Monday, March 15, 2010

And another thing...

So far I've been able to rationalize most of the bubble teams that made it into the NCAA tournament ahead of Illinois, even the ones Josh pointed out. Still, there's at least one team whose presence I just can't come to terms with.

First, a defense of the teams Josh outlined.

In their our only matchup of the year, Minnesota beat Illinois in Champaign. Fine. If the committee wants to make it five Big Ten teams, then Minnesota over Illinois makes sense. They should know, though, that Bobby Jackson left the school long ago. Joel Pryzbilla, too.

California won the Pac-10. The league was awful this year but it's still one of the traditional power conferences. I understand letting them in. Same with Florida. As Josh said, they felt they needed to give the SEC more than three teams.

I don't know anything about Utah State or UTEP, except that both schools have quintessential mid-major names. You know, potential Cinderella teams casual college basketball fans can really get behind. My guess is, after last year's particularly low number of mid-major bids, the committee was under pressure to throw some more in this year. For whatever reason, people actually like watching George Mason play basketball.

Here's one I can't figure out: Wake Forest. Other than Houston (automatic bid) and the play-in game losers, the Demon Deacons are the only team in the field with less than 20 wins. Wake won 19 games. They lost four of their last five conference games. They have "quality wins" against Gonzaga (away), Xavier, Maryland and Clemson. (Think Wisconsin (away), Vanderbilt, Michigan State and Clemson.) They lost to William and Mary by 10 points. (Think Bradley.) Does this sound familiar?

Here's one difference I noticed: Wake Forest plays in the ACC. Illinois plays in the Big Ten.

The ACC received six bids. The Big Ten got five. Giving one more bid shows the committee thinks the ACC is stronger than the Big Ten. I took the liberty of looking up the latest Top 25 rankings. It turns out the ACC finished with two ranked teams (Duke and Maryland). The Big Ten had four (Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin.) I admit I'm not completely familiar with the rules of the committee and I don't know if they were allowed to look at such material.

In the end, Wake Forest is a No. 9 seed. Illinois is a No. 1 seed ... in the NIT. Georgia Tech, it should be noted, earned a No. 10 seed (in the real tournament) after going 7-9 in ACC play.

I'm throwing my support behind Lon Kruger's Runnin' Rebels.


  1. I agree that the Illini should get in the tourney before WF and GT. I also agree that this season alone the Big Ten should get as many or more teams than the ACC.

    However, I am not sure Illinois fans (me included) have much right to complain. The team was given its chances. It could have beaten teams like Bradley, Utah, and Minnesota, but they didn't. They were given a second chance to get in by winning the Big Ten Tournament, but they failed again. I do not think the Illini are that great this year, and we never seem to put on a good show in the NCAA tournament save a few exceptional years separated by decades. I hate to be a downer. But would you rather lose to Florida State in the first round of the NCAA or have a shot at winning the NIT (including a possible UI-ISU game) during a disappointing season?

  2. Though my tone may not express it, I agree that Illinois didn't really earn a spot. As you said, losing to Bradley, Utah and Minnesota really hurt us. A good team wouldn't have.

    As for your other point, I tend to disagree. I would rather lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament than play for a NIT title. It's a matter of prestige. I think an NIT appearance cheapens our program. Also, I wouldn't want to face ISU. There is never anything to gain out of playing an in-state rival for Illinois. If you win, you do what your supposed to. If you lose, you get embarrassed. I don't think this helps recruiting. Although maybe I just don't want Dinma Odiakosa to pull a Marcus Arnold on our big men.

  3. Yeah, the NIT sucks. I would much rather lose in the first round of the NCAA's than win the NIT. It a joke and teams that play in the NIT are failures.

    I'm ticked because Lon's UNLV team is playing the other team I would root for in Northern Iowa in the first round. Everything is coming up annoying.


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