The mantra was deafening, not from its magnitude but from its consistency. It was Patton’s Third Army through France, Cal Ripken, and the smell of fresh laundry all wrapped into one. We had a week’s worth of it, maybe more, in militaristic cadence, and we knew it would permeate Sunday evening.

“This year more than any other,” it began, “you have no excuse and no platform if you don’t make the NCAA Tournament. The bubble is historically weak, and there’s three extra teams. No excuses.”

And everybody was perfectly happy marching to the beat, until the annual 50/50 decision went the way of the mid major. Then, screams of chaos. Reform. Laughter. Because we live in reality, we knew the shouts would come, loudly and with equal force as the week’s mantra. Three CAA teams. Bah!

Here’s the thing, though. I agree that Colorado should have been in the tournament. My issue? The ire of the talking heads is wholly misplaced.

VCU had every necessary credential it needed for inclusion. I’m not saying better or worse than anybody else, for if there’s one thing I learned this year it’s that the razor thin margin between teams is closer than that. But the Rams were worthy of consideration.

My problem is using VCU as a scapegoat for the exclusion of a major conference school and the breakdown of the committee. Nobody mentioned last night during the whelpathon that Clemson and Florida State, combined, have one top 50 win. (VCU had three.) That top 50 win in Florida State’s and they might be missing their best player.

It never came up that there are five 14-loss major conference teams in the tournament. Think about that, 14-loss teams. Two of those 14-loss teams had worse RPIs than VCU. Or that Georgia had five top 100 victories, three fewer than VCU. Or that RPI mattered, until it didn’t.

The mindset that causes me angst (and my own laughter) is that it seems to be an implausible concept that a major conference team could be overlooked because of the inept credentials of another major conference team. That’s misplaced and misguided.

What we did hear was Digger Phelps lamenting that “I don’t care who they played in nonconference” in reference to Colorado’s sub-300 SOS, as if we should disregard that ink stain. We also heard “who did VCU beat, UCLA and George Mason?” We didn’t hear who Clemson or Florida State beat, mainly because that is a one-team list.

My whole point is this: this year is no different than any other in that there’s gray area and vagary in the NCAA selections. For once, the mid major got the right end of the stick, the good end, the end with the dollars and dance card attached. That doesn’t mean the process is any more broken nor fair than any other year.

Lament is a loser’s strategy, and that’s all I heard last night. The two percenters believed, reveled, enjoyed the moment for what it’s worth. That’s why we have it better.


It’s like a great ocean, not preferring whether mosquitoes or titans drink its water–all get their fill. –The Buddha.

10 Responses to “Tug McGraw Salutes You…”

  1. EShine Says:

    Well said. As a Mason alum, I can’t stand VCU (especially after last Sunday’s drubbing), but am incredibly happy for them today.

    I get so fired up listening to the talking heads go on about who “deserves” to be in. The bottom line is that teams need to play their seasons to ensure that they are off the bubble. Scheduling cupcakes and having no good wins on the road doesn’t help make a snubbed teams case.

    VCU – Post up the “experts” opinions of you like its an Andre Cornelius tweet, and make them eat their words. We saw what you did in the NIT, @ ODU, and in the CAA tourney. You guys can hang with anyone and win.

    Let’s start a new hashtag this week – #3CAAinSweet16

  2. Pete (the ODU version) Says:

    Great word: “whelpathon”.

    But I think that the problem here goes much deeper than merely a “major conference lament”. It’s a symptom of a sports journalism profession that has lost touch of its role as reporters first.

    Of all the crappy ESPN comments last night, the one that irked me most came from Digger Phelps (I think), who said of VCU and UAB that “no one was mentioning them in any of the pre-selection discussions, and that’s because they didn’t belong in the conversation.”

    But it’s just not the case that “no one was mentioning them”. It’s only the case that Joe Lunardi and ESPN failed to mention them, and now are publicly (and slanderously, in my opinion) attempting to justify their own professional incompetance.

    Mr. L., look back at your Feb. 18 (“Mock Selection Process: Very Good …”) post. I wonder if you still agree with the views you stated, in light of the current whelpathon. I sure don’t.

    As stated in one of the more brilliant responses to that post (if I may say so myself), the mock selection process was little more than “an assumption of moral authority that the media does not have or deserve. It’s the equivalent of telling the actual committee to ‘watch how mommy does this, and then we’ll let you have a turn’.”

    Well mommy ESPN now doesn’t like how things turned out. And a very worthy VCU team (at least I’ll so stipulate now that the CAA season is behind us) is taking the unfair national brunt of mommy’s outrage.

  3. Jim Says:

    I’m still shocked that VCU got in, and it’s nearly 18 hours since I saw their name flash on the screen. A large part of me still doesn’t believe it.

    While it’s obviously great for the CAA (and by extension, each of its 11 member schools) to get 3 teams into the dance, I do think the ESPN talking heads are getting hammered a little unfairly today.

    Were VCU’s overall numbers comparable to other bubble teams like Clem, BC, VT? Certainly. But the Rams finished fourth in the CAA, lost four straight conference games down the stretch — three on their home court — and failed to win what was billed as a do-or-die CAA tournament despite having what amounted to three more home games.

    When is the last time a mid-major was afforded so much forgiveness with its late-season play? A collapse at the end of the regular season is almost always a death sentence for mid-majors like VCU, so while I think they could’ve delivered the message with more polish and less venom, I think the ESPN critics can be forgiven for being shocked at some of the committee’s decisions.

    I was stunned and still am.

  4. Justin Says:

    I’m just glad VT didn’t get in. It always brightens my Monday morning when I hear Seth Greenberg make excuses for swapping out ODU for Radford to increase VT’s “brand” and get TV games, which ultimately results in getting a one-way ticket to NIT-land 3 years in a row.

    I just wish Dorian Finney-Smith would care as much about post-season play as his brother…

    So, I’ll only say this once: congrats VCU, I’m happy for you.

    By the way, why no mention of Harvard in here!?! I thought they had enough OOC wins to usurp Clemson!

  5. Jim Says:

    Justin, not for nothing, but there’s a misperception afoot that Va Tech played an inordinately soft OOC schedule. That was true last year, but not so much this year:

    At Kansas State
    vs. Okie State
    vs. UNLV
    vs. Purdue
    vs. Penn State
    vs. Mississippi State

    Were there some cupcakes in there? Yep. But all Power-6 teams fatten up on cupcakes early in the season — VT’s schedule is certainly not egregious in that regard.

    The problem for the Hokies is they only won 2 of the 6 toughest games, lost by 3 against Purdue in what would’ve been a huge resume booster, and one of the teams they beat (Okie State) turned out to be much worse than projected.

  6. Justin Says:

    I definitely agree. They did play a better OOC this year. I’m just still upset about the incident :)

  7. DAYTON DAYS « Around The Horns Blog Says:

    [...] Tug McGraw Salutes You ( [...]

  8. Mason guy Says:

    IDK, its supposed to be about young men playing basketball. So VCU got in, make the most of it. Mason and ODU as well…just put it out there on the floor.

  9. frojunk Says:

    I believe Jerry Palm is widely regarded as one of the best – if not THE most accurate – at predicting NCAA fields. If my memory serves me correctly, all of last week he had VCU tied with St. Mary’s for a spot, & then the Rams all by themselves for the spot. As the week’s events unfolded and after conference tournaments, etc – Mr. Palm still had VCU in the mix (as a first four contestant in Dayton). Once again, he and some others were correct. He has proven himself a competent, knowledgeable, & well prepared College Basketball expert – doing his thing with his own reputation on the line. By contrast, Joe Lunardi, & ESPN in general, have taken the Dickie V. oath – to serve as sports version of reality TV. In general, All Hat, No Horse!

  10. GTB Says:

    Litos, you are the f’ing man.

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