LSU probably made the tournament yesterday by sitting at home and watching other teams lose. Hey, making the tournament is a zero sum game: there's a finite number of spots and you don't just need to play well, you need other teams vying for those same slots to lose.
Though it does seem this year was worse than most for bubble teams in the conference tournaments. In the SEC tournament alone, a few teams showed up really needing to apply some shine to their resume, and promptly lost to lower-seeded teams.*
* This is where we link to Ole Miss' epic faceplant last night. Look, I mainly just feel bad for the Aggies, who came down with the #SECBasketballFever at the worst possible time, but watching Ole Miss foul a guy taking a desperation heave while protecting a one point lead with less than a second to play... well, that's the sort of thing that makes life worth living.
Which leads us to the major problem with the bubble: the teams on the bubble aren't very good because there's just too damn many of them. The expansion to 68 teams ruined the perfect symmetry of the bracket and gives us the absurdity of the NCAA insisting that Thursday and Friday is the second round, not the first round.
Even with this expansion of the field, the committee likely can't find space for Murray State, a team which went undefeated in their conference during the regular season and currently sits at #63 in the RPI, just one spot behind Miami, seven behind Indiana, eight behind Ole Miss, and, of course, one ahead of Texas A&M.
Really, the first round belongs to the mid-majors. That's what makes the tourney, The Tourney, all of those big name schools getting shocked by the little guys. Do we really need a bunch of mediocre major conference teams with no shot at winning the title, when instead we can add a small school which, admittedly, also has not shot at winning a title, but much more of a shot at doing something memorable.
Look, I get it. Murray St has virtually no quality wins, and they lost their few matchups with deserving tournament teams. They aren't getting in, and objectively, they probably shouldn't. My point is, what's the point of expanding the field, ruining the sanctity of the bracket, just to cram in more mediocre major conference teams winding down a forgettable season?
Get rid of the First Four. And when in doubt, let the mid-major in. Bubble teams making the field isn't really about contending for the national title, as all of the legitimate national title teams are on the first three seed lines. The rest of the field is just there for inclusiveness and a bang-up good time.
For LSU, the real reward is making the field, which they will likely do even without the play-in games. Now, the Tigers might get hot and make a Sweet Sixteen run, and that would be a whole heck of a lot of fun, but LSU making the field has nothing to do with deserving a title shot. We all know that LSU is nowhere near the best team in basketball. Heck, LSU is nowhere near the top ten.
Still, a bid is a cool thing, and it holds out the possibility of two good games wiping out an entire season of inconsistency. It's a shame that the NCAA insists on devaluing the bid itself. There's no need to keep lowering the bar for the accomplishment of making the tournament. Some teams are going to miss it, and that's okay.
Particularly when one of the teams missing it is Ole Miss.