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OPINION | WALLY HALL: Some bubbles bound to burst on Sunday

by Wally Hall | March 7, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.

Chris Reynolds will sit down at 5 p.m. Sunday with Greg Gumbel, Jay Bilas, Clark Kellogg and Seth Davis on CBS and bring both joy and sadness when the NCAA Tournament field of 68 is announced.

Reynolds, vice president for intercollegiate athletics (think athletic director) at Bradley University, was selected as the chairman of the 12-person selection committee.

The selection committee is made up of conference commissioners and athletic directors, including Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne, who has been in the news lately because of basketball player Brandon Miller.

Byrne will have to recuse himself probably eight times when the committee votes because he is not allowed to vote on teams from the SEC, but if things go as planned, the pressure is off him anyway, Alabama is a deserving No. 1 seed and could be the automatic qualifier from the SEC.

In February, it was announced that the Crimson Tide were the overall No. 1, but some of the experts – people who predict the field -- are leaning toward Kansas or Houston moving into that spot.

The two most quoted experts are Jerry Palm of and Joe Lunardi from ESPN.

Both are very good and have at one time picked the exact field. Most years they are around 90% correct.

Both have the Arkansas Razorbacks as a No. 9 seed for the tournament.

The Hogs play Auburn on Thursday night in the SEC Tournament, and a loss could hurt because they lost on the road to the Tigers 72-59 in their only other meeting this season.

Lunardi has Auburn as a No. 11 seed and Palm has it as a No. 8 seed.

Before going any further, they are not the only experts. Ken Pomeroy does a good job of ranking teams.

In addition to Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn, Lunardi and Palm have Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Missouri and Mississippi State in the field of 68.

Both have the Bulldogs as a No. 11 seed in a play-in game against Penn State in Dayton, Ohio. The NCAA refers to those games as the First Four.

It has been an odd season as the ACC, one of the true power conferences in basketball, may get only five teams invited, and the best seed would likely be No. 4 Virginia, which finished second in the conference behind Miami. The experts predict the Hurricanes as a No. 5 seed.

Apparently the Big Ten is looking at getting 10 teams invited, but what every team has to worry about is who is close to the bubble, like if Clemson gets hot and wins the ACC, making those Tigers one of the 32 automatic qualifiers.

The same with Tulane in the American Athletic Conference, which will probably get two teams in despite the fact Houston is one of the teams with the best shot to win it all.

The Cougars are currently No. 1 in the NCAA NET rankings, which is just one of the many considerations the selection committee looks at.

It may be time for the NCAA to tweak its computer program that ranks the teams. It has UConn as the No. 6 ranked team in the country and Marquette No. 13.

Marquette won the Big East with a 17-3 league record and the Huskies were 13-7. The resume builder was a 82-67 win over Alabama back in November.

UConn and Marquette split their series with each winning at home.

Of course, March Madness is an all new season and about surviving and advancing.

This Sunday when the field is announced, CBS will show some teams celebrating, and it will show one or two who went from the NCAA Tournament bubble to the NIT.

Right now, the experts have the Razorbacks in, but Auburn will be looking to build its own case.

Print Headline: Some bubbles bound to burst on Sunday


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