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The NCAA got it wrong, and it hurts

By Vinny Pezzimenti

It’s just a game. A meaningless game.

The rest of the world doesn’t care about the Bonnies. Most of the rest of the country doesn’t care that they weren’t invited to play in the NCAA tournament.

In the grand scheme of our lives, it just doesn’t matter. We will suffer far greater pains. We will have to get over deeper heartache that compares to nothing what we’re feeling now.

That the Bonnies are a top seed in the NIT with the potential for three home games in the tournament is something we all would have taken in a heartbeat before the season began. We should be thankful that the Bonnies are still playing. We should support them with as much vigor as we have throughout this historic season.

I know. That doesn’t make it hurt any less. It doesn’t erase the pain of being left out of the NCAA tournament.

It stings because we all know this team had the potential to break the program’s NCAA winless drought. SBU’s last NCAA victory came on March 16, 1970 – the same day Bob Lanier was injured and the Bonnies’ national championship hopes were dashed.

With its supremely talented guards and hungry seniors, these Bonnies could have won multiple games in the big tournament. Those who have watched this team since November know that the most.

This team is good enough to beat most others in the country. It won’t get that chance. It hurts.

It stings because the Bonnies deserved to be in the field. If you’re reading this, you know the facts and numbers by know. This was an epic snub, perhaps the greatest NCAA snub of all time.

The Bonnies earned their way into the field. The committee ripped out their hearts. They ripped out our hearts. It’s just a game, but it hurts.

It stings because these opportunities don’t come around too often. Since the NCAA field expanded in the 1980’s, the Bonnies have made it twice – as an at-large in 2000 and as a conference champion in 2012.

The program has made six appearances total. Since the tournament expanded, the Bonnies have really only twice been considered for the field – this year and 2000. Who knows, it may be another 20 years before they’re seriously considered again.

It stings because the way the system is set up. Syracuse went 19-13, lost five of its last six games, yet still made it over the Bonnies. Syracuse has cache, a national following, a large alumni base and pools of football money. The same goes for Michigan, Vanderbilt, and to a smaller extent, Tulsa. The Bonnies don’t have any of that, and they paid for it.

I’m not one to buy into conspiracy theories, but I’m also not naïve to think shady behind-closed-doors handshakes don’t happen. Members of the selection committee have responsibilities to their own schools and ties to friends and colleagues at many others. There are natural biases in tournament selections. The NCAA would be far better off employing a committee of bracketologists with no dog in the fight.

It stings because, if the Bonnies couldn’t make it this year, you have to wonder if they ever will again. The NCAA manipulates the selection criteria from year-to-year to benefit the Syracuses, Michigans, Vanderbilts, and the rest of the power-broking programs.

While the crybaby nose-picking coach from Syracuse basked in his team making the field, he cited Oregon State and Vanderbilt. Those schools, like Syracuse, made it because, as the whiny coach said, they owned wins over big-name power 5 opponents.

The Bonnies didn’t defeat a power 5 opponent this season. No power 5 team will visit the Reilly Center. It’s difficult enough for the Bonnies to land a road game against a power 5. That’s reality, and it isn’t changing any time soon.

On top of that, St. Bonaventure has the third smallest enrollment among Division I basketball programs. It has the smallest budget in the Atlantic 10 by far. It can only possibly compete through the graces of savvy athletic administrators, restless coaches, high-achieving players who slipped through the cracks, passionate support from the alumni and university community, and the fortune of a few luck bounces.

But even that isn’t enough. I know it’s just a game, but the money and glad-handing and power won out again over what is right and fair. The Bonnies should be playing in the NCAA tournament this week, and it hurts that they aren’t.

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  1. Josh

    Being a whiny defeatist doesn’t help, Vinny.

    We got screwed, but right now the biggest threat to the program is the overwhelming negativity coming from alumni and fans on the one hand, and the coded whispers about coaches and players jumping ship (read Bucky Gleason’s article, for example).

    If the program would sack up and come out swinging in the NIT, make a public statement about commitment to improving its non conference schedule, and immediately and forcefully end the speculation about Schmidt and Adams leaving, then we can all focus on getting into the tournament next year.

    We have in impressive collection of young players and transfers that could make next year special. You know what would suck worse than the tourney snub? If coach Schmidt and certain players leave , which could decimate the program.

    This is a crucial time. If you’ve got the power of the pen, then make the case for this program moving forward. Yes, it’s an unfair system, but we’ve got a good thing going here and all this outrage porn could really F the program.

  2. Andy

    Is there a way someone can investigate the committee and see how they actually make their picks?

    • Vinny Pezzimenti Post author

      I wish we at the Blog had the time, money and resources to pursue such an investigation. If something was indeed amiss with the selections, hopefully a paid journalist with inside sources gets to the bottom of it.

  3. Amy

    I understand the frustration - we all feel it - but for the sake of the school, team and players, we need to move forward. Last year if someone told me SBU would have the #1 seed in the NIT, I would have said, let’s hope. And now we’re here. Let’s make the best of a post-season opportunity while we have it - and keep growing to get stronger as a program.

  4. Joe

    Move forward…aka…do nothing, sadly the Bonaventure Motto.

    Yes it’s a game and I personally will get over it, but for the school it is also 1 million dollars, It is nothing to sneeze and 100% is something you don’t move on from without a fight from the school.

    As fans we move on but the school is responsible for doing everything it can to find out what happened and hole this responsible accountable.

    • Dan

      Not do nothing. Instead, come out with a chip on our shoulder (team, fans, etc), pack the RC and make a statement.

      And, I’m sorry, calls for an investigation are silly. I get the emotional aspect, but exactly what would such an investigation be based on? Teams get snubbed every year.

      Unless there is evidence of actual fraud; i.e., bribery, there is nothing that can be done except to go out and show the committee they made a mistake.

      This happens in sports. Judgment calls are made, sometimes poorly. Bradley/Pacquio, for example. But it reflects poorly on the university when schools are snubbed every year, but when it happens to us “something must be done.”

      • Andy

        I mean a journalistic investigation. If the corruption of the committee became public, the NCAA may be forced to change.

  5. Dan

    I agree with Josh. Yes, the snub hurts. But we have had out chance to be angry. Time to focus on basketball. Fact of the matter is there are some good programs in the NIT (Florida, Ohio St., etc.). Win a couple games, and we might have the chance to play BYU for the chance to go to MSG. I love I’m the inter-mountain west. BYU is every bit as big out here as ND is back east.

    All this talk of investigations needs to end, now. Teams are snubbed every year. Yes, we deserve to be in. So did Monmouth. But asking for an investigation is a bad look (and I admit, in my initial disappointment, I wanted one. But, cooler heads must prevail).

    We have a legit chance to win this tournament. That would be the best statement.

    • Dan

      Sorry for typos….in phone

    • Dan

      A journalistic investigation would be fair. My biggest concern is, after awhile, we tend to come across looking bad. Every year teams get left out. Yes, it hurts. No doubt about it. But this is still a great opportunity to play some really good teams, and gain exposure.

      Also, (and I hate to bring up “the scandal” again, but…) for years the only thing most people associated with Bonaventure basketball was the 2003 situation, especially the younger generation. Now, we have a chance to get some positive PR. Everyone who follows college bb knows we got screwed. Heck, there was a segment on ATH on ESPN last year talking about St. Bonaventure getting a raw deal. Let’s use this opportunity for more good exposure.

      • Andy

        I mean a journalistic investigation by anyone, not even related to St. Bonaventure. Ideally someone with the capability to actually uncover the problems of the committee.

  6. Josh

    I apologize for being harsh and personal. That wasn’t fair.

  7. Josh

    I am sorry for being harsh. I am just concerned that we are going to lose the good things we do have with this team and the program’s future.

    • Vinny Pezzimenti Post author

      Don’t worry about it Josh. We welcome all opinions and don’t take anything personal.

      I understand your point. I’m selling St. Bonaventure short. The program has a unique tradition and is in one of the best conferences in the country. Though the reality is these opportunities don’t come around too often, we do have the pieces in place (hopefully) to make another run at it next year, and we do have the coach (hopefully) to continue to be successful.

  8. Josh

    Sorry again for the duplicate.

  9. Josh


    It’s true that NCAA tournament opportunities don’t come around that often. But realistically I think they could happen every 4-5 years.

    Even with Bona’s financial disadvantage, and rural location, I think we undersell the program’s potential because of the experience during the Solomon era. That was an aberration caused by a scandal that should never happen again.

    Baron made the program respectable in the 90s and even though his teams only made one NCAA appearance, they were close in two other years. A Tim Winn suspension cost them once, and a Peter Van Passen fractured foot in another. Schmidt has the team competitive every year now, and if we can hold on to what we have, I believe they can make a run the next two years.

    In our situation, there isn’t much room for error or bad luck, but we need not be too pessimistic.