College Basketball Bubble Watch

Updated: February 9, 2016, 10:33 AM ET
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com


Louisville's ban is good news for bubble teams

Whoa, whoa, whoa. This must be bad.

That was the reaction that immediately snapped through the synapses Friday afternoon, when Louisville, in a hastily assembled news conference, announced that it would self-impose a postseason ban effective this season.

As ESPN's Dana O'Neil so artfully summarized in the wake of the news, Louisville's decision was essentially unprecedented. Syracuse had its hearings. Syracuse had a team headed to the NIT. Louisville had nothing more than informal updates from the NCAA and its own investigation -- not even a (known) notice of allegations. It had a team with Final Four potential.

It also has Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, two graduate seniors who transferred to Louisville with the expressed intent of making their first appearances in the NCAA tournament, now stripped of that chance, for reasons beyond their control, with a month left in their careers.

Louisville was prostrate before the court, preemptively pleading for mercy, despite it all. Yeah: This was bad.

Then, eventually, came a second thought: Every bubble team must be stoked.

The Cardinals were nowhere near the bubble, of course; they were already a single-digit seed with most of their marquee opportunities in front of them. They were a tournament team, however, a wooden block piece in the great Jenga bracket stack, and their sudden departure from eligibility shifts everyone below them up one place and offers yet another at-large spot to a hungry bubble field.

SMU's own postseason ban, handed down in September, has kept the 20-2 Mustangs' position open all season. Compared to Louisville's circumstances, SMU's academic missteps seems like child's play. Yet both bans will mean the same thing on Selection Sunday, when the last two at-large teams in the tournament will know whom to thank.