The NCAA got it wrong, and it hurts
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.