I felt pretty confident today that the Jays would get into the tournament. The only thing really standing in their way was the SEC Tournament Championship game and Tennessee just needed to take care of business. However the Volunteers once again did not win a game they needed to win and Mississippi St. took the Jays spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Looking at the bracket, you knew that the spot that Mississippi St. took was the spot Creighton was slotted into to play against Washington in Portland. I suppose some would argue that San Diego St. was in that slot, but I’ll just believe that was the Jays spot.
Wisconsin and Arizona get in with 12 and 13 losses? I’ll never understand the thinking of the NCAA Tournament selection committee how some of these teams really get enough votes to get into the Big Dance.
Arizona losing 5 of 6 to end the season and going 2-9 in road games for the whole season with the 2 road wins against Oregon and Oregon St. who are just horrible. Anyone can win at home. Where are the road teams that are part of the “whole body of work” that SEC Commissioner and NCAA Tourney chair Mike Slive said over and over today.
Then you have Wisconsin. Many accused the Valley of breaking the RPI formula a few years ago when they got 4 teams in to the tourney. The Big 10 did their own version of it this year. I’ll be really interested to see how many Big 10 teams get to the sweet 16. I say 2 at the most. Wisconsin had a nice stretch of losing 6 in a row in the middle of the season including to Purdue twice. And then going .500 in the their last 6 games (including the Big 10 tourney games) and losing all of the “important” non-conference games except for Virginia Tech does not seem tourney worthy to me.
Yes, I’m bitter. Those are just 2 large conference teams that can be mediocre and have so many chances to get a second chance, it is just really frustrating. Yes, the Jays had their chances as well, but the margin for error is a lot slimmer. This Jays team was different than the 2 road games at UALR and Nebraska….Different than the team that started 5-4 in Conference play. Though they won 11 of their last 12, the lasting impression of getting pasted by Illinois St. in their final game of the regular season was engrained in the NCAA Tournament Selection committee and with the Valley playing their conference tournament a week before all the larger conferences keeps them out of their minds as well. Many say that Creighton should just play one and dones against other high-profile teams just to get their name out there and to compete. Although I agree there could reasonably be one of those type of games a year, the teams in the Valley have a little less flexibility because of their 18-game conference schedule. Teams like Gonzaga and Dayton have a little more flexibility because they don’t have as many conference games to deal with. Gonzaga has 14 and Dayton has 16. Those extra non-conference games will always help those non-BCS type of teams. So as much as I would like to see this happen, I would be very surprised if it did. That’s for another day.
So now, we as fans have to switch gears and get excited about the NIT. Really, looking at the field, this tournament really doesn’t look too bad. with this one, you can kind of eliminate all of those smaller conference teams that are filler for the NCAA tourney because of their one-bid automatic bids. This 32 team field can get a lineup of teams together that are more well known and can be intriging matchups. The Jays were lucky enough to get a #1 seed in the tourney and their bracket could make for some interesting matchups depending if they are able to continue on. You have a bit of a dream matchup for me if the Jays and Kentucky win their first round games and to have the wildcats actually come to the Qwest Center would be something you wouldn’t see during the regular season. You have potential rematches with New Mexico and Nebraska. There is Notre Dame, who with Digger Phelps as their biggest supporter still thinks they should have been in the NCAA Tournament. The Jays and the Fighting Irish have had some great games in the what used to be the Guardians Classic.
But first up is Bowling Green from the MAC. Creighton has had some interesting matchups with the MAC in past years. The Jays had a two game series with Kent State due to Bracketbusters a few years ago and lost both games. But more recent, the Jays had an NIT matchup with Akron winning a tough game. The MAC is no pushover although they have been down in recent years. Bowling Green comes in with a record of 19-13 and the champion of the MAC conference regular season earning the automatic bid to the NIT. They did not get any significant non-conference wins losing to Minnesota, Ohio St. and Illinois St. This is a very winnable game for the Jays.
It will be interesting if the fans and the players decide to show up. However, if they can keep winning, then there could be some great games at the Qwest that the same fans and players may not ever get to see at the Qwest Center during the regular season and this is what makes the NIT a bit exciting. Being the #1 seed means the Jays can host all the games leading to the trip to New York and Madison Square Garden. Although disappointed about the NCAA’s there is a lot to look forward to.