Watching Billy Packer and Jim Natz caustically dismiss the NCAA Tournament selection committee chair Craig Littlepage last night, would be like watching someone chastise David for using a sling in his bout with Goliath. Packer and Natz seemed to be upset that David was getting a fair shake: "Take your mid-major Cinderellas and go home, we want mediocre, underachieving Goliaths from the power conferences."
The CBS announcing duo seemed content to badger Littlepage on why so many mid-majors got invited to the Big Dance. On the surface, their arguments seem to carry some weight.
1) Is the ACC and MVC really of equal strength? The committee must think so since both sent four teams.
2) Looking at averages the power conferences always do better than the mid-majors. The Sweet Sixteen, while home to an occassional Cinderella, is the permanent dwelling of the major conference powers.
But any idiot can see that the conference didn’t view the ACC and MVC equally. Duke was the overall number one seed. UNC was a three, BC a four, NC State a 10. Meanwhile Wichita State is a 7, Northern Iowa a 10, Southern Illinois a 11 and Bradley a 13. That gives the ACC an average seed of 4.5, while the MVC has a 10.25 average. Clearly they were not considered equal. The only message was that the third and fourth team from the MVC were better than the fifth and sixth teams from the ACC.
As to the history of conferences and teams, Packer kept saying over and over again how the committee has to consider five year trends of where teams and conferences end up in the tournament. Um…no they don’t. They are supposed to consider what that team has done this season and nothing else. That has to be the most idiotic thing Billy Packer has ever said and he has said a lot of idiotic things (remember the diss of Saint Joseph’s?). If North Carolina had went 10-20, should they get a free pass because of their "five-year trend?"
Besides that, the numbers would be skewed in favor of the power conferences who play weaker opponents in the opening rounds. The mid-majors have to pull off major upsets to advance. Of course this year will be the same, more major conference schools will populate the later rounds, but that doesn’t mean less mid-major schools should have gotten in. The same major schools will probably be at the end, regardless of whether they beat the best of the mid-majors or the middlings of the majors.
Look at the teams with the biggest possible gripes against being left-out. Four are from major conferences, while three are mid-major teams. All of the major teams have stumbled down the stretch, losing early in their conference tournament. Each team held their own destiny and lost when they needed a win the most.
Florida St. only had one quality win – at home versus a stumbling Duke. They followed that up with a choke job against the lowest seed in the ACC tournament, Wake Forest.
Michigan played like an NIT worthy team at the end of the season, losing seven of their last nine.
Maryland hasn’t played like a NCAA tournament team since the middle of the season, losing every meaningful game.
Cincinnati probably has the biggest complaint, but all they had to do was beat Syracuse and they were in.
The mid-majors were essentially fighting among themselves for the scraps. Two MVC teams were on the outside looking in, as was one of the three CAA teams fighitng for a bid.
Creighton probably can’t complain too much. They were behind every other MVC team in the computer rankings and lost in the quarterfinals of the tournament.
Hofstra beat George Mason twice in the last 10 days. GM got in, Hofstra was left out. Go figure.
Missouri State had 20 wins, tied for second in the MVC and had a high RPI ranting – not enough for the committee. They have the highest RPI of any team ever left out of the tournament.
Of those that sneaked in, some were from the mid-majors (Utah State, Air Force and George Mason), but I’m sure that several major conference schools (NC State, Seton Hall, Alabama and Texas A&M) were sweating out Sunday night, not sure if they had done enough to make it.
Who in their right minds advocates bringing in more collections of underachieving pampered individual athletes from the power conference schools at the exclusion of overachieving teams filled with players high on talent but low on recognition?
The biggest snub of the night was a difference between a mid-major and a major conference team, but it wasn’t about who got in. The committee decided that a struggling Tennessee, losers of three of their last four, was deserving of a number two seed over Gonzaga, holder of the longest winning streak in the nation.
The more things change the more they stay the same – mid-majors get no respect and when a few extra sneak into the dance, CBS’ attack dogs cheerlead for Goliath, after all he has a lot more alumni and fans that watch games than David does. Florida State brings in a bigger cash flow than Utah State. That’s what matters isn’t it – at least it is to Packer and Natz.