Let's give Davids their shot

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Should More Mid-majors Receive Ncaa Tournament Bids?

March 17, 2009

I can't wait to see 20-13 Michigan, 19-12 Wisconsin and 19-13 Arizona in the first round of March Madness.

Oh, wait, I must have confused myself with a member of the NCAA tournament selection committee. We learned again Sunday that said panel would rather populate its tournament with proven mediocrities from big conferences than with teams that could be the next Davidson or George Mason.

I can't understand why tournament officials would romance Goliath. Does anyone remember what Baylor or Arizona did in last year's tournament? I don't. Will anyone soon forget Davidson's run to the regional finals? Nope. But instead of betting on the teams that could make its tournament memorable, the NCAA left potential Cinderellas such as Creighton and Saint Mary's uninvited to the ball.

Strength of schedule is the tired argument proffered on behalf of the sixth- and seventh-place teams in power conferences. But Arizona and Saint Mary's don't start on an even playing field. Most of Arizona's tough matchups come from its conference schedule. Big programs are also more attractive to preseason tournaments and have the economic power to lure opponents to their home courts. So the Wildcats have more than a dozen shots to accumulate quality wins. Saint Mary's is lucky to get a handful.

Arizona lost five of its last six, lost in the conference quarterfinals and struggled all season to win on the road. That's the fading outfit we're likely to see in the tournament.

Saint Mary's and Creighton won 26 games each. They at least might be really good. I would like to find out.

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