Larry Brown doesn’t want to dwell on the fact that his SMU Mustangs got snubbed for the NCAA Tournament. Just focusing on winning the NIT is now his program’s focus – and it has nothing to do with vindication or retribution.
Fine. He’ll take the high road and not rant. Leave that to people like me.
It can be tough to be that thing known as “objective” when you’ve become an actual journalist of sports teams in your area. And it’s not just the simple fact of how it’s more fun to report when the team you’re reporting on is winning.
As a fan of college basketball for years, I’ve desperately wanted the programs in DFW to be relevant. I want the Metroplex to be an integral part of this excitement that arrives every March. Which is why this past season watching SMU was so exciting – it looked like one of our own was not just going to get into the field but possibly be a serious competitor in it.
And then the NCAA selection committee made it painfully clear that they don’t let newcomers into their exclusive club if they can help it.
But it goes deeper than that. One of the things that frustrates me is how no attention is paid to the first 3 ½ months of college basketball, as there is a sense by all the major outlets that it’s just not necessary. And sadly, the fact that SMU got passed over for the likes of Oklahoma State and North Carolina State did nothing to rebuke those claims.
As someone who has followed small schools and conferences like UTA and the Southland/Sun Belt for years, I had to accept long ago that the regular season almost means nothing in those leagues. Whoever wins the conference tournament is getting their lone entry into the Dance.
But this selection by the NCAA has made it all too clear: The regular season means absolutely nothing in the other conferences as well.
It was believed for weeks that SMU’s victories over Memphis, UConn (twice) and Cincinnati proved they deserved to be among the elite and in the NCAAs. The selection committee said flat out no, the fact that you’re SMU and you play in the American Athletic Conference, you don’t deserve an at-large bid.
You can get an at-large, however, even if you finish below .500 in the Big 12. You can get one even if you fail to beat any of the top teams in the ACC.
It seems too clear those involved in the selection process had made up their minds that the more “elite” conferences were getting a set number of teams in the field, by hook or crook, and anyone else who actually tried to earn their way in be damned.
Brown has flat out said the selection committee didn’t respect his school’s conference. Given the fact that the defending national champions from Louisville were given a four seed, he may have a point.
It makes you winder if Wichita State, which got a Number One seed after a perfect regular season, might actually have been rejected had they not win their conference tournament as well.
I will not be unbiased in this NCAA Tournament. I hope that Oklahoma State and NC State get throttled to prove the selection committee had nothing between their ears in choosing them.
And hopefully, SMU will make that more clear by being the ones hoisting the other trophy at Madison Square Garden.