What’s in a bubble team?

Story by Charlie Crowley, Sports Intern
Photo courtesy of The feminist wire

It’s February. For most people, it’s a season of love with Valentine’s Day; for others, it’s a season of misery with Valentine’s Day. For sports fans, February means there is just one month left until March Madness, the month long spectacle of college basketball that takes the nation by storm. While everyone looks for the usual powerhouses and the occasional Cinderella to keep viewers on the edge of their seats, there is one group of teams that people sometimes forget about: the bubble team.

The NCAA tournament has its usual suspects every year in teams such as Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Kentucky. There are also smaller schools such as Valparaiso, Virginia Commonwealth, and Wichita State, schools from mid major conferences that win their conference tournament to claim their spot. However, a bubble team is a team, usually from a major conference, that is on a thin wire between a spot in the NCAA and a spot in the NIT. It’s the kind of team that makes you say “Hey, they’re usually a pretty good program,” and “Wow, they lost to THAT team?”

How does a team avoid the dreaded bubble? In one word, win. As is with all sports, the more you’re winning, the less you have to worry about. Problem is, not every team can win every game. For a bubble team, it’s all about quality wins. The tournament committee is not going to look at your 40 point stomping over the last place team in the Mountain West, but they will look at your 10 point loss to a middle of the pack team in the Big East. A team that has six losses with a bad strength of schedule is right in the running with an 11 loss team with a stronger schedule. As March gets closer, analysts will start using “first four in” and “first four out,” referring to teams whose chances are 50/50. Although these are not always accurate because of factors such as conference tournaments and schedules, if a team is mentioned, they better play with some urgency.

As millions of fans around the country prepare to put billions of dollars on the line, it helps to know your stuff to make those picks wisely. Who knows? Maybe another at-large team like George Mason in 2006 will captivate the nation. Come March though, some team’s bubble may stay, while another pops. All that matters is they keep on winning.

About the writer…

IMG_4063Charlie Crowley is a junior studying communication and journalism.He is The Saint‘s Sports Intern and future Sports Editor. He spends most of his time playing hockey, sleeping, eating, and on Reddit. He’s also a Hoosier, and proud of it, but can’t hit the open three to save his life.


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