Mirlis: Give Me More Mid-Majors

More hungry Davids, less lumbering Goliaths make a more exciting tourney

Nevada's Kevinn Pinkney

Nevada's Kevinn Pinkney

March 18, 2005

By Eric Mirlis



So what did Day One of the NCAA Tournament teach us? That the mid-majors have proven once again that they can play with the power conferences.


Look at the results - Pacific over Pittsburgh. Nevada over Texas. Wisconsin-Milwaukee over Alabama. How many schools from the seven power conferences (Conference USA included for the final season) without a 1, 2 or 3 next to their name on their bracket beat a non-power conference team? No. 4 seed BC over Penn and No. 7 seed West Virginia over Creighton (barely). That's it.


That brings me to my point. We all watch the NCAA Tournament first round to see all the Davids beat the Goliaths. And I'm here to say...Give me more!!!


There is a reason America stops working on a Thursday afternoon to see a school they have never heard of, like Wisconsin-Milwaukee, play Alabama. We love underdogs. Neither of these schools, nor Nevada and Pacific, either, will win the Tournament (obviously, Alabama has no chance at all now).


So, with that said, I have two ideas for the Selection Committee going forward to make their job easier and, at the same time, create even more games like this. They are both simple and use tons of common sense.


1: A team must finish OVER .500 in conference play to be eligible for an at-large bid. If you can't win just over half your conference games, why should you reap the rewards (both financial and otherwise) the Big Dance affords? 


2:  If you go unbeaten in conference play, you are in the Tournament, regardless of your Conference Tournament result. Again, this makes sense. Make the regular season count for something, rather than putting all the emphasis on the Conference Tourney.


How many teams are affected in this year's Tournament? 


The first rule would remove four teams; Iowa (7-9 in the Big Ten), Georgia Tech (8-8, ACC), N.C. State (7-9, ACC) and West Virginia (8-8, Big East) would not be in under these rules.  The second would have placed Davidson (16-0, Southern) back in.


Who would have filled these spots? Well, Notre Dame certainly would have gotten the WVU spot. They qualify under this rule. But the other two (plus Davidson) were earned by mid-majors. They would have gone to the MAC teams that deserve to be in but didn't get chosen (Buffalo and Miami of Ohio). 


On Friday's docket, there are seven contests that people will stop working to watch: Louisville/Lousiana-Lafayette, Florida/Ohio and Syracuse/Vermont (4/13 matchups); Georgia Tech/George Washington, Michigan State/Old Dominion and Villanova/New Mexico (5/12 games); and Wisconsin/Northern Iowa (6/11).


When we look at tournaments past, it is matchups like this that we remember from the early rounds.


Want proof?


Take a look at your brackets. I'll wager everyone has at least two lower-seeded mid-majors winning in these games (for the record, I have three: New Mexico, Ohio and Old Dominion). You wouldn't pick them if you didn't see what has happened in the past. Or if you didn't want to see the big names fall. That is the nature of the beast in the first round.


And Saturday it gets even juicier. There three real good ones that feature high profile schools and upstarts: Washington/Pacific (1 vs. 8), Illinois/Nevada (1 vs. 9) and Boston College against new Tournament darling Wisconsin-Milwaukee (4 vs. 12). None of those higher seeds can honestly feel 100% secure in their chances tomorrow, not even might No. 1 Illinois. And I have a hunch one of them is falling.


Neither of these two changes is even guaranteed to be needed or used every year. But knowing they are out there will give a little extra motivation to some teams during the season. A Big East team is having trouble getting ready for Rutgers? Well, you better win or it might just come back to haunt you. That Big Ten game in early February against Northwestern? Don't lose - your bid is now potentially on the line. And it will also make things that much easier for the Selection Committee. But most of all, one thing can be sure. This would possibly put smiles on more faces during the first round of the Tournament.

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