There are often calls to increase the size of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe to 96, maybe even to 128. But I'll tell you what - at this point I think we're all struggling to find even 65 teams worthy of this year's Tournament. It seems like as soon as any bubble team gets hot and wins a couple, they quickly lose a couple and fall back out of Tournament consideration. It's why I moved Houston into the BP65 this week. Sure they don't have any huge wins, and the computer numbers are just decent. But they win when they're supposed to win, and they've racked up an 18-5 record, including 7-2 in the Conference USA. In a year of parity (or mediocrity, depending on whether you're an optimist or a pessimist), that looks pretty good. Onto some more bubble teams that had bad days:
Boston College 82, NC State 65
A nice win for Boston College, although their at-large chances are still pretty long. They are still 4-6 in the ACC, and the RPI and Sagarin numbers are nowhere near where an at-large team needs them. And I must say, the crowd was really rather awful. BC plays in a small gym and there were still tons of empty seats right near the court, and you could hear a pin drop during much of the action. I know that Boston is a pro sports town, but you'd think somebody would care about a program that has been consistently strong for so many straight seasons. As for NC State, this obviously wasn't a game that they could expect to walk in and take without a fight. But they could certainly have used the win. This loss drops them further into the ACC scrum, now at 4-6 overall in conference. Saturday's game against Clemson now becomes an absolute must-win. A loss there would mean that they'd need a win over North Carolina to avoid a 4-8 conference record. The computer numbers will be there, but I really think NC State needs to get to 8-8 in the ACC to make the Tournament. A 4-8 record would not be a good start.
Wake Forest 78, Florida State 70
A horrible night for Florida State. Not only this loss, but also the impending loss of Ryan Reid, who will surely land a suspension after his sucker-punch in this one. The Seminoles are nearly done for an at-large bid now, as this is their seventh loss in conference. They need to play almost perfect ball the rest of the way to get a bid. Wake Forest puts their name back on the bubble, however. They are now a solid 5-5, although their poor out-of-conference resume will be held against them (258th ranked schedule, overall RPI of 86th). I don't know if an 8-8 ACC record will be enough, as the RPI would still probably be outside the Top 50 and the Sagarin wouldn't be much higher than 50th either. They get a great chance for a glamor win on Sunday when Duke comes to town. If they win that, they'll garner some serious at-large attention. If they don't, they will head to Chapel Hill next and will probably end up just another 5-7 team in the ACC.
Fordham 76, UMass 72
An absolutely devastating loss for the Minutemen, who see their RPI nearly double in one evening. Bryant Dunston (apparently a nephew of ex-Chicago Cub Shawon) was a beast in this one, as Fordham really dominated the paint. I watched almost this entire game live and I really saw a lot of talent on UMass, but they just lack poise and experience. They had a chance early to put some real distance in the scoreline and bury the Rams. Instead they let their opponents hang in there and build confidence. UMass finally started playing well late in the game, but by that point they'd already allowed it to become a ballgame. It felt like Fordham had an answer for everything, and they've now nearly dashed the Minutemen's Tournament chances. The RPI is still a shade inside the Top 40, but that won't save them now. The 4-6 Atlantic Ten record will be an albatross around their neck for some time. Remember, they still have to head to Rhode Island and Richmond, and play a few other tough games. Even if by some miracle they finish 5-1, they'd still only be 9-7 in a mid-major conference. Would that be enough? Maybe. But even a strong 4-2 finish would put them down at 8-8, and there's just no way that a team from outside a BCS conference can finish 8-8 and expect to get an at-large bid. With the poor recent play out of UMass and Dayton, I think St. Joe's really becomes the third team in the A-10 pecking order. They wouldn't get an at-large bid of the season ended now, but they could certainly earn one if they can finish strong. The Atlantic Ten can still get a third Tournament team - they simply need to turn to an unlikely source.