Bubble teams will eagerly await the fate of Selection Sunday

Before, it was so much easier than that. Once upon a time, the night the NCAA Tournament offers were announced, Lou Carnesecca decided to go out to dinner. It was in 1979, the last year before the advent of the Grand Est. St. John’s had lost to Iona in the ECAC qualifying final the night before. They were 18-10 years old.

There was no NET back then, to put a team’s NCAA ranking in metric terms, no RPI, no KenPom, no Sagarin. There were no bracketologists – it was only a few years earlier that brackets had appeared in conjunction with the NCAA. It was just Carnesecca judging his instincts and his own sense of probability, as well as the fact that only 40 teams entered the tournament.

So he went to dinner.

“There was nothing I could do about it,” he explained years later. “And you have to eat.”

The call came to his house and his daughter relayed the message. Carnesecca was already thinking about the NIT. He didn’t have to. The Johnnies had a game the following Friday, at NC State’s Reynolds Coliseum, against Temple. They won this. They shocked Duke the next day, then edged Rutgers the following week at Greensboro Coliseum.

The ride ended in a bitter two-point loss to Pennsylvania one step away from the Final Four that officially introduced the world to Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, but it was an incredible ride, which started with no watch parties, without fanfare, and with a coach enjoying antipasti away from campus. It was probably better that way.

Bubble teams will eagerly await the fate of Selection Sunday
Ron Harper Jr., left, is guarded by Connor McCaffery Iowa during the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
Trevor Ruszkowski

On Sunday, in various parts of the country, it will be very different. Some teams have little process anxiety – they know they’re in (or out). Some teams have sewn-in automatic offers. Some teams are wondering if they will have to start their journey in Dayton, Ohio, site of the “First Four” on Tuesday and Wednesday.

And some will suffer the worst tortures.

The kind when you won’t know until you know.

Around here, the most anxious place will be at Rutgers. Rutgers should be an NCAA team. They finished fourth in the Big Ten. They had this almost surreal streak in February when they beat four ranked teams in a row. They fought a bit in November and December, lost games they shouldn’t have lost. But they’re 18-13 and they’ve proven they can play with – and beat – the best teams in the country.

It should be a ranking issue at Rutgers.

A question of: Dayton or not Dayton.

But the harsh truth is that you never really know. Not until you see your name on the TV screen. And sometimes even then, it can be an emotional cauldron. A few years ago, I had the chance to spend selection Sunday with the basketball team of my alma mater, Saint-Bonaventure. Like Rutgers, they should have been fine.

But they had been severely snubbed two years earlier, which alone was enough to cause concern. (I was in Iona covering a watch party that day. When the brackets appeared without the Bonnies, Tim Cluess came over, shook my hand, and said, “You just got hosed down,” although he used a different word than ‘watered’.”

This is the year CBS decided to reveal the field in alphabetical order. Inside the room we waited for “S”. And when Seton Hall appeared, there was a momentary panic: Were they going with “Saint Bonaventure” or “St. Bonaventure?” It made all the difference in the world. And then “St. Bonaventure” appears on the screen. And the joy was unlike any I had ever seen up close before.

Rutgers deserve this moment on Sunday. But there will be teams and campuses plunged into instant depression when the parentheses are revealed. There will be little consolation for those who are considered the “first four out” and less for the “next four out”. It’s going to be a long, long day on these campuses. Agony.

Maybe they should just go out to dinner. You must eat.

Vacuum strokes

Which team will better convince you that it’s not too late to make a run, the Knicks or the Islanders?

The Long Island Catholic Hoops League lost a good Super Bowl on Sunday when Steve Siegler, who played on a great St. Anthony team in 1979, died suddenly. Those of us who grew up in the NSCHAA at that time remember those teams fondly, even though we went to rival schools later.

Jeff Nelson
Paul J. Bereswill

Despite a date change caused by COVID, the Thurman Munson Awards last Monday raised $600,000 for AHRC NYC helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, bringing the total over 42 years to $19 million. World Series champions Jeff Nelson and Mookie Wilson were the baseball winners.

Thank you Kyle Lofton, Osun Osunniyi, Jalen Adaway, Dominick Welch and Jaren Holmes; if you know, you know. (Go Bonnies) (#rollout)

Return to Vac

Charles Cook: It was refreshing, especially during this Lenten season, to read the Syracuse-Florida State quotes from Buddy Boeheim (contrition), Wyatt Wilkes (forgiveness) and especially Leonard Hamilton (wisdom and empathy). Good examples for all of us.

Vac: Does that make Coach Boeheim Judas in all of this?

mike anderson
mike anderson
Corey Sipkins

Denis Dally: Here we go, Mike. Seven betting sites, four live game shows per day. First pro player, Calvin Ridley, suspended for a year for betting. I can’t wait for the first player or official to get caught fixing a game.

Vac: The slippery slope is slippery and steep for a good reason.

@Bkjbearcat1: In Arkansas, Mike Anderson received the nickname “Mediocre Mike”. I don’t think he improved after being fired from his dream job.

@MikeVacc: I really wish I could argue this point, but…

Eva Charles: I believe the roots of hostility between players and owners actually go back to 1889 when the Players League was formed because players objected to the reserve clause imposed by the NL and the American Association. The Players League breakaway lasted one year (1890).

Vac: That’s one hell of a long grudge.

New York Post

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