Good afternoon, BBN!
This Sunday is a big day in the college basketball calendar, because the Super Bowl is not only when an NFL champion is crowned, but also when college basketball Bubble Watch usually begins on ESPN.com.
Since that’s the traditional timing for John Gasaway’s annual column, for a fan it’s almost like a landmark in the season. I like to think of the season as having eight milestones.
1. Opening tipoff (November)
2. Feast Week (Thanksgiving Week)
3. Beginning of conference play (New Year’s)
4. Beginning of Bubble Watch (Super Bowl)
5. Beginning of conference tourneys (Early March)
6. Selection Sunday
7. First Four, 1st Rd, 2 Rd, Sweet 16, Elite 8
8. Final Four & the Monday night championship game
The stakes only get higher the further you go, and the way this season’s gone, bubble season should be bonkers! Any team can beat any team on any given night these days (except seemingly chaos-immune Gonzaga and Baylor), so who knows who will snag a spot in the 68-team bracket on March 14th!
With that let’s look last week’s biggest winner, biggest question, and a flashback from the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
Biggest Winner: East Carolina
Well that was unexpected. This strange season has produced some wacky results, but top-5, 15-1 Houston losing at the 7-6 East Carolina Pirates? The Pirates that hadn’t beaten any ranked teams since 2002, let alone a top-5 team! (Last time they’d beaten a top-5 team: never). Bonkers. This is a trophy in a case for East Carolina—a gem of a victory they’ve never had before and will go in their Hall of Fame of Great Basketball Moments (which was likely pretty modest before last night). Enjoy this one for a long time, Pirates. You earned it. Way to play some great basketball.
As for Houston, well, it only takes one bad night in the Big Dance to bring you down. Better fix the problems quick or this might happen again with a 14 or 15 seed.
Biggest Question: Who are the best teams?
That’s a million-dollar question, since each week it seems like another team rides the AP Top 5 ejection seat (send us a postcard from the double digits, Houston!). The best way to answer that I think is to look at who’s playing the best ball right now, not who’s accumulated the best wins all season. Some teams have changed quite a bit since November, for better or for worse.
Here’s who I think are the five best teams, meaning who’s playing the best basketball at the moment. Remember I’m just your average bubba with a computer and some Doritos so don’t think I used any fancy statistics for these “rankings”. This is just my plain ‘ol noggin at work.
4. Ohio State
Welp, there they are. I think Gonzaga and Baylor are an easy 1-2, and Iowa and Ohio State just haven’t laid an egg recently like Villanova and Houston. Next week I predict that either Iowa or Ohio State will lose, though (they play each other).
Flashback: The Valpo Play
This buzzer beater from the 1998 tourney is so famous that the play that made it happen is now known as “The Valpo Play”. At least that’s what I call it. Bryce Drew, now coach of Grand Canyon, hit an amazing trey as time expired to knock off 4-seed Ole Miss in the 1st Round. Here’s how it happened: with only 2.5 seconds left to inbound the ball and take a good shot, Valpo launched a long pass to about half-court. Then they immediately passed it to Bryce Drew, open a few feet beyond the 3-point line. Bang-Bang-Boom. Nothing but net.
So that’s The Valpo Play: inbound, pass, shoot a trey. You can practice it with your friends. Valpo probably didn’t invent it, but they definitely put it on the map with that shot against Ole Miss. That kind of win will get a play named after your team.
That’s it for this week! Enjoy the Super Bowl, and go ‘Cats!