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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)


On Selection Sunday, we weep for those left behind.

We gnash our teeth and pull our hair over the injustice done to Notre Dame, Louisville, Southern California and Baylor.

But who will weep for Vermont, other than the Catamount fans? Who will be upset that when Middle Tennessee was upset in the Conference USA tournament, it fell by the NCAA tournament wayside?

Someone should be. Gee whiz, neither Vermont nor MTSU was even among the last four out.

Davidson's victory in the Atlantic 10 championship game, said NCAA selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen, knocked Notre Dame out of the tournament field.

Syracuse in the ACC, Alabama in the SEC, Texas and Oklahoma in the Big 12 and Arizona State in the Pac-12, all were 8-10 in conference play and all stayed in the tournament field.

Middle Tennessee was 16-2 in C-USA, a highly competitive and off-the-radar league (Old Dominion was second at 15-3). Vermont was 15-1 in the America East but lost the wrong game at the wrong time, to No. 2 seed (12-4) University of Maryland Baltimore County in the conference championship game.

Goodbye NCAA field. Hello NIT.

If you are the coach at Vermont or Middle Tennessee, perhaps you start to wonder at the point of it all. Why work to become a dominant team at your level? Why, if you're MTSU, beat Vanderbilt and Mississippi from the SEC and why schedule, and lose close games to Auburn, Southern Cal and Miami? Why not put all the focus on building momentum going into the conference tournament if the selection committee essentially is saying you play in a one-bid league.

Rasmussen said MTSU is a great team and played some good nonconference games, but didn't win any of the games. It's not MTSU's fault Vanderbilt and Mississippi were at the bottom of the SEC. And the loss to Miami? Did anyone on the selection committee mention that Virginia Tech, a No. 8 seed, lost twice to Miami?

Send Miami to MTSU for a game and then tell us MTSU isn't good enough for the NCAA field.

And before we forget, St. Bonaventure in a play-in game? The Bonnies were 14-4 in the A-10, 25-7 overall. Yes, they lost to Davidson in the semifinals of the A-10 tournament, but they also beat Syracuse during the regular season. Why isn't Syracuse headed to Dayton for a play-in game instead of St. Bonaventure? Seems only fair.

If the committee was paying as close attention as it should have been, its members would have realized Davidson was the best team in the conference down the stretch. The Wildcats' victory in the A-10 championship game shouldn't have been necessary to get them in the NCAA field.

Davidson should have been in the field simply by reaching the A-10 championship game.

Davidson passed the eyeball test. The Wildcats looked like an NCAA team, but Rasmussen said they would not be in the field without the A-10's automatic bid.

The same is true of Vermont. Anyone who saw the Catamounts win at Richmond in late November realized that.

The eyeball test isn't part of the criteria for the NCAA field. At least, it should be something strongly considered.

The selection committee has a difficult job. Good teams always will be left out.

The NCAA always is trying to find quantifiable criteria to determine who has earned an at-large bid, thus the inclusion of "quadrants" this year. Victories against teams in Quadrant 1 and 2, the top 100 teams in the RPI, were very beneficial.

Teams in the Power Five conferences, Big East and American Athletic conferences get numerous opportunities to rack up Quadrant 1 and 2 victories by virtue of being in conferences with a number of Quadrant 1 and 2 teams.

Oklahoma was not just 8-10 in the Big 12, it was 3-9 in its final 12 conference games, including a first-round loss in the conference tournament to Oklahoma State, also 8-10 in the conference in the regular season and not deemed worthy of an at-large berth.

That's just embarrassing for Oklahoma and the selection committee.

The tournament would be far more interesting with Vermont and MTSU than with Oklahoma, Syracuse (losses to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, ACC bottom feeders this year), and others.

If a team has the advantage of playing in a major basketball conference, it should be required to finish with no worse than a .500 record in its league. That's not too much to ask. It easily could be a quantifiable point for the teams and committee.

"It's been discussed but as conferences have gotten larger and there has been more uneven scheduling, it has not generated enough interest to be a policy at this point," Rasmussen said in a conference call Sunday night.

If you're playing with the big guys and enjoying all the advantage of being in a conference with the big guys, you should be able to beat the big guys at least half the time.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

Year after year, much is given to teams from major conferences, even when those teams don't meet expectations.

(804) 649-6444


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March 12, 2018


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