Fate of two conferences should change the way NCAA tourney is seeded
Fast-break points from the final weekend:
21. A Conference USA world. Don’t look now, but C-USA — a league that is being decimated by conference realignment-inspired defections — is enjoying a men’s college basketball postseason for the ages.
20. College Basketball Invitational. A C-USA school claimed the CBI championship trophy when Charlotte outlasted Eastern Kentucky 71-68 in the finals on March 22.
19. National Invitation Tournament. One C-USA school, North Texas, beat another league member, UAB, 68-61 Thursday night in Las Vegas to claim the NIT championship trophy.
18. National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament. A C-USA school needs two victories to claim the NCAA tourney championship trophy. Florida Atlantic (35-3) will go for the first of those wins when it faces San Diego State in the first NCAA Tournament national semifinal at 6:09 p.m. Saturday.
17. A bittersweet “Triple Crown.” If FAU were to give C-USA a sweep of the championships of the three primary men’s college hoops postseason tourneys, it will be a bit of a pyrrhic victory for the Dallas-based league (that includes Western Kentucky). Charlotte, North Texas, UAB and Florida Atlantic are among six C-USA schools that are moving to the American Athletic Conference next season.
16. Big Ten’s NCAA tourney futility. While Conference USA has been the surprise hit of 2023 March Madness, the Big Ten has played its familiar role of postseason bust. Of eight Big Ten teams invited to the NCAA Tournament, only one, Michigan State, even reached the round of 16.
15. A recurring Big Ten trend. Over the last three NCAA Tournaments, Big Ten teams have received 26 bids. Those 26 bids have combined to yield one team — Michigan in 2021 — that made it as far as the Elite Eight. Michigan State in 2000 remains the most recent Big Ten team to win an NCAA title.
14. The lesson that should be drawn. In a fairer system, C-USA’s postseason success in 2023 and the Big Ten’s continued NCAA Tournament futility would spark soul-searching over how NCAA tourney fields are selected and seeded. There is far too much inclusion of power-conference mediocrity and too little at-large-bid representation of excellence from “smaller leagues.”
13. A rigged system. That won’t happen because the selection process, with its metrics-based reliance on “Quad 1 wins,” is designed to favor the power leagues over “the little guys.”
12. UK’s bang for its bucks. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Equity in Athletics database, the University of Kentucky spent $22,667,255 on its men’s basketball program in the 2021-22 school year (the most recent for which figures are available).
11. This year’s Final Four. The programs whose teams will play Saturday in the men’s Final Four are not in the same budgetary world as Kentucky men’s hoops.
10. Florida Atlantic. For 2021-22, FAU spent $2,694,834 on men’s basketball, according to its Equity in Athletics filing.
9. San Diego State. For 2021-22, SDSU spent $7,219,564 on men’s basketball, according to its Equity in Athletics filing.
8. Miami. For 2021-22, the Hurricanes spent $9,936,656 on men’s basketball, according to Miami’s Equity in Athletics filing.
7. Connecticut. For 2021-22, the Huskies spent $10,681,537 on men’s basketball, according to UConn’s Equity in Athletics filing (that does not include the $13,373,551 that Connecticut budgeted toward a financial settlement presumably related to fulfilling contractual and legal obligations to ex-coach Kevin Ollie).
6. All-time men’s hoops wins. Although both Kansas and Kentucky lost in the 2023 NCAA tourney round of 32, the Jayhawks (28-8) gained six more games on the Wildcats (22-12) in the all-time wins race.
5. The all-time wins standings. Going into 2023-24, the men’s college basketball all-time wins race stands: Kansas 2,385; Kentucky 2,375; North Carolina 2,342; Duke 2,223.
4. Eastern Kentucky men’s basketball. If you read my Sunday column (and, if you didn’t, you should have), you know EKU Coach A.W. Hamilton believes the Colonels could be set up for a special season in 2023-24 — if EKU can keep its key players out of the transfer portal and its roster intact.
3. Mission accomplished. On Thursday morning, Eastern Kentucky’s core nucleus of players with remaining eligibility announced together that they are returning to Eastern next season. That figures to assure that EKU will enter 2023-24 considered the prime challenger to defending champion Kennesaw State for the ASUN men’s hoops title. The Colonels will be seeking their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014.
Last season was fun ...
3rd most wins ever
tied most postseason Ws ever
most Ws in KY
led conference in attendance, 1st time
new record for pts, blks, FGs, FGA
3rd in @NCAA in off rebs, 7th rebs, 25th blks, 31st scoring, 45th stls, 53rd in 3s
BACK for more in 2023-24 pic.twitter.com/3mwgerVODn
— EKUHoops (@EKUHoops) March 30, 2023
2. Caitlin Clark. The Iowa women’s basketball star, whose triple-double of 41 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists helped send Louisville home Sunday night in the NCAA Tournament round of eight, was named AP National Player of the Year on Thursday.
1. Game of the Year. The NCAA Tournament Final Four matchup Friday at 9:30 p.m. on ESPN with Clark and Iowa vs. 2021-22 AP National Player of the Year Aliyah Boston and undefeated and defending national champion South Carolina might be the most-anticipated college hoops game, men’s or women’s, of the 2022-23 season.
Were I you, I would follow the advice of Terrell Owens and get your popcorn ready, because South Carolina-Iowa should be a show.