In Favor of the Mid-Majors

I was watching ESPN’s college basketball analysts today talk about who belongs in the NCAA tournament.  (As I write this, it’s still a half an hour before the NCAA selection committee announces which teams get into the 64-team field). 

The three commentators, Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, and Hubert Davis were really arguing in favor of the major conference teams and against the mid-majors.  All of them kept talking about how teams that finish .500 in major conferences are better than the best of the mid-major at large teams.  They claim that the schedules of the mid-majors are too easy.  Of course teams from major conferences are all going to have a few wins against big time programs because they play against those teams a lot more.  Bilas asked, “Who can you beat that is really good?”  He said of the mid-majors, “They’ve gotta go out of conference and find those teams.”  The fact is that the majors are afraid to play the mid-majors because they don’t want to lose to them, and it’s very hard for the mid-majors to schedule major teams because they won’t play them.  

When you have a panel debating something, you can’t have everybody on one side.  Bilas, Davis, and Phelps all either played for or coached teams from major conferences.  They obviously have a lot of friends who are coaches from the major conferences. 

Finally, at least ESPN had Joe Lunardi on who said that the record of double seeded mid-major teams (10 seeds, 11 seeds, 12 seeds, etc.) is better than the record of equivalent seeded major conference teams.  So even though the selection committee is probably biased against mid-major teams because of strength of schedule and gives the mid-majors worse seeds than they deserve, the mid-majors still outperform similarly seeded major conference teams.

It was shameless how Bilas, Davis, and Phelps kept politicking for Arizona and Penn State in favor of Creighton and St. Mary’s.  And Rece Davis failed to reign them in.  The arrogance with which they look down upon the mid-majors and the disdain they have for them is apparent.  

I’m sick of seeing boring teams that finish 8-8 or 9-9 in their conferences get into the tournament in favor of mid-majors who only have a few losses.  Does anyone really want to see Penn State in the tournament?  Phelps had to look at his paper to name the supposedly great players on Arizona’s team while saying that Creighton would have no chance to beat them.  Bilas scoffed at Creighton’s 2-2 record against the top 50 and said Penn State’s 6 wins against the top 50 was so much better.  But they also had 10 losses against the top 50.  Creighton was 9-5 against the top 100 while Penn State was 7-10.

I’m a Maryland fan and I hope they get in but quite frankly I don’t think a team that finishes below .500 in its conference deserves to get in.  Otherwise, why play the regular season?  

Contrast this with ESPN’s college football gameday crew who at least has the guts to bring up differing opinions. 

I think it’s time for ESPN to bring in a commentator from a mid-major school in place of Bilas or Phelps.

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