off-nights for two months and always pull off the “W” has to earn some level of clout among the selection committee.

They also know how to score, which is something you can’t say about fellow bubble member South Florida cannot say.

But getting back to the Wolfpack – they have done little to impress.

I understand that they stayed afloat in one of the country’s tougher conferences, going 9-7 with a few wins over Miami and a non-conference win over Texas, but they didn’t beat anybody. They had eight chances to get a victory over an RPI top 50 teams, and came up empty every time. They’re were just sort of…there.

Much like the Virginia Tech syndrome of the past few seasons, if you don’t schedule tough or you don’t do something that sticks out, you shouldn’t be in the tournament.

It’s sort of an unwritten rule.

Some of us are never going to find common ground on this argument. BCS teams and mid-majors have fan bases of two different ilks.

To eliminate the minutia, look for something that sticks out. Find a team that has done something great in the regular season. Something the team standing next to them in line did not do.

You’ll at least get the media’s attention.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Vanderbilt advances; N.C. State tops LSU

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No. 19 Vanderbilt 86, Wake Forest 64: In the first semifinal at the Maui Invitational, the Commodores had an impressive start-to-finish effort in completely outplaying Wake Forest. Damian Jones had 17 points and 10 rebounds while Wade Baldwin IV also added 17. Vanderbilt shot 49 percent from the floor while holding Wake Forest to 32 percent shooting.

N.C. State 83, No. 22 LSU 72, OT: LSU squandered a valuable opportunity for some good non-conference wins by losing again on Tuesday night and going 0-2 at the Barclays Center this week. The Wolfpack used 20 points from junior point guard Cat Barber to guide them to victory.

Ben Simmons had another solid stat-line, but the Tigers still lost. CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on this one.

Louisiana Tech 82, Ohio State 74: Ohio State had won 61 consecutive non-conference home games against unranked teams before losing back-to-back games against UT-Arlington and Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs went 10-for-25 from 3-point range and Ohio State turned the ball over 14 times. Alex Hamilton led Louisiana Tech with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Marquette 78, Arizona State 73, OT: The Golden Eagles picked up another huge win on a neutral court as Henry Ellenson and Luke Fischer finished with 18 points. Marquette’s defense held Arizona State to 38 percent shooting.


Derrick Jones Jr., UNLV: The high-flying freshman went for 26 points in a win over Chaminade and also threw down some ridiculous dunks.

Javion Ogunyemi, Siena: Scoring a career-high 24 points was strong enough, but Ogunyemi also made the game-winning bucket with 2.2 seconds left to give the Saints an 83-81 overtime win over Bucknell.


  • No. 1 Kentucky earned a double-digit win over Boston as Skal Labissiere led with 16 points.
  • Maryland once again trailed in the final five minutes but rallied to beat Illinois State. Rasheed Sulaimon led the No. 3 Terps with 18 points.
  • No. 7 Oklahoma rolled past Incarnate Word as Buddy Hield had 22 points.
  • In the consolation bracket at Maui, No. 13 Indiana rebounded with a win over St. John’s as Yogi Ferrell went for 22 points.
  • No. 24 Cincinnati remained unbeaten with a 64-49 win over Southeastern Louisiana as Jacob Evans and Troy Caupain each had 15 points.


  • Duquesne held off Milwaukee in overtime as Derrick Colter had 27 points and Micah Mason had 26 points and nine assists.
  • George Washington rolled past Gardner-Webb as Tyler Cavanaugh had 20 points.
  • UMass Lowell cruised by Wheelhouse College as Dontavius Smith broke a backboard during the game and finished with 14 points.
  • Rhode Island knocked off TCU as Four McGlynn had 18 points.
  • Cameron Jones knocked down five 3-pointers and finished with 23 points as Radford upset Penn State on the road.
  • South Florida escaped with a home win over Albany as Chris Perry had the late go-ahead dunk and Angel Nunez led the Bulls with 16 points.
  • Northwestern topped Missouri in the consolation game of the CBE Classic as Tre Demps had 13 points.
  • Saint Louis beat North Florida as Ash Yacoubou had 20 points to lead the Billikens.
  • Nebraska cruised past Arkansas-Pine Bluff as Andrew White finished with 16 points.
  • Tennessee rolled past Army as Armani Moore had 29 points and Kevin Punter added 26 points.
  • Louisville picked up an easy win over St. Francis  (Brooklyn) as Damion Lee  had 21 points.
  • Virginia Tech earned a big win over North Carolina A&T as Zach LeDay had 30 points.


Ben Simmons: Another memorable stat-line, another loss

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons stays setting records.

One night after becoming the first high-major player to finish with at least 20 points, 20 boards and five assists in a game since Blake Griffin in 2008, Simmons became the first player to notch 10 boards, 10 assists, three steals and three blocks in a game since Luke Walton did it for Arizona back in 2002.

[MORE: Why scouts think Simmons is overrated]

To get an idea of how rare that is, Luke Walton is currently the head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

Here’s the issue: Simmons — who finished with 14 boards, 10 assists, three steals, three blocks and no turnovers — was just 1-for-6 from the floor with four points as the Tigers lost their second straight game at the Legends Classic, this time falling to N.C. State in overtime, 83-72.

[MORE: Simmons’ Enigma: Transcendent star? Overrated? Or irrelevant?]

Unfortunately, it looks like the predictions are coming to fruition, that this LSU team, loaded with talent, with spend the season on the periphery of the national consciousness.

There’s a reason to be hopeful.

Keith Hornsby, who averaged 13.4 points last season, is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery for an undisclosed injury. Craig Victor will be eligible for the second semester. Reserves are on the way, and having an athletic five-man and a shooter like Hornsby will certainly help a team that likes to spread the floor and play in transition.

After watching LSU play the last two days, they need all the help they can get. Marquette and N.C. State are name-brand programs, but there’s no guarantee that either of them are going to be NCAA tournament teams. In other words, those two losses aren’t going in the book as “good losses”.

Yesterday, I was worried about LSU not being able to make a run in the NCAA tournament. After today, I’m just hoping that they’ll be able to get into the tournament at all.