March 16, 2008

NCAA Hates the State of Maryland

Even though the University of Maryland struggled this year and won't make the tournament, the smaller schools throughout the state have been impressive during Championship Week. Mount St. Mary's, Coppin State, and UMBC all won their conference tournaments and made the NCAA tourney. Basketball fans in Maryland were looking forward to cheering for the three long shots next weekend.

Unfortunately, that won't happen. ESPN just announced that Mount St. Mary's and Coppin State will face off in the play-in game on Tuesday. Leaving aside the fact that the play-in game (or the "opening round game" as the NCAA insists on calling it) is an abomination, clearly two teams from the same small state shouldn't play each other in the game.

I'm not claiming that those aren't the bottom two teams in the tournament. I haven't seen either one play this year, and it's possible that they both suck. But for basketball fans in the Baltimore area, it feels like a slap in the face. Instead of having three scrappy underdogs to root for in the tournament, we're guaranteed only two. If only one of the teams had ended up in the play-in game, at least we could have had a rooting interest in the crappy Dayton shootout. With both teams making it, we're stuck watching two local teams face off for a spot in the real tournament.

For local fans still suffering from a disappointing year for the Terps, this feels like a slap in the face.

20 Responses:

J-Red said...

I just heard this on the radio and it's quite shitty. Of all the sixteen seeds, why would you pair two schools that are about 60 miles apart? Is it just because they're convenient to Dayton?

We have six (maybe seven) of the 65 teams (UMBC, Georgetown, George Mason, Coppin St., Morgan St., Mt. St. Mary's (MD), and maybe VCU), but it's still shitty.

J-Red said...

Oops, forgot American U., also making their first ever trip.

That's 7 or 8 teams out of 65 from a relatively small geographic area.

Dean said...

Guys, that's a very nice showing for the Balto-Wash area so I wouldn't view this play-in "slight" as such.

Afterall, shouldn't our real sympathy go to the good folks of Dayton who have to endure this crappy game every year? I've been there - nice city, nice people. What the hell did they do to deserve this?

"ben" said...

I really hate the way they do their play-in game. I would assume it sucks all the joy out of making the tournament for teams like Coppin State and Mt. St. Mary's. The fun of being a 16-seed is getting to go to a big stage and play UNC. The loser of this game basically didn't make the tournament at all.

Plus, this is not really exciting for fans, either. I propose a much better play-in system...though it may create some logistical nightmare, but who cares.

Have four play-in games with all the bubble teams for a 12-seed. Have them play on Wednesday night in whatever region they're playing for so the winner won't have to travel again.

Come on, that'd be sweet! And we wouldn't have to hear Seth Greenberg whine about being 19-12.

big tuna said...

"ben", 19-13. And he said it is time to expand to 128. Give me a break.

Dean said...

I heard Greenberg on ESPN, as well. Expansion is a horrible idea. Some team, regardless of how many teams you expand to, is always going to feel like they got jobbed by the selection committee.

I see no way of improving on the greatest tournament of all-time so just let it alone.

"ben" said...

Dean, I would be all for putting the tourney back to 64 teams. But if they're going to have play-in games, I'd rather do it my way than the current system.

128 teams sounds bad, but maybe it would work. Anything to eliminate the NIT would be nice, too.

J-Red said...

128 is never happening, you can't move the tourney up and the Masters have the next weekend. CBS has both. Forget it.

What does a geographic region doing particularly well have to do with screwing two teams that never make it with the play-in game. If they won't do the bubble team play-in games (which I'm all for), make a rule that no school participating for the first time in the NCAAs can be in the play-in game.

Alternatively, the play-in game should be between the two 16 seeds who have been in the field of 64 the most recently.

Dean said...

J-Red, I'm not sure I follow your point. As I understand it, the "play-in" game exists to award a spot in the tournament for all D-1 conference winners - the formation of the Mountain West conference a few years back threw off the math (30 to 31 conferences), thus, the NCAA needed this game to keep their promise to the smaller conferences.

Its been apparent with the winner of the play-in game playing the #1 overall seed that the committee pairs-up what it feels is the two weakest teams in the field. In this case, that happened to be Mt. St. Marys and Coppin State both from the same region. Pure coincidence. I wouldn't read too much into it.

Ben, I'm always up for more college hoops but as long as there is a bubble there will always be teams on the wrong side of the bubble no matter how much you expand the tourney field... and thus you will always have teams complaining that they were done unjustly. I don't see how just putting more bubble teams in improves the quality of the tournament, overall.

"ben" said...

Of course there will always be bubble teams no matter what. But I'd rather watch four games with teams from major conferences on Wednesday than not watch a worthless game on Tuesday.

Plus, as I already stated, it kind of screws over the two teams in the play-in game who are not really being rewarded with getting to play in the tournament. That's not very nice to the little people.

The purpose of the play-in game was to make money. If it coincided with the year that they added an extra automatic bid, then that was simply their excuse. But obviously you could easily have added another automatic bid and not expanded the field, and then Baylor would be SOL this year and crying along with VaTech.

Nic said...

I believe that somehow the ACC got shafted. Only 4 ACC schools made the Tourney. We all know the ACC is the best basketball conference.

J-Red said...

Then why is Mississippi Valley State, from the SWAC, not in the play-in game? MVSU is in the worst rated RPI conference by far (31st of 31). Their RPI is 228. Coppin State's RPI is 227, and their conference is higher rated (30th of 31). Mt. St. Mary's is 159 and their conference is FAR better rated (23rd of 31).

I think I recall that the NCAA has explicitly said that the play-in teams are NOT the worst two 16 seeds. Suspiciously, at least one team in the play-in game has been an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) school since the game's inception in 2001 (including Coppin St. this year).

Dean said...

J-Red, If you are asking me why MV State should have the privilege of getting their teeth kicked-in by UNC rather than UCLA, I do not have a good answer for you.

But the irony of your argument for two HBCU schools to be relegated to the play-in game did not escape me.

Tony B said...

Putting the two HBCU teams in the play-in game would open up a whole big bag of worms that the NCAA doesn't want to deal with.

J-Red said...

So then which is it? The play-in game matches the two worst teams against each other, or the play-in game matches the worst team and another 16 seed, making sure that both participants are not HBCU teams?

I am all for dropping the number of at-large bids to 33 and having a four-game Tuesday opening round between bubble teams to fill the four 10 or 11 or 12 seeds.

If they're going to have a play-in game, then I'm all for taking the five 16 seeds and having the two who have been in the tournament the most recently play each other. If two teams are tied, then the team who has been in the tournament most recently but has not had to play in the play-in game is slotted in the opening round. If still tied, flip a coin.

Anonymous said...

The four team bubble burster thing was floated out by a few analysts. That seems like it could possibly work, but you would undoubtedly still have team #69 feeling pissed.

I am with coach Knight a bit here let in 128 team . . . play the first round on the home court of the higher seed. This way, I think you get past the problem of having teams feel like they were not in the tournament. Furthermore, if you ensure that all conference winners fell into the top 64, it would be pretty cool to see a team like Syracuse travel to play at an HBCU or Virginia travel out to play Boise State.

I have not done the research, but I assume that 128 is right about the cut-off for .500 teams and that should be the mark. If you are .500 or better, you are in. If there are less than 128 teams at .500, the top teams get byes . . . reward Kansas and UNC for stellar seasons in tough conferences. If more than 128 are at .500 or better, weed them out based on RPI .

"ben" said...

"The four team bubble burster thing was floated out by a few analysts. That seems like it could possibly work, but you would undoubtedly still have team #69 feeling pissed."

For the 800th time, no one is saying that the last team out won't complain no matter what. I fear this keeps coming up because of my Greenberg comment. Look, I just wanted to mock Greenberg.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why people view participating in the play-in game as "a bad thing." You get a chance to get a win on national tv when you're the only game on tv to watch, do you know what that does for the program in terms of exposure. I mean even if east roast beef state loses, they still got more pub and more shine than if they had just played number one seed Big State

"ben" said...

I doubt I'll be watching the game, personally.

It's possible you're correct that it's better exposure to be in the play-in game, even as the loser. My personal feeling is that in terms of the experience the kids will have, it will be second-class as compared to the real tournament. I could be wrong, but that's my impression.

Dean said...

... and you would still have teams/coaches/university presidents bitching that they got left out of this "bubble burster" thing or whatever hopelessly gimmicky name the NCAA came up with a hopelessly gimmicky first round.

Besides, that's just 2-3 more days those student/athletes wouldn't be in class and you know how those football playoff-opposing Presidents hate that.

128 teams? Oi vay... Let it go. The tournament has its faults but too few to make any major overhauls.

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