Sunday, January 17, 2016

No great "mid-major" WBB teams says AP. We disagree

GWU's Jones is projected to
be a top 5 WNBA pick.
So AP's Doug Feinberg asks, "Where have all the great mid-majors gone?"


First, we respect Feinberg, one of the few reporters dedicated to our sport, but we respectfully disagree with a number of his points.

We won't give a dissertation on our first point, as we've shared our sentiment before, but "mid-major" is a tiresome term that we'd like to abolish from women's basketball vernacular. Kenny Brooks, like a number of coaches, will tell you James Madison doesn't consider itself mid major, but allow us just a few words more as to why we abhor the term.

Mid-major implies there's a second tier of teams, an "everybody else" of women's basketball lumped together outside of the Power 5 conference. They are the Power 5 because of football; nobody grouped them as such having to do with anything related to women's basketball.

All the teams in the sport are playing the same sport, vying for the same trophy. But the NCAA committee and the media who vote in the poll rarely treat them as such.

Alabama, Wake Forest, Boston College, Pitt, Illinois -- are these teams better than, say, South Dakota State, James Madison, Duquesne, George Washington, Green Bay, Florida Gulf Coast or Gonzaga?

Feinberg bases much of his argument on the AP Top 25, a vehicle we have personal experience with that has busy writers covering the sport on Sunday and asked to submit a Top 25 by Sunday night. As much as we respect many of the folks who vote, we also see the tendency to stick with certain teams based on what they are projected to do later in the season rather than what they've done that week. That's why teams like Duke and Louisville and Tennessee tend to hang around in the poll despite four or five losses and teams like Duquesne and Green Bay and the Jackrabbits have a tough time breaking in.

"Majors" are excused for a night off. "Mid-majors" can't afford one.

Duquesne had won 15 straight prior to falling to GWU on Sunday afternoon (mid-major on mid-major crime). The Dukes were inching close to a national ranking and now aren't likely to get one.

No non-Power 5 team is in the national poll.

Princeton, with wins over Michigan and Marist, hasn't a prayer of reaching the Top 25 given it dropped its Ivy League opener to Penn.  One league loss in a so called "mid-major conference" is the dagger for a team trying to break into the poll, whereas "major" schools can stockpile hiccups and remain poll worthy.

This way of thinking generally spills over to the NCAA tournament. Princeton won all its games last season and should have been in a position to host, a reward for the top 16 seeds, but the committee slapped the Tigers with an 8 seed, meaning a date with Maryland  in College Park in the second round.

Chattanooga was 29-3 last year, with defeats of Stanford and Tennessee, and was given a 7 seed.

That brings us to the whole "growing the game" spiel that the NCAA spouts about women's basketball when, in fact, the powers that be prefer the game just the way it is, thank you. With the top 16 seeds hosting first and second rounds again, it's hard to see how a Gonzaga could ever host again, a shame for an elite program with ardent fan support (did we mention those Zags beat West Virginia this year?) If teams got a fair shake, we could even deal with this, but talk with Brooks at JMU or Jim Crowley at St. Bonaventure -- no "major" wants to play a home-and-home series with these folks.

No great mid-majors? We disagree. Jonquel Jones leads an impressive GWU team that should earn a national nod. South Dakota State, with wins over Arkansas (which just defeated Tennessee btw), Pitt and DePaul and an almost against Maryland, looks pretty good to us. The Bonnies have won their last 15 and VCU, which stunned Arizona State, is overachieving.

Make the field an even one -- pitting Power 5 teams vs non-Power 5 teams on a neutral court consistently -- and let's see what happens.

But the Power 5 has no incentive to do so. That's no excuse for writers to split teams into two tiers of haves and have-nots. Do that and the non-power five will be considered second class citizens despite playing first-class basketball.

1 comment:

  1. This is absolutely spot on. DePaul loses to Loyola of Chicago and has 6 losses but they are still hanging around the Top 25 based on reputation.

    Meanwhile Duquesne ends a huge winning streak against another top Atlantic 10 squad and falls completely out of the national picture. PS they got right back on the wagon against a strong St. Bonaventure squad and beat them by 12 today.

    I honestly think most AP voters are voting based on school name and not overall results. They are the ones doing a great disservice to the women's game by not giving credit to the truly great teams out there.