Thursday, March 05, 2009

Penn State vs. Siena--An Angry Bubble Rant

The genesis of this post starts with an article from Sports, opining that even though Siena is returning a ton of dudes from the team that destroyed Vanderbilt in the first round of the Tournament last year, and even though they are 23-7, they absolutely have to win their conference tournament to get back to the dance.  Because their conference (Metro Atlantic) doesn't get 2 bids; or it does, but very very rarely--it has 14 years since the last time it did.  Either win the automatic conference championship bid, or go home, apparently.

That fact made  me angry, not because it isn't true, but because it probably is true.  

Meanwhile, the Penn State Nittany Lions, beating a ranked-for-some-reason Illinois team on a Hope and Prayer shot (for their second win over Illinois this year) has people talking about how they have punched their Dance Card.

And hey, sure, on some level, I get that--they are 3 games over .500 in their conference, and they've gotten to over 20 wins like a major program team should, and are sitting at 4th place in the Big 10.

But.  But.  But.  

Let's look at what Siena and Penn State chose to do outside of their respective conferences.  Siena was 7-5 outside of their conference.  That's a pedestrian record, to be sure, and makes it clear that their 23-7 overall record has been made by winning in their conference (which isn't supposed to be a bad, thing, really.)  

But look who they played in those 12 games:  Tennessee, Wichita State, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh, and Kansas.  Those are all good to very good to fucking great teams.  Of course, they lost to those teams--but they went out and did what the selection committee asked them to do, which is to play tough teams out of conference.

Penn State was 11-2 out of conference.  Guess how many teams they played that have been ranked in the Top 25 at some point this year?  ZERO.  They lost to Rhode Island and Temple.  But to me, more damning than their losses are their wins--William & Mary, N.J.I.T, Hartford, New Hampshire, Towson, Lafayette, and Sacred Heart.

Penn State has the 4th Best record within the Big 10 conference, which by definition, means they will go to the Big Dance.  Fine--I happen to like a couple of their players--Talor Battle and Future Potato Lobbyist Stanley Pringle are fun to watch, and match the rest of the Big 10 in compellingly streaky shooting.  But let's not pretend it would be a huge injustice if they were left out.  Not only have they not beaten anyone interesting outside of their own conference, they haven't even played anyone of import outside of their conference (apologies to Georgia Tech, which was once upon a time a proud program--kids, ask your parents about the Glory Days of Bobby Cremins)

But let's be reasonable here, people.  If invited, Siena will be lucky to go to the 2nd Round, where they will almost certainly lose.  Just like Penn State probably would.  With the caveat attached that Siena is older, more experienced, and has played tougher games out of conference that Penn State has.  And that the Big 10, much like the Old Gray Mare of song, ain't what she used to be.  This is not a year where you will see 3 Big 10 teams in the Elite 8, or even Sweet 16.

Let's hope the selection committee asks itself this question--if Siena and Penn State played each other, who would win?  If they aren't sure, then Siena should get a bid, regardless of whether they win their tournament or not. 

1 comment:

Andrew Wice said...

Unfortunately for Siena, the bubble teams are judged on their wins. String together Penn State's five best wins versus Siena's five best wins and you'll see the obvious answer (from the point of view of the selection committee).

Why am I vacillating so complacently? Probably because I watched The Lives of Others last night.

I love America!