Bubble Banter: Here are the eight mid-major bid thieves you need to know about

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Bid Thievery is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as the act of winning an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament at the cost of a team that is a lock to get an at-large, thus robbing the field of one of the available at-large bids. 

It’s not a criminal act. 

In fact, in a year like this, where the bubble is weaker than wet toilet paper, these Bid Thieves will be doing America a favor.

For every successful heist, there will be one less 14-loss high major team backing their way into a bid. 

So with that in mind, these are the leagues — and the teams — that you need to be the most concerned about if you happen to be a fan of a program that has spent the last three weeks on all over bubble watch.

NOTE: We are not discussing the MAC, the Atlantic 10, the Mountain West or (yes) the Pac-12 here because their regular seasons have not yet come to a close. 

CONFERENCE TOURNEYS: 21 Mid-Major Stars | Best Bets | Bid Thieves | Schedule

SOUTHERN CONFERENCE (Mar. 8-11, Asheville, N.C.)

At this point, WOFFORD (NET: 14) is not only a lock to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, they are a lock to end up as a single-digit seed.

But what makes the SoCon so interesting is that there are three other teams in that league that are currently top 70 teams in the NET. The Pac-12, by comparison, has just three teams sitting in the top 70 as of today.

If there is a saving grace here for bubble teams, it’s that UNC GREENSBORO (NET: 58) and FURMAN (NET: 44) are the No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively, which means that they won’t get a shot at Wofford until the title game. Both UNCG and Furman have put together resumes that are strong enough to be in consideration for an at-large but are probably not going to be strong enough to get them an at-large bid. UNCG has not lost to anyone outside of Q1, but their best win on the season came at EAST TENNESSEE STATE (NET: 66). Furman, on the other hand, does have a win at Villanova, but they also lost at home to Samford which, when combined with an unimpressive non-conference SOS, has them seemingly destined for the First Four Out along with UNCG.

Those two will have to face off in the semifinals before getting a shot at Wofford which means that they will not be able to drastically improve their tournament resume without also winning the automatic bid. ETSU is not going to be in the mix for an at-large even with a win over Wofford.

So the dream of a three-bid SoCon is DOA.

But the conference is certainly good enough — and, I’d argue, more than deserving — of getting a second team into the field.

Here’s to hoping one of UNCG, Furman and ETSU finds a way to hand Mike Young, Fletcher Magee and the Terriers their first loss since Dec. 19th.

WEST COAST CONFERENCE (Mar. 7-12, Las Vegas)

As weird as this will sound logically, GONZAGA (NET: 1) was able to steamroll their way through the WCC without even playing a game that ended in single digits is not evident of just how good the conference was this season.

Because there are some really good teams in the league, even if they SAINT MARY’S (NET: 38) and BYU did not do enough to get themselves into the at-large discussion.

For my money, it is the No. 2-seed Gaels that actually have a good chance of finding a way to pick off the Zags in Vegas this weekend. For starters, they are only going to have to win one game to get to the finals, thanks to the way that the WCC tournament bracket is shaped. But they are also the best team in the league not named Gonzaga. Jordan Ford is a Patty Mills clone, is capable of putting up 30 on any given night and has a real chance to end up being an NBA player. Throw in the likes of Malik Fitts and Jordan Hunter, and Randy Bennett has some really good pieces that are starting to play their best basketball. They’ve only lost twice since January 26th, and both of those losses came to the Zags. On Saturday, they led Gonzaga into the second half before losing control of the game.

They can certainly get the job done.

The other team to keep an eye on is SAN FRANCISCO (NET: 67). The Dons gave Gonzaga all they could handle at home this year, losing 96-83 in a game that was tied with two minutes left. They have a terrific senior point guard in Frankie Ferrari, some length and athleticism along their front line and one of the best young coaches on the west coast in Kyle Smith. As the No. 4-seed, they’ll get their shot at the Zags in the semifinals, assuming they handle their business in the quarterfinals.

OHIO VALLEY (Mar. 6-9, Evansville)

Unfortunately, there is likely only one way for the OVC tournament to play out in a way that will get two teams to the NCAA tournament: No. 2-seed MURRAY STATE (NET: 50) needs to beat No. 1-seed BELMONT (NET: 45) in the finals, and even that might not be enough to get the job done.

The reason for that is that neither the Bruins nor the Racers have a profile that is strong enough to make us believe the committee is going unquestionably to put them in the field.

Of the two, Belmont’s resume is stronger because they have some really good wins. They swept Lipscomb (46), won at Murray State (50) and beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion (109). They are 2-1 in Q1 games and 5-2 against Q1 and Q2 opponents. The problem is that they have three losses to sub-130 opponents, getting swept by Jacksonville State (134) and falling at Green Bay (221). They definitely will not be surviving a loss to anyone in the league other than Murray State, and that’s largely because falling to the Racers on a neutral court will likely end up as a Q1 loss.

Murray State, on the other hand, has basically no chances of getting an at-large bid. They’ve only played two Q1 games all season long and lost them both. Of the three Q2 games that they played, two of them were road games against sub-130 opponents. Their best win on the season is at Austin Peay (133). Unless the committee decides that having a top five pick in Ja Morant on the roster is a new criteria for selection, they’ll be drawing dead without an automatic bid.

One thing to note: JACKSONVILLE STATE (NET: 134) is 3-0 against Murray State and Belmont this season and is coached by Ray Harper, who made a habit of getting Western Kentucky to the NCAA tournament when they had no business getting there. At +800, they are my favorite longshot bet to win a conference tournament.

ATLANTIC SUN (Mar. 7-10, Campus sites)

The only team in the Atlantic Sun with a real chance of getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament is LIPSCOMB (NET: 46), but even that is something of a longshot at this point. They have an ugly loss at FGCU (227) to their name, which is likely enough to make the committee overlook the work that the Bisons did in the non-conference — they won at TCU (54) and at SMU (114) and also beat Liberty (62) on the road.

But there is always a chance, particularly in the committee makes the decision that mediocre power conference teams don’t deserve to dance with a 6-12 record in conference play.

Which leads me to LIBERTY (NET: 62). The Flames are dangerous. Like Belmont, they have a win at Pauley Pavilion. They beat Lipscomb in Lynchburg. They have won 18 of their last 20 games after beating Jacksonville in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Sun tournament. And if they are the ones to beat Lipscomb in the title game, then there will be a chance that a two-bid Atlantic Sun happens.

Arizona State extends Hurley through 2025-26 season

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TEMPE, Ariz. – Arizona State has agreed to a contract extension with men’s basketball coach Bobby Hurley that runs through the 2025-26 season.

The deal announced on Tuesday is subject to approval by the Arizona Board of Regents. Hurley’s previous contract was set to expire after next season.

“Coach Hurley has made our program relevant nationally with many significant wins and an exciting style, along with a firm commitment to the academic success of our student-athletes,” Arizona State athletic director Ray Anderson said in a statement. “He has made it clear to us that he wants to be here and we have done likewise with him. We share a strong confidence in the present and future state of Sun Devil men’s basketball.”

Hurley led the Sun Devils to 23 wins this season and their third trip to the NCAA Tournament the last five times it has been played. Arizona State beat Nevada in the First Four before losing to Texas Christian on a last-second shot last Friday.

The Sun Devils have won at least 20 games four of the past six seasons. They are 141-113 in eight seasons under Hurley.

Campbell new TCU women’s coach after taking Sac St to NCAA

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

FORT WORTH, Texas – Mark Campbell was hired as TCU’s women’s basketball coach Tuesday after the former Oregon assistant took Sacramento State to its first NCAA Tournament in an impressive and quick turnaround.

Sacramento State was coming off a 3-22 season when Campbell was hired two years ago. The Hornets won 14 games in Campbell’s first season, and then made another 11-win improvement this season while finishing 25-8 with Big Sky regular-season and tournament championships.

During his seven seasons on Oregon’s staff before that, the Ducks had some of the nation’s top recruiting classes. That included Campbell recruiting Sabrina Ionescu, who became the AP player of the year in 2020 before she was the first overall pick in the WNBA draft.

Campbell replaces Raegan Pebley, who stepped down after nine seasons as TCU’s coach with a 141-138 record. The Horned Frogs were 8-23 this season, including 1-17 in Big 12 play during the regular season.

TCU athletic director Jeremiah Donati described Campbell as an elite recruiter and program builder.

“Similar to his success at Sacramento State, he was instrumental in Oregon quickly becoming one of the nation’s most successful programs, reaching their first NCAA Elite Eight and then Final Four,” Donati said.

The Frogs haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2010. That was their ninth NCAA appearance, all coming in a 10-season span without making it past the second round.

Boston College extends Earl Grant through 2028-29 season

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BOSTON – Boston College coach Earl Grant has agreed to a two-year extension that will keep him under contract through the 2028-29 season.

Grant took over as Eagles coach prior to the 2021-22 season and finished 13-20. Boston College went 16-17 this past season, but it had three wins over nationally ranked teams for the first time in 14 years.

“My family and I have enjoyed being a part of this amazing community,” Grant said in a statement. “Boston is a great city and we are glad to call it our home. I am thankful for the efforts of my staff to help move the program forward.”

The Eagles finished 9-11 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, their most wins in the league play since 2010-11. Quinten Post also became the first Boston College player to be named Most Improved Player.

In announcing the extension, athletic director Blake James expressed optimism about the direction of the program.

“Earl has done an outstanding job leading our men’s basketball program over the last two seasons and we are looking forward to him doing so for many years to come,” James said.

Pitino returns to big stage at St. John’s: ‘I’ve earned it’

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NEW YORK – The video banner above the entrance to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday read: “Welcome Rick Pitino.”

More like welcome back for the new St. John’s coach.

Back to The Garden, where he once coached the Knicks.

Back to the Big East, the conference that launched his stardom and where he won his last NCAA championship.

Back to big-time college basketball after a series of scandals made it seem as if that part of his career was over.

“So, when I went to Iona, I said that Iona was going to be my last job,” Pitino said at his introductory news conference at MSG. “And the reason I said that is who’s going to hire a 70-year-old ? No matter how much I think I’m Peter Pan, who’s going hire a 70-year-old?”

St. John’s gave the Hall of Famer a six-year contract to turn back the clock on a program that once stole New York City tabloid headlines away from the Knicks in the 1980s under coach Lou Carnesecca but has been mired in mediocrity for more than two decades.

The Red Storm once played most of their biggest home games at The Garden. Pitino said the goal is to have all their Big East games played there going forward.

“Lou built a legendary program. Legendary,” Pitino said. “I’m all in with everything that St. John stands for. I’m excited about it. I can’t wait to get started.

“And it’s going to start with a culture of work.”

Pitino, who was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island, has won 832 games in 34 full seasons as a college head coach, including NCAA championships at Kentucky in 1996 and Louisville in 2013.

The title at Louisville was vacated for NCAA violations, and another NCAA case related to the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball recruiting led to Pitino being fired by Louisville in 2017.

The final ruling from the NCAA’s outside enforcement arm on the FBI case came down in November and exonerated Pitino.

There was also a criminal extortion case in which Pitino was the victim during his time at Louisville that revealed personal indiscretions.

“Well, it doesn’t matter what you believe, what you don’t believe,” Pitino said. “The one thing all my players have said, because they all wrote letters for me: I’ve never cheated the game. I never gave a player anything that he didn’t deserve in life.”

St. John’s president, the Rev. Brian Shanley, said the decision to hire Pitino was his call.

“Yeah, sure, there’s some reputational risk because of things that have happened before, but I think Rick is at a point in his life where he’s learned from things that have happened in the past,” Shanley told The Associated Press. “I think he’d be the first one to tell you he’s done things that he regrets. Who doesn’t when you get to be that age? I know I have. I’m a believer in forgiveness and new beginnings as a priest, and I think Rick’s going to do a great job for St. John’s.”

Carnesecca, 98 and getting around with the help of a walker these days, sat in the front row of Pitino’s news conference.

“I think it’s a home run with the bases loaded,” Carnesecca said.

Carnesecca was one of the Big East’s brightest coaching stars, along with Georgetown’s John Thompson and Villanova’s Rollie Massimino, when Pitino became Providence head coach in 1985 at the age of 32.

Thirty-eight years later, Pitino’s Providence ties helped him land at St. John’s after three seasons at Iona, a small Catholic school in New Rochelle, just north of New York City.

Shanley previously was the president of Providence. He helped turn around a lagging men’s basketball program by hiring coach Ed Cooley and investing in facilities upgrades.

“If I wasn’t a Providence Friar, he would have never even considered it,” Pitino said.

Shanley attempted to lure Pitino away from Louisville and back to Providence years ago, but he didn’t know much about the coach personally back then. He said he talked to a lot of people about Pitino this time around.

“I’d say my behind-the-scenes wisdom person was Mike Tranghese, the former commissioner of the Big East,” Shanley said. “He got me Ed Cooley last time, and I think we came out pretty well this time, too.”

Cooley was hired by Georgetown on Monday.

Pitino said he’s bringing his entire staff with him from Iona, which announced the hiring of Fairleigh Dickinson coach Tobin Anderson to replace Pitino earlier in the day.

Pitino will try to become the first coach to take six different schools to the NCAA Tournament as he gets one more shot on the big stage.

“I deserve it,” he said, “because I’ve earned it.”

Tobin Anderson leaving FDU to replace Rick Pitino at Iona

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NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Tobin Anderson is leaving NCAA Cinderella Fairleigh Dickinson after one fairy-tale season and replacing Rick Pitino at Iona.

Iona athletic director Matt Glovaski announced the hiring a day after Pitino left to take the job at St. John’s of the Big East Conference.

Anderson led the No. 16 seed Knights to a win over No. 1 Purdue in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament last week, only the second time a No. 16 seed has knocked off a top-seeded team. UMBC beat No. 1 Virginia in 2018.

“Iona University represents everything my family and I were looking for in a school, a basketball program and a campus atmosphere,” Anderson said in a statement. “Our goal is to build upon the tremendous tradition of Iona basketball and elevate the program to greater heights.”

Iona of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference was knocked out of this year’s tournament by UConn on Friday.

“We have long known him to be a fantastic coach and an even better person,” Glovaski said. “Now, with his team’s impressive run in the NCAA Tournament, everyone paying attention to March Madness also knows this. We’re delighted that he will be at the helm of our men’s basketball program.”

Anderson led FDU to a 21-16 overall record and 10-6 in Northeast Conference play. The Knights lost to Merrimack in the conference title game but got the NCAA berth because Merrimack was ineligible to compete as a transitioning school from Division II.

FDU, one of the shorter teams in the 68-team field, beat Texas Southern in a First Four game and followed that with the upset over Purdue. Florida Atlantic knocked the Knights out of the tournament on Sunday.

FDU had a 4-22 record in 2021-22. Anderson was hired after running the program at St. Thomas Aquinas, located less than 25 miles (40 km) from Iona’s campus. In nine seasons, he turned the team into a perennial Top 25 program in Division II after inheriting a team that won just five games prior to his hire.

Anderson got his first taste of Division I coaching, serving as an assistant at Siena for two seasons from 2011–2013. Before his time at Siena, Anderson was a head coach at the Division III level at Hamilton College and Clarkson University in upstate New York. He worked as an assistant at Clarkson and Le Moyne College.

Anderson graduated from Wesleyan University in 1995.