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Mid-Major Whining

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There are always teams that get snubbed.

If you watched ESPN last night you had Dick Vitale and Doug Gottlieb fighting hard for the mid-majors, paritcularly St. Mary's and decrying the inclusion of questionable power conference teams.  The blog A March to Madness picks up on this theme saying the end of SEC Commissioner Mike Slive's charimanship of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee means we can get back to letting more mid-majors in which apparently happened less and less under the reign of the SEC Commissioner:

"It’s embarrassing. Beyond embarrassing," writes Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News, who says Slive's term as chairman can't end soon enough.

Mid-majors are often the main reason to watch early rounds of the tournament. Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News writes: "Before Mario Chalmers' big shot for Kansas last season, the highlight of the NCAA tournament was Stephen Curry almost getting Davidson to the Final Four.

"Think back. Bryce Drew? Mid-major. Bucknell over Kansas? Mid-major. George Mason? Mid-major."

Yes, it's the old boy's club with the keys to the country club, refusing to schedule road games against non-BCS opponents and playing only amongst themselves to keep out the undesirables. The system is rigged.

No, the BCS is rigged. In the BCS you see teams that could legitimately win the national title sent to the Sponsor X Bowl because the computer and the voters decided two other teams were better.  The NCAA process does not do that to legitimate title contending teams.  Is there some level of prejudice involved between a power school and a mid-major in the committee room? Sure, these guys are human.  In my opinion Arizona should not be in the tournament and Creighton should be.  Maybe the fact Arizona had a 24 season NCAA Tournament appearance streak on the line tipped the scales.  Maybe not.  The point is Creighton is not going to win the national title.  Creighton might make the Sweet Sixteen and it would be a nice story but I do not think the committee should be picking mid-majors for the tournament just for the sake of doing so.  The committee should not select Davidson just because Stephen Curry is a draw.  It does not work like that. Besides that you are talking about teams in the lower end of the overall bracket whose impact will be minimal.  Every mid-major is not going to be George Mason or Davidson so letting more in expecting they will be seems a little asinine.

Also, I profoundly disagree with the notion that people watch the early rounds because of the mid-majors. Perhaps you get an uptick in the 2nd weekend if Davidson or George Mason has made it that far.  I agree that major upsets are a part of the charm.  The emotion and intensity of watching college basketball players see their season either extended or snuffed out in a moment's notice is probably a bigger part of it.  Besides that, the automatic bids put plenty of mid and low major teams in the tournament who then provide the more noteworthy upsets in most cases.  When you have some team no one has ever heard of or has not seen an NCAA logo on the court in 15 years knock off a 3 or 4 seed you have what makes March Madness great. The inclusion or exclusion of a handful of mid-major schools is not going to change that.

And spare me the populist notion of it being a country club where the common man is shut out.  These teams actually have a means of getting into the NCAA Tournament and that is winning their conference tournament.  That is another stark difference from the BCS, in basketball you are afforded every opportunity to get it done on the court.  If you fail in that and the committee leaves you home then that is the way the cookie crumbles. The same is true with the scheduling complaint.  Mid-major schools whine that so and so big school will not play them or insist they play at home or on a neutral court but said mid-major still has to win the game.  Davidson is one example this season of a team they played plenty of big schools but they only won one of them.  The same notion applies here as does the conference tournament.  Win the games you need to win and getting into the NCAA Tournament is not an issue, just ask Maryland.

So if I am coming off a little harsh to the mid-majors' plight it is because I think there is a notion out there that mid-majors should be given special treatment. It is almost like the selection committee is supposed to enforce a mid-major quota and put X number of them in just to make sure the tournament has some nice stories or because if they get hot then it will be fun to watch.  I just cannot get on board with that.  Dean Smith had many a UNC team miss the NCA Tournament because they could not win the ACC Championship.  Maryland in 1974 was easily a title contender and the loss to NC State did their NCAA hopes in.  The system we have now allows the best teams in.  Yes, you will have snubs but I have never reached the end of an NCAA Tournament and thought: "Wow, the tournament was okay but had St. Mary's or SW Missouri State been in it, we would have really had fun!"

In the end, the tournament each season is memorable because the teams who did make it, do noteworthy things.  It does not matter who they are.

Update:

Here is the debate last night on ESPN where Jay Bilas and Digger Phelps bascially tell Dick Vitale he is full of crap for his passionate advocacy of St. Mary's over Arizona.  As I said AZ should not have made it but Vitale is out their screaming about how unfair it is that 26 win teams are getting excluded.  Boo freaking hoo.  26 wins with a SOS of 150 is not as impressive as it looks.  Creighton's SOS was a little better at 111 and probably merited more consideration than St. Mary's.  Why was Vitale so high on St. Mary's? Stephen Curry Syndrome.  The Gaels start player Patrick Mills is considered NBA material and folks wanted to see if he could duplicate Curry's run last season.  Not a good enough reason still.