The NCAA Tournament Is A ‘Members Only’ Club
If you're not a member of the elite conferences in college basketball, you might as well not even play the regular season. That's apparently what the NCAA wants.
Don't believe me? Of the over 50 at large bids handed out in the NCAA Tournament AND the NIT, only five of them were given to "mid-major" conferences. While teams like St. Bonaventure, Monmouth and Valparaiso were left on the outside, major conferences ushered seven teams into the tournament like businesses buying Super Bowl tickets. Is it fair? The answer has to be no.
The Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and ACC all got seven teams into the tournament. If you add in the Atlantic Ten, Big East and American Conferences (acknowledged powers), the pickings get even slimmer.
The highest seeded team outside of the power conferences in basketball is Gonzaga, and they're the #11 seed in the Midwest. All they had to do to earn that respect was punch their ticket to the big dance 18 straight years. If Gonzaga has to shout from the mountaintops to be heard, how many teams scream in silence?
Ragin' Cajuns Head Coach Bob Marlin wasn't enamored with the selection committee's decision making process.
"I'm disappointed. Why play the regular season if it doesn't matter?" Marlin went out of his way to say at his press conference. He added, "I thought the ACC Tournament was last week."
Can you blame him for his response? It certainly looks like there's a velvet rope keeping the "little guy" out of the big dance.
How does a team like Monmouth get left out of the tournament? They won 13 straight road games, and they scheduled (and beat) teams like UCLA, Georgetown, USC and Notre Dame. It's almost impossible to plot out a course before the season better than they did. Is it Monmouth's fault that UCLA and Georgetown didn't live up to their typical high standard? No. Did they pick up victories over tournament teams? Yes. Looking at it blankly, it's purely unfair.
Marlin is all for equal opportunity. The problem is, the worse teams in the larger conferences are getting the nod over grinders on a smaller stage. That's why he said he would prefer only taking the top four teams from a conference. If you're below the cut, tough luck.
"I think you should be rewarded for a good season, and teams that are from different conferences that have great records should be rewarded as well," Marlin said.
For reference, Marlin brought up Little Rock. They're the Cajuns' conference mate, and they just so happen to be tied for the best record in the entire country.
How does a team that only lost four games all season get stuck with a 12 seed? Does the RPI not matter at all, like the coaches were led to believe? Chris Beard scheduled an impressive schedule in the Sun Belt Conference, and his team navigated it beautifully. If they didn't win the tournament, would they be in? Marlin thought not.
Don't believe his logic? Just look what happened to St. Mary's and St. Bonaventure. St. Mary's was the regular season champion in the WAC, and they defeated Gonzaga (#11 seed) twice. Some conferences are looking into sending their regular season champion instead of their tournament winner, but it feels like the rich are robbing the poor at gunpoint.
Here's the biggest shame: the teams from smaller conference's are going to be forced into the shadows as soon as the first round starts.
You know it's true. Once the games tip off, the March Madness will suck you up. Cinderella stories are beautiful, but less of them get told every year. Maybe we shouldn't be surprised if a highly seeded team makes a run through the tournament. Stop and think about it.
What if you were part of something special, but everyone around the country doubted you? You set school records, paid your dues and led your team into the promised land, defying all the odds. Now that you're in the NCAA Tournament, you're asked to enter the gladiator's arena at a disadvantage.
Your opponent has nicer weaponry, more expensive facilities to prepare in and a spoiled crowd cheering them on. You're part of a hungry outfit. Your stomach rumbles for respect, along with your roommates that share ramen noodle suppers. Some of the people you face are promised futures, full of riches and fame. All you have is today.
Expect upsets this year. It's what the NCAA asked for, if they realized it or not.