More? 03/23/2010Posted by sportretort in Sports.
Tags: better access, expanding the field, gales, march madness, mid-majors, ncaa basketball, ncaa tournament, st marys, sweet 16, uni, uni panthers, university of northern iowa, upsets
trackback What a wild ride, the first week of March Madness 2010. Upsets galore, highlighted by the defeat of the overall top seed Kansas Jayhawks by the UNI Panthers. UNI? You know, the MVC Champions. Missouri Valley Conference? If you didn’t know about UNI and the MVC before, you do now. While you’re at it, meet St Mary’s of the West Coast Conference and Cornell of the Ivy League. You are probably familiar with Butler and Xavier. This years Sweet Sixteen includes 5 members from “mid-major” conferences. The madness has returned to March.
There is an interesting phenomenon going on. There is a great buzz around the tournament this year. UNI and St Mary’s have captured the attention of the nation. When a small team advances, that always seems to be the case. Yet, when it comes time to round out the field of 64, we always rely on the usualsuspects. Last year for example, there were only 4 small conference teams selected among the 26 at large births. This year, that number doubled to eight. Is it coincidence that there is a greater buzz this season? Probably not. When the selection committee rounds out the field, the power conferences get 5 to 8 teams in. Most of the small conferences get only one. Now there is a movement to expand the field, perhaps to as many as 96 teams. They point to a team like Illinois out of the Big Ten and say they should be in. ILLINOIS? Are you kidding me? Minnesota should not have been invited, let alone Illinois. Why do we need to expand the field? The only reason I can think of is money. Some argue that there are too many smaller teams in the field, and that these teams take away chances from the power league. I would argue the opposite. I think that ANY conference should be limited to a maximum of 5 teams in the tourney. If you are only the 6th best team, at best, in your conference, what makes you think you should be playing for a shot at the national championship? I can hear the outrage now. The best league in the nation this year was the Big East. Surely there should be more than 5 teams there that had a chance to do well in the tournament. Lets take a look at that. The Big East got a total of 8 teams in the dance this year. They should dominate the brackets, right. Umm, not so much. After the first 2 rounds, the Big East has lost 6 of those 8 teams, 4 in the first round.
In fact, in the last 2 seasons, the teams selected sixth or higher by the committee from any conference have not fared well. (I ranked the teams based on seeding, assuming the higher seed team was included in the field of 64 after of the lower seed team.) This year, those teams were 2-7 in the tournament. In the last 2 years, they are a combined 6-13. In the last 2 years only 1 of those 13 teams made it to the Sweet 16, Arizona last year. Did any of those teams do well? My suggestion is to limit the conference total and allow some deserving smaller schools in. Currently, if you win a power conference regular season title, but lose in the conference tournament, you are assured to be invited to the field of 64. There is no such guarantee for a mid-major team. Heck, lets compromise. Even if you increase the limit to a maximum of 6 teams, that still would have opened up 4 spots this season and 6 last year.
You want madness in March? You do not need to expand. Just give the Mids a fighting chance.