I hate to say it, but Cinderella has zits.
Now that we’ve spent 30 years sandblasting away the make up, those NCAA small-conference-upset gals getting out of the pumpkin carriages aren’t as charming as they used to be.
It’s not their fault mind you. No one is as pretty as you thought when you are looking at the pores of their skin through a magnifying glass as opposed to the soft white light of the NCAA tournament stage.
And it’s tough to keep up with naturally nice features when the evil step-sisters are pumping up with silicone and botox laced conference scheduling.
But in the days since the brackets have been unveiled a river of tears has been cried for the mid majors/small conference schools while the mean, nasty Power 5 colleges have soaked up a lot of the at large spots.
If you are looking for sympathy for the Monmouth’s, St. Mary’s and St. Bonaventures of the world, go elsewhere. You’ll get none here.
These lesser-conference schools have been left out for a reason…they play in lesser conferences. It’s that simple.
Yet their fan bases want to have it both ways. Their fans want their teams to be evaluated on the same level as the Power-5 reps. But they want the pity party when the math doesn’t work out in their favor.
Fans of those schools are mad at Syracuse, Vanderbilt, and Michigan for getting bids they feel should be distributed to them. They’re blaming the wrong institutions. Instead, they should be blaming Gonzaga, Northern Iowa, Butler, Harvard and Princeton.
Because over the years those colleges helped forge the very reputation of this tournament as being the magnificent made for TV event that it has become by emerging from lesser known conferences with really good squads. With no reputation and limited committee research, they were seeded poorly and often upset second tier entrants from the bigger conferences who were slotted in the 2-7 seed range.
So what happened? Those schools complained. “Why are we always slotted so poorly when we keep performing well every year?”
What else happened? The bigger conference schools complained even louder. “Why are those schools slotted so low when they keep upsetting us in the first round?! They are making us look bad!”
Eventually, those schools started to get ranked in the polls. They got elevated from small conferences to mid-major conferences when the Power 5’s expanded. The playing field started to square.
In theory, progress was being made. The whole time, all we heard from the mid majors and small conferences was-”Judge us like the big schools! Create balanced points of evaluation for selection Sunday. Don’t go by the jersey. Go by the data.”
RPI replaced AP. SOS suddenly became a good thing and not a distress signal from boat.
Unfortunately this year, the lesser lights saw the other side of the coin. Once we get away from the crazy bench antics of Monmouth, and the noble records of St. Bonaventure & St. Mary’s, why are we upset these schools got left out exactly?
Disclaimer here. Yup. I went to Syracuse. And after their third loss of the season to PITT in the ACC tournament, I was disgusted enough to write them off for the NIT. Until I realized in this parody addled season, who should really knock them off the bubble?
Wanna compare them to the smaller conference feel goods who were allegedly ticketed for the tourney “on a fair and balanced” level?
Yeah, let’s do that.
Monmouth is everyone’s snub sob story because they tried to schedule hard. The operative word is “tried.” Unfortunately for the Hawks, it didn’t work out. Georgetown ended up being poor. So did UCLA. Nice try. But those wins don’t mean as much as you hoped. And they don’t mean as much as Syracuse also beating UCONN and Texas A&M out of conference (and Duke in conference). The Hawks’ best win is Notre Dame (who Syracuse also beat). Their second best win is USC (who, in a scheduling rarity, previously beat them). They have three sub RPI 150 losses. Syracuse has one.
All that means is what Syracuse did out of conference was rated at 122 in the country. Monmouth rates at 129. So is the mythical “well Monmouth tried to schedule better” argument worth nine slots of data? And are we just going to apply the data when/where it is convenient to the sob story argument?
Oh by the way, Syracuse played in the ACC. Monmouth plays in the MAAC. And their second best competition in that conference (Iona) beat them twice.
So how about St.Bonnies then, right? Well Syracuse did schedule them. And they beat the Bonnies by 13. They’re best out of conference win was against Ohio. Meanwhile, St. Mary’s lost it’s only non conference game in the top 50 RPI to Cal.
Vanderbilt, Oregon State, and even Michigan can also make similar arguments against them on different points similar to those from the Orange.
Is it inequitable that these teams have a harder time scheduling out of conference opponents? Yes. Does the system cater towards the bigger conference? Indeed. Should the selection committee depart from the system it established simply in the name of altruism for the smaller conference schools?
No it shouldn’t. Because if the argument to do so is to set up more crazy Cinderella upsets, then ask this question: Are you really a Cinderella if you are good enough to get an at large bid in the first place?
So if the message from the small conference schools is “see us for who we are”, then don’t be surprised when the wicked step sisters get to wear the slippers.