Lawrence: Making the final NCAA cut

Mar 7, 2013 |
Get your dancing shoes ready. With just two weeks to go until the start of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, teams sitting on the outside looking in are now – more than ever – sweating their bubbles off.

For the legitimate teams who find themselves sitting ‘on the tournament bubble’, it’s now crunch time. And with it the pressure peaks. As Elvis so succinctly put it, “It’s now or never.” 

With postseason conference tournaments now underway it’s truly last-gasp time for these teams to make one final impression on the NCAA tournament committee.

However, the truth of the matter is most teams’ fates are virtually sealed well before these conference tourneys tip off. Let me explain.

Unless teams own both a winning overall and winning conference record for the season the chance of being invited to the ‘dance’ is slim and remote. Teams who post 20 wins for the season often times find that unless they were a ‘double-winner’, the NCAA is likely to kick them to the curb.

The brain trust recognizes the fact that 20-win teams who ended the season non-winners in conference play likely picked up the bulk of the victories against inferior, non-conference competition and it just doesn’t cut the mustard in the panels’ eyes. 

Witness Ole Miss and Mississippi State last season. Each 20-win teams at regular season’s end last year, it didn’t matter as they were left at the altar when the committee decided that 8-8 marks in SEC conference play was not a part of the Big Dance formula. FYI: just to prove the committee’s worth, both disappointed teams came up empty in opening round NIT home games when the Rebels laid 7 points and the Bulldogs 5.5 points, each losing the game straight-up on the scoreboard. 

With this thought in mind, I present of group of six teams winding down the regular season from lined major conferences that currently have or maintain a mathematical shot at 20 wins this season, all of whom are all currently .500 or worse in conference play in games through March 7. They are:


ACC: Maryland
Atlantic 10: Charlotte
Big East: Cincinnati
BIG 10: Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota

Notice that any of the half-dozen teams outlined above could catch fire and win their conference tourney, thus automatically gaining a ticket to the Big Dance.

Their performance to date, however, says otherwise. Collectively, this unit has posted a sterling 75-10 SU and 34-25 ATS mark outside the conference this season. In conference play, though, they are just a combined 44-51 SU and 41-53-1 ATS. Worse, as a pick or favorite in conference games these wannabes are just 20-32-1 ATS this season, including 4-12 ATS versus a greater than .700 opponent. 

Unless they suddenly change their ways – and I can't recall the last time a leopard changed its spots – it’s likely this six-pack will likely wilt under the pressure of having to win games from this point forward.

The heat is on. Let’s watch and see what shakes. 

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