Nick Knacks

Nick Knacks: High-Majors Dominate March Madness Yet Again

Henry Redman | The PhoenixLoyola has a strong chance to repeat as MVC champion this season.

The NCAA announced its tournament bracket March 11 and proved, yet again, that high-major schools are the favorites.

In the 68-team field for March Madness, 45 teams come from “high-major” conferences. The remaining 23 teams came from one-bid conferences, all of which are considered “mid-major” conferences. Of the 32 Division I conferences, 23 are considered “mid-major,” according to The Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) is considered a mid-major, so Loyola felt the effects of that label on Selection Sunday.

The Ramblers finished 22nd in the nation in the Ratings Points Index (RPI), a ratings system used by the NCAA to determine the seedings for March Madness. RPI is a statistic based on D-I winning percentage, opponents’ D-I winning percentage and their opponents’ D-I winning percentage used by the NCAA tournament selection committee. On its resume, Loyola has two wins over tournament teams — a season-opening victory over Wright State University Nov. 10 and an upset of then-No. 5 University of Florida Dec. 6. Yet, Loyola was deemed a No. 11 seed by the selection committee.

Despite going 9-2 in non-conference play, Loyola had a strength-of-schedule rating of 257 for non-conference games and 126 overall. This hurt the Ramblers’ chances of making the big dance as an at-large bid if they would have lost the championship game of Arch Madness March 4. Fortunately, they beat Illinois State 65-49 to secure the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But, the fact that Loyola most likely wouldn’t have gotten in without winning the conference tournament exposes how the committee favors high-major schools.

Mid-major schools have trouble scheduling games against high-major schools because the high-majors tend to worry about being upset by the mid-majors. A prime example of this is the Loyola vs. North Carolina State University game which didn’t happen this year. Loyola was scheduled to play North Carolina State –– a high-major team out of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) –– at Gentile Arena as part of the second half of a home-and-home agreement. The Wolfpack bought out this year’s game, meaning a perennial tournament team was suddenly gone and Loyola’s strength of schedule was negatively impacted.

The MVC was eighth out of 32 conferences in RPI and strength of schedule, ahead of high-major conferences such as the Mountain West Conference (9th) and the Atlantic-10 (11th). Yet, the Mountain West and A-10 each received multiple bids while the MVC settled for one. This further shows how the selection committee favors the high-major conferences.

I’ve been a University of Notre Dame fan my whole life, so I’ve followed Big East Conference and ACC basketball — both high-majors — for a long time. But, since I started school at Loyola, I’ve noticed how much the mid-major schools get tossed aside in favor of the high-majors. Frankly, I don’t like it. Mid-major basketball is much more fun to watch. There aren’t many “one-and-done” players — players who leave college after their first year to go to the NBA — and the fans are even more passionate than those at the high-major level.

The Phoenix will be in Dallas for Loyola’s first-round game against the University of Miami (Fla.) and the second-round game, whether the Ramblers advance or not. I’ll be following the rest of the tournament closely, as I always do, and I will continue to make my thoughts known about the lack of mid-majors.

Something needs to be done about the selection process so high-majors aren’t favored this much. A conference such as the MVC certainly deserves more than one bid if the Atlantic-10 gets three.

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