Friday, March 17, 2006

Whether Right Or Wrong, You Belong

A lot of criticism has been leveled at the NCAA tournament selection process in recent years - and this year seems to have created a larger firestorm than usual. The exclusion of teams like Missouri State, Michigan, and Cincinnati in favor of Utah State, Air Force, and Bradley got a lot of criticism. The inclusion of four teams from the Missouri Valley and two teams from the Colonial got even more. And the automatic-bid rule for conference champs is always fodder for controversy.

The former criticisms may be justified, especially because Utah State and Air Force were soundly beaten. (As I write this, Bradley is leading Kansas midway through the first half, but I don't expect that to last.) But one expects 12/13 seeds to be soundly beaten, and there's no reason to believe that Michigan or Cincy would have fared any better against two teams that are only a year removed from being #1 seeds.

The problem is not that the wrong teams get in, but that there are so many teams that could be right. To this point, only one team in this entire tournament - A-Sun champ Belmont - looked like it didn't belong. Auto-bid winners have held their own; Northwestern State shocked Iowa, Winthrop played even with Tennessee, Oral Roberts gave Memphis a scare, and Albany led Connecticut by twelve late in the second half before finally succumbing. Those mid-major at-large teams haven't done too badly either; George Mason beat Michigan State even without their cock-punching guard, Northern Iowa gave Georgetown all they could handle, and Wichita State soundly trounced Seton Hall (another questionable inclusion).

Throw in the excitement created by Monmouth, Davidson, and (as of now) Murray State and Bradley, and this is probably the most even top-to-bottom tournament field in years. Sure, at least ten NIT teams could be here, but I don't think their inclusion would make things significantly more competitive. So let's cut the selection committee some slack, because all the teams they picked have proven that they belong in this tournament.

Update: Bradley ended up beating Kansas, 77-73. So much for that being a dubious pick. I humbly accept your extended central manual appendage, Bradley Nation.


Mike said...

The fact that you have a Blue October quote as your blog post title is quite awesome.

Aaron has a good post about the same basic subject. Not to mention, he will also be rather pleased with your Blue reference. (17 days until new album, if I were counting.)

Ben said...

And, as if to drive your points home, George Mason beats UNC. Boo ya.