Here are some post mortem thoughts from Selection Sunday.
I know Kyle Whelliston keeps saying that this isn't a down year for Mid Major teams, but I am sorry, the numbers say otherwise. Last year, if you want to include the A10 (I don't want to but let's say so this one time for arguments sake), you had five at large bids from Mid Major conferences. There was St Joseph's, Xavier from the A10, Gonzaga and St Mary's from the WCC and South Alabama from the Sun Belt. This year there were three bids; Xavier, Dayton and Butler. If you take away the A10, there was one mid major at large bid. Butler.
Now grant you, a lot of this has to do with the committee and the shameful inclusion of Arizona over St Mary's. And you can also say that there were a lot of power conference upsets that knocked Creighton out of consideration at the end.
But the fact is this. The Mid Major conferences as a whole aren't as good as the last three years. The Missouri Valley has been down the last two years. One bid each season. Illinois State played a cupcake non conference schedule and killed themselves from any consideration. Creighton's three best non conference wins (Dayton, New Mexico and George Mason) were all at home and losing by 24 points in the semis to the aforementioned cupcake killers is just bad. At least when St Mary's lost by 25 points, it was to the #12 team in the nation in the conference final.
The Sun Belt had a down year. Western Kentucky had a big win over Louisville but they won their tournament. UALR had a nice year but they didn't even get a NIT bid due in large part to that stinker in the semi vs. South Alabama. The West Coast Conference suffered from the injury to Patty Mills and from the early season ending injury to San Diego's Brandon Johnson.
The Colonial was down for the second straight season. VCU showed they were the best team during the conference tournament and they had the best non conference win of the whole league, a neutral site win over NIT bound New Mexico. George Mason had no non conference wins to speak of unlike last year.
Davidson just wasn't the same team without a second scorer like Jason Richards and the result was a NIT berth. Every time I think of Seth Curry passing up Davidson for being his own man at Liberty, I want to scream. Great, no one really knows Liberty and big brother Steph's Wildcats are bound for the NIT. Had Seth gone to Davidson, I tell you from seeing him play, the Wildcats are in the dance and could do some serious damage. Sorry, that's how I feel.
Yes, there is a good showing of mid majors in the NIT. By my count, twelve are in the NIT (this includes two A10 teams - Duquesne and Rhode Island - last A10 mid major reference ever from me), but some were automatic bids for either finishing first or second in conference.
But for all this talk about that we need to have mid majors make the Sweet 16 on a regular basis, that's fine. But you need opportunities to do so. And when you are only getting the automatic bids plus one (back to saying A10 is not a mid major for my argument here), the much less chances you have for getting teams into the Sweet 16.
Simply put, a lot of mid majors like Illinois St, Creighton, George Mason among others need to be in preseason tournaments every year. Get into the Great Alaska Shootout, or the San Juan Shootout or the 76 Classic like St Mary's or even the Charleston Classic, which featured three NCAA teams (East Tennessee State, Clemson and Temple and nearly a fourth, Charleston).
Strengthening the road/neutral non conference schedule is the only way these teams can improve their resumes and force these clowns at the NCAA Selection Committee to take them more seriously. Yes, there is the possibility you get screwed like St Mary's but at least you will be much more part of the conversation come the last day. And it will be unlikely we'll see a year like this where so many power conferences had upsets. Well, I hope.
Despite my thoughts on an overall down power year for NCAA mid major bids, there is hope. There are some games that I think mid majors can do really well in.
1) Siena as a #9 seed in the Midwest is due credit to the Saints strength of schedule in non conference games this season. And it's going to pay off. I think they have a perfect foil in #8 Ohio State. I definitely see a win there.
2) Cleveland State as #13 has got a really good opponent for their style..the undisciplined #4 Wake Forest. I can see Norris Cole and company shutting down the Demon Deacons.
3) North Carolina is in for it. Guaranteed they will play #9 Butler in the second round, cause Butler is good and LSU is one of three mediocre SEC teams that will lose in the first round of the tournament. Then if Carolina beats butler, they have Gonzaga.
4) Gonzaga should come out of their bracket just fine and that should be a dandy of a Sweet 16 game vs. Carolina.
5) VCU's style of play matches up REAL well vs UCLA. Mr Collison, meet Mr. Maynor. UCLA frontcourt meet Mr. Sanders. Enjoy. :-)
6) As my friend Dr. J would tell you, North Dakota State is going to give Kansas fits.
7) Finally, Utah State - Marquette might be the best first round game we'll see.
Back to speaking of the clowns at the NCAA, nice to see a lot of mid major teams in the NIT and kudos for giving Creighton a #1 seed. But give CM Newton and friends credit. They know how to tweak mid major fans. In the NIT West Bracket (I guess that's what it is), they made San Diego State the #1 seed and Saint Mary's the #2 seed. Cmon, even CM Newton had to know St Mary's beat San Diego State head to head this season.
And to tweak the mid major fans even more, if St Mary's wins and Davidson knocks off South Carolina (of course it's at South Carolina), guess what we see in the second round. Steph Curry meet Patty Mills and the best frontcourt duo in the majors, the rebounding and scoring law firm of Simpson and Samhan.
One last thing. If the NCAA had the kahones to do it, there would be an easy way to solve the at large bid process. This is something I am pretty sure I have noted before too. To be considered for an at large berth, you must have an above .500 conference record during the regular season.
Of course, below .500 conference teams can make the tournament by winning the conference tournament, but this way it makes teams EARN their way into the dance and doesn't reward mediocrity.
If you had this policy in place, the following teams wouldn't even had been under consideration; Maryland, Arizona, Minnesota and Michigan. There are a lot of angry Penn State fans tonight who would have been probably appeased had this rule been in effect. Chances are Penn State, 10-8 in the Big Ten would be in the dance as a result.
A friend of mine who went to Maryland tried to defend them by saying "well we weren't 7-9 in a crappy conference." Um, when you are 7-9 in conference, it doesn't matter what conference you're in. You're mediocre. Besides, if it wasn't for the two wins in the ACC tourney, Maryland wouldn't be in. Trust me on that (also the home loss against Morgan State wasn't good either).
Message to the NCAA. Stop rewarding mediocrity. Stop giving .500 conference teams at large bids that go 2-9 on the road (with the two wins over the worst two teams in the PAC-10) because they won big home games and have a 25 year reputation (Yes Mo Goldman that was a direct shot at Arizona). As a result you will have an even better tournament. Isn't that the idea?!