Over the past week or so we have heard much from two outspoken critics of the college basketball mid-majors--namely Billy Packer and Gary Williams.
A few years ago Packer famously blew a gasket a few years ago when St. Joseph's was named a 1 seed, only to see them fall one buzzer-beater shy of advancing to the Final Four (and substantially further than two other number 1 seeds that year which were knocked out in the first weekend). This year he complained about the inclusion of "too many" mid-major at-large teams instead of more teams from power conferences, noting the general success of the power conferences in recent years. The relevant comparison, it would seem, would be team to team--e.g., the 5th, 6th, or 7th place teams in the power conferences versus the 2d in the CAA or 4th in the MVC. Duke's success seems largely irrelevant as to whether Bradley or Maryland deserves an at-large berth.
As John Feinstein notes in his excellent column in today's Washington Post, the mid-majors have more than held their own through the first weekend of the tournament. In fact, he observes that the mid-major at-large teams were 4-4 in the first round, notwithstanding the fact that only two of them were higher seeded than their opponents.
As for Gary Williams, thet other outspoken critic of the inclusion of mid-majors in the tournament, Maryland went down last night in the NIT to--wait for it--mid-major Manhattan. At home. Moreover, Old Dominion and Hofstra, two CAA teams that didn't make the NCAA, both knocked out Big 12 teams in the opening rounds of the NIT as well.
As a George Mason fan, I obviously have my personal bias in favor of the mid-majors here. But it seems to me that there may be some lessons here for critics of the selection committee and the continued rise of the mid-majors in college hoops.
I missed this excellent post which looks at some of the numbers on the relevant comparisons between the mid-majors and power conferences.