An open letter to the NCAA

Dear NCAA Men’s Tournament Selection Committee,

This weekend, the Final Four will be played at Ford Field in Detroit, and I want to thank you for another lackluster tournament. The aristocrats of college basketball trampled their opponents en route to the Motor City. Your selection process favors the haves (30 of the 34 at-large bids went to schools from the six largest conferences) and discriminates against the have-nots (four at-large bids to mid-major conferences).

An alarming trend has shown that the number of at-large mid-major schools has dwindled from the high water mark of 12 in 2004 to a low of four schools (Xavier, Dayton, Butler and Brigham Young) playing in this year’s tournament. You’re slowly taking away the madness of March. Please don’t BCS the most anticipated playoff format in all sport.

Your chairman, Mike Slive, proclaimed, “It’s all about who you play, where you play, and how you do,” when describing the criteria for selecting the 65-team field. He added that the committee looks at schools individually and not at their conference affiliation. I beg to differ, as a bailout package was handed to a couple of major conference schools (Arizona and Wisconsin) to salvage their seasons, while the mid-major schools were left standing at the altar.

St. Mary’s had a 26-6 record (13 road victories) and played the final third of their season without All-American guard Patty Mills, who broke his hand against Gonzaga. I applaud you for not taking former national champions like Kentucky and Florida, but I roll my eyes with the selection of Maryland, who couldn’t even muster a .500 record in their conference. Why reward the larger schools that are able to pick and choose their opponents prior to their conference season, while the mid-major schools have to hope that a big conference school is willing to play them early in the season? The result? This year, the closest thing we had to a Cinderella was an underachieving Pac-10 team that has no fewer than three future NBA players on its roster.

I propose that the mid-major schools withdraw from your tournament and takeover the National Invitational Tournament to determine their champion. This will restore the status of the mid-major school and give college basketball a fighting chance to make March memorable again. We’re pleased that Gonzaga has turned their Cinderella runs of the past few years into an unofficial automatic bid. We want to relive the memories like the 1986 Sweet 16 matchup between unlikely foes Cleveland State and Navy, but that isn’t going to happen under the current selection process.

There are good reasons why coaches of mid-major schools cannot resist a call from a major conference school. Those teams that finish in the top half of those conferences have an excellent shot of receiving a NCAA at-large bid. Consider the alternative – finishing second in a mid-major conference and receiving a pat on the back for your efforts. Lobbying isn’t supposed to have an impact on who gets into the tournament…but it does. If Coach K wants to comment on the level of play in the ACC, he will be heard.

You promise us basketball’s best tournament. Instead, we receive a watered-down version of a classic. Stop turning March into a tournament of major conferences fighting it out for a national title. Please, no more third or sometimes fourth encounters between conference rivals on a neutral court. We want pressure-packed, unlikely matchups. That’s where the drama is.

Just give us our damn tournament back.

Disgruntled Fan

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