A fresh round of potential NCAA Tournament brackets were released this week by virtually every media entity that covers college basketball. Bracketology, as it is deemed by the Worldwide Leader in Sports, has become a trademark of college basketball season. Who’s in and who’s out of March Madness is one of my favorite sports debates each year. The arguments are so subjective and yet everybody feels so passionate about their opinions.
One hot-button topic this year is whether Wichita State deserves a one-seed this season or not. To me this seems pretty simple, if a team that went to the Final Four last season goes undefeated a year later then of course they deserve a No. 1 seed. Detractors of the Shockers argue vehemently that Wichita State’s strength of schedule is so woeful that there is nothing they can do to be worthy of such a lofty ranking by the tourney committee.
I could not disagree with this sentiment anymore profoundly, and yet somehow it was a counter-argument I read from almost every single Wichita State backer that made me madder than Andy Reid at closing time of an all-you-can-eat buffet.
They asserted that you cannot blame Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall for his poor nonconference strength of schedule because he did everything in his power to put together a stiff slate during the offseason, but that no one was willing to play him.
Um, not exactly everything.
Marshall has gone on the record several times saying he refuses to take pay-dates. In other words, he will not schedule a road non-league game without the school agreeing to play at Wichita State in return. It’s a common gripe from good mid-major teams: ‘We can never get the big guys to come play at our house. It isn’t fair.’
Here’s the only problem with that claim, mid-majors don’t have to play the same kind of difficult road games that BCS conference teams do once league play rolls around.
Let’s use Wichita State for example since they are the hot-button team of the hour. The Shockers are in the Missouri Valley Conference, which was severely damaged when Creighton deserted for the new Big East last offseason. Currently there are no teams other than Wichita State ranked in the RPI top-50 from the MVC and only one in the top-100. Conversely, the Pac 12 has five teams that crack the RPI top-50 and nine of the conference’s 12 members are in the top 100. The ACC and the Big Ten each has five top-50 teams and eight top-100 squads. Heck, even the Atlantic 10 has six top-50 teams at the moment.
Bigger conference teams have to play tougher slates in January, February and early-March. How is it fair if they are playing five-to-nine road games annually in-conference against top-100 foes, as opposed to one for Wichita State, that they be forced to go to Kansas to take on the Shockers in their home gym.
Shouldn’t it be Wichita State’s responsibility to prove its mettle?
Again, I think if the Shockers finish the year undefeated they deserve a top-seed, but don’t tell me it isn’t their fault that they didn’t put together a more formidable non-league slate. They stood on a high horse and asked for equal treatment in a situation that is not even close to even.
It may stink, but it’s reality, and honestly it isn’t unfair. Mid-majors need to accept this fact, or their accomplishments will continue to be questioned each March.