It's "championship week" in college basketball, meaning the various conferences are holding their tournaments in mostly empty arenas, affairs that become significant only when a team that wouldn't have received a bid to the NCAA Tournament wins, thus depriving either a bubble team or a small-conference regular-season champion the chance to be rewarded for a season of achievement, as opposed to three days of it.
I'm on Year 2 of a vow I took not to whine about this anymore. It is what it is and I've made my peace with it.
And while it really does stink that the system often deprives the first round of the NCAA Tournament of some small-conference champs that might have had a better chance of a first-round upset than the conference tourney winners would have had, it's not that big a deal. And as for bubble teams: Screw bubble teams. They should have just won more. If I don't get to whine, nobody does.
But we can report the news.
On the men's side, Creighton, Eastern Kentucky and Chattanooga are the bubble or sub-bubble teams that have earned automatic bids so far.
Creighton might have made it anyway, but might not have, especially if it had lost the Missouri Valley final to Southwest Missouri State. That would have left Creighton clinging to the unlikely hope of becoming the third MVC team to get a bid, since SMS wasn't going without a tournament win and Southern Illinois was a lock based on the regular season. So Creighton's win probably means SMS and some bubble team somewhere won't go.
Eastern Kentucky took the spot that Tennessee Tech would have had with its Ohio Valley Conference regular season. Chattanooga won the bid that would have gone to regular-season champ Davidson had there been no Southern Conference tournament. Eastern Kentucky and Chattanooga are both OK teams, and probably don't represent less of a first-round upset chance than Tennessee Tech and Davidson.
The women's NCAA Tournament starts two days after the men's, but the conference tournaments are played on a slightly earlier schedule, so some of the big conference tourneys are already over. The winners of the Big Ten, Pac-10 and SEC tournaments -- Michigan State, Stanford and Tennessee -- were going anyway, but there have been some surprises farther down the food chain.
Santa Clara, which wasn't likely to make the Tournament, won the West Coast Conference. Regular-season champ Gonzaga will make it, but some bubble team somewhere won't.
That bubble team might be Chattanooga, which steamed through a 19-1 regular season in the Southern Conference but lost in the conference tournament quarters to East Tennessee State. Western Carolina finished tied for sixth in the 11-team conference but won the tournament to get the automatic bid.
And Canisius won the Metro Atlantic tournament, depriving regular-season champ Marist, which isn't likely to get an at-large bid. Marist and Canisius are pretty comparable, though. Marist was a game better in the conference and a game and a half better overall, and they split the regular-season series before Canisius won the conference final by one point.
They're equally unlikely to get a first-round win in the NCAA Tournament, where the difference between the top and bottom seeds is far greater than it is on the men's side, which is saying something.
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Did not! Did too! [PERMALINK]
Meow! Divorce can be pure H-E double L.
Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo is hissy-fitting at Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese for presenting the Connecticut men's basketball team with a conference championship trophy over the weekend. The Huskies won a share of the title Saturday by beating Syracuse at home. B.C. won the other half by winning at Rutgers later in the day.
DeFilippo says it was a petty move by Tranghese to punish Boston College for leaving the conference to join the ACC next year. Tranghese says it wasn't a snub, he just happened to be at the UConn-Syracuse game to honor coaches Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim for their recent 700th victories, and also that the league doesn't give out hardware to road teams. He said B.C. will get its trophy Tuesday night at the banquet preceding the conference tournament in New York.
DeFilippo says the Big East also snubbed the B.C. football team when it won a share of the football title last year, made the point that the players and coaches, denied their moment in the sun, had nothing to do with the decision to bolt the conference, and said the Eagles would have been happy to accept their trophy in the locker room, away from a hostile road crowd.
Tranghese, through a spokesman, said, "Looka the little baby crying!" In a statement, DeFilippo said, "I'll make you cry!" and threw a dirt clod at Tranghese's bike.
The extracurricular activity of collegiate athletics helps build bodies and minds in tomorrow's leaders. It's always a pleasure to watch the drama unfold.
In other uplifting news from the world of college sports, University of Colorado president Elizabeth Hoffman announced her resignation in the face of numerous scandals, including one centering on the football program, and former University of Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel settled his wrongful termination lawsuit with the university and the NCAA for $4.5 million.
Neuheisel says he feels vindicated, while the school and the NCAA say they settled because the judge had raised the threat of declaring a mistrial because of procedural errors on their part.
The important thing, though: Fresh air, exercise and lessons in sportsmanship!
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No. 1 question [PERMALINK]
Just wondering: What does a team have to do to be No. 1 in the polls?
No. 1 Illinois lost to unranked Ohio State Sunday, while No. 2 North Carolina beat No. 6 Duke. But in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls, the Illini hung on to the top spot, though by a lesser margin. Illinois had been a unanimous No. 1 before the weekend.
In both polls this week, about a third of voters had Carolina in the top spot, so the Tar Heels are gaining ground. Too bad the season's ending, because just a few more wins over top-10 teams, combined with Illinois losses, and they might have taken 'em.
And here's the best part: Duke, by losing to North Carolina, moved up a spot in both polls, from sixth to fifth. Man, the cat entrails were really lining up for the Blue Devils.
Fortunately, the polls are meaningless in college basketball because of the Tournament, which is seeded independent of them. They're just diversions, something silly to look at in Monday's paper on your way to the crossword.
Can you imagine a sport that actually relied on something so capricious to decide its championship? I'm laughing just thinking about it.