The Real “March Madness”

Everybody loves March Madness. It’s a wide-open world of anybody vs anybody, where anybody can win. Davidson vs Goliath, if you will. Many people probably think this kind of wide open tournament is the best way to settle who the national champion is across a wide variety of conferences and styles and such.

I think the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is a joke.

Every year, it seems like the folks who decide who is in and who is out have a great opportunity to make a really good, strong, and difficult decision: to leave out that team that doesn’t belong in the tournament.

Normally, its an underperforming Big 10 school like Purdue or Illinois. Sometimes its an ACC school who is having a down year like Wake Forest or NC State. This season its Oklahoma. There is no argument on any planet in any universe that can convince me that the Sooners belong in the tournament. None. It’s a travesty. Its an absolute joke. Whether the argument is “body of work” or “strength of schedule” or “the best player,” it doesn’t matter. If you think Oklahoma belongs in the NCAA Tournament, stop reading, go delete all of your social media accounts, and move to the wilderness of Montana alone.

This was supposed to be a great year for the Oklahoma Sooners, and things started really well. They beat strong USC and Wichita State teams to get to 8-1, and began conference play with 10 wins and just the one loss. Even in conference, things started alright. They beat TCU and OK State before losing to West Virginia. They seemed to right the ship to beat the Red Raiders and the Horned Frogs(again), but again faltered and lost two in a row to the K-State Wildcats and those dreaded Okie State Cowboys. At this point, the wheels start to fall off. From January 23-March 7, the Sooners were a baffling 4-9. They won one time in the month of February, and finished the season 8-10 in the Big 12, bombing out in the first round of the tournament to Oklahoma State(again).

Trae Young is a great basketball player who will undoubtedly makes a great NBA player in seven months. He is entertaining. He is something the NCAA and the Big XII and the University of Oklahoma all want to display. He wants to up his draft stock by playing well on the biggest stage. The problem is, he hasn’t earned that shot. His team has been mediocre. He hasn’t been able to transcend over the adversity and deliver this Sooner team the performances the need to be a top caliber basketball program this season.

Now, whenever someone gets an unfair spot, that means somebody else has to be getting screwed out of that spot. There are two prime candidates for the screwing this time around, the first of which is Oklahoma State. You know, the guys who sent the Sooners home early from the Big XII Tournament. The guys who, although the ended up with the same 8-10 conference record, still won one more game on the season than the Sooners. I’m not saying that the Cowboys should have been in the tournament, but I am saying that if the Sooners are in, the Cowboys should have been before them in line. Really though, to me, the real victim isn’t in the Big XII at all. They’re not in a major conference. They represent the same lousy argument I make every year about mid-major conferences when it comes to the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Sometimes its Akron. Sometimes it Louisiana Tech. Sometimes its Cleveland State. This year it is the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University.

If you don’t follow college basketball very closely(and I don’t blame you, besides the tournament t I find it to be in general, unwatchable), you may think “MTSU LOL THEY SUCK YOU ARE A MORON.” Well you’re wrong. You may recall the Blue Raiders upsetting Michigan State last year? That wasn’t just a lucky one-off event. They’re a solid program. They finished this season 24-7, but couldn’t get over that final hump to win the Conference USA tournament. When you’re a mid-major, that’s all that matters. Ever since conferences like the MAC and C-USA were convinced that adding conference tournaments would give them bigger chances in the Big Dance, it seems like year after year, the best teams in those conferences for the bulk of the year run into middling teams who get hot at the right time. In my experience, the MAC Tournament Champs are rarely the MAC regular season champs, but all that work goes to waste when the selection folks disregard the same “body of work” principles that they give to schools like Purdue and Oklahoma.

For some, March Madness is the crazy upsets and the buzzer beaters and the general rush of 64 teams with even chances of cutting down the nest. In Murfreesboro, just like in places like Athens, Ohio or Ruston in the past, March Madness is the emotion felt while you watch undeserving programs with more resources and less of an excuse for poor performance be given every benefit of the doubt and take your rightful spot in the NCAA Tournament. Its time to get rid of the single bids for mid-majors. Its time to truly look at the body of work, or we may be discounting the next Butler or Wichita State. The tournament should be the best teams, regardless of conference, not the luckiest or the wealthiest or the most well known.