Going into Selection Sunday for March Madness, the 2011 edition, the bubble is both very soft and very large. A very large number of teams can legitimately stake a claim that they are one of the best 68 in the nation, but a couple of at-large teams are likely to be poor when they get into the tournament. It's an odd year for NCAA basketball, and it's obvious that the expanded field has changed the game significantly. With the selection show coming up later today, let's take a look at three teams who are right on the borderline between being in and being out: USC, Harvard, and Clemson.
All three have very different resumes and some decent evidence to claim they're better than the other two. Who out of this group deserves to go dancing? You be the judge.
Record: 19-14 (11-9)
Top 50 wins: 5
Top 100 wins: 8
Sub 200 losses: 3
USC's resume may look the weakest on paper between them, Harvard, and Clemson, but you have to take into account the fact that they were without point guard Jio Fontan for two of those three terrible losses. Fontan is no superstar, but USC have no true point guard without him. They've obviously become a much better team since he's joined them after initially being declared ineligible. It will be interesting to see how much stock the bid committee puts into these matters.
Record: 21-5 (12-2)
Top 50 wins: 1
Top 100 wins: 3
Sub 200 losses: 0
Obviously, Harvard's undoing is their poor strength of schedule and as a result, their lack of big wins. Their lone top 50 win came against Princeton, just days before the Tigers beat them in a playoff to snatch the Ivy League's automatic bid. Still, their non-conference wins against Colorado and Boston College are impressive. It's tough to say a team with an RPI that high and three very high quality wins doesn't deserve any consideration.
Record: 21-11 (9-7)
Top 50 wins: 0
Top 100 wins: 9
Sub 200 losses: 0
Going into the final week of the regular season, Clemson was very much a bubble team. They knocked off fellow bubble teams Virginia Tech and Boston College in the last week, but that might not have been enough to get the Tigers into the tournament. While Clemson lacks a true signature win, they have a very large number of quality wins, and that might get them into the tournament.
If you have to take one of these three teams to the tournament, leaving the other two out, who are you taking? It's a very tough call, and a serious case could be made for any of the three. Who the bid committee selects out of this group is going to be very indicative of what they value most when making their selections.