There have been many who were so upset at this year's selection committee for not including a healthy dose of mid-majors. Writers like Michael Wilbon (he won't ever admit he was wrong about this or anything btw) wrote pieces like this one: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/17/AR2009031703221.html
They slammed the selection committee for not giving more at large bids to 'mid-majors' instead of the usual fare from power conferences. They argued that the selection committee tried to turn the magic of march madness into the shabingus of the BCS. These arguments, in other years, might hold water but not this year. This year, college hoops is deep and heavy at the top. Let's get closer and learn about each other:
-The term 'mid-major' is misleading. There are major conferences: The Big East, ACC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12 and the Pac 10. Then there are a couple conferences with a a few good teams at the top and garbage everywhere else: Conference USA, Atlantic 10 (Teams like Memphis and Xavier compete with anyone). After that, it's piss ant conferences. There is nothing 'mid' about them at all. They are the bottom. Nothing wrong with that, it's just what it is. Take a school like Davidson, they typically go undefeated in their conference (this year was the exception because their 1 player was hurt) because they are solid and their conference is awful. If they don't win their conference tournament, they don't get in (right or wrong), this means they are a member of a small, non-power, non-major, non middle-tier, bottom-dwelling conference.
-Let's call them what they are. We'll make up a term right here... 'Bottom Toppers... Boppers.' These teams are Boppers. Ok, so Boppers have had success in recent tournaments: Davidson, George Mason, and to a lesser degree: Butler, Utah State, Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, and so on. Boppers can jump up and compete with the 'big boys' in years when the big boys are down. Lots of things have lead to years like this: Players leaving early for the pros or going directly from high school, a broader talent pool that is evenly spread thanks to AAU and players getting more chances to play, and a lack of elite talent at the top schools. So, in years where the overall level of college basketball is down below a certain level, a school like George Mason can make some 3s, their opponents can get tight and they can win some games and fire dookies right into Billy Packer's face.
-That's not what we had this year. This year in college hoops, the big boys were really, really good. The power conferences deserved every bid they got. Let's learn some more:
Sweet 16: 5 Big East teams, 2 Big 10, 3 Big XII, 2 ACC, and then Memphis, Gonzaga, Arizona, and Xavier. 0 Boppers.
Final 8: 4 Big East teams, 2 Big XII, 1 Big 10, 1 ACC. 0 Boppers
You get the point.
-The response here is something like: 'the Boppers didn't get a chance, so we don't know how they would have done.' There is some truth to that, they didn't get a chance, but we have a pretty good idea of what would have happened.
-Concurrently, this was also a strange year in several conference tournaments. Temple, USC, Mississippi State and some other schools, quite literally, stole spots away from at-large teams. Teams like this, would not have gotten in and when they won their conference tourney's, jumped the que. This forced out some deserving teams.
-Bopper supporters would point to examples of some of the bubble teams that did get in. They will say: '_______ didn't make a run in the tournament. This is proof that their spot should have gone to a Bopper.' This is a poor argument. The implication is that if a Bopper had occupied this spot, they would have performed better. We tend to remember the incredible runs of Davidson and George Mason as the rule, rather than the exceptions they really are.
2008 Sweet 16: 3 Pac 10, 3 Big East, 2 Big 10, 2 Big XII, then Tennessee and UNC. 12 Power Conference teams. Then, Memphis and Xavier, 2 middle conference teams. Lastly, Davidson and Wester Kentucky, both Boppers. Here were some of the other Boppers in the tourney: Drake, Oral Roberts, St. Mary's, Sienna, and Kent St. Of that 2nd group, only Sienna won a game. Let it be noted that the targets of this years 'Big Conference Bias' Maryland, Wisconsin, and Arizona all won at least 1 game. Not an apples to apples comparison, just worth noting is all.
2007 Sweet 16: 3 Pac 10, 3 SEC, 2 Big XII, 2 Big East, UNC, Ohio State so again, 12 teams from Power conferences. Then Memphis from the mids. 3 teams here in the round of 16 were Boppers: Butler, UNLV, and Southern Illinois. All 3 lost for the record.
Other boppers: Creighton, Long Beach State, New Mexico St., Oral Roberts, Davidson, Winthrop and VCU. Winthrop and VCU won their first round games which were the only 2 wins for the whole 2nd crew of Boppers.
2007 showed us that when there are lots more Boppers in the tournament, their results are as inconclusive as any one else's. To assume that a Bopper would perform better in the place of another team absurd. 2006 shows us similar data. Besides George Mason's amazing run, the other Boppers in the tourney performed in the same way .
Now, the purpose of this post is not to endorse the idiotic Billy Packer who famously said that George Mason didn't belong in the tournament.
Far from it. This is to educate the casual fan, or even the passionate fan, who has knee jerk reactions and is frothing at the mouth over the lack of 'mid majors' in this year's tournament. It's to bring some calm to a tenuous situation. The vitriolic frustration over the selection committee's perceived slight of 'the little guy' should instead be seen for what it really is, the acknowledgment of the return to prominence of the 'big guy'. This was not a year for Boppers. These things are cyclical though, their time will come again.