Every year, it seems, the basketball tradition known as “March Madness” includes tales of woe and crushing, disillusioned disappointment: teams that barely missed the cut for the 65-team “Big Dance.” This year that includes the Florida State University men and the University of South Florida women.
Without getting caught up in the esoterica of weighted schedules and RPIs and all that, let’s at least acknowledge this: If there are more than a half dozen teams in your own conference that are better than you, what are you doing in a national championship tournament anyway? Shouldn’t selection mean selective?
Time was when only a conference winner went to the NCAA Tournament. Period. Or only a conference tournament winner moved on.
Back in the day, the biggest obstacle to a Jerry West-led West Virginia team making the NCAAs was the Southern Conference Tournament final with tiny Davidson. It was great hoops and great drama. And occasionally Davidson slew Goliath.
The problem now is there are too many teams from the big-name, big-budget conferences in the tournament — and in a game of increasing parity not nearly enough Valparaisos, Vermonts, Butlers, Belmonts, Evansvilles and Bucknells.
You want to make the Big Tournament? Earn it. Don’t be an also-ran in your own — however big the name — conference and then complain because it’s embarrassing to the administration, alumni and fans to miss a bloated, 65-team tournament.