Glancing at this years field, there are the familiar perennial powerhouses such as Kansas, Duke, and Kentucky and a new kid on the block in Wofford. The University of Houston returns to the tournament after an 18 year absence and teams such as North Carolina and Connecticut are missing due to poor play by each teams high standards.
Taking yet a second and more discerning look, it appears to me (and Jay Bilas) that this edition of March Madness has the weakest at-large field in the history. There were, at the very least, a dozen teams considered on the bubble and all had legitimate arguments to claim a tournament birth. But when you look at the process that the Tournament Committee uses to select teams, they did an amazingly thorough job in selecting the 34 at-large teams.
So many teams this season played abysmal out of conference schedules to fatten up their records. The two teams I will focus on briefly will be Utah State and Virginia Tech.
Tourney bound Utah State has an RPI of 30 despite a very weak non conference schedule. The Aggies played weaklings such as Morehead State, Northeastern, and Southern Utah amongst others and were upset in the WAC finals by New Mexico State.
Virginia Tech, not selected had an RPI of 59 and the non conference schedule wasn't any better facing the likes of Brown, UMBC, and Longwood. Losses in 6 of their final 8 games doomed the Hokies including a devastating 80-60 shelling at Boston College and an upset loss versus Miami (FL) in the ACC Tournament.
Many other teams fit Tech's type of season such as Rhode Island, Mississippi State, and Illinois shared virtually the same fate.
Then again we see the same argument every season about those who were selected and those who were snubbed. To avoid such yearly controversies, fun as they may be, Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight suggested that conference tournaments be done away with and I concur. I feel by eliminating conference tournaments, ALL teams will have to find opponents to fill their 32 to 34 game schedule. That, I would think, would lead to stronger non conference opponents.
There is talk about expanding the field to 96 teams, which means watering down the field even more, in my not so humble opinion. Being a traditionalist,I would like to see the field be cut back to 48 teams with the top 4 teams would receive a 1st round bye. I believe this AND eliminating conference tournaments would get the best 48 teams into the tourney field. Of course you would still have debates about the last 4 teams but I think seventeen teams would be much easier to choose than thirty four. That was a much simpler time then...48 team fields with very few blowouts.
Those are my thoughts...and yours are?
Let March Madness begin!
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