Monday, March 18, 2013

Dog Days

It doesn’t seem fair.  While all the teams sit back and watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday broadcast, UConn has to sit at home.  The toughest part was that UConn was definitely in the tournament and probably a 8 or 9 seed, which is a huge accomplishment for a team that went through a coaching retirement, a major exodus of talent, scholarship hurdles, a rookie coach, a player suspension, and injuries galore.  But alas they are watching from the sidelines and paying the price for what they had nothing to do with and that is the real shame of this.

The fairest way of hurting the University for their poor grades would be to hit them financially.  Why not penalize the school for every cent that they would have earned from playing the postseason?  That way the unpaid kids that this sport makes millions of dollars on aren’t the ones being punished, but the school is.  Unfortunately the NCAA wanted to make an example of UConn and scare everyone else into taking action towards making grades a priority, but the punishment far exceeded the crime.

The worst part of this punishment is the audacity of the Big East to hold UConn from the tournament and then ask them to be a pillar to hold up the new conference.  For some reason they were so afraid of UConn winning the tournament and causing them a black eye.  Really?  How about the crumbling of the entire conference in one season?  How about a break off of seven schools that grabbed the name and the tournament with them?  Besides if UConn did win it all, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Notre Dame, and Cincinnati would have gotten in anyways.  It was a pointless gesture to hold UConn out of the last Big East tournament.

The path forward for UConn is a bit muddled.  There will be several good schools moving into the new conference but the at-larges will most likely be cut in half from a normal 6 to 9 to about 3 to 6.  That makes it a priority for UConn to play some top out of conference teams and try to get some home and home games, but their leverage is way down.  They might play more neutral site games that are closer to the opponent’s territory.  The end game however is to scurry out of this conference and land somewhere better.  With the black eye this new conference has given UConn, there is no loyalty or love loss.

So while the tournament goes on without UConn, fans are left to ponder the good ole days of a conference that was once great but is now a cast of misfits.  It will be interesting how the ACC adjusts to the influx of the Big East elite.  They just might devour their own but in the end they’ll get eight or nine teams into the tournament instead of their normal 4 to 6.  The new Big East will be intriguing with some serious basketball schools and the best tournament venue in the country to attract talent.  The America 12 or whatever it will be called is a shell of those two conferences and will need to build up some of the programs coming in and make them more competitive, but it all comes down to UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis to shoulder the turbulent waters in the first couple of years of this conference, but in the end it will be the talent they can attract.  So cheer up UConn fans, these might look like dreary days, but at the end of the day it will all be settled on the court and that is just how Coach Ollie wants it.

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