Since Saturday, I’ve witnessed what it’s like to be a mid-major program in Division I college basketball. I’ve seen everything firsthand, from watching games from the sidelines, walking through the tunnels in the arena, and witnessing each and every emotional press conference. Playing a major role in the video production of the every press conference throughout the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, I’ve noticed one thing… How precious a mid-major’s season is.
Unlike conferences the BCS conferences, like the ACC and Big Ten (who have the chances of sporting five or six teams this year,) a mid-major conference like the MAAC will only have one representative in The Tournament most seasons. This winter, the MAAC has four 20-win teams, Manhattan, Iona, Quinnipiac, and Canisius, one less than the Southeastern Conference.
What’s the difference between the MAAC and SEC? The MAAC is a mid-major and the SEC is not. But what does that really mean? If you compare a similar team, based on record, from each conference, like 21-9 Iona (from the MAAC) and 20-10 Arkansas (from the SEC;) who really deserves an at large bid more?
Looking at Iona, they only played one ranked team this season, then #2 Kansas, which they lost to by 20… Other than that loss, Iona sports a solid resume. Iona has beaten a 22-win Florida Gulf Coast squad and an 18-win Wofford team that has played themselves deep into their conference’s tournament; all while ranking as the fourth best offense in Division I college hoops. Watching Iona in person, one thing is clear…The Gaels can shoot the ball out of the gym.
Now what about Arkansas, one team that most have on the bubble, you ask? Unlike Iona, the Razorbacks have had four opportunities to play ranked teams; earning a 2-2 record. When Arkansas has had their opportunities, they have made the most of them. However, the advantage the Razorbacks have over Iona, is that they get many more of these opportunities at top-notch opponents than a school in a mid-major.
If Iona doesn’t win the MAAC Championship, they’ll have a very hard time making the Big Dance. Arkansas on the other hand, just needs to make a respectable run in the tournament and earn more brownie points. That’s the difference… Iona will finish with a better record, however because of their conference affiliation, they’ll most likely need to win the MAAC Monday in order to have the chance to play deep into March.
However, respected Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos made it clear that he believed the MAAC deserves to have to teams in The Tournament.
“I tell you what… They might deserve a second team in the NCAA,” said Patsos. “All those road wins by Manhattan should count and whoever beats Canisius. I don’t know if Canisius’ numbers are there, but I’m going to say it right now, we deserve two teams in the league.”
“I read (Manhattan head coach) Masiello’s quotes today and he’s right, he’s won 12 games on the road. And (Iona head coach) Cluess can coach offense just as good as anybody in the country.
Do you think a mid-major conference like the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference deserves two teams in the Big Dance?