18.3.09

THEM THAT HAS GETS. The womens' basketball tournament selection show Monday turned into the usual hype about the usual suspects. I hold no brief for Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, although his stock went up when he expressed some exasperation with the show giving the rest of the field ample material to get worked up to play his team. Credit for the most tone-deaf observation goes to Tennessee's Pat Summitt, who came off as a bit jaded, observing on national television and for the viewing pleasure of her team that today's youngsters don't play with the same sense of urgency (that's close to an exact quote, I don't tape these things) as previous iterations of Tennessee recruits did. I emphasize recruits. Somebody who has the opportunity to select players and offer them with opportunities has nobody to blame but herself when they don't perform as expected. Coach Summitt wouldn't last a week teaching gen eds at a mid-major.

As usually happens in the Them That Has Gets world of the womens' tournament (and as predicted here) the mid-majors got hosed.

Even in a year begging for an olive branch with a dearth of major-conference at-large candidates, only Virginia Commonwealth out of the Colonial got so much as a twig.

No offense to Georgia or Michigan State, but did schedules largely devoid of quality wins outside of conferences widely viewed to be, at best, treading water really merit at-large bids at the expense of Bowling Green and Illinois State? Ball State, a team that wasn't as good as Bowling Green over the course of the regular season, scores an upset against the Falcons in the conference title game and gets a No. 12 seed in the big show.

But Bowling Green, with its 15-1 conference record and regular-season title, didn't deserve a No. 11 seed?

Could Georgia go 15-1 in the MAC or could Michigan State go 15-3 in the Missouri Valley? Probably, but so what? Georgia also gets to recruit, travel and train with all the advantages inherent to an SEC athletic department. It had its chance to distinguish itself in both the conference regular season and tournament and didn't do it.

It's not the selection committee's fault that these conferences insist on conference tournaments that serve only to dilute their own product, but every once in a while, it wouldn't hurt to throw the little guys a bone when they earn it over four months.

It's amateur sports and it has nothing to do with money, so the revenue enhancement the tournaments offer, if any, shouldn't matter. (The two Mid-American tournaments are in Cleveland. Early in March. With the northwest winds blowing snow squalls in off Lake Erie.)

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