The bid thief: every basement team’s dream and every bubble team’s nightmare.
When surefire at-large teams lose their conference tourneys to teams destined for the NIT at best, the conference cheers as they get another team in and the bubble teams groan—because for each bid thief that punches a ticket a bubble gets popped.
Last season Oregon State & Georgetown went on miraculous runs through the Pac-12 and Big East tournaments to clinch a pair of 12-seeds that would’ve gone to Louisville and Colorado State otherwise.
Sometimes, a bid thief isn’t that surprising in a conference like the Atlantic 10 or the AAC.
But other times, a team comes completely out of the blue and crashes the party.
That’s exactly what happened in 2008 for the Georgia Bulldogs, who came into the SEC Tournament 13-16 and with a conference record of just 4-12—tied with Auburn for the worst in the conference.
After squeaking out a two-point win in overtime against Ole Miss in the first round of the then-12 team SEC, the Dawgs were preparing for their Friday night matchup against Kentucky when a tornado hit the Georgia Dome during the overtime period of the Mississippi State - Alabama game, causing the rest of the tournament to be moved to Georgia Tech’s much smaller arena a few miles away.
Whether the location change helped Georgia or not I don’t know, but they stunned UK in overtime and reached the semifinals, where they won by four against Mississippi State and were playing Arkansas in the championship game for a ticket to the Big Dance while touting a 16-16 record.
A couple of hours later, they had done the impossible and won the SEC Tournament over the Hogs by nine, entering the Dance at 17-16 with a 14 seed, the lowest seed ever given to a Power 6 school.
This year’s Georgia Bulldogs won’t be repeating the feat, but perhaps another team in the SEC or one of the other major conferences will snag an unexpected bid and crash the March Madness party. Perhaps Boston College has a run in them? The Colorado Buffaloes maybe?
We’ll find out as we rapidly approach Selection Sunday.