THE THING about life on the NCAA bubble is that it inevitably will burst.

The issue is whether it will be an explosion of jubilant exhilaration when your name is called or a deep sigh of disappointment if your name is ignored.

At Temple yesterday, the reactions were expressed in a few muffled expletives heard through a partition separating the basketball players and staff from the media.

There were groans each time an at-large team received a bid as an 11 or 12 seed, the range in which Temple was hoping to slip in.

And when the final pairing - a first-round play-in game between 11th-seeded Brigham Young and 11th-seeded Mississippi - was announced, the noise through the wall explained everything about what the Owls felt.

"It is disappointment," said Temple senior captain Will Cummings. "You work so hard all year. You put together runs during the year. Then to not hear your name called is disappointing.

"You think you have a good enough resume, better than some teams that are in the tournament. It was disappointment and a feeling of a lack of respect. That was the vibe with us."

Of course, Temple has a legitimate gripe.

The Owls are 23-10, finished third in the American Athletic Conference, played a schedule that included Duke and Villanova, which both received No. 1 seeds in the tournament, and beat Kansas, which received a No. 2 seed.

But, honestly, is Temple's argument any better than that of Colorado State, the team with the highest Ratings Percentage Index (29) to get snubbed; or Tulsa, which actually finished second in the AAC, ahead of the Owls?

That's life on the bubble on Selection Sunday, and your rooting interest determines if the committee got it right or wrong.

For fans of Temple, Colorado State and Tulsa, something stinks to college-basketball high heaven.

For fans of questionable selections like Brigham Young, UCLA, Texas and Iowa, the committee exercised impeccable insight and understanding.

"As you look at it, we're probably one win short," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy, who likely took no consolation from the fact that selection committee chairman Scott Barnes confirmed that the Owls were the last team left out. "There were probably a number of wins along the way that we could have gotten that would have us where we wanted to go.

"We talk at practice every day about, 'Don't take any possessions off.' That's the fragile nature of winning college basketball games. It's of the minuscule variety - a made shot for them, a missed shot for you, or vice versa.

"The magic of March Madness is just that. It's college basketball, and we got on the short end of that stick."

There is only one guaranteed way to receive one of the 68 invitations to the NCAA Tournament: win your conference's automatic bid.

Temple did not do that, losing to Southern Methodist University for a third time this season in the semifinals of the AAC Tournament on Saturday.

The Owls put themselves in the ultimate basketball crapshoot by being among the 319 remaining Division I schools vying for the 36 at-large bids to be extended at the whim of the tournament selection committee.

After that, there are around 30 teams everyone knows will get an at-large. Then there is everyone else vying for those precious handful of swing bids that will come down to the selection committee.

Why UCLA, whose only quality win - over Utah - does not compare to Temple beating Kansas by 25 points?

"We felt [UCLA was] gaining steam," Barnes said, whatever that means. "They were playing better against tough competition."

Losing, but "playing better."

If the AAC thought it suffered from a lack of respect when SMU was left out of last year's field, how does a league that featured reigning NCAA champion Connecticut feel about getting just one at-large bid?

And if you're Temple, how do you feel about that team being Cincinnati - a squad with which you split during the regular season, that didn't advance as far as you did in the conference tournament, and is three places lower in the RPI?

In the end, it doesn't really matter because the field is set and certain teams that probably don't deserve a chance to take a shot at a NCAA title will get one and teams - including Temple - that probably did deserve that opportunity, won't.

"What good does that do you?" Dunphy said of questioning the decisions of the committee. "You're in a situation where you can only control what you can control, and for us, if we could have had one more win, then we would be dancing. We didn't get it.

"There is nothing you can do. There is nothing you can say. I should go to the committee and say what? You should have included Temple? Well, they didn't.

"We're disappointed, but if this is the most disappointed our guys will be in their lifetimes, then they will have really good lives."

Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

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