It’s the most exciting time of the year in college basketball, as conference tournaments are underway and teams make their last pitch to the NCAA Selection Committee to try to stake their claim for a spot in the field of 68.
But it feels like you turn on every game and the announcers start the broadcast with something along the lines of, “School X is squarely on the bubble and they need a win tonight to improve their chances!”
And then you see the school’s record and it’s some bullshit like 18-14, 19-13, 20-12, and they were four games under .500 in conference play, finishing in like 11th place in the ACC. These teams are not on the bubble, they’re fucking terrible, and I’m tired of hearing about them being discussed as actual NCAA Tournament teams.
Last night was a prime example of this on ESPN2 and ESPNU, which was were showing early-round games at the ACC Tournament and the Big 12 Tournament. On at the same time were Notre Dame and Oklahoma, two teams who started the season strong, but wilted down the stretch. Notre Dame came into last night’s game against Virginia Tech with a 19-13 record after going 8-10 in ACC play, good enough for 10th place. They haven’t done dick since winning the season-opening Maui Invitational, and here these announcers were talking about them getting into the NCAA Tournament just because they beat a slightly better Virginia Tech team. That’s trash.
Over on ESPNU was Oklahoma taking on Oklahoma State. The Sooners were the talk of college hoops early in the year because freshman guard Trae Young lit up a bunch of schools like Our Lady of the Harbor. Oklahoma, based on tiebreakers finished next-to-last in the Big 12, and heading into last night was 18-12. Then the lost to Oklahoma State and finished at 18-13. And people think that’s good enough to be solidly in. Come on, I do not need to see a trash team who won TWO road games all year get crushed by an actually good team in the NCAA Tournament.
And then to cap it all off was Syracuse (sorry @TheRyanWalsh) taking on North Carolina. Syracuse has an equally identical resume to that of Notre Dame, only with the added benefit of a whopping four extra home games. 19 of their 31 regular season games were at home. And they were 19-12 in the regular season, and 8-10 in ACC play. That is not a tournament team, and hopefully last night’s beat down at the hands of the Tar Heels eliminates them from NCAA consideration.
And this isn’t even getting into Big 10 or Pac 12 or SEC or whatever other big league that has 3-4 mediocre to bad teams who are only on the bubble because of their league affiliation.
Meanwhile you flip over to something like the WAC Tournament, and if a school like New Mexico State, who was 25-5 overall and 12-2 in its league, loses in its tournament, they have to sweat out the selection show, knowing there is a VERY strong chance they are getting passed over beecause nobody outside of Las Cruces, NM gives a shit about New Mexico State basketball.
Which is my biggest gripe with the NCAA Tournament and the Selection Committee. There is never talk of a very good mid major team being on the bubble when they lose in their conference tournament, because ESPN, the NCAA, and others do not care about them and honestly probably don’t want them in the tournament, simply for financial reasons.
Who do you think sells more tickets and gets more eyeballs to a TV for a first-round NCAA game, trash-ass Notre Dame and it’s hundreds of thousands of alums (and even more “fans” who never went there) across the country, or someone like a St. Bonaventure or Old Dominion? SPOILER: The one that’s on ESPN every week even though they’re fucking terrible.
I guarantee that when Sunday rolls around 2-3 big name teams who didn’t deserve to get in to the NCAA Tournament will get bids, while 2-3 more deserving smaller programs will get left at home, or sent off to the NIT, and then the Selection Committee will spout off a bunch of corporate lines that all basically mean, “Oklahoma sells more tickets and gets more viewers than Boise State.”
It’s exhausting every year having to listen to the lip service these trash teams gets from the networks, all because the NCAA wants to pad its billion dollar plus revenues just a little more.