A JERSEY GUY: NCAA Tournament Rule: Finish .500 In Your League?

The Big Ten might have too many "good'' teams for the NCAA tournament

Mark Blaudschun

We are getting to crunch time in conference tournament play, which generally means the standings sort themselves out.

But what if that doesn't happen? What happens if there is chaos to the end and the bottom half is as loaded as the top? And what happens if it's arguably the best conference in college basketball this season?

Say hello to the Big Ten, which has six of its teams within two games of each other and is currently led by a surprise trio of Maryland, Penn State and Illinois.

Most bracketologists project the Big Ten receiving between 9 and 11 or even 12 NCAA tournament invitations.

The bloated college football bowl system requires at least 6 (in a game 12-schedule) victories to qualify, with some exemptions.

Fair enough.

A team should win at least half of its games to play in the post season, although in this |"participation counts'' world we live in that rule is going to be continued to be modified.

It would seem a reasonable request for a team playing a 14 to 20 game conference schedule for a team to win half of its conference games to be eligible for an NCAA tournament at-large bid.

My good friend, Jim Donaldson, the highly-regarded semi-retired sports columnist for the Providence Journal--he is now a twitter maven-has long argued that winning half of your conference games should be a granite-like requirement for NCAA at-large consideration.

"If you can't win half of your conference games, you don't belong in the tournament,'' said Donaldson, who goes on his annual rant about why the 7th place team from the Big East should get a bid over the first place team from the Horizon Conference with 25 wins but lost in in its conference tournament.

Donaldson, it should be pointed out is a Notre Dame grad, which makes almost of all of his theories delivered in "I know more than you because I went to ND.''

Each March he will make his 68 team selection process fairly simple. Examine their record and if it doesn't hold up, "offer a Throw them out'' analysis.

Which is fine to a point, but sometimes falls apart when he is reminded that you still need to fill the 68 team bracket.

But we digress.

Let's get back to the Big Ten 9 bids? The only problem is that only 8 Big Ten teams are above .500 in the conference. Right now such NCAA perennials as Michigan Indiana and Ohio State are 2 games below the .500 mark.

Almost every bracket I have looked at has all three teams as fairly safe NCAA tournament teams.

We have another three weeks to sort out the Big Ten and the elite teams may emerge in the top half.

The Big Ten is also aided this year by the ACC, which may only have 4 teams, instead of its usual assortment of 7 or 8. And there are very few Mid-Major Cinderella teams (Northern Iowa?) who appear to have the credentials to qualify as an at-large team.

Having said all of that, it is not a unreasonable request to win half of your league games to qualify as an at-large team

The only problem is that if that rule were passed, Donaldson would bring new meaning to the term insufferable.


Mark Blaudschun