Forgive me for jumping way ahead this college basketball season, but it is never too early to gaze in the crystal ball to see what might happen in the future. In college basketball, the future is in March, when teams, having finished their bodies of work, hope to hear their names called on Selection Sunday to get into the best tournament in sports, the NCAA basketball championship (my opinion; yours may vary).
Apparently it is not too early to begin what fans of the tournament have come to know as the Bubble Watch: explained as which teams may or may not be included in the field of 68 if the tournament were held on a given date. For the last few years, the Virginia Tech Hokies have been on and off the bubble so much, coach Seth Greenberg’s face should be pictured whenever the topic is discussed. This year may prove to be no exception. The Hokies have begun conference play with an 0-2 slate, after losses to Wake Forest on Saturday and Florida State last night. A look at their pre-conference schedule shows a lot of wins over teams they should have beaten, and no bad losses, unless you count the one to Minnesota, which has started out 0-4 in the Big Ten. The Wake Forest loss may prove to hurt them even more, unless the Demon Deacons prove to be better than expected going forward. That said, the Hokies will have some opportunities to improve their tournament bonafides, with upcoming games against North Carolina at home, a road game against Virginia and a non-conference matchup with BYU of the West Coast Conference. Wins in two of those three games will give the Hokies a boost; and they will get two cracks at beating the Duke Blue Devils down the line. Of course, last season the Hokies famously upset Duke at home, only to see themselves out of the tournament when the selections were made. If they prove to be the fourth best team in what is being looked at as a down year for the league, that might not be enough to get them a bid to the NCAA tournament. So every game from here on out is important as the Hokies try to build a good case for inclusion.
Every other team not named North Carolina or Duke is basically in the same boat as Virginia Tech, although Virginia is making a name for itself as the third best team in the conference. The Cavaliers can further cement their standing if they can get a victory over the Blue Devils tomorrow night in Durham. Virginia opened conference play with a one-point victory over Miami on Saturday. North Carolina State got its first conference win by holding off Maryland 79-74 on Sunday. The Wolfpack can put themselves at 4-0 in conference with three winnable games coming up against Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College. Clemson may have pulled off the conference season’s first shocker by defeating the Seminoles by 20 points on Saturday; after a trip north to face the Eagles, the Tigers will face the Blue Devils on Saturday in a game which will show whether Clemson can enter the conversation as a tournament team.