I will let you in on a little secret: The NCAA tournament does not start when the field is announced on Selection Sunday. It starts now. Or last Tuesday, actually, when the Atlantic Sun and Horizon League conference tournaments tipped off.
Y'all... conference tournaments are just delightful. Particularly the small, one-bid conference tournaments that are chock full of "win or go home" games. These guys are playing for a chance to lose to a top five program by fifty, but their games are every bit as intense as anything you'll find in the main field. And ESPN does a pretty good job of spacing these title games throughout the week, so you'll be able to catch just about every game of consequence.
I love watching Championship Week because I love what it represents (which is the weeding out process of the post-season in American sports). But this year, we have another consideration... Aggie bubble talk. Our man ColleyvilleAg06 has been crushing the bubble perspective lately, and his latest iteration has the Ags as the first team out. That means we need the bubble to be as large as possible.
What does this mean? How can you help? Is it possible to keep it all straight? Yes. Kind of. Here are a few general rules to keep in mind if you're not too keen on the details.
1) Is it a really small conference? Enjoy the show.
The really small conferences out there (Southern, MAAC, MEAC, Horizon, etc) are only getting one bid regardless of what happens. Even the studs, the teams that roll 15-1 or 16-0 through the conference regular season, aren't moving the needle.
Hang back, and root for whatever team is the most fun to watch. It wont affect the Aggies' chances.
2) Is it a recognizable small conference? Support the team in white.
The slightly larger name conferences have a different dynamic in play. The WCC, CUSA, Mountain West, Atlantic 10, and MVC (which just finished) have one or two teams that are going to the dance regardless of how the conference tournament plays out, so you want those teams to go the distance. You want chalk. Allll chalk.
If someone else sneaks in and grabs the conference title, the other established squads still make the field. Just like that, a bubble spot is gone. And when you're teetering on the edge like we are, losing even one spot is a luxury we can't afford.
Every conference tournament dictate that the higher seeded team (i.e., closer to #1) wear their home uniforms, so that's your team. Do they play ugly? Are they dirty? Who cares. You need a top seed to win, and you want them in the main field.
This is bigger than you.
3) Is it a large conference tournament? You don't want no drama.
These are the big guns. The Big 10, Big 12, ACC, SEC, Big East, and Pac 12. Again, you want chalk. But now there are around 3-6 teams (depending on the conference) that will make the Big Dance regardless of how their conference tournament plays out. So your job here is to monitor the early rounds for drama. If a feisty 7+ seed is making noise, keep an eye on them. But otherwise, if the top four seeds have made their way to the semis, you can generally enjoy the show.
So that's it. That's our guide for enjoying Championship Week while maximizing A&M's chances for success. As always, if you're looking for a deeper dive, check in with ColleyvilleAg06's bubble report. The updates will increase in frequency as Selection Sunday nears.