clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The NCAA Tournament And The BCS Are So NOT The Same Thing

Thamel, I love you buddy, but today you're a crazy person who says crazy things in a crazy way and other crazy people look at you say to each other, "that guy's crazy."

If there’s one dominant theme that came out of Selection Sunday it’s that the N.C.A.A. tournament is becoming more like the B.C.S. — an insider’s club for the schools with rich tradition and deep coffers.

 Any normal-thinking person thinks the BCS is insane, I think that's clear.  It's an imperfect system based on another equally-imperfect, antiquated system.  They say you can't shine a turd?  The BCS and the bowl system is living proof.

But why do we hate the BCS?  What is the problem?  The problem is that the BCS tells us it is going to determine who the #1 and #2 teams in the country are and then make them play each other for the National Title.  The formula by which it makes it's decision is flawed and incomplete and so we usually have 3-4 teams still worthy of selection, only two of which can be chosen.

It does not promise to solve the question "Who is #3 in the nation?" even if it probably should.  It does not promise to evenly account for teams in different conferences and with schedule strengths.  It is heavily-biased in favor of the big six conferences and has given rise to the (correct) assumption that no team from a non-BCS Conference can play for, let alone win the National Title.

But at the end of the day, the BCS selection of the teams that play for the National Title effect only the most elite teams in the nation in any given season.  If you want to argue that a mid-major program can do everything asked of it against a competitive set of opponents and still not get into a BCS Bowl, then I would agree with you.  There's something wrong when a mid-major goes undefeated against a competitive schedule and doesn't get an invite, or at the very least some consideration for the National Title.

But the NCAA Tournament Committee doesn't exist to determine the two teams who will play for the National Title.  It exists to determine the 65 teams that will play for the right to determine who will win the National Title.  Never had the committee been forced to leave out the #1 team in the nation because they didn't stack up compared to #2 and #3.  Never will a moment occur where a team wins all of it's games, wins it's conference and then gets left out in the cold.  It's impossible.

Where the committee always gets blasted is when they leave out the teams on the fringe.  Teams that may or may not deserve the right to play for in the tournament and teams that certainly are nowhere near the discussion for the National Title. 

Syracuse fans know the sting of being left out all too well.  But if SU fans are honest with themselves, they know that even if SU made it into the tournament the last two seasons, it would have been at extremely low seeds and their chances for advancing out of the first weekend, let alone winning the whole thing, would have been slim.  So while in football, a team that gets snubbed gets snubbed out of playing for the title, a basketball team gets snubbed out of the chance to play in a tournament where they will have to win six times against opponents all superior to them.  The football snubee has a case, the basketball snubee just has hope.

Pete argues, as many have, that teams like St. Mary's got the big snubaroo in favor of lesser big conference teams.  And on paper, with a 26-6 record, it sure seems that way for the Gaels.  Why did they get passed over while an 18-win Maryland team gets in.  Quick answer?  Check out St. Mary's schedule.  Who the hell did they play???  The only ranked team they played all season was Gonzaga and they lost to them thee times, including a blowout in the tourney.  They went 10-4 in their conference but any mediocre team could go 10-4 in that conference.

St Mary's is to basketball this year what Ball State was to college football.  Ball State mopped up on a cupcake schedule, got passed over by the big bowls and then proved themselves to be overrated when they actually did play a team of merit.  Scheduling means something in both of the college games.  You can't just rattle off wins and expect to be taken seriously.  Who you beat is almost more important than how many.

To be fair, I can probably make a case that St. Mary's should have made the tourney as well.  You play to win the games, right?  And they did win the games.  But at the end of the day is the NCAA Tournament worse off because St. Mary's isn't in it? No. 
The complaint is that St. Mary's is a better team than Maryland and it's boring to watch Maryland play instead because St. Mary's would be a Cinderella darling.  Well if St. Mary's is so good, why would it be such a monumental upset if they won?  You can't have it both ways.

We get so caught up in worrying about the mediocre teams that do or do not get into the NCAA Tournament that we sometimes forget that, well, everyone forgets about all of them by Monday.  Then, do you know what we care about?  The teams that were actually really good all along. Imagine that.

Finally, it's important to remember that college basketball is like a living, breathing thing.  It changes, mutates and evolves each season.  Sometimes, we're overwhelmed with amazing mid-major teams that cannot be denied.  And sometimes, like this season, the pool of truly worth mid-major teams is extremely small. So why then must be force these demands of "more mid-majors" on the tournament every year no matter what?  Just because there were 10 mid-major at-large bids last year (not true but just as an example), that doesn't mean there HAS TO be 10 this year.  Maybe only 3 teams are good enough.  And I think that's the case.

Last week, Niagara Coach Joe Mihalich said “The beauty of this tournament is not Oklahoma State playing Clemson.” This year, maybe it is.  Next year, maybe it won't be.  Certainly the committee looked at everything and decided it wasn't worth swapping in St. Mary's or Creighton as a better option and while I can see both sides, I'm not bothered by it.  To imply that mid-major inclusion is the ONLY thing that makes the NCAA Tournament great is short-sighted.  Everyone had their chance when the season started.  If you find yourself on the bubble come tourney time, you're probably not worth fretting over when you don't make it.