One of the most annoying and inaccurate arguments in sports is that teams who barely make it into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament can justify their selection by winning. That could not be further from the truth. It has been said that hindsight is always 20/20. So why would we judge teams after they play in the Big Dance to determine whether their selection made sense? When teams are selected, it should be solely on their body of work, and not influenced by what they “may do” in the tournament or if they come from a big conference.
While watching the first two rounds of Valparaiso’s NIT wins on ESPN3 and ESPNews, it was refreshing to hear color commentator Mark Adams speak his mind about Valpo unjustly not getting into the NCAA Tournament. Anyone who watches Valpo play can see how immensely talented they are. They also play in the Horizon League, which has become one of the better mid-majors in the country. Adams, a former college basketball coach, did a great job of unbiasedly and clearly stating why Valpo and other deserving mid-majors should have been in the NCAA Tournament. If only the NCAA Tournament selection committee could be as impartial as him, then it would be a much more deserving field of teams. Could someone nominate Adams as the next NCAA Tourney Committee Chairman?
The following teams had no business being in the 2016 NCAA Tournament, based only on their regular season performances: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Oregon State, Michigan, Tulsa, Texas Tech, and Vanderbilt. All of these teams received at-large bids and are from power conferences (Tulsa is from the American, which some do not consider a power conference, but it is widely considered higher than a mid-major). Whether any of those teams go onto win the national championship or if they lost their first round games, the fact does not change one degree either way that they should not have been in the tournament in the first place. The NCAA Tournament Committee’s bias toward power conference schools is disgusting. Maybe the committee feels those larger schools will have more fans travel to sites for the NCAA Tournament, thus generating more revenue. The committee shows little to no respect to mid-major conference teams. The most notable mid-majors who deserved to be in the tournament are Valparaiso, St. Mary’s, and Monmouth. San Diego State also deserved to get in.
Let’s look at the flip-side argument for Valparaiso, who is playing in the NIT Quarterfinals on Tuesday. Let’s say, hypothetically, that the Crusaders lost their first round NIT game versus a very good Texas Southern team. That should not change the fact that they deserved to be in the NCAA Tournament, just the same as if they win the entire NIT. Obviously, the first choice for any team would be the Big Dance. But people should not forget that the NIT is rooted in history, having been played since 1938. In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, the NIT was more prestigious than the NCAA Tournament.
An analogy that further proves the point is that of doctors. If someone completes medical school, but fails to pass his boards, then he should not be a licensed doctor, no matter how talented he may be. This relates to power conference teams getting into the tournament, even though they are not deserving. And if a doctor made a couple of minor mistakes, that does not change the fact that he is a doctor because he met all of the requirements. This is not a perfect analogy, but you get the gist.
The selection process into the NCAA Tournament is not a perfect science. There will always be teams feeling like they are left out, and others who get in who do not look deserving. But there simply needs to be more at-large berths given to mid-major teams, and less to power conference teams who finish tied for ninth place in their league.