Another college basketball season is in the books and the dog days of summer are upon us.
The Tar Heels got their redemption from a year ago as they were crowned college basketballs’ best.
Gonzaga finally broke through to the Final Four and that other team from Carolina shocked the world.
But overall, this NCAA Tournament was not that exciting. This past NCAA Tournament was filled with more chalk than found in Lawrence, Kan.
A true Cinderella was missing from this years’ field, and it was because the lack of mid-majors.
What brings the college basketball world together is seeing teams like George Mason, Davidson, Butler, VCU, and others make a deep run in March. That didn’t happen this year because the NCAA didn’t give the teams the chance to do so.
One of the prime examples this year was Middle Tennessee. With a regular season record of 27-4, and 17-1 in Conference USA play, the Blue Raiders were not a lock for the NCAA tourney.
They won the CUSA Conference Tournament and made sure they punched their ticket for the second consecutive year.
The question though, what else would a team like Middle Tennessee have to do to get an automatic bid?
Out-of-conference they beat Murray State and UNC- Wilmington who made the NCAA Tournament.
They went on the road to Ole Miss and beat the Rebels by 15, and completely destroyed Vanderbilt at home by 23.
They then finished the out-of-conference schedule with a win at Belmont, and two close losses to VCU and Georgia St. Those are teams who have had recent success come tourney time. Still, the Blue Raiders were no lock.
This has become the norm for mid-majors nowadays. The NCAA is pretty much telling smaller teams you better go undefeated with the out-of-conference schedule and only have one or two losses in conference to get an at-large bid.
While this seems to be the formula for the smaller schools, a team like Vanderbilt who had FIFTEEN losses gets in as an 8 seed. But hey they beat Florida three times!
I don’t care what conference you play in, if you lose 15 times that means something.
Let’s say Middle Tennessee only won one game in the conference tourney and didn’t get the automatic bid. Come Selection Sunday what if it came down to Vandy and Middle and the Commodores made it over the Blue Raiders. Think of that logic.
The College Football Playoff selection committee has already said head-to-head matchups don’t matter with Ohio St getting in over Penn St. Could this become the new trend with these selection committees?
Let’s take a look at Monmouth from a year ago. They played at UCLA, at USC, played Notre Dame, Dayton, and then USC again in the AdvoCare Invitational. They then played at Georgetown and at Rutgers.
The Hawks finished the regular season 25-6 and lost in their conference tournament championship game by three points.
Even with the best bench in all of basketball they were sent to the NIT. It’s becoming almost like no matter what these teams do, unless they get the automatic bid, they won’t be in the Big Dance.
Now let’s look at the UAB 2016 schedule. The Blazers played Kansas, George Washington, and Saint Mary’s all on neutral courts. They then hosted Auburn and went on the road to face Stephen F. Austin, Memphis, and Texas.
Let’s play what-if. What if UAB won all of these games and only dropped one or two games in conference and didn’t win the conference tournament, would they have gotten into the NCAA tournament? Maybe, but they probably would of had to sweat it out on Selection Sunday.
This is an issues that the NCAA will need to prevent from doing in the future. Yes, the bigger name schools get more people in the seats, and yes, most of them are storied college basketball programs, but that shouldn’t be the driving force in why one team gets in and another doesn’t.
Hopefully next year we will have a team come out of nowhere and shock us all. Hopefully the bracket won’t be filled with so much chalk. And hopefully we have a true Cinderella.
Mid-majors are good for college basketball, and the NCAA needs to start rewarding them. Until then, the life of a mid-major will be subpar.