The NCAA Basketball Tournament Expansion Debate – Enough is Enough!

January 14, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless about whether or not the NCAA Basketball Tournament should expand.

Expanding the NCAA basketball national tournament would serve no purpose other than to water down the talent with teams that have no business being there in the first place.

The March Madness tournament exists to determine a national champion. To my knowledge, there has never been a question at the conclusion of the March Madness Tournament as to who the “real” national champion is. To the contrary, the tournament already provides a definitive process where the champion can be crowned with no question as to the team’s legitimacy.

Want proof? Take on this little Sports Debates Challenge – Try to genuinely convince just ONE person that Nicholls State SHOULD have been invited to the March Madness tournament last year, that they were LEGITIMATELY worthy of consideration as one of the best teams in the country, and that they would have beaten North Carolina in the tournament if they squared off. I’ll even get you started with a little help – Nicholls State won 20 games last year, but Wisconsin and Arizona only won 19 games each, yet both the Badgers AND the Wildcats received at-large bids.

Any luck? I didn’t think so!

The reason you cannot win that argument is because the notion that a school like Nicholls State deserved to be in the national tournament last year is absurd. Yet, Nicholls State is precisely the caliber of team that would be added to the national tournament if the pool of competitors is expanded.

Does that mean that schools like Nicholls State should automatically be excluded from the national championship tournament? Of course not! Every single one of the 347 teams that participate in NCAA Division I basketball ALREADY has an opportunity to compete for the national championship. That’s right, unlike college football, where some schools can literally play through a perfect season and STILL be excluded from consideration for a national championship opportunity, EVERY SINGLE SCHOOL from Air Force to Youngstown State (there are no schools that start with ‘Z’) in Division I college basketball has a real and legitimate opportunity to play for the national championship – win and you’re in!

Each of the 33 conferences in Division I are awarded an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament, equaling 33 invitations which are given to the schools that win conference championships. If Nicholls State won the Southland Conference Tournament last year, they WOULD have been invited to the dance.

That leaves 32 additional ‘At-Large’ invitations which are awarded to those 32 teams that did not win a conference tournament, but still performed well enough to have earned an opportunity for a ‘second chance’ at the crown.

Those 65 teams are then ranked from 1-65, and accordingly seeded into four different brackets. That means that the teams which earned a ranking from 61-65 are the ‘worst’ teams in the tournament, and are subsequently placed as the 16th seeds in their respective brackets (with the 64th and 65th ranked teams first meeting in a play-in game).

Fact: No team that has been ranked as a 16th seed has EVER won a game in the national basketball tournament!

If the “worst” teams (ranked 61 through 65) currently participating in the tournament have NEVER won a game, how could it happen with the teams ranked from 66 through 96?!

Populating that 66-96 range would be a combination of Mid-Major programs that failed to win any big games (including their own conference tournament, as well as games against Major conference members), and the last place teams of Major conferences who already had AMPLE opportunity to prove their worth against those top programs, but failed in the attempt. Those teams had their chance to prove they were worthy of consideration, and were unable to meet the task.

Their performances simply do not warrant any consideration for the tournament. Nicholls State, a Mid-Major, could not even cut it among the ranks of McNeese State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Another example is the Cincinnati Bearcats, a team that finished 2009 with a 10th place finish in the Big East thanks to an 8-10 conference record, and an 18-14 overall record. The Bearcats lost to teams such as Louisville, Pitt, Villanova, Connecticut, and Marquette, along with a loss to DePaul in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Do the Bearcats really belong in the national tournament competing AGAIN against many of those exact same teams?

The system today is fair, and it works. The schools that win their conference championships will go on to compete on the national stage along with those programs that proved throughout the rigorous regular season that they, too, are among the best in the nation. Although there will always be four or five “snubbed” schools that were also worthy of consideration, opening the floodgates to 33 additional teams in order to allow those few snubs into the tournament is not the answer.

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The Big East in the BCS Debate – What Have You Done For Me Lately? A Lot, Actually…

July 14, 2009

Read the debate intro and Loyal Homer’s argument that the Big East is not good enough to warrant an automatic BCS bowl big.

Let me clear the air right now with a very definitive statement – The Big East is one of the six best conferences in college football.

First, a note to Loyal Homer: One team does not a conference make! As an SEC fan, you should have known better than to argue otherwise. The SEC is not considered a conference favorite because of just one team. Instead, the success of LSU, Florida, and a cheating Alabama have propelled the SEC into the recent limelight.

To place the worth of the entire Big East on the shoulders of their preseason favorite, who just didn’t live up to expectations last season, is a misguided argument (although West Virginia still finished the season at 9-4 and ranked in the top 25 – not exactly a disappointment).

By your standards, I guess you would also argue that the SEC should not be allowed an automatic BCS bid. Their top preseason team last year, the Georgia Bulldogs, was ranked number one in the nation, but did not live up to expectations. Instead, they finished outside of the top 10 with a meager 10-3 record, only one game better than the “pitiful” Mountaineers (who, by the way, had a new head coach and lost star running back Steve Slaton).

The question today is not about the preseason favorite within the Big East. It is about whether or not the Big East is still one of college football’s top SIX conferences, and whether or not it still deserves an automatic BCS bid every year.

Sports Geek, in raising the question, brings up several interesting points, and claims they point to a “fall from grace” for the Big East. Those points include the departures of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College to the ACC, only to be replaced by the University of South Florida, Cincinnati, and Louisville.

With all due respect to our esteemed judge for this debate… Sports Geek could not be more wrong.

To begin, it is laughable to say that the Big East misses Miami right now! Consider that ‘The U’ (since leaving the Big East) has not finished better than 7-6 since 2005, actually posted a losing record in 2007, and lost to the only top 25 team they played last year (a blow-out against the Florida Gators). That is not exactly a boast-worthy performance, and I’m sure the ACC isn’t hanging any Hurricane performances on their refrigerator right now.

As for the Big East’s replacements, let’s consider what they’ve done which actually ADDS to the Big East’s credibility:

  • South Florida – In 2008, they defeated #13 Kansas, and were undefeated in inter-conference play. They finished the season at 8-5, which is a better record than Miami and is just slightly less impressive than the results of Boston College (9-5) and Virginia Tech (10-4).
  • Louisville – In 2006, Louisville finished the season ranked in the top 10 with a record of 12-1, their only loss coming by way of a then-undefeated Rutgers, also a Big East team.
  • Cincinnati – Finished in the top 25 in 2007 AND 2008, posting records of 10-3 and 11-3 respectively.

I would consider each of those performances upgrades over Miami!

As for the rest of the Big East, here are some other points to consider:

  • Bowl Eligibility – Out of the eight teams in the conference, six of them were bowl eligible in 2008! That’s 75% of the conference! No other BCS-conference can make that statement, as the Pac-10 (50% made bowl appearances), Big XII (58%), Big Ten (63%), SEC (67%), and ACC (67%) all had much lower participation rates!
  • Bowl Performances – The Big East turned in a very impressive bowl record of 4-2 last year! That’s a greater win percentage than the ACC (2-6), the Big Ten (1-6), and the Big XII (4-3). In fact, only the Pac-10 (5-0) and SEC (6-2) turned in better bowl performances than the Big East last year.

The fact remains that the Big East produced a greater percentage of winning records than any other conference in college football, and performed better than all but two conferences in bowl play.

Based on those statements, a non-BCS conference in college football cannot argue they are more deserving of an automatic BCS bid than the Big East.

On the other hand, perhaps the ACC should be a little worried!!!

The Big East in the BCS Debate – No Guarantees for the Big East

July 14, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher’s Fan’s argument that the Big East still deserves an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game.

This is sure to be a popular topic with our friends in the Northeast!

Sports Geek poses the question in today’s debate about whether or not the Big East is still deserving of its guaranteed BCS bid. I most definitely say NO!

Let’s take a look at last year (2008).

West Virginia came into the season as the team to beat, despite the fact that head coach Rich Rodriguez left for the supposedly greener pastures in Michigan. However, with the momentum from the 48-28 trouncing of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and the return of Pat White, things were still looking up in Morgantown. (On a side note, does a victory over Oklahoma in a BCS game really mean anything these days?)

But the Mountaineers struggled all season, and limped to a 9-4 record with a loss to an 8-5 North Carolina team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

I will give Cincinnati credit. They won the Big East by going 11-3 – even with a loss to an average Virginia Tech team in the Orange Bowl – and finished the season ranked in the top 20. Head coach Brian Kelly has that team on the rise, and Sports Geek and I can stake claim to witnessing Kelly dominate Division II football earlier this decade when he was coaching Grand Valley State. But, winning the Big East in football is like Memphis winning Conference USA in basketball or like beating your two-year-old sister in a game of Madden on PlayStation 3. What have you really accomplished?

I would discuss Pittsburgh some, but year in and year out – especially since Dave Wannstedt came back to “save” the program – they have been inconsistent showing they are not yet ready for the big stage. They couldn’t even fill up Heinz Field for the season opener against Bowling Green (who they lost to, by the way). Only 45,063 showed up for the season opener. For the record, “Ketchup Field” has a capacity of 65,050.

Truth be told, I think the Big East is still living off of just one good performance this entire decade, the 2006 Sugar Bowl. West Virginia knocked off heavy favorite Georgia 38-35 in Atlanta (it wasn’t in New Orleans that year due to Hurricane Katrina) behind outstanding performances from White and running back Steve Slaton.

In 2007, West Virginia actually had a shot to play for the national championship. All the Mountaineers had to do was beat rival Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, at home in Morgantown, and it was likely they would play in the BCS Championship game. But, with all the pressure on them, West Virginia folded and lost 13-9. If WVU wins that game, and was able to win the championship that year, we would not be debating this issue.

The fact is that the Big East isn’t ready for prime time and that’s obvious from their recent history. I’m not even sure enough people in Big East country even care, outside of Morgantown. As far as attendance goes for the entire conference, the numbers don’t lie. The average attendance at a Big East game in 2008 was 42,995, with West Virginia averaging 58,085 to lead the conference. Four schools (Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse, and Cincinnati) averaged less than 40,000 fans at each game. Folks, that’s terrible, and borderline embarrassing.

The Big East is undeserving of a BCS bid, and I think everyone outside of the Northeast agrees with me.

The Big East in the BCS Debate – Is the Big East Deserving of an Automatic Bid?

July 14, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that the Big East does deserve an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game, and Loyal Homer’s argument that the conference does not.

Does everyone remember their SAT analogies? Let’s try one. Orange is to fruit what lettuce is to… ? Yup, vegetables. Very good. Here’s another one. The Big East Conference is to football what Crystal Pepsi is to cola. Er, was.

Recent history has not been kind to Big East football. It all began in 2004 when the University of Miami and Virginia Tech decided to leave the confines of the Big East for greener pastures in the Atlanta Coast Conference. Once a proud conference boasting 16 teams (only eight participate in football) and consistent college football relevance, the migration of those two powerhouses, followed by solid Boston College in 2005, has ripped the conference’s football guts out. The Big East was forced to turn to football poor Conference USA to make up for the lost teams, bringing in Louisville, University of South Florida, and Cincinnati.

The mark of a great football team – and by extension a great conference – is how well they perform in pressure-filled road games. In each of the last four years, only one football program in the entire conference has a winning road record. One. That team is West Virginia with an impressive 11-3 road record (though it remains to be seen how well they’ll do without Pat White under center). In fact, only four schools (five seasons in total) have had just one winning season in the last four years. Unimpressive.

There are little talking points that media guide aficionados will use to claim the Big East has maintained its football relevance in 2009. Items like the fact that Pittsburgh is returning 15 starters. But, Cincinnati is returning only one starter on defense (and they are not returning their defensive coordinator, either). Syracuse has had 14 scholarship players defect since new coach Doug Marrone arrived, forcing many freshman and inexperienced players into high profile roles in the coming season. I could go on…

While the past four years have been tough, signs point to another struggle this year for Big East football.

Which brings us today’s question: Does the Big East still deserve an automatic conference BCS bowl bid?

Bleacher Fan will argue that the Big East is still one of the six best college football conferences and deserving of their automatic BCS bowl bid.

Loyal Homer will argue that the BCS has lost their legitimate right to an automatic conference BCS bowl bid.

Apologies to our friends in upstate New York and Big East country. But, this is worth debating only because of how the Big East has played in the last four years. Even you have to admit they’ve been awful.

Good luck to the debaters. I hope neither of you “pulls a Big East.”


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