Colgate Around the Hill – The top 12 teams in the NCAA tournament are still alive and upsets have been few and far between. Is the selection committee at fault for leaving out too many mid-majors?

Gillian Scherz:

The NCAA tournament selection committee is continuing a fine job in the selection process, despite loud opposition from talking heads and fans. Many have complained this year about the exclusion of St. Mary’s and the inclusion of Arizona. Arizona, however, is sitting pretty in the Sweet 16, so it looks like the selection committee nailed that one. St. Mary’s was, without a doubt, the mid-major that shouted the loudest for admittance into the tourney. A number of analysts argued that they can’t be punished for their lackluster strength of schedule due to the weakness of their conference, the West Coast Conference. They’re wrong. This isn’t college football, where one out-of-conference loss leaves the rest of a small school’s season in vain. This is college basketball, where RPI and strength of schedule mean everything to a small school. While the Gaels’ RPI was 48, their strength of schedule was a measly 150. St. Mary’s can complain all they want, but when the only decent teams they schedule out-of-conference are other mid-majors like Utah State and San Diego State, and their power conference opponents are the mighty Oregon Ducks and the fearsome Friars of Providence, they really have no legitimate complaint for not making the tournament. They know going into the season that their conference schedule is going to be awful, so schedule out-of-conference games accordingly. If mid-majors want to find their way back to the Big Dance, they’d better step up and be ready to tango with the big boys.

Ed Boulat:

College basketball is becoming too much about money. How can you tell? Not because of the record low number of at-large bids from non-major conferences this year, not because the selection committee wants “big money” teams in the tournament, but simply because you can’t watch four minutes of uninterrupted game action without having to sit through two minutes of the tenth Geico, Bud Light and Jordan Brand advertisements in the last hour. Just like the Super Bowl, March Madness is slowly becoming more about the commercials and how much money CBS, ESPN and the other big network companies are going to make off it, and less about the athletes and the competition itself. Here’s an idea: Instead of cutting to a commercial one minute and 25 seconds into a game, how about a recap of how a certain team got to the tournament, a spotlight on a player or coach or a look-in at another game going on?

On another note, I don’t see a problem with the number of at-large bids from smaller conferences. There were already complaints of not enough upsets this year, so obviously we don’t need any more small (and usually not very good) teams to come in and lose by 50 to UNC or UCONN. If you play in a small conference, against weaker competition, you will have a tougher time getting into the tournament. Seems logical to me. As awesome as it was to see Cleveland State blow Wake Forest out in the first round, it wasn’t very exciting to see them lose by 14 to 12- seed Arizona just two days later.

Jim Rosen:

Everyone loves an underdog. Fans can relate to the struggle against “The Man.” I, for one, rooted against the Laker and Patriot dynasties of the early 2000s. And while I am a Yankee fan, many baseball followers root for their own team and whoever is looking to knock off the Bronx Bombers. The problem with most sports is that underdogs rarely emerge in the absence of a dynasty.

Luckily, an annual solution presents itself every March. The NCAA Basketball Tournament brings about numerous games each year which pits an underdog against a major conference powerhouse. It’s hard to forget the madness of 2005 when Vermont, a 13 seed, beat Syracuse in overtime and when Bucknell, a 14 seed, defeated Kansas. People watching the first round of the tournament are looking for two things: upsets and their own bracket’s success.

Lately, however, there has been an unfortunate trend of more major conference teams receiving at-large bids. The obvious reason for this trend is the far superior resources that major conferences have access to. One solution to this problem would be to put a cap on the amount of money a school can spend on their program. As the power in the NCAA’s rulemaking is mostly held by major conference schools, however, this is not a viable answer to the problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is much to do about the lack of non-major teams making the Big Dance. Coaches are simply going to have to work on local talent, as Rutgers Football has had success with, and hope for a little luck in landing big recruits. Although this regrettable problem might not have a solution, one positive that comes out of this will be the added elation fans experience when non-majors successfully play the role of the lovable underdog.

Josh Glick:

Just like all decisions in life, the NCAA basketball selection committee bases their decision on which teams make the tourney by one thing: money. Money drives professional sports, so why should college sports be any different? Big state schools like Clemson and Arizona put butts in seats and help TV ratings, where as a small school like Cleveland State or George Mason does neither. However, this sucks for a college basketball fan. The best part of March Madness is watching the upsets. Everyone loves an underdog, and even though a big state school team can be an underdog, those teams still have the name, reputation, and most importantly, the better chance to field a competent, winning team. Cinderella teams like George Mason and Davidson should have absolutely no business competing with powerhouses like Kansas, but Davidson was one shot away from being in the Final Four. Except for Cleveland State shocking the college basketball world and beating Wake Forest, this tourney has been a snore and a disappointment. Why? Because not enough non-major conference teams have had the chance for an upset.