Monday, March 14, 2011

Mid-Majors: Hello? Where are our bids?

While St. Mary's pointedly does not include the "students" birthdays on their roster page - probably because they carry five players that make a mockery of amateurism rules, meaning they carry 21 year old "freshmen" and "sophomores" like G Matthew Dellavedova (Australia) and F Eividas Petrulis (Lithuania) - folks around the Moraga, California campus have to be wondering what happened.

Somehow, the Gaels are preparing for an NIT bid, while USC - whose 17-13 resume includes a 20-point loss to Rider - yes, those Rider Broncos - is going to be playing on Wednesday in an NCAA Tournament Play-In game.

It makes me laugh while people like Jay Bilas are moaning about the plight of poor, poor Virginia Tech and Colorado being "snubbed" from NCAA tournament bids that - once again - the big conferences seemed to get the benefit of the doubt a lot more in terms of number of teams and - especially - seeding. (more)

While the question is open whether the Gaels are being punished for their practice of touring the world to find 21 year olds with four years of eligibility, and the media cries that the sixth-place teams in the ACC and the Big XII "wuz robbed", a larger issue is being overlooked.

The CAA made history with their three bids to the tournament this year. But the committee did them no favors with their seedings. Their regular-season champion, Old Dominion, will face off against everyone's biggest Bracket Buster last year, Butler, in the first round. (My favorite Hofstra blogger calls it "mid-on-mid" crime when two great mid-majors face off in the first round, and the NCAA kept this sad tradition alive with this bracket.)

Virginia Commonwealth, will get to play USC on Wednesday for the opportunity to play Georgetown.  George Mason, the CAA's first and only Final Four team?  They're rewarded by getting the opportunity to play reeling Villanova... but will then get the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the country, Ohio State, for their troubles.

While the media moans about Colorado's and Virginia Tech "snubs", the folks who are talking trash about Virginia Commonweath had better get ready to eat some crow.  The Rams could have the easiest path the the sweet 16 than either the Monarchs or the Patriots.  And that's even with an extra game.

In fact, Villanova's 9 seed isn't the only head-scratcher in the seeding.  Penn State as a No. 10 seed?  Nice run in their postseason tournament, and they might get past perennial NCAA Tournament choker Temple, but they're no threat to make the Sweet 16 either.  Michigan State a No. 10?  Michigan a No. 8?  I wouldn't be surprised if folks in Cape Girardeau, Missouri thought there must have been some mistake.  Certainly that had to be Missouri State - who was 25-8, and finished their regular-season on top of the brutal Missouri Valley Conference - was in the tournament, and not the 19-14 Spartans with a 20 point loss to Iowa on their resume?

Lest anyone think I'm only picking on the Big Ten, there are plenty of other head-scratchers I see.  Marquette a No. 11?  The Golden Hurricane has a great team nickname and play in a great conference, but I don't see how a team that loses three of its last five to Seton Hall, Cincinnati and Louisville deserve to make it in - not to mention they finished 12th in the Big East.  (They somehow avoided a play-in game?)

Georgia a No. 10 seed?  I don't know if losing to Alabama twice in their last three games was held against them at all, but I certainly hold a lot against them for doing so.  Or perhaps it was that two-point squeaker against 13-19 Mississippi Valley State that swayed the committee, I'm not sure.

To me, there was plenty of the status quo going on in terms of smaller schools - St. Mary's, Missouri State, Wichita State, Cleveland State, Valparaiso - getting snubbed for some truly atrocious "big conference" schools such as Georgia, Marquette, Michigan State, USC and Villanova.

And what nobody's talking about is while the "non-power" conferences have supposedly gotten such a great deal this year, the highest non-power conference seed was a six seed - that went to Xavier, a team that didn't even win the Atlantic Ten tournament.  Even last year's non-power conference finalist - who did win their conference tournament - only was an 8 seed.

It's as if the NCAA Tournament committee - while patting themselves on the back for their Duke/Butler final last year, and commending themselves on opening up a third bid for the CAA - then turned around and made the shot of a future Butler running towards a championship this year much, much harder than in years past.

The fact is more mid-majors will face more No. 1 and No. 2 seeds earlier - on two day's rest.  That will mean fewer teams in the Sweet 16 - if any.

Of all the mid-majors routes to the Sweet 16, Xavier's is the easiest - and they're not even the best mid-major team in the field.  That alone should prove something is wrong - but when there are five easy small-conference snubs can be rattled off with ease that are not playing in the NCAA tournament, it's not just that something is wrong - something is broken.

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