Some will probably disagree with me.
And that’s OK.
But I’m going to put it out there anyway.
Sitting at home Tuesday night, I realized something. I like watching mid-major basketball tournaments. I like them more than major basketball tournaments.
Sure, the teams and players are obscure. I was watching South Dakota State on Tuesday night. Of course, the initials are SDSU. The ESPN post-game announcer called them San Diego State on at least two different occasions.
So the so-called professionals don’t know these schools.
But that’s what makes it fun.
Monday night, I watched as Virginia Commonwealth, last year’s Cinderella get fitted for another glass shoe. They beat Drexel 59-56 in a thrilling game.
If it wasn’t for last year’s magical run, I would know nothing about VCU. Shoot, I don’t even know where Drexel is. (OK, I just looked it up and it’s in Philadelphia).
SDSU (the one from South Dakota) beat Western Illinois 52-50 in overtime. Sitting on my couch, I kept wondering, “Why am I not at this game.” In fact, it was in Sioux Falls, where I could have easily been attending this classic match-up.
But the reason I like these games isn’t because they are all close. A lot of them aren’t great games. Detroit won the Horizon championship (which has been long dominated by Butler) by 20 points.
Here’s why I like them.
They mean something.
I’m not saying the major conference tournaments don’t mean anything. Last year’s run by Connecticut through the Big East tournament was special and undoubtedly gave them the momentum to win the national tournament. A few years ago (actually, quite a few), Iowa won the Big Ten tournament to punch its ticket to the Big Dance.
And for teams like that, great. Go ahead and win your conference tournament. But for the rest of the “locks” to be in the Dance, do the tournaments matter? If Michigan State and Ohio State play each other for the Big Ten title, is anything really on the line? It might make a difference for seedings. Perhaps the winner gets a 1 and the loser a 2. Perhaps there is a slight change. But if you’re the best team in the nation, you’ll have to beat the best teams in the nation.
That’s what’s different about mid-major colleges. Is Western Illinois going to be in the field of 68? No. Drexel is arguing it should be. In the end, it won’t.
Teams could lose on the second day of the Big East tournament (granted it’s a week-long ordeal) and still be safe.
If Kansas loses its first game in the Big 12 tournament, are they left out? No. If VCU (a Final Four team last year) loses in the first round of the Colonial tournament, are they left out? Absolutely.
So keep your fancy Big East tournaments, your Big 10 titles and your Big 12 garbage.
I’ll be just fine watching the games where every pass, every possession and every point matters. Because when you’re a mid-major, it really is win or go home.