I’ve got no beef with the NCAA tournament selection committee’s conclusion that the Washington Huskies are undeserving of an at-large bid.
The ball was in the Huskies’ hands Thursday, when they owned a six-point lead late in their Pacific-12 Conference tournament quarterfinal against Oregon State.
They dropped the ball. It’s not the end of the world, merely the end of relevant basketball games for a team that had grown accustomed to running with the bulls in March.
The beef I’ve got is with the term “power conference,” as in: “The Huskies on Sunday became the first team denied an NCAA tournament bid after winning the regular-season championship of a power conference.”
A what conference? Power is a deceased actor named Tyrone, who had a famous sword fight against Basil Rathbone in “The Mark of Zorro.”
Power is a former first baseman named Vic, who helped popularize one-handed catches on the field and lived his life with panache off of it.
Power can be given to attorneys, and it can be given to the people – especially those people who can afford attorneys.
But power should not be used as an adjective for the six college sports leagues with a BCS football affiliation. The selection committee awarded 37 at-large bids Sunday, and 11 of them went to schools from conferences outside the traditional loop.
The A10 – which is not an aircraft, but the abbreviation for Atlantic 10 – scored three at-large bids with Temple, Xavier and Saint Louis. The Mountain West also scored three at-large bids with San Diego State, UNLV and Colorado State.
The West Coast Conference got two: Gonzaga, which lost to Saint Mary’s in the WCC tournament finale, and BYU. Even something called the MAAC, which stands for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference – I had to look that up – ended up with an at-large berth for Iona.
In other words, the MAAC will be represented in the NCAA tournament by as many at-large bids as the Pac-12 received. (California, apparently, was the beneficiary of the Huskies’ flop in the conference tournament. And the Bears’ berth is on a stand-by ticket that’ll require them to travel to Dayton, Ohio, for a play-in game against South Florida.)
As for Washington and the historic distinction of failing to qualify despite winning a regular-season championship of a supposedly major conference, well, good luck to the Huskies in mustering sympathy from neutral fans.
Drexel, which won the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title, also was turned down. The Dragons own a 27-6 record. Before losing to Virginia Commonwealth in their conference tournament, they were 25-1 since starting the season 2-4. The selection committee system weighs a “what-have-you-done-lately?” factor into its decisions, and it seems to me that a 25-2 roll indicates Drexel has done quite well lately.
Seton Hall (20-12) didn’t make the cut, either, even though its Record Performance Index of 54 is superior to the Huskies’ RPI of 69. The Pirates beat four tournament-bound teams (Georgetown, UConn, West Virginia and VCU), which is four more tournament-bound teams than Washington beat.
(Seton Hall, by the way, is located 12 miles from New York City. If you think the selection committee is guilty of an East Coast bias steeped in New York’s massive TV market, think again.)
Oral Roberts breezed through the Summit League’s regular-season schedule, finishing 17-1 en route to an overall record of 27-5. With an RPI of 46, the Golden Eagles had solid at-large bid credentials.
But they’re bound for the National Invitation Tournament, along with Drexel and Seton Hall and the Huskies, who’ll play Texas-Arlington at Alaska Airlines Arena on Tuesday.
The NIT has installed Washington as the tournament’s No. 1 seed, which is sort of flattering, if you think about it.
The challenge is to think about it.
“We had control of the situation, and we lost it,” coach Lorenzo Romar said Sunday afternoon. “Our guys are very, very disappointed, because I think after winning the conference outright, they couldn’t see any way we would not be in this tournament.”
Romar’s guys can be forgiven for presuming the regular-season championship of a long-established conference was tantamount to an NCAA tournament berth. Little did they realize some of those precious at-large bids would be doled out to the also-rans of the A10 and WCC and MAAC.
Little did they realize how finishing first in a big-time conference would find them spending Selection Sunday – among the best days on the sports calendar – in a weird and unsatisfying place.
The college basketball season is about to begin its bright-lights-on-the-main-stage phase, when the noise is louder and the stakes are higher and a palpable jolt of electricity precedes every tipoff.
But the Huskies won’t be tuning in.
They’re without power.