Sunday, March 15, 2009

Memo To Mid-Majors: Suck It!

I hate to say it, but the greatest month-long sporting event in the World is being bastardized, BCS Style.

When 30 of 34 at large bids go to “power” conferences (please, replace that term “power” with “BCS”, the insult stings more) you know that the money men have strengthened their grip on this event and it’s attendant riches.

Did you know each conference gets more money, the more teams that are in the event?

Of course you did, silly. I just wanted to bring that up again.

Too bad then, that CBS must tiptoe gently on guys like Mike Slive when trying to grill them on this “rich get richer” mentality. Greg Anthony did his best – although it wasn’t nearly pointed enough – to put Slive on his heels.

The question I would have asked is simple: “Mike, it sure looks to everybody, that the BCS is running the basketball post-season now as well. Am I wrong?”

Just let him choke on that one, while he spews doublespeak.

Here’s the regression on so-called “mid-majors” in the Big Dance since 2003.

2003 – 10
2004 – 12
2005 – 9
2006 – 8
2007 – 6
2008 – 6
2009 – 4

The argument this year – and remember, these arguments change yearly, to suit whatever Committee bias exists at the time – was that this was a “down year” for mid-majors.

Yeah. It sure is, when you don’t invite any!

See, what has been happening, is that mid-majors are showing more and more capable of pulling down the pants of the so-called “power” schools.

It was fine to invite them in greater numbers, so long as they knew their place.

Then they started getting uppity. Butler deep into the Sweet 16. Gonzaga a consistently under-seeded threat. VCU beats Duke. Davidson like a buzzsaw with Stephen Curry. And horror of horrors, GASP!, George Mason actually makes the Final Four!

Well, now. We must put a stop to that.

So the NCAA powers that be are steadily choking off the mid-major lifeblood, assisted greatly by the fact that most “power” schools are chickenshit and won’t schedule even a 2-for-1 home and home against an opponent with a stadium whose endzone seating area is a wall.

You had to know that Tony Soprano was cracking down when the NCAA refused to reduce at-large berths by just one, 34 to 33, and instead set up a card-table game for the extra conference qualifier on Tuesday.

If anything, this “down year” for majors and mid-majors alike (and I don’t contest that fact, by the way) is a perfect time to give the tiebreaker to mid-majors with great overall records, and RPI’s that dust your cronies like Arizona.

Here, here’s the two charts CBS threw up and let you gaze at for about 30 seconds each, without any meaningful dissection of what a joke it all is… (Note: God bless TIVO and the “pause” button.) Teams are followed by record and RPI.

Arizona (19-13) 63
Wisconsin (19-12) 41
Dayton (26-7) 25
Maryland (20-13) 56
Michigan (20-13) 45
Minnesota (22-10) 43

San Diego State (23-9) 37
Creighton (26-7) 39
St. Mary’s (26-6) 48
VaTech (18-14) 60
New Mexico (21-11) 61
Auburn (22-11) 62
UNLV (21-10) 67
Penn State (22-11) 69

John Feinstein’s Saturday column in the Washington Post nailed the three-ball without even grazing the rim. Here’s the money quote….

“In a situation like this there's only one guy [on the basketball committee] who can really stop the Big Ten from getting all the bids they're talking about and that's the guy assigned to follow the league during the season," said George Washington Athletic Director Jack Kvancz, who spent five years on the committee. "Every committee member is assigned three leagues to follow all year. If the guy who has the Big Ten this year stood up and said, 'Hey, I know these teams all have 20 wins, but they aren't that good,' people would listen. If someone else does it, unless the guy who has that league backs him up, nothing is going to happen."

Remember when the smaller schools threatened to sue the BCS unless they loosened their grip on the money? It worked enough that now a school like Utah can at least sneak into the big bowls so long as they are undefeated.

That same kind of lawsuit is coming in basketball. You heard it here first.


  1. Czabe,

    I really hope this is a tipping point for the tourney. What a joke not to reward the Creighton's and St. Mary's of the world who had great season and did everything but threw up during their tournament and make sure that a truly mediocre Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan get in. You nailed it with the scheduling also, Creighton will play anyone on a 2-1 - they average like 15,000 in that Omaha area, and no one will play them. Truly sucks to be a little guy.

  2. Every year people lament about how the "small" schools are getting no respect. Then you take a look at the brackets and these "small" schools actually make up a bigger portion of the tournament than people realize. My count this year, and sure maybe it's not 100% accurate, has at least 22 teams I would classify as a "small" schools that aren't powerhouses. How many should there be? 50?

    Looking at the in/out list above, the only schools that jump off the page as surprises are Arizona & Maryland getting in with low RPI's, and San Diego State & Creighton being passed over with decent RPI's. There's more to it than big VS little.

    I like how you omit the fact that Arizona had the 16th hardest schedule in the country, and SDSU had the 60th. I like how you omit the fact that Maryland played the 23rd hardest schedule, and Creighton played the 143rd (!) hardest schedule.

    I like how you omit the fact that Creighton got their doors blown off in their 2nd round MVC tourney game, losing by 24 to Illinois State and leaving a bad last impression. Lesson= Bubble teams can't afford to get molly-whomped in their final game. I'm OK with that.

    I like how you omit the fact that Creighton didn't beat a ranked team all year, nor did they play one. San Diego State? Nope, they didn't beat a ranked team all year either, and they only played 1. St. Mary's only beat 1 ranked team. Who'd they beat? Uconn? NC? Nope. They beat #23 Utah State. A nice season sure, but if that's your signature win, enjoy the NIT. There isn't any reason you can say these teams "belong" in the dance.

    Arizona? Um, yeah they played 6 ranked teams. Sure, they lost most, but they did beat #7 UCLA and they beat "under-seaded threat" #4 Gonzaga. (How was Gonzaga ranked 4th in the country if they get no respect Czabe?)

    Maryland? If you count the ACC Tourney they played 10 ranked teams this year. They beat North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Michigan State this year, who are all in the top 10. UM is in. Seems fair. These teams are just better. Sorry. If given 100 chances how many times does Creighton beat NC?

    It's obvious that more than record and RPI goes into making these decisions. That's OK. If these smaller schools want to impress, they need to start scheduling better teams AND beating them. Don't feed me the, "Nobody wants to play Creighton" line either. That's crap. It's teams like NC and Pitt who nobody wants to play.

    Czabe, I think you're a funny guy. I do. It's just that lately your commentary is slipping man. Small schools getting jobbed? Newspapers as the wave of the future? Shopping for hotel rooms to see the Redskins in the Super Bowl? Good luck with that.

    Dude, you're better than this......

  3. First a disclaimer. I'm a big Wisconsin fan. But even as a Badger fan, I acknowledge the resume' is thin. I had them on the bubble all week, and when Mississippi State won, I figured they were toast. I would have been ok with them not making the field so long as Arizona and Saint Mary's didn't make the field.

    Having said all that, this whole discussion about Small Schools versus Big Schools is silly. Of the 65 bids given out, 29 go to non-BCS conferences. Throw in the other 4 non-BCS At large bids, and over half the field are non-BCS schools. I would argue that makes the NCAA Tournament field infinetely more fair to 'the little guy' than the BCS in football. George Mason got to the Final four. They had a chance to win a National Championship. What non-BCS Football team ever had the chance. They got that chance by winning their conference's automatic bid.

    If you want to complain about the St.Mary's and Creighton's being left out, maybe you should redirect your anger to the decision to make the tournament winner and not the regular season conference champion the automatic bid. At least then the team that had the best regular season, which is what SHOULD matter the most, gets rewarded rather than a team like Temple or Northern Iowa who gets hot at the right time.

    But whatever arguement you want to make, please, PLEASE stop crying about Saint Mary's. The accomplished virtually nothing this year. They didn't win thier conference regular season ... they didn't win thier conference tournament ... and they didn't beat an RPI top 25 team this year. On the other side of the ledger, this team lost to UTEP, Santa Clara and Portland. Yeah, 2 of those losses occurred when Patty Mills was out. So what? If St. Mary's is any kind of a 'Team', those games should have been won with or without him.

    Now don't get me wrong, I'm not making a big school/small school arguement here. I'm just as appalled by Arizona getting into this tournament. They lost 5 out of 6 to end the season. They had 1 road victory ALL FREAKING YEAR (Oregon State - RPI 156). They lost by double digits to Washington State (RPI 90+) as recently as Feb 26. They were just 9-9 in the conference and got bounced in the tournament's first round. This team did nothing to earn a bid either.

    If you want to cry over a small school not getting in Creighton is the team to carry as your poster child. They were 2-2 vs. RPI top 50 and 9-5 vs. RPI top 100 (St Mary's was 2-3, 3-4 by comparison), and they actually won something this year ... Their conference's regular season championship.

    The arguments about letting the little guy in are purely emotional. You want to see BCS teams get beat in the NCAA tournament. You love the thrill that a big upset brings you as a fan. Its not as meaningful when Arizona State wins as a 12 as when Creighton or St.Mary's does. I get that. But I think at the end of the day, the only way to fairly select this field is by trying to compare the relative resume's of teams that play very different levels of competition, to be sure that EVERY kid playing college basketball, weather at Creighton or Wisconsin or Arizona or Farleigh Dickinson, has a chance to realize the dream of playing for a national championship. To do that you have to compare who they play, who they beat, where they beat them and by how much. You can't tell me that St.Mary's kids are more derserving than Wisconsin's who went out and competed against better competition night in and night out, in coference and out, and beat better teams doing it, than St. Mary's just because St. Mary's has one great player, and make a more compelling story line.

    At least pick a team who won something (Creighton) if you want to climb on a soapbox and talk about the unfairness of some schools being left out.

  4. My big issue is Arizona getting in.
    I will make a case for San Diego State.
    Last 4 games played.
    Beat UNLV regular season
    Beat UNLV tourney in Vegas...oh UNLV was considered a bubble team
    Beat BYU tourney team
    Lost to Utah #5 seed by 2 in MWC championship.

    RPI as you can see is better then Zona.

    Oh yeah. San Diego State isn't in the PAC10.

  5. You conveniently forgot to mention that SD State lost to Arizona by 13 points and lost to St. Mary's on a neutral court. If your measuring stick is the PAC-10, they also lost to Arizona State at home, making them win less against the PAC-10. Oh yeah ... they also didn't win a conference regular season championship, or their conference tournament.

  6. But TD what you failed to mention, is that Arizona lost to UNLV by 15 in Vegas, while San Diego State beat UNLV 3 times, 2 times in Vegas.

    Also Arizona didn't win a conference tourney game, while SD State went 2-1.

    You like Arizona getting in, I just have the opinion they shouldn't be in, and SD St. got shafted.

  7. I agree with you, TD. I'm also a Wisconsin fan and agree that they barely squeezed in. However, I wouldn't replace them with any team that was left out.

    I'd agree that the major offense is Creighton being left out in favor of a 13-loss Arizona team.

    One other thing, Creighton and Northern Iowa were actually co-champions in the Missouri Valley this year, and UNI got the top seed via tiebreaker, so it's not as if they came out of nowhere to steal a bid.

  8. Tugnutt I never said I agreed with Arizona getting in. I don't. At all. Its a joke. Go back and read my earlier post. My only point is that SD State has no more of a case than St.Mary's for having the last at-large bid. I don't care what records were against common opponents either, by the way ... AZ beat them straight up. If you are comparing 2 teams for one spot, I'm gonna look at how they did head to head. I don't care which of the two other bubble teams you want to compare SD State to, be it Arizona or St Mary's ... they got beat by both. That really should be enough to end the conversation. And by the way, they don't give out automatic bids for finishing second in anything. Weather they went out in 1 game or 3, neither team won their respective conference tourneys. After that you have to judge them on their comparative resume's ... and frankly, SD State falls short compared to the other bubble teams in the discussion.

  9. That's a good point pfunk, as it relates to Northern Iowa. They were probably a bubble team entering tourney play. They have some awful bad losses on their resume', and a late season swoon, that probably would have left them out without the tourney win, but in their case they and Creighton were clearly the class of the conference, and finished tied for the regular season crown having beat each other on the other team's home court. Not the best example of a team that 'got hot at the right time' and stole a bid.

  10. One other thing ... I'm reasnably certain that Mississippi State and USC stole bids from non-BCS Schools by winning auto bids. And while Temple is a non-BCS school, they certainly stole a bid from a more deserving team. That's not the committee's fault. St. Mary's and Creighton are probably in if those teams lose, and quite possibly San Deigo State as well. Blame the Pac-10 and SEC for being crappy conferences this year instead.

  11. One thing to consider is this idea of top 50 wins being ultra important. Very convenient for BCS type schools, who get to play a fair amount of those games at home. What people routinely fail to recognize is that a top 50 win at home isn't the same thing as a top 50 win on a neutral floor or on the road.

    A check of the Sagarin ratings, applying his home court advantage to his predictor rankings, yields the following results:

    A top 50 win at home is about the same as:

    1. A top 85 win on a neutral floor or
    2. A top 120 win on the road.

    Thus, midmajors, who commonly have to play a ton of road games compared to their BCS counterparts, aren't getting anywhere near the credit they deserve for winning many of the games that they do.

    When a team like Butler wins five road games against the RPI top 120 teams, it's roughly the same as getting five top 50 wins at home. Creighton had four such wins. And Arizona, well they had zero RPI top 120 road wins. ZERO!! Maryland had one, against the #111 team, no less. Creighton had four road wins better than that. Amazing.

  12. I don't disagree with your argument Lucas, but lets face it, not all top 50 wins, even on the home court, are created evenly. And while I will often quote the top 50 or top 100 wins stats to bolster an argument, I do it knowing that you have to look deeper to understand it, which is why I look so closely at road wins as an additional criteria. This is perhaps my biggest beef with Arizona ... they had 1 freaking road win all year. To include a team with one road win (against an RPI 150+ team to boot) is a joke. I wonder if that has ever even happened before. I actually like the expansion of early season nuetral court tourneys. It is the best way to get Mid-Majors on the floor with BCS schools, and not have it always be at the BCS gym. I also like the message they committee SEEMED to send this year to BCS conference teams that were left out, including Penn State, Florida and Auburn that 20 wins over all and 10 in your conference mean nothing if you aren't going to go out and play somebody in the non-conference portion of your schedule. Penn State's Non-Conference portion of thier schedule was ranked 313, Florida's was 248, and Auburn's was a robust 201. Compare that to the BCS teams that got in around the bubble ... Wisconsin played a 43rd NC schedule, Arizona played a 74th ranked NC schedule, and Michigan a 53rd.

  13. Fair enough, one other thing to keep in mind though is that the RPI SOS has no home/road factor. Mid-majors, who generally play way more road games in the non-conference usually have their SOS understated in that portion of their schedule. The opposite is often true of BCS schools. Imagine, LSU's non-con schedule might be even worse than stated.

  14. TD -- George Mason did not "get that chance by winning their conference's automatic bid" in 2006. They lost to Hofstra in the semis. Had the committee not granted the CAA its first at-large bid in 20 years (a decision harshly criticized by Billy Packer), the Mason Final Four run would never have occurred. And now with the number of mid-major at-large bids awarded having dropped by half, we're far less likely to see another one like it.

    Your ranking criteria are sound enough, but with no perfect yardstick to compare schools playing entirely different schedules, I think there must be some emotional aspect included in the selections. So I have to agree with Czaban's point about letting the tie go to the mid-major. When's the last time you saw an unranked low-seed BCS-conference school go on a big run in the tournament?