Friday, December 3, 2010

Heels, Hokies, Wolfpack Already On NCAA Bubble

Last year, North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia Tech missed the field of 64 or 65 or 66 or whatever is is/was this week/last year, and this year they aren’t off to the kind of start that makes their return to the Big Dance all that promising.

Yes, it’s only early December and all three can insure themselves spots in the tournament with a good run through their ACC conference schedule. But to this point, only Duke looks likely to dominate and everybody else is looking like 8-8 or worse.

So when the conference play is over in early March, the bubble bursting needles are those pesky non-conference games. So far, neither the Heels nor Hokies have posted what the hoop gurus call “quality wins.”

North Carolina, which lost much more than it gained in the off-season, has struggled mightily to date posting a 4-3 record with wins over Hofstra, Lispcomb, UNC Asheville, and College of Charleston -- none of which will improve anybody’s power rankings.

The Heels have lost to Minnesota, Vanderbilt and Illinois and face #10 Kentucky on Saturday and #20 Texas on December 18. The remainder of their non-conference schedule is made up of Evansville, Long Beach State, William & Mary, Rutgers and St. Francis.

The Hokies have also been a bit of an early disappointment. Virginia Tech is also 4-3 with wins over Campbell, UNC Greensboro, Cal State Northridge and Oklahoma State. The win over OSU could prove helpful down the road. The Hokies have lost to Kansas State, UNLV and a Purdue team they should have (could have) beaten. The Hokies have remaining non-conference games with Penn State, Mississippi State, St. Bonaventure and USC Upstate. Not much help resume building there.

Which takes us to Raleigh, where the Wolfpack is in a little better shape, but not much. N.C. State is 4-2 with wins over Tennessee Tech, East Carolina, George Mason and Fairleigh Dickinson. They have lost to #16 Georgetown and unranked Wisconsin. The Wolfpack faces a tough test on Saturday playing #8 Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. They finish up non-conference with games against USC Upstate, Youngstown State, Arizona, Delaware State, Alabama A&M and Sand Diego – all at home.

The point of this small tale of woe is that all three need to post rock solid ACC regular season records in order to make the NCAA tournament. None of these teams face many quality non-conference foes, and, so far, they have either lost to (or are predicted to lose to) the few quality non-conference games that will ultimately matter to the Selection Committee.

Not exactly what those three programs were looking to contemplate as we approach the heart of the holiday season.

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