Yet another strong regular-season team in a non-power conference fell victim to the cruel widowmaker that is Conference Tournament Week.
Familiar March specialists Davidson continued their hot run at the Atlantic 10 tournament with a masterful upset over second-seeded St. Bonaventure. Backed by an impressive stretch of over 30 consecutive possessions without a turnover, Davidson stunned the Bonnies and advanced to Sunday’s tournament final against Rhode Island.
Davidson’s lights out 3-point shooting – the Wildcats shot 55.2% from behind the arc in a homage to alum Steph Curry – has now put the Bonnies in a difficult predicament come Selection Sunday.
With a wealth of big names on the bubble, the 25-7 Bonnies may miss out on the tournament so the likes of Trae Young’s Sooners or coach Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange can sneak their way into the field.
It is an unfair predicament for a team that lost just four conference games in the A-10 to even have the thought of potential exclusion from the tournament. Yet, it is the current theme of the final weekend and the Bonnies will not be alone on the hot seat alongside teams that failed to crack .500 in their respective conferences.
Middle Tennessee State is also on the bubble after losing to ninth-seeded Southern Miss in overtime in the Conference USA Tournament. The Blue Raiders could be NIT bound after a stellar 16-2 conference season and winning games in each of the previous two NCAA Tournaments.
Last 4 in: St. Bonaventure, Baylor, Arizona State, USC
First 4 out: Middle Tennessee, Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) March 9, 2018
The thinking that struggling power conference teams such as Oklahoma, Syracuse, Baylor and Arizona State deserve entry over teams that dominated their conference play is beyond appalling.
To argue playing in the Big 12, ACC, or PAC-12 is worth 6-8 conference wins more than playing in the Atlantic 10 or Conference USA is to twist logic to justify putting schools with larger brands in the tournament over small schools with small fanbases.
St. Bonaventure’s non-conference schedule should still give them a strong case on Selection Sunday; Particularly their road win on Boxing Day over fellow at-large bid hopeful Syracuse, as well as tournament locks Buffalo and Rhode Island.
The question on Sunday will be if the Bonnies strong non-conference success over the New York state rivals will be enough to avoid another at-large snub after heartbreak in 2016. Bonnies head coach Mark Schmidt is confident that will be the case, despite the loss to a red-hot Davidson.
It is a crime St. Bonaventure and Middle Tennessee State have to sweat out the hours on Sunday with the fear they will be overlooked; all in order to include a team that failed to complete the bare minimum of a .500 conference record. If the regular season is to be truly valued, the basic math of wins and losses need to be considered in these cases to prevent a bottom power conference team from making the tournament while a regular season conference champion sits out.
We will see what the selection committee ultimately decides on the fate of the at-large field. If history holds true, it is more than likely we will see heartbreak for the underdog and relief for a power conference school that underperformed all season.
More than one school will be rewarded after failing to play winning basketball to January and the NCAA needs to take a hard look on if this status quo truly is the right thing for college basketball.