The NCAA Tournament will always be a fantastic event so long as gambling remains legal in Las Vegas and ignored in every other state.
Don’t believe me…well, how much you want to bet?
College basketball is still the best three-week sport in America but doesn’t have much more wiggle room after seeing its regular season diminished by late season college football and player poaching by the NBA.
This year’s Sunday Selection process, by all accounts, was a hot mess. Rankman didn’t see the live show because he was gambling his pension check at Santa Anita.
Rankman heard the show went on longer than Downton Abbey and had more leaks than a closed-door congressional hearing.
It was so bad on replay Rankman actually watched the commercials and fast forwarded through Greg Gumbel.
The big thing that leaked, that should have never leaked, was the bracket.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the selection committee added to the perception it gives preference to big-money power leagues like the Big Ten and the ACC.
It awarded bids to Syracuse (ACC) and Michigan (Big Ten) and left out St. Mary’s and Monmouth. The committee also gave unsuspecting Tulsa a ticket while it was packing for the NIT.
You hear it all the time: no team has a right to complain about not making the 68-team field. That would be a better argument, though, if the NCAA field boasted the top 68 schools–but it never does.
This holier-than-thou selection process allows 14-18 teams like Holy Cross in the tournament and leaves 27-5 St. Mary’s out.
If you’re going to have a tournament, why not do it right?
The sport has it ass-backward. Last year, around this time, Rankman put forth a plan to help save the sport. As it stands, the sport awards automatic bids to conference tournament champions and gives the regular season champ an auto bid to the NIT.
It should be the other way around. What good is the regular season if it means nothing to a champion that has worked hard for three months to win its conference?
St. Mary’s won the West Coast Conference this year, which was ranked the 12th best league by Jeff Sagarin. No one denies it is one of the better mid-major leagues in the nation.
Yet, the Gaels got knocked to the NIT because they lost to Gonzaga in the WCC conference tournament title game. What ever happened to winning two out of three?
Monmouth won the MAAC with a 17-3 record but Iona earned the NCAA bid.
None of this made sense. St. Mary’s got left out because it didn’t play anyone in non-conference, and Monmouth got left out because it did?
Monmouth took down UCLA, USC, Notre Dame and Georgetown in non-conference games. And while it’s a fact St. Mary’s didn’t venture far from home, Coach Randy Bennett argued that power-conference teams only want it one way. They want you to come to their arenas but won’t return visits to tiny Moraga.
College basketball did make some off-season moves to improve the sport. The shot-clock reduction to 30 seconds helped improve scoring, while a crack down on physical play helped to improve flow.
It wasn’t enough.
Rankman hates when he has to repeat himself: grant automatic bids to the 32 regular season champions. If the power-leagues don’t like that, expand the tournament to 72 schools. Award at-large bids to a fixed number of conference tournament champions. Most power-league tournament champions are in the field anyway, right?
This isn’t rocket science folks. All you need to do is add two more play-in games and insert those winners on the No. 16 and No. 11 lines.
Don’t cheat St. Mary’s, Monmouth or Valparaiso for hard work they did between December and March. We get it. ESPN loves the drama of “tournament” week because it creates upsets and drama. ESPN doesn’t have the rights to the NCAA Tournament so ESPN does what it does best: hypes what it has.
Seriously, though, what NCAA Tournament bracket is better with a 14-18 team in it? And San Diego State, which won the regular season Mountain West, out?
Why can’t ESPN capture the drama of a team clinching its regular season title? That seems to work fine for the Ivy League, the only conference that doesn’t play a post-season tournament. Yale won the title this year and earned its first bid in five decades. Yet, even the Ivy is now considering selling out as it contemplates a league tournament.
Et tu, Dartmouth?
And what writ of habeas hoopsus makes Syracuse like a Wall Street bank: too big to fail? And even Bernie Sanders, who won the state’s primary, could not deny that Michigan deserved to feel the burn.
Is this just more committee pandering to blue bloods?
That might be cynical but, after Sunday, it sure seems that way.
Syracuse may have been given special consideration because coach Jim Boeheim missed nine games this year while serving an NCAA suspension.
“We don’t discount any aspect of the schedule,” NCAA committee chair Joe Castiglione said.
Gee, why should Syracuse suffer because of NCAA rule breaking?
College basketball has already lost the regular season–it can’t afford to mess up March.
Someone needs to stop this madness.