Sunday, March 16, 2008

Say hello to the NIT

The word came down just a few moments ago, and no one in Tempe likes it. And a whole lot of pundits from around the nation don't like it either.

Unfortunately, though, when you really look at it logically, outside of that absolutely outrageous Villanova pick, the NCAA Selection Committee may just have gotten it correct.

The committee pointed out, early and often, that they would be taking into much stronger consideration a team's non-conference schedule strength. ASU's was 310th out of 341, easily the lowest out of any bubble team. ASU's RPI, which I still think shouldn't be taken into serious consideration and should only be used as a loose measuring stick, was by far the lowest of any bubble team. Also, don't forget that the Sun Devils were only 5-10 in their last 15, and the committee has ALWAYS taken recent success into serious account.

Unfortunately for ASU on that final note, the Sun Devils clearly played their best basketball of the season when they were beating Xavier, the Oregon Schools and Arizona in December and January, but seemingly, the committee only cares if you've been playing your strongest hoop in February and March.

Those are all the arguments against ASU. However, the ones for the Devils are the ones that will still leave us ASU fans with a bitter taste in our mouths.

Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas and Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg (whose team also was snubbed) are all on record saying that ASU got a *insert Dickie V voice* raw deal, baby (baby added for emphasis)! ASU still had 5 wins over RPI top 50 teams, including the win over Xavier, who is a 3 seed and one of my early picks for a trip to the Elite Eight. Of course, the Devils had wins over both Oregon and Arizona (2), two teams that made the tournament.

If you really feel the need to blame someone, blame Georgia. Had Georgia, yes, THAT Georgia that went 4-12 in conference this season, not sent a whirlwind (pun COMPLETELY intended), through the SEC Tournament and won the damn thing, it would have easily opened up another at-large berth for a team like ASU or Virginia Tech or Ohio State or Dayton or any other bubble team to slip in.

Either way, let's not be TOO disappointed, because there's way too much positive stuff to take away from this season to be driven to sitting in a darkened office, eating Ben & Jerry's and watching hockey's version of Gus Johnson through a sleepless night. The 32-team field for the National Invitation Tournament will be released tonight at 6:00 PM on ESPN2. My best guess is that ASU will be hosting a game at Wells Fargo Arena next week, potentially as a #1 seed. And I'll tell you this...winning a couple of games in the NIT and getting to see our boys to play at Madison Square Garden would still be pretty awesome.

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