Why Arizona Absolutely Deserved To Get in, and Tough Luck for St. Mary's

Mark ScacewaterAnalyst IMarch 17, 2009

As soon as I walked into work Monday, I started hearing the comments.

"St. Mary's got the shaft!"

"All the little schools got a raw deal."

Or my favorite: "How in the WORLD did Arizona get in?!"

So, after being subjected to these hilarious comments all day, I felt the need to write an article solely in defense of the selection committee picking teams like Arizona, Michigan, and Maryland while leaving out St. Mary's and Creighton.

Before I go any further, let me just add that anyone thinking (including Joe Lunardi of ESPN) Creighton deserved to get in is off their rocker.

Do they deserve a world of credit for coming back in the MVC quarterfinals and defeating Wichita State? Absolutely. Does that make them tournament worthy? Most definitely, NO!

The Shockers of Wichita State finished 16-16 on the season. If you cannot defeat a mediocre team from your own conference, you do not deserve to go dancing. Period.

Now, to the Arizona side of things.  People argue that they lost in the first round of the Pac-10 Tournament...yeah, to ARIZONA STATE. The Sun Devils boast an All-American in James Harden, nearly won the Pac-10 Championship, and have been ranked in the top 25 all season. That is a quality loss.

Let's talk about the sympathy factor for a minute. A headline I read today was "Dejected St. Mary's a 2 Seed in NIT." True, that team has every reason to be dejected.  It's hard to believe that they would not have been in had Tennessee or Arizona State taken care of business in their respective conference championship games.

But look at Arizona. Here's a team that has had three coaches in three seasons, two of whom they did NOT sign on to play for. That is a lot of change for a major program to go through.

Now, with an RPI of 62 and SOS of 36, nothing really jumps off the page until you look at who they actually beat.

They beat Kansas (No. 3 seed), Washington (No. 4 seed), Gonzaga (No. 4 seed), USC (Conference champions), UCLA (No. 6 seed), and San Diego State (fellow bubble team). Those are some outstanding victories. They were 8-12 against the RPI top 100.

Creighton was 9-5 against the RPI top 100, which obviously makes Creighton look like the better candidate. But Creighton did not have to play UCLA, USC, Arizona State, and Washington on a weekly basis. Creighton's best two wins are against, are you ready (gulp)...Dayton and ILLINOIS STATE! Oh my gosh, send it in! Creighton is a lock.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?! Once again, anyone who thinks Creighton deserved to get in: Find a hobby and start talking about another sport that you have a clue about.

Now, to St. Mary's: RPI 48, SOS 159...wait a minute, strength of schedule 159!?! I could stop right there and say that number speaks for itself. What if Arizona or Michigan had played an SOS in the mid-100s? I think it's safe to say both squads would be no worse than 29-3.

St. Mary's finished a very respectable 26-6. Their best victory? Utah State. Their other marquee win? San Diego State, a team that, rightly, did not get in.

I think the nail in the coffin for the Gaels, other than Patty Mills breaking his hand, was the 83-58 loss to Gonzaga in the WCC finals. Yes, Gonzaga is a quality team, but you have to be competitive in that game. To make a case for St. Mary's over teams with such quality wins like an Arizona is difficult to do.

I think the selection committee did the best job in years with the bubble teams. I know that what makes the NCAA tournament so much fun is watching the Cinderellas make their runs, a la Davidson of 2008. But, in all fairness, the at-large bids need to go to the best remaining teams, and Creighton and St. Mary's are just not those teams.

Finally, I would love to look at comments from the ESPN article about the final bubble teams.

One of my favorite comments: "So, non-BCS schools like San Diego St./Creighton/St. Mary's get screwed, and the selection committee's love affair with Arizona continues...IOW no surprises this year." This person obviously did not look at the bigger picture.

Here's a follow up comment from a guy that has a clue: "Arizona had as many top 50 wins as those three schools combined. I'm sure that played a big part in them getting the nod."

The message is crystal clear to schools like Creighton and St. Mary's: Schedule tougher teams. If teams are unwilling, at least be competitive in your conference championship game. That's something Creighton and St. Mary's did not do.