Thursday, March 17, 2016

"First Four" wins shouldn't count as NCAA Tournament wins

If you read my blog yesterday about how nobody wants to see No. 67 vs. No. 68, here's something else that's stupid about the NCAA tournament field including 68 teams: Schools that don't actually win real tournament games get to claim that they did.

Yesterday, Holy Cross beat Southern in a play-in game.  The headlines stated "Holy Cross get's first tournament win in 63 years!"  From the game recap: "The Crusaders had lost nine consecutive NCAA tournament games since defeating Navy and Wake Forest in 1953..."

There's a reason Holy Cross had lost nine straight: It's a small school from a no-name conference that was a massive underdog against top seeds every time it made the dance.  A few years down the road people will see the Crusaders got a tourney win in 2016 and think "Oh wow, who did they upset?"  The answer is nobody, because they beat another 16 seed in a stupid "First Four" matchup.

As a former Richmond Spider, I take personal offense to this.  Richmond, the greatest giant-killer in tournament history, has won eight games as a 12, 13, 14 or 15 seed against actual competition.  Holy Cross' "victory" as a No. 16 is extraordinarily cheap by comparison.

Last night SportsCenter ran the above graphic after 11th-seeded Michigan knocked off fellow No. 11 Tulsa in another not-really-the-tournament-yet contest.  The Wolverines shouldn't get to have that ninth W on their resume just because they were bad enough this year to squeak in as one of the final at-large teams and play an extra game against an equally not-good squad.

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