A Special Dishin & Swishin Podcast: Both sides of the bubble, Jose Fernandez and USF are in, Tricia Cullop and Toledo are not

Toledo's Tricia Cullop and USF's Jose Fernandez. Photos: Toledo Athletics and USF Athletics.
Toledo’s Tricia Cullop and USF’s Jose Fernandez. Photos: Toledo Athletics and USF Athletics.

Selection Monday can be the most exhilarating and the cruelest of nights at the same time.

With only 64 teams allowed into the NCAA national championship tournament, there are some teams that sweat their fate until the final bracket is unveiled. They have been living on the bubble, and they are hoping that bubble does not burst.

This year there were fewer “bubble teams” than usual. Mid-majors were winning their conference tournaments and teams had very strong cases for selection based on strength of schedule or RPI. However, a few teams were sweating it out after their conference tournaments.

On one side, there were the middle-of-the pack BCS schools hoping their conference strength would bolster a questionable resume. These teams included South Florida, Kansas, St. John’s, Miami (Fla.), West Virginia and Iowa.

On the other side, there were the mid-majors, teams that had excelled in smaller conferences, possibly even winning their regular season championships but then were knocked out of the automatic bid tournaments. In this list were teams such as Toledo, Florida Gulf Coast, Duquesne, San Diego State and Pacific.

When the final brackets were unveiled, there was excitement and there was disappointment.

South Florida made it into the tournament for the first time since 2006. Head coach Jose Fernandez was on Twitter responding to congratulatory tweets until around 2:00 a.m., thanking and praising his coaches and players, and touting the successes of his opponents. The excitement could be felt in his words along with the satisfaction of knowing a team with eight seniors would finally get that opportunity to play an NCAA tournament game.

Led by sisters Andrea and Andrell Smith, the Bulls will be doing a Texas two-step, as they go to Lubbock to play Texas Tech, one of those other bubble teams to get in the tournament.

Ironically, South Florida has an RPI of 56, and Texas Tech has an RPI of 48. Toledo has an RPI of 46, but the Rockets are going to the WNIT.

Tricia Cullop’s team is the mid-major version of UConn; they have only lost to two teams this season. They lost by three points to Dayton, the Baylor of mid-majors, a team that hardly lost all season and was a borderline top ten nationally team at times this year. They also lost to Central Michigan, once in conference, and then in the conference tournament, much like UConn and nemesis Notre Dame.

The difference is, playing in the MAC, and unable to get BCS level schools to come to Toledo to play, or even willing to play them at all, Toledo was mired with an overall strength of schedule below 200, and that doomed them in the committee’s eyes.

It is an unfortunate fact of women’s basketball that there is almost no incentive for a BCS school to schedule a road game against a top mid-major. Lower schools in many mid-major conferences won’t commit the resources necessary to make their teams succeed. As a result, their lack of success lowers the overall conference strength of schedule. However, those that do have teams capable of beating many BCS schools are high-risk matchups for the BCS programs. Furthermore, there is no NCAA “punishment” for a weak out-of-conference schedule, and there is no balance in terms of home and away requirements.

Until these are adjusted or legislated, the mid-major bubble teams may continue to face the uphill battle Toledo faced this season.

On a special podcast for you, Fernandez and Cullop discuss life on the bubble, and what the selection committee decisions meant to their programs.

You can hear the excitement and joy in Fernandez, and you can hear the disappointment but resignation in the voice of Cullop.

Both have post-season dates this week; just in different tournaments.

Enjoy the podcast!

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