So its the Monday after selection Sunday, and people all over the country are upset at the "snubbing" of a few teams, while other "less deserving" teams made the cut. Plenty of ESPN analysts are practically calling for the heads of the NCAA tournament selection committee after they made selections that were apparently not approved by the media giant. There are plenty of questions out there after seeing the 2011 bracket, but the biggest has been why UAB and VCU are in, while Colorado and Virginia Tech are out? But is there a real case here, or just more of the major conference bias?
If you ask me, this is nothing more than a bias. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas actually went as far as to say that UAB accomplished nothing this season. Now, I didn't play basketball for DUKE, and I surely don't have a law degree, but last time I checked finishing 1st in the 8th best conference in the land is certainly accomplishing something. Winning 10 games versus the top 100 is certainly accomplishing something. But, I guess, finishing 1st in one of the best mid-major conferences is trumped by finishing 6th in a major conference. I guess going 1-4 versus the top 50, and 10-7 versus the top 100 is nowhere near as good as 2-5 vs the top 50 and 8-8 vs the top 100.
This year, major conference teams accounted for 30 of the total 37 at large bids, and yet everyone is crying foul that these two mid-majors made the cut. We might as well just drop all mid-majors from the NCAA tournament, and keep it strictly to major conference teams. Better yet, why don't we just crown the Big East tourney champion as the NCAA champ. I mean the Big East has the best teams and always wins the NCAA tournament anyway right? And, it's not like mid-majors ever make any runs in the tournament. Oh wait, over the last 6 years, two mid-majors have come within a bucket of winning the national championship, and another made the final four, while the Big East has put how many teams into the title game? Don't worry I'll wait.....0.
Of the seven at large bids that went to mid-majors, 4 of them have been consistently in the top 25, with the other three being UNLV, UAB, and VCU. UNLV is no doubt deserving with wins over Wisconsin, Kansas State, and Virginia Tech. UAB is no doubt deserving as the C-USA regular season champ, with 10 top 100 wins. VCU who may be the least "deserving" of the three still has wins over UCLA (43) on a neutral court, ODU (21) on the road, and George Mason (26) on a neutral court. No matter what, it comes down to what the committee thinks. Cases could be made for or against ANY bubble teams, but the ones with the say so make the decisions, and they obviously felt these teams were better than Colorado, VT, or Alabama. Deal with it.
Now for those that don't buy the big guy, little guy bias, just check out the field of the NIT, which ESPN undoubtedly has complete control over. Take for instance Miami (FL). The Hurricanes finished the season at 19-14, 6-10 in conference, 1-5 versus the top 50, and 5-11 vs the top 100. That's a two seed there. How about Northwestern? The Wildcats finished 17-13, 7-11 in conference. They went 1-11 versus the top 50, and 5-13 vs the top 100. That's worthy of a four seed.
Now let's take a look at the 8th best conference who only got two teams into the big dance. UTEP, who finished tied for second, and nearly won the conference tournament, gets a 5 seed. That's it. Only three teams from the 8th best conference in the land are deserving of a bid to the NCAA or NIT.
Now I can't really argue against the selections of the NCAA. I knew that Conference USA would get two bids, and I also knew that there was no way the committee could justify taking UTEP over UAB, even if the Miners were more deserving. But the NIT, wow. Well actually ESPN, wow. You think it's a little obvious that ESPN is upset over the controversy with C-USA bolting for FoxSports?? Tulsa, who finished tied for second in C-USA was 3-2 versus the top 50, and 6-8 versus the top 100, but I guess those 1-5 and 1-11 records were that much better than that. Marshall finished 2-4 versus top 50, and 7-8 versus the top 100, including a win over West Virginia, and an RPI in the 50s, but that wasn't good enough either. Only four teams that finished in the top 70 RPI were held out of the both the NCAA and NIT tournament, and three of those four teams are from Conference USA.
Conference USA teams Marshall, UCF, and SMU all accepted bids to play in either the CIT or CBI, while Southern Miss and Tulsa both declined invites to those tourneys. I can't say I blame them. All respect to those tournaments, but Marshall, Southern Miss, and Tulsa are definitely top 100 teams. They were robbed. It's just a shame that such quality teams fall victim to the politics of college athletics. More than that, that a media outlet has the power to serve such an injustice to not only these schools, but the players that have worked so hard all season, and for years at that. It's a shame.
The burden of proof is now placed on teams like Memphis, UAB, and UTEP. These teams will have their shot to pick up some quality wins, and they need to take advantage of it. Early exits by these teams will allow for more of the same in years to come. We've come a long way as a conference, and we've produced some high quality programs, but if we want to gain the respect we deserve, we've got to win these games, the ones that actually matter.
NOTE TO MEMPHIS, UAB, AND UTEP: You all have a great opportunity to be the representation for a conference that has been greatly disrespected. Go out prepared to play, and show these guys just how good we are...I got to talk to Will Barton for a second after the championship game, and I told him exactly that. Hopefully it translates into good play, and wins.