The bubble teams will eagerly await their fate on Selection Sunday

It used to be so much easier than that. Once upon a time, the night the NCAA tournament bids were announced, Lou Carnesecca decided to go out to dinner. That was 1979, the last year before the advent of the Great East. St John’s had lost to Iona in the ECAC qualifiers final the night before. They were 18-10.

Back then there was no NET to quantify a team’s NCAA rank, no RPI, no KenPom, no Sagarin. There were no bracketologists – only a few years before brackets even appeared in connection with the NCAA. There was only Carnesecca judging by his gut and his own sense of probability, along with the fact that only 40 teams made it to the tournament.

So he went to eat.

“There was nothing I could do about it,” he explained years later. “And you must eat.”

The call came to his home, and his daughter broke the news. Carnesecca was already thinking of the NIT. He didn’t have to. The Johnnies got a game against Temple the next Friday at NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum. They won that. They shocked Duke the next day and pushed Rutgers at the Greensboro Coliseum the next week.

The ride ended in a bitter two-point loss to Pennsylvania, a step away from the Final Four that officially introduced the world to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, but it was an amazing ride, one that featured no watch parties, without fanfare and began with a coach enjoying some antipasti off campus. It was probably better that way.

Ron Harper Jr., left, is guarded by Connor McCaffery Iowa in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament.
Trevor Russkowski

On Sunday it will be very different in different places across the country. Some teams have little fear of the process—they know they’re in (or out). Some teams sewed automatic bids. Some teams are wondering if they need to start their journey Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, home of the First Four.

And some will experience the worst kind of torture.

The kind where you don’t know until you know.

The scariest place around here is going to be Rutgers. Rutgers was supposed to be an NCAA team. They finished fourth in the Big Ten. They had that almost surreal stretch in February when they defeated four ranked teams in a row. They got into a bit of a fight in November and December, lost a few games they shouldn’t have lost. But they are 18-13 years old and have proven that they can play with and beat the best teams in the nation.

It should be a matter of seeding at Rutgers.

A question from: Dayton or no Dayton.

But the hard truth is, you never really know. Not until you see your name on the TV screen. And sometimes even then it can be an emotional cauldron. I got lucky a few years ago enough to spend Selection Sunday with my alma mater’s St. Bonaventure basketball team. Like Rutgers, they should have been fine.

But they had been badly snubbed two years earlier, so that alone was enough to sow concerns. (I’d been over at Iona’s that day to cover a watch party. When the brackets came on without the Bonnies, Tim Cluess came over, shook my hand and said, “You just got hosed down,” though he used another word than “hosed down” used.”)

This was the year CBS decided to list the field alphabetically. In the room we waited for “S”. And when Seton Hall showed up, there was a brief panic: Did they want to start with “Saint Bonaventure” or “St. Bonaventure?” It made all the difference in the world. And then “St. Bonaventure” appeared on the screen. And the joy was unlike anything I had ever seen up close.

Rutgers deserves this moment on Sunday. But there will be teams and campuses that will immediately fall into depression when the brackets are revealed. There will be little consolation for those considered the “first four out” and less for the “next four out.” It’s going to be a long, long day on these campuses. Agony.

Maybe they should just go eat. You must eat.

Vac’s Whacks

Which team will do a better job of convincing you it’s not too late to go for a run, the Knicks or the Islanders?

Long Island’s Catholic Hoops League lost a good Super Bowl on Sunday when Steve Siegler, who played on a really great St. Anthony’s team in 1979, passed away suddenly. Those of us who grew up at NSCHAA remember those teams fondly, even though we later went to competing schools.

Jeff Nelson
Paul J. Bereswill

Despite a date change caused by COVID, last Monday’s Thurman Munson Awards raised $600,000 for AHRC NYC, which helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, bringing the 42-year total to $19 million. World Series Champions Jeff Nelson and Mookie Wilson were the baseball honorees.

Thank you Kyle Lofton, Osun Osunniyi, Jalen Adaway, Dominick Welch and Jaren Holmes; if you know, you know. (Los Bonnies) (#unfurl)

Hit back on Vac

Karl Koch: It was refreshing, especially during this Lent, to read the Syracuse-Florida state quotes from Buddy Boeheim (repentance), Wyatt Wilkes (forgiveness), and most importantly, Leonard Hamilton (wisdom and empathy). Good examples for all of us.

Vacuum: Does coach Böheim make Judas in all of this?

Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson

DennisDaily: Let’s go, Mike. Seven betting sites, four live gambling shows daily. The first professional player, Calvin Ridley, has been banned for a year for betting. I can’t wait for the first player or official to be caught fixing a game.

Vacuum: The slippery slope is slippery and sloped for a reason.

@Bkjbearcat1: In Arkansas, Mike Anderson earned the nickname “Mediocre Mike”. I don’t think he’s improved after being fired from his dream job.

@ Mike Vacc: I would really like to be able to discuss this point, but…

Evan-Charles: I believe that the roots of the animosity between players and owners actually goes back to 1889 when the Players League was formed because the players objected to the reserve clause imposed by the NL and the American Association. The breakaway Players League lasted a year (1890).

Vacuum: Well, that’s one hell of a long grudge. The bubble teams will eagerly await their fate on Selection Sunday


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