Mid-majors move into Nervous Mode as March Madness arrives

Waiting begins for the "bubble'' major teams and the mid-majors regular season champs who were upset in conf. tourn

The regular season is now officially over.

For 68 teams, the next chapter starts to unfold on Selection Sunday (March 17th).

But for others, the waiting--and worrying--game has already begun.

Let's start with Belmont, which was the No. 1 seed in the Ohio Valley Conference, posting a 16-2 conference record and now sitting at home with a 26-5 overall record.

As the top-seed in the OVC tournament, the Bruins have an NIT spot guaranteed. But they want to be in the Big Dance. But the clearest path to the NCAA tournament disappeared on Saturday when OVC co-champion Murray State knocked off the Bruins in the championship game.

Murray State is dancing, Belmont .They are they now on the "bubble'' competing for one of 36 at-large slots which will be given out by the NCAA tournament selection committee.

Which brings us to the annual major criticism of the NCAA tournament process.

Should the hard work of winning a regular season championship be over ruled by the mediocre efforts of teams from major conferences such as Texas, Oklahoma and TCU, who could not win half of their conference games?

Should teams such as Minnesota (9-11 in the Big Ten) Indiana and Ohio State (both 8-12) be rewarded over regular season champions such as Belmont or Atantic Sun Conference co-champion Lipscomb, which was 14-2 in the ASun and 25-7 overall,, but lost to co-champ Liberty in the conference championship game?

One of the endearing aspects of March Madness is the David vs.Goliath aspect, where giants such as No. 1 seed Virginia can be toppled by a 16th seed such as Maryland-Baltimore County.

Belmont is probably not going to make it, nor is Lipscomb, but at least they had a chance to compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

How would you like to be an Ivy League team such as Brown or Cornell, each who pulled off upsets in the final weekend of the regular season over contending teams. Both Brown and Cornell were 7-7 in the Ivy League, Brown posted a 19-11 record, which is a major improvement from last season's 11-16 (4-10) mark.

Yet the Bears are shut out from the NCAA tournament because the Ivy League--the last hold out against conference tournaments--compromised by creating a tournament in which only the top 4 schools compete.

Brown and Cornell both lost the tie-breaker to Penn, which grabbed the fourth slot and will take on Harvard in the Ivy League tournament this weekend at Yale.

Compare that with what will happen on Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas, where the Western Athletic Conference tournament will begin with No. 1 seed New Mexico State vs. No. 8 seed Chicago State.

Chicago State is an interesting story. The Cougars are ranked No. 353 of the 353 schools participating in Division 1 basketball. They are the only team which managed only 1 victory over Division 1 schools and enter the WAC tournament with a 20 game losing streak.

Their only D 1 win was an 8 point victory over Eastern Illinois on Dec. 1. In 35 seasons as a Division 1 team, Chicago State has posted 3 winning seasons. They have had one winning season in the last 32 seasons and single digit victory totals in 8 of the last 10 seasons, including a 4-57 record the past two seasons.

Yet, starting on Thursday, if they pull off a 3 game winning streak, they can play in the NCAA tournament, which is what makes this part of the college basketball season so fascinating and popular.

At The Heights (*****An outsiders observations on what is going on at Boston College, aka The Heights)*

Another cross roads moment for Boston College basketball and Eagle athletic director Martin Jarmond, who must evaluate the performance of Eagle' basketball coach Jim Christian, who just finished his fifth regular season at The Heights.

The Eagles are in that dreaded area known as mediocre. They aren't horrible (14-16), but they aren't good. They finished with a 5-13 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is a two game drop from a year ago when they climbed above .500 (19-16) for the first time and received an NIT bid.

The good news is that they posted wins over NCAA tournament quality teams such as Florida State, Louisville and Minnesota. The bad news is that they under performed just as many times and the program has shown no real significant forward movement in Chistian's 5 years--although bouncing back from an 0-16 ACC record a few years ago is progress.

Jarmond rewarded Chrisitan for last season's efforts by giving him a contract extension through the 2021 season,, which means Christian still has 3 years left.

Barring a stunning turnaround in which the Eagles put together a 3 game winning streak this week against Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Duke, BC's season will conclude in Charlotte.

Jarmond can maintan the status quo, hoping the Eagles move back to within .500 territory in the ACC (the realistic ceiling for BC), but that will change next season when the ACC expands to 20 conference games.

Can BC produce a 10-10 record and 20 regular season wins with Jim Christian as its coach?

It has been quiet at The Heights the past few days, but there have also has been some chatter that there might be a change.

If that does happen, Jarmond doesn't have to go to a different area code with Harvard's Tommy Amaker and Northeastern's Bill Coen both more than capable of doing the job.

The good news is that it should all be settled--one way or another in the next 72 hours.

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