For the past month, that is all anyone can talk about.
If the season ended today, would Team X be in? What does Team Y have to do to become a lock? Team Z just cemented their trip to the Big Dance with that win.
Honestly, the bubble isn’t for me. I haven’t done a bubble watch in two years. I haven’t tried to predict a bracket prior to Selection Sunday in that time. If you follow me on twitter, than you probably know that whenever I am asked what a team has to do to get into the tournament, I say win games and don’t lose games.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on the process. I understand how much fun it is to follow. I get the story lines and the drama that it creates. Its the perfect build up to the conference tournaments and March Madness. People eat it up.
Its just not for me. Because once Selection Sunday rolls around, the “bubble” really consists of a handful of spots for two handfuls of teams.
Marquette head coach Buzz Williams isn’t a fan either. When asked after his team’s 67-61 win over West Virginia about the consensus that the Golden Eagles had locked up a bid, Williams essentially said “phooey”.
“I went out early again tonight and I was looking for someone on the selection committee,” Williams said. “I didn’t see anybody. I thought they would be the best dressed here. I saw guys from Wall Street but I didn’t see anybody from the selection committee.”
“You get so caught up in the melodrama of what happens during this time of the year that you have to win this, you don’t have to win that, ESPN says this, Fox Sports says that. I don’t think any of ’em know. I think the best thing is to continue to win because the teams that are continuing to play this late in March are typically going to play next week.”
And he’s right.
The teams that win late tend to be the teams that get in. Lose down the stretch, and you’ll be prepping for the NIT. Focusing on what kind of implications a win or a loss has on tournament standing only creates distraction and unneeded pressure on the task at hand — winning games.
“Our local media talks about it every day,” Clemson head coach Brad Brownell told reporters during the ACC’s media day. “I’ve told them throughout most of the year, we’ve had a bunch of games they’ve asked me if they’re must-win. Seems like we’ve done all must-wins in February and here into March. We certainly have some idea of where we are, what we’re doing. But we don’t talk a lot about it with our players.”
“It’s not something we go around talking about, ‘Hey, we need to win this game to stay in’, any of those kinds of things. I think you have to keep your team pretty focused on the job at hand. So we do more of that.”
Boston College head coach Steve Donahue agrees: “I’m probably the least informed about those kinds of things. Joe Lunardi is a friend of mine probably since seventh grade. I don’t read his stuff. For me it’s just not conducive to me producing a good practice, having my head clear about what I’m doing.”
“I just think for me it’s a lot easier, my life is a lot easier, coaching my team is a lot easier, if I just block it out.”
At the end of the day, the bubble is a determination of whether or not you won enough games. Look at George Mason. They hardly beat anyone this season. Their best non-conference wins are against the likes of Harvard, Duquesne, and Florida Atlantic, but they won 26 games and went 16-2, winning a top 10 conference by two full games, so they were able to survive a semifinal loss in the CAA tournament and are still a lock to go dancing.
For major conference teams, the bubble talk is even less important. Marquette is the perfect example. They were on the bubble when they on Tuesday when the Big East Tournament started, but since they had the opportunity to knock off West Virginia in postseason play, they were able to build their resume. The same can be said for a team like Colorado. The Buffaloes are on the outside looking in right now, but if they can beat Kansas State in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday, they will be looking pretty good in the eyes of the selection committee.
But Williams, Brownell, and Donahue are also missing the point.
By marginalizing the “bubble” and the concerns of the fan bases that follow the bubble all year long, he in neglecting the importance of making the NCAA Tournament.
Seasons are defined by whether or not a team goes dancing. Jobs are lost when a coach can’t get his team into the right postseason tournament. The NCAA Tournament is the greatest spectacle in sports. Speculating about the bubble only adds to the furor. It brings attention to a sport that has become more or less a niche for 11 months out of the year.
March is the greatest month of the year if you are a fan of college basketball.
Neglecting the discussion of who is in and who is out throughout the season would trivialize everything the season builds up to. Beating a rival is great. Winning on a buzzer-beater is a thrill.
But what people remember — what people truly value — are the results that come in the postseason.
So those bubble watches you see every Monday morning in late January? Those will never go away.
And they shouldn’t.
But just remember. For all future queries, all your team needs to do to get into the tournament is to win games.
And don’t lose them.