One well-timed win is all you really need

Florida State and Texas A&M chose a good time to upset two of the nation's top teams. Though Wednesday's triumphs over No. 1 Duke and No. 7 Texas were the first quality wins for both teams this season, it should still be enough to get them into the Big Dance, writes Doug Gottlieb.

Originally Published: March 1, 2006
By Doug Gottlieb | Special to ESPN.com

While it's easy to say Florida State and Texas A&M are in the NCAA Tournament based on their home wins over No. 1 Duke and No. 7 Texas, respectively, the truth is that these wins also highlight the disparity between high-major and mid-major basketball.

Texas A&M only played one true nonconference road game (and lost at Pacific) and FSU only played two (a win at 1-27 Jacksonville and a loss at Florida). Now consider Hofstra, which also played a light nonconference schedule (with a loss at Notre Dame and a win at St. John's). All three of these teams in the last week have beaten their conference leader at home, and yet Hofstra (22-5, 14-4 in the Colonial) is on the wrong side of the bubble and Texas A&M and FSU are probably one decent conference road win away from clinching bids. Don't ever let anyone tell you that the RPI or the SOS or any other formula evens out the opportunities for mid-majors vs. high-majors. Both Florida State and Texas A&M now have exactly one great win on their résumés, yet when those games finished Wednesday night, there was no one in either arena arguing that the home team should be left out of the Dance.

What's puzzling about Florida State is not that the 'Noles beat Duke. It's how they haven't beaten anyone else with all their talent. Al Thornton and Alexander Johnson both seem to have "star" written on their chests, so tell me again how they lost to Clemson and Virginia Tech? While I wrote earlier Wednesday that this win vs. Duke would put them on the right side of the bubble, the Seminoles' work still is not finished since they are at in-state "rival" Miami on Saturday. A win over the fading Hurricanes should be enough to get them into the NCAAs, as the human factor, no matter what the selection committee contends, says that the last time the committee sees you will make the strongest impression.

It should also be noted, in my personal opinion, that Duke was homered in much the same way opposing teams claim they get treated when they come to Cameron. I was embarrassed for Florida State to have to win that way. The 'Noles shot 40 free throws compared to Duke's 17. While it's easy to get on the Blue Devils when the free throw disparity goes in their favor, anyone who watched the Seminoles parade repeatedly to the line in the second half had to be wondering why, every time a Dookie even came close to brushing a Seminole, the whistle sounded. It's still a great win, but Duke was homered.

Texas A&M is in a similar predicament as FSU. The Aggies need only to beat struggling Texas Tech on the road in order to put themselves in the prime position that Colorado formerly occupied as the fourth Big 12 team in the NCAA field. If both Colorado and A&M win their final regular-season games, the two could very well match up in the Big 12 quarterfinals in what could very well be an elimination game -- assuming Colorado gets past its opening-round game. In a weird twist of fate, the Buffs could face Missouri, a team that is now being coached by former A&M head coach Melvin Watkins. Have no fear, though, Buffs fans. Coach Watkins is 1-23 in his last 24 Big 12 games. It's also worth noting that Texas A&M has never won a conference tournament game since joining the Big 12.

Even with Wednesday night's loss, I still think Duke is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. We have to pay homage to the Blue Devils' overall résumé, which includes a neutral court win over Memphis, a neutral court blowout of Texas and a thorough domination of the ACC. Let's not forget that UConn was blown out by Marquette, that 'Nova was beaten at home by West Virginia and that Texas was recently blown out at Oklahoma State.

As for Texas, it still has hope for a No. 1 seed considering the 'Horns beat Memphis at Memphis. UConn likely will meet Villanova again and has to fight boredom most nights out (witness Wednesday's performance at South Florida). And Villanova still has Syracuse on the road on Senior Night, to be followed by the Big East Tournament.

In the end, Wednesday's losses are unlikely to derail the Devils and 'Horns as they continue in their quest for a conference -- and national -- title. But for the Aggies and 'Noles, who were in danger of being on the outside looking in at the NCAA Selection Show, Wednesday's wins might have saved their seasons.

Doug Gottlieb, an analyst for ESPN and the co-host of "GameNight" for ESPN Radio, played point guard at Notre Dame (1995-96) and Oklahoma State (1997-2000).

ALSO SEE