Life is exhausting on the NCAA bubble.
You start by focusing on your conference and your RPI, which is accomplished by supporting teams that you have previously defeated. Cool, that's easy enough. But then you reach this weird gray area, where that team could take your spot. And nobody wants that. So you start becoming kinda OK with them losing again. But just a little. Before you know it, too many of those teams are losing and your conference prestige starts to dip. Crap, that's not good either. Now your conference might receive fewer bids. So those teams need to do better again, but remember, not too much better. A very specific amount of better.
And that's one conference.
These discussions are happening across the D-1 landscape, in every single one of the 592 (numbers not confirmed) conferences spread across the nation. Which leads every bubble fan to one simple question:
Why can't we get everything we need from every team ever all the time always?
I don't know, hypothetical bubble fan. I just don't. It really does seem like a reasonable request.
LSU has lost three of four, and their associated RPI dive has left the Aggies with exactly zero "good" wins. These things tend to be rather fluid (in case you didn't catch that at the opening), but right now the national perception of A&M is that they can take care of business, but can't win any games they shouldn't.
That recipe tends to lead to NIT-land. So, what does it all mean for tonight? It means this game against the Gators is a must-win game that we can probably lose, as long as we win the rest. Confused? Awesome, me too. Have been for weeks.
Let's break it down.
Florida doesn't test well
On paper, the Gators were supposed to be good this year. Solidly in the tournament. So much so, that when I dared suggest they'd miss out, a Florida fan got a little feisty in the comments.
But that was about 90% of the way through the non-conference season, and I was basing my opinion on this funny little notion of "they lose to every remotely good team they play."
Six weeks later, here we are. And with the exception of a one-point win at home against Arkansas, they have still lost to every quality team they've played. Here are their wins this season.
- Nonconference: William & Mary, ULM (OT), UAB, Yale, Texas Southern, Jacksonville, Wake
- Conference: South Carolina, Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas
The weird part of all this is... Florida commenter was right, in a way. They do have tournament-level talent. Heck, the Florida-Kentucky game drew a monster rating (far better than anything SEC basketball deserves), mostly because we all thought the Gators might flip the switch.
Now, it's starting to look like that switch isn't there... but I'm still wary. They're too far gone to make a tourney run, but they could definitely close the season 5-2 or 6-1 and grab a few scalps in the process, which could very well start tonight.
Who wants a Sloppy Joe? I made 'em extra sloppy.
On Wednesday night, the Aggies were awfully careless with the basketball. We can survive that nonsense against the SEC bottom feeders, but we're only going to see two more of those in our last seven. If we want to close strong, we have to take care of the basketball.
The Gators have struggled in the half court set, but they can generate turnovers (3rd in the SEC in steals) and they can score in transition. Raw talent always can. It seems simple, but it might be the most pertinent point in the article: We have to play efficient offensive basketball if we want to win tonight.
The starting five need help
Here's a quick rundown of the Fightin' Texas Aggie bench's performance against the Georgia Bulldogs.
Please, clear the room of small children. And be advised that this picture is not safe for work.
That's not going to get it done. We're going to be hard pressed to beat anyone when the bench lays an egg like that.
With all that said, I think the Ags win tonight... setting up a monster home game against LSU next Tuesday.