The Twitter takes got hotter and hotter. As the Syracuse Orange won game after game in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, discussions started about the validation of the at-large bid the Orange received. On Selection Sunday, many thought Syracuse was on the wrong side of the bubble and smaller programs like Valparaiso, Monmouth and St. Bonaventure had a better chance of making the field of 68. The committee went with the big program in a power conference and now that team is headed to Houston for the Final Four.
When you look at the path in the Midwest region that Syracuse was fortunate to even be given the opportunity to travel down, other than yesterday’s 68-62 win in the regional final against Virginia, there aren’t many impressive victories. Beating a Dayton team in the first round that was coming into the tournament playing relatively inconsistent basketball and then beating two double-digit seeds in the next two rounds doesn’t sound all that difficult.
But that’s not even relevant really. The principle remains that what bubble teams do once they get into the tournament should have no effect on if they earned a bid. There is no more adding to resumes once the field is picked. Syracuse’s resume was not good enough to warrant an at-large bid and that still has not changed. Wins out of conference against Texas A&M and Connecticut are nice, but losses to Georgetown, Clemson and Florida State are not so nice.
Valparaiso has rolled through its three games so far in the NIT, winning each by double digits and is in the NIT Final Four, which tips off tomorrow night at Madison Square Garden. If there aren’t going to be discussions now about the legitimacy of an at-large selection for Valparaiso, then there shouldn’t be discussions about the validation of Syracuse’s. Ultimately, there are always going to be unhappy teams, but there was a clear bias from the selection committee to choose bigger bubble programs like Vanderbilt, Syracuse and Michigan over smaller schools like Valparaiso, Monmouth and St. Bonaventure. Did we forget so quickly about that run to the Final Four from Virginia Commonwealth in 2011? A small school that won the hearts of the country that many thought did not deserve an at-large bid.
| Dennis Wierzbicki/USA Today|
Jim Boeheim cuts down the net in Chicago at the United Center
after clinching a trip to his fifth Final Four.
Syracuse feels nothing like a traditional underdog in this tournament, and now, the NCAA gets what it wants. Syracuse and North Carolina in primetime on Saturday night in the second game of the National Semifinal doubleheader and two of the most historic coaches in college basketball, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim, facing off for the right to play in the National Championship game. It may feel right, but it’s not.
On a much smaller note, the committee is probably taking solace over the fact that it got the final number one seed right. Oregon made it to the West Regional Final, while Michigan State was the victim of arguably the greatest upset in the history of the tournament in the first round losing to Middle Tennessee State. In my opinion, this is more of a debate than if Syracuse belonged in the tournament, but this was still the wrong call too. If history of the program is a criterion for a bid, which apparently it is if Syracuse gets in, then I’d say Michigan State has a lot of going for itself there instead of Oregon. But what do I know?