Normally, I don’t like to go on “We wuz robbed!” rants about something silly like the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. But since Syracuse University basketball coach Jim Boeheim has gone on a two-day rant about how his team isn’t in the field of 64 this year, I think that I can take a few paragraphs to say this: Syracuse wasn’t robbed, Drexel was.
Drexel beat Syracuse. They also beat tournament invitees Villanova and Creighton. They beat major Philadelphia basketball programs at Temple and St. Joseph’s, too. They did all of this away from their home court, as no program of any significance is going to agree to play Drexel at the bingo hall that is the Daskalakis Athletic Center. Yes, Drexel does play in a middle-tier athletic conference, and their in-conference record was decent. However, small programs like Drexel have to schedule games on the road at big-time basketball powerhouses in order to make a case for an invite, and this year, they played great.
If there’s one thing that George Mason University showed us last year, it’s that middle-tier schools are worthy of getting invites to the tournament even if they don’t win their conference. Last year, teams from minor conferences got 8 of the 34 invites available. This year, they got six. The number of invites from minor conferences has gone down every year for the last 4 years. The NCAA Selection Committee is showing elitism and favoritism towards big schools at power conferences.
This is complete folly. There’s a reason why there’s a 13 seed upsetting a 4 seed every year: a good team from an OK conference is better than an OK team from a good conference. Do we really need to see Boston College lose to North Carolina again? No, let’s give a team like Drexel a chance to play UNC. I bet they’d at least make it interesting.
In the interest of disclosure, I am a Drexel alumnus.