March 16, 2003
Selection Sunday such a great day. I'll tell you what, there is no better feeling than sitting in front of a big screen knowing that your name is going to be called. It is the goal of everyone to get to the show, and in our sport seeing your name come up in the brackets means you're in the show.
I was very surprised to see our league get little respect today when the brackets came out. I have always been a guy that was for the underdog and the little guy and I do feel that it is hard for mid-major teams to get in. You have mid-majors that win 24 or 25 games and don't get into the tournament which means they really have no shot without winning the automatic bid.
That being said, the job of the committee is to get the best teams in with the at-large spots, and I'm not sure that they've done that. When we were at Iona we knew that our season came down to 3 days in March when we had to win our conference tournament to get in. It isn't fair that there is really no way at that level to measure up to the big boys, because most of them don't want to play good mid-major teams. We beat St. John's, Seton Hall and Providence while we were at Iona which was all the more reason why those teams wouldn't want to play us.
So I do understand how hard it is at that level, and I'm not sure what the solution is. But if you are going to take teams like Alabama, Auburn, Southern Illinois and Butler over Seton Hall and Boston College, you have to be saying that you think those teams are better teams who have had better years.
Seton Hall and Boston College both went 10-6 in our league and then went 1-1 in the Big East Tournament, losing to an eventual 2 and 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If you put Southern Illinois in the Big East, are you telling me that they would go 10-6? That would really surprise most people, wouldn't it? Alabama went 7-9 in the SEC and 1-7 on the road. Do you really think they would have been 3 games better in our league than in the SEC? I don't think so.
I've always felt that league record, especially at the high-major level, is the most important indicator for your NCAA Tournament hopes. It is over 2 months of tough games and who is better is decided on the court, not by a computer or an opponents opponents record. Now that a 10-6 record in the Big East doesn't get you into the tournament, things have obviously changed. You would think that it means you need some quality out of conference wins as well as no bad losses on your home schedule as well. Alabama did have a 7-9 record but some good wins over Oklahoma and Xavier, so obviously they were more important than their league record.
I know the committee has a tough job and someone always feels like they got screwed. This is the first year I remember not seeing any mid-majors who feel like they got shafted, and only power conference teams on the outside looking in. I'm not sure what the answer is - I wish there was a way to require mid-majors and high-majors to play each other, but that isn't really possible. The so-called one bid leagues could offer their bid to their regular season champion (who is probably more deserving), but that would take the excitement and electricity out of conference tournaments. The best you probably will get is the re-seeding of conference tournaments to heavily favor the top seeds, as has been done in the MAAC and the WCC. Unfortunately until you find a way to give everyone a fair shake with scheduling it will be difficult to decide who is in, and it will be left up to a committee and RPIs and road wins.
The Big East Tournament
It was great to go to New York and play well. We didn't achieve our goal because we really thought we could beat Pitt and felt very comfortable against a St. John's or a BC in the semi-finals.
We came out and played very well against West Virginia and it was good to see our guys get comfortable quickly on the Garden floor. We moved the ball extremely well against their different defenses and also played hard and tough on the defensive end. We played an opponent we felt we were better than and we outplayed them for just about the entire 40 minutes. It was a good performance and one that gave us a lot of confidence against Pittsburgh on Thursday.
Clearly the fact that we were tied with Pittsburgh at their place with 4:30 to go helped us feel comfortable going into Thursday's game. One thing that worried us was how well Pittsburgh had been shooting the ball from the outside. In their 5 previous games they had shot 44% from 3 which is a pretty hot clip, and we knew they would move the ball very well as they are in the top 5 in the country in assists.
The 3-ball hurt us in the first half as they knocked in 6 shots from downtown. I really didn't think they would beat us with Brandin Knight and Carl Krauser making 3's, so we felt pretty good.
When Pitt got the lead up to 6 with about 8 minutes to play we really felt we had a few crucial possessions where we needed to score. Donnie stepped up and hit a huge 3 off the dribble to cut the lead in half, and we scored 8 straight points to take a 2 point lead with just over 5 minutes to play. I thought we might have one shot to beat Pittsburgh, and we couldn't let it slip away - this was our shot.
We got a stop up 2 and came down the floor with the ball on a break opportunity and Sick was wide open for 3. He pulled up in front of our bench for an open look that I thought was a dagger. If he hits that 3 we are up 5 and we have a ton of momentum. He couldn't knock it in, and Ryan got the rebound but threw it away into the backcourt. I really felt that was our chance to win the game.
In the end, Brandin Knight made huge plays down the stretch and we couldn't answer. We were right there, but playing well and losing still isn't a lot of fun. A loss is a loss.
So now it is on the NIT, which isn't always an easy task. Nobody starts their season hoping for an NIT bid, but we've played very well lately and have a great chance to end the season on a high note. The NIT has been a great stepping stone for young teams the following season (UConn's National Title team played against our Iona teams when most of those guys were freshmen).
Getting the first one under our belt will be important. I've always felt that is the toughest part of the NIT. Going on the road to play a Richmond team that we already beat by 30 will not be easy, and should we win we will most likely stay on the road. We need to win 4 games to get to New York which also will not be easy.
Don't try and figure out the NIT. The brackets, pairings and home teams don't ever seem to make sense. We are happy to have another game, so we just need to go try and win it.
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