An Honest
Day’s Word

By Joe Edwards

Tuesday, March 11, 1997

Picking teams for
big dance is never easy

WITH all due respect, I have two wishes this fine day.

First, there's this:

Just once, I'd like to see a college basketball coach whose team has been -- pick your verb here -- passed over, snubbed, ignored and/or dissed by the so-called tournament selection committee just come out and say, "You know, we didn't make it. But that's the way it goes."

Instead, we're treated to the old "no-respect" litany.

The mantra goes something like this:

"I can't believe we're not in the tournament and -- choose your team here -- Texas, Southern California and UMass are in the dang thing. That selection committee doesn't respect our conference, our team or my mother-in-law. We did our part; they obviously don't know jack."

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim tells ESPN that the Big East was a lot better than most people think and the committee doesn't pay it proper respect. And by the way, Syracuse should be in.

Southwest Missouri State coach Steve Alford tells ESPN that the Missouri Valley Conference was a lot better than most people think and the committee doesn't pay it proper respect. And by the way, Southwest Missouri State should be in.

Done laughing yet? There's more. The Western Athletic Conference has been whining since football season that no one east of the Mississippi River respects the conference. The howls got louder this weekend because only three teams made the NCAA field.

I say they got what they earned, if not what they might have deserved. Utah, New Mexico and Tulsa are in the tournament and let's face it, they were the only schools that actually proved their worth in the final weeks of the season.

Hawaii's Riley Wallace fell into the no-respect ranks this weekend, too, when the Rainbows were left out of the 64-team field.

"It showed a lack of respect for us and the WAC," Wallace said Sunday night. "We were co-champions of the Pacific and we won 11 out of our last 15, and we won 20 games, which is supposed to be the magic number."

All legitimate points. I wrote in this space last week that UH deserved a berth in the tournament and if the selection committee had stuck by what it tells coaches, it's a fact that the Rainbows were worthy.

AND that brings up my second wish:

The NCAA in general and the selection committee in particular should just knock off the b.s. and call it the way it is. The two most important factors in this whole affair are the number of victories a team has against teams from a power conference and how your team finishes the season.

The Rainbows are a prime example. They won 20 games overall and were rolling along nicely at 19-4, but only one of those wins was against a team ranked in the top 25. The only nonconference team they beat that made it to postseason play is Memphis. The Tigers finished just 16-14, are playing in the NIT and are looking for a new coach to boot.

Furthermore, just when the rest of the world figured out that the Rainbows are pretty doggone solid, center Seth Sundberg was injured and missed the rest of the season. They pulled off a couple of miracle wins on the road at Wyoming and Colorado State, but they finished the season getting crushed by New Mexico, losing to Fresno State at home and losing again to New Mexico in the WAC tournament.

On national TV.

The week NCAA bids go out.

That's three losses in four games and that knocked Hawaii out of the tournament.

"We were hoping that they would reward us for a good season, which is supposed to be part of the formula," Wallace said.

It's never that simple with the NCAA, but sometimes that's the way it goes and Hawaii should know that by now.

Joe Edwards is sports editor of the Star-Bulletin.

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