Sunday, March 16, 2014

Will Albany get any respect in the NCAA?

You're a 4-time America East men's basketball champion, with all four titles coming in the last nine years. You haven't gotten very far in any previous tournament appearance. So when Selection Sunday comes, how does the NCAA reward you for your 4th league title?

If you are the Great Danes of the University at Albany, you go to Dayton, Ohio to play a "play-in" game vs. Mount St. Mary's for the right to be fed to Florida of the SouthEastern Conference (SEC).

As another famous Great Dane would say, "Ruh-roh!".

What does coach Will Brown have to do to get the Danes a better spot at the big boys' table? Granted, they weren't the dominant team in their league this year. After all, they were the 4th seed in the America East tournament, and played the first two rounds at home, dispatching top seeded Vermont to set up the tournament final---on the road---at Stony Brook. Never mind that it was a bad week for the Seawolves, whose women's team was blown out of Albany by the UAlbany women's team on Monday, or that both games were on national television on one of the ESPN networks, but what would any team from the America East, or any mid-level league for that matter, get a fair shake as long as the current system is in place?

In a word, no.

The NCAA tournament is built around the "power conferences", such as the SEC, the Big 10, the Pac 12, the Big 12, the Big East (though that isn't quite as powerful now), and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The smaller leagues are treated like tomato cans for up and coming boxers during the regular season, and once in a while, one of those tomato cans will come up big and knock off one of the big boys. UAlbany knows the tomato can feeling all too well, having played and lost to the likes of Syracuse and Duke. No, the NCAA and their television partners (CBS, TNT, et al) see only schools with name recognition and reputation (i.e. Syracuse, Duke, Florida, North Carolina, Oklahoma State) as the teams that will draw the most eyeballs. To them, mid-level schools such as UAlbany and Stony Brook are just small fish playing in a bigger pond surrounded by sharks. If they can manage an upset, as Siena did 25 years ago in beating Stanford in their first NCAA tournament appearance, great, but reality will bite them eventually. It always does.

The good ol' boys on the NCAA selection committee will protect and take care of their favorites, and have the underdogs (i.e. Albany) put in a difficult position. UAlbany is 0-forever vs. the ACC, for example, as Virginia sent them packing a few years back. This is where the "Smallbany" perception of New York's capital hurts its sports teams. As it happens, the Great Danes are the #1 Division 1 basketball school in their market right now. It's a cycle thing, after all. Siena's down, UAlbany's up. Even Scooby-Doo knows that.

Will I be watching Tuesday night? You bet. This is where those of us who never went to the school jump on the bandwagon. I ain't wasting my time with a bracket, though. I never get out of the first round, and it's not because I work in the Albany area. It just happens. However, because I went to a high school whose colors include purple (part of Albany's color scheme), well, I can be partial........


Samuel Wilson said...

I'm not sure what your point is, since you've given every good reason for Albany's poor seeding. Lest you blame this on prejudice against "Smallbany," recall that at Siena's peak as a mid-major they got (I believe) a #8 seed and justified it with a first-round win. Albany has yet to prove they're that good. Let them win a tournament game and they'd probably get better seeding if they came back next year.

hobbyfan said...

IIRC, Siena was either an 8 or 9 seed at their peak, Sam. However, in each of Albany's tournament appearances prior to this, they were seeded anywhere from 13-16, which means tomato can city. I believe the women's seedings will be out tonight, and the Albany women have been a far more dominant team. We'll see if the bias continues.