Watch out for bid thieves

Updated: February 27, 2012, 12:17 PM ET
By Joe Lunardi

They are the bane of bubble teams everywhere. They lurk in the shadows of Championship Week, ready to scuttle your most ambitious plans. And they are unpredictable.

They are the notorious "bid thieves," and they are ready to pounce again in 2012.

Don't believe me? Consider this:

• In the past decade, 21 teams have emerged to win automatic NCAA tournament bids while bumping a more highly regarded member of their own conference into the at-large pool.

• That means, on average, the annual pretournament "bubble" is really two spots smaller (2.1, actually) than we think. And it's been that way for at least 10 straight years.

"Bid thieves" take two forms. Most think of the mid-major conference tournaments in which a team down in the standings gets hot and steals the automatic bid. While this does happen, it requires said conference to have a team at the top of the standings good enough to be selected at-large regardless of its conference tourney performance (e.g., Murray State this season).

Even more common is the upset winner of a multibid league's conference tournament. These teams typically don't emerge until late in Championship Week, sometimes on Selection Sunday itself, and suddenly an at-large or two vanishes into thin air without ever knowing it had been voted -- albeit temporarily -- into the NCAA field.

My record of 21 "bid thieves" includes these memorable examples: