Szwaja's Sports Blog

Sunday, March 12, 2006

I remember being at the 2003 Big Ten Tournament Championship game. I sat in the front row, right being Jim Nantz and Billy Packer. There were my Illini, taking it to the Ohio State Buckeyes in the final. With that win, the Illini probably should have solidified their place as a 3-seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, the Big Dance. Like I said, I was right being Packer, and as soon as the game ended, before the Illini could even cut down the nets, he had a completed bracket in his hands. A group of Illini fans surrounded me begging Packer to get a look at the bracket. He looked at us with his sappy eyes and said, "I can't show you this yet, but you people aren't going to be happy."

A half hour later, as I drove home from the game, I heard on the radio that the Illini received a 4-seed. The selection committee said the Big Ten Tournament Championship game meant nothing. They said the bracket was set before the game even tipped off. So basically the committee said the Illini were penalized for playing in the last game before the field of 65 was announced. The Illini caught a hot Notre Dame team in the tourney and left the dance early after their second round exit.

So now, today, the committee puts huge stock in the fact that Iowa wins the tourney championship and gives them a 3-seed. How much more hypocritical can the NCAA get? Many of you know that I hate the NCAA, especially how it glazes over everything it says it stands for and seems to operate with hidden agendas. They do a great job hiding exactly what these agendas are, but it's most likely behind the scenes, political bullshit. I need someone to explain to me how Iowa gets a 3-seed today and the Illini didn't get what they deserved in 2003? What I'm learning about the NCAA is that they like to set precedents they have no intention of following down the road.

With that behind us, let's look at the teams that are supposedly higher seeds in this year's tournament:

Iowa 24-8, 11-5 in the Big Ten
Okay, they're a great team. I love Greg Brunner. But I'm sorry, there's no reason to believe they're a 3 and the Illini are a 4.

Last ten games: 7-3, with all three loses coming on the road. At Minnesota. At Illinois, hmm? And at Northwestern? Are you serious?

Non-conference resume:
11-3 record
Key wins: Kentucky (not as quality of a win as you might think) NC State in Iowa City, Arizona State in Iowa City
Key road wins: None
Key road losses: Northern Iowa and Iowa State

Big Ten schedule: Only one game against N'Western, Michigan, Purdue, Ohio State, not bad, it could have been easier. I'll give them that. But they never had to go to Ohio State or Michigan. Total conference road record was 3-5, with wins coming at Purdue, Indiana and Northwestern (see below who Illinois beat on the road in comparison).

and the Illini 25-6. 11-5 in the Big Ten...

Last ten games: 6-4, with two losses on the road, one at home to Penn State (ugly) and one in the Big Ten Tournament to Michigan State. The two losses on the road: Michigan, where Iowa didn't play and Big Ten Champion Ohio State, where Iowa didn't play.

Non-conference resume:
14-0 record
Key home wins: Tournament-bound Xavier and tournament-bound Georgetown
Key road wins: At North Carolina. At Orgeon, by 30.
Key neutral site wins: Tournament-bound Witchita State and Missouri Braggin' Rights game
Key road loses: None

Big Ten schedule: Only one game against Purdue, Ohio State (away), Wisconsin (away) and Penn State. Total conference road record was 4-4, with wins coming at Wisconsin, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern.

So basically what the committee is saying is that the non-conference record means nothing. The conference road record means nothing. The quality non-conference road wins mean nothing. The bad non-conference loses mean nothing. And that who you beat on the road in the conference means nothing. Yet somehow the performance of both teams in a tournament the NCAA has basically said in the past has no bearing on NCAA seeding suddenly means everything. Moral of the story: the people on the NCAA selection committe are hypocritical, ignorant, political ho-hums.

Here's a quicker look at some of the teams seeding higher than the Illini:

Florida is 7-3 in their last ten games in a weak conference, with bad loses coming to Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee at home. They went undefeated in non-conference and actually had some good wins at Wake Forest, home against Syracuse, home against Florida State and at Miami. They still only beat two tourney teams in their non-conference schedule vs. Illinois' four. And one of those wins was against Albany.

Gonzaga plays in a joke conference with a strength of schedule in the 100s and has only one win vs. a tourney team: Michigan State. Here's a stat: In their weak conference, their last ten wins were by an average of 7.6 points. They are supposed to be killing those teams in their conference, people. They're not as good as advertised.

UCLA played in a weak RPI rated conference out west but to their credit did finish strong. They still don't deserve a two-seed.

And speaking of an undeserving two-seed? Tennessee? Seriously? Record for final six games of the season? 2-4. Enough said. They didn't finish the season as a two-seed. And the non-conference schedule? Okay, the win over Texas was nice, but other than that these were the other wins: E. Tennesse State, UL Lafayette, E Kentucky, Murray State, Appalacian State, Alabama A&M, Lipscomb and South Alabama. Throw in a non-conference loss to Oklahoma State and you really can't help but scratch your head.


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