Latest setbacks do Virginia, ‘Nova no favors
by Patrick Stevens, Special for USA TODAY Sports
Days until Selection Sunday: 13
The first word:
One undeniable truth that should be remembered over the next few weeks is the NCAA tournament selection committee will pick 37 at-large teams for its event.
Regardless of how lousy borderline teams perform, someone has to fill the field. There won’t be a 63-team event if there aren’t enough programs with shiny resumes.
The flip side of that is the edge of the field — the oft-described “soft bubble” — is probably going to firm up in the coming days.
To date, it’s been assumed a conference’s leader in the regular season will collect an automatic bid. There’s not really a more sensible way to anoint a placeholder for the 31 AQs the committee is handed.
But that’s what they are: Placeholders. And when upsets start to snarl conference tournaments and teams come out of nowhere to snatch bids, things will get quite perilous for programs jostling for position.
With just a couple upsets, a team safely in the field could find itself in a play-in game. A team in a play-in game might suddenly be just outside the tournament. And a quintessential bubble team vying for the 37th and final at-large slot could easily find itself several slots from playing on in the 68-team field.
A team like Villanova or Virginia might find itself in the field at the moment. There’s no guarantee even with a couple more victories it would remain that way in two weeks.
On the hot seat: Baylor
The Bears easily have the most to lose — and not a whole lot to gain — during Monday’s limited schedule. A loss to Texas, even in Austin, would be devastating to Baylor’s NCAA hopes.
Not that they’re all that great to begin with.
Baylor played a stout nonconference schedule, and collected a January victory over Oklahoma State. And … the Bears beat Kentucky. That just doesn’t mean as much as it normally does.
Few teams face a more critical week than Baylor, which follows its trip to Texas with a home game against Kansas. Win both and watch as fellow bubblers crumble (as they pretty reliably have the last week … [For more on Bubble Watch: Latest setbacks do Virginia, Villanova no favors, click here.]