Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mid-Majors Get Robbed (Predictably)

The Big East did deserve 11 teams in the NCAA Tournament this year, despite the fact that many of Syracuse’s Big East brethren are working hard at tarnishing that with all the upsets. As I pointed out the other day, eleven Big East teams were going to make the tournament and it was not even going to be close (and it wasn’t based on the seeding). If you look at the Big East team’s records, ignoring which conference they were in, and compared them to all the other ‘at large’ teams out there, there was no question about it.

Fans upset about the mid-majors being denied should look at the lower teams from the Big 10, Pac 10 and ACC. Their resumes were far less impressive, and for the most part, their results have equally been sub-par.

The mid-majors are suffering from a scenario where they had no strength of resume to make the tournament. This has evolved over the past four to five years from how the NCAA Committee looks at team’s schedules. I had stated in 2007 that mid-majors would find it more difficult in the future to get at-large bids in the NCAA, and it is true.

A team like Syracuse has no reason to schedule a mid-major. The national experts, such as Dick Vitale, will only criticize Syracuse for playing a mid-major, screaming that they should be playing major conference teams. If they beat a mid-major team, they get no respect from the analysts. On the other hand, they have a chance of losing those games, and that loss will kill them later in the year from a voter perception.

Plus scheduling the mid-majors hurts your RPI. 25% of the RPI scoring is your opponent’s opponent SOS… so every time you schedule a mid-major (and for that matter any lesser conference team), you drag down your RPI, because you get the total results of that entire conference. Playing Georgia Tech, Michigan and North Carolina State this year in the non-conference schedule helped Syracuse, regardless how well those teams did, because you tie in all the teams in those conferences into your RPI.

So now we are in the position where none of the major teams will play mid-majors on a regular basis, thus giving the mid-major conferences little opportunity to get wins for their resumes. As I had pointed out the other day, none of the mid-major conferences looked particularly good in 2011. That doesn’t mean they were not good; they just had no body of evidence to suggest it because of limited exposure against the ‘better’ conferences.

A side note on the NCAA scheduling Connecticut and Cincinnati, and Syracuse and Marquette to all meet in the 2nd round of the tournament: shame on the NCAA. It’s clear they wanted the Big East schools to knock each other out of the tournament. The NCAA implied it was the mathematics of the situation that caused the situation to occur. Well, mathematically, there are sixteen ‘pods’ in the NCAA first two rounds, and only 11 Big East teams. All 16 Big East teams could make the tournament, and not be required to meet each other until the Sweet Sixteen.

Look, it’s fine if the NCAA wants to have Big East teams knock each other out of the tournament. Just admit it. As representative of schools of higher learning, you just look like fools stating a falsehood as your reasoning, and you insult the intelligence of your fans. As a Syracuse fan, I do feel cheated having to play a Big East team in the NCAA. I would like to see the Orange play a school they have not played, so we can see how the Orange really measure up. Playing Marquette, this early in the tournament, really offers us nothing new.

Besides, with the historical tradition of the ‘Madness’ in March Madness, you know that Big East schools were not all going to survive anyhow.

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