Pardon the geekery, but you're used to it by now, right? Anyways, there's a line in Lord of the Rings where the dour-faced gentleman above tells our heroes "Do not look to hope." Auburn fans: Do not look to hope. Kyle Whelliston is, as always, addressing the fans of bubblicious mid-majors when he writes the following, but I think it's good advice for fans of any team on pins and needles as Selection Sunday approaches:
There is pain like this every year, the same desperate grasp for any good news, any at all, and we pass along the same advice to Davidson and Saint Mary's and Creighton as we always have to teams that are counting on external events. Forget it, you're out. If salvation comes in the form of an NCAA reprieve, the distance between apathy and ecstasy is greater than that which separates tension and pleasure. Allow yourself the opportunity to feel the rush of being born again, and if it doesn't come at all, the hurt won't hurt as badly. For now, let it go. It's over... unless it isn't.Sure, Auburn might get an a-large bid. But there's no way to guarantee it, no way for them to become a "lock" given the events across the country yesterday. Hope? Sure. But don't expect.
Stock arrow: Neutral. The win over Florida was huge and Auburn has moved up to being one of the first one or two teams out of the field ... but the field is shrinking rapidly.
Good news: Well, the Florida win for one. More on that later. But the South Carolina loss was pretty sweet as well--with more top 50 wins than either the Gators or 'Cocks and a massive advantage in the "last 12" department, Auburn now appears to be a clear third in the SEC pecking order. I'm not sure how much that's worth--I don't believe the Committee uses conference quotas--but it's worth something.
Elsewhere, Va. Tech is toast and Utah St. stayed alive in the WAC. Penn St.'s ugly loss to Purdue might open the window a smidge for Auburn to catch the Nittany Lions--at 6-9 top 50, 7-10 top 100, with even less in nonconference play than Auburn has and only a 6-6 last 12 record, I don't think the gap will be very wide (if even in existence) if Auburn beats Tennessee.
Bad news: Where to start? The biggest body blow came in the A-10, where, as expected, the auto-bid will go to someone who is neither Xavier nor Dayton. The cut-off line moves up another spot, the ladder another step longer for Auburn.
Maryland and San Diego St. aren't safe--the Aztecs in particular, I think--but they're on the right side of the bubble for now after downing Wake Forest and BYU, respectively. You had to think some of these bubble teams would start claiming wins like these eventually.
Perhaps most worrying is that so many leagues could follow the A-10's lead and hand their automatic slot to bid thieves today. Tulsa, Baylor, USC, Nevada ... these teams are Auburn's mortal enemies today. And it's hard for me to think they won't go at least .500.
What they're saying: As of this a.m., Lunardi has Auburn as the third-to-last team out, though at one point yesterday he did say whoever won the Florida game would have a chance to play their way in vs. Tennessee. B101 has Auburn in their last four out, as does Bracketography.
Where we stand: Only four bubble slots left. The JCCW breaks it down like so:
3. Penn St.
4. San Diego St.
???????. St. Mary's
I don't think Auburn's really in competition with USC: if the Trojans lose to Arizona St. today, they're 4-9 against the top 50 with two sub-100 losses and only 5-7 in their last 12. They'll fall behind Auburn assuming the Tigers beat Tennessee. If they beat ASU, they've got an automatic bid.
So what happens if Auburn wins/loses today? If they lose to Tennessee, that's it. It's over. No way they get in.
If they win, I could see them moving past Arizona, I guess, into that last spot outside the field. But I'm not sure that would be enough to jump past anyone else, and that's assuming the cut-off doesn't move--and the odds are it will. Nothing has changed--if Auburn really wants to go to the NCAA Tournament, they have to win the SEC's automatic bid.