Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
All around the country, there are small schools screaming at the selection committee: "What more do you want from us?!"
But no team is screaming louder or more justifiably than Monmouth.
The Hawks played 17 true road games and a total of 23 games away from home, going 13-4 and 17-6, respectively. And they didn't do it against the little sisters of the poor. They beat USC and Notre Dame on neutral courts. They won at UCLA, Georgetown and Rutgers.
They did exactly what the selection committee has been telling small schools to do for years—doing what Murray State failed to do last year—and they even did it in a season where two sure-fire tournament-worthy teams (SMU and Louisville) were ineligible for the tournament.
How can Monmouth possibly not be one of the 38 (36 plus the ineligibles) best at-large teams in the country? How can the selection committee claim to watch thousands of hours of games in venues all over the country and decide that this team didn't deserve to get in?
Too many things were out of Monmouth's control, the first of which was all five of those quality wins losing value as the season progressed. The Hawks were No. 17 in RPI and SOS on Dec. 31 and finished the season at 52 and 166, respectively—partially because playing 20 games in the MAAC will do that to a computer resume, but largely because Georgetown and UCLA ended up being much worse than we could have possibly imagined.
Is that Monmouth's fault?
Or is it Monmouth's fault that Wichita State, San Diego State, Valparaiso, Saint Mary's, Akron and Hofstra all lost in their respective minor-conference tournaments, making it extremely difficult to decide which small schools were most worthy of an at-large bid?
The whole thing just sends a horrendous message to the little guys around the country.
Syracuse went 3-8 away from home, got hot from three-point range for three days in the Bahamas, had the luxury of facing Duke when the Blue Devils were exhausted and playing their worst basketball of the season, lost to St. Freaking John's, and yet apparently, those short bursts of success meant more than Monmouth playing great basketball for four months.
It's disgusting, but, really, Monmouth's beef should be with the MAAC, rather than the selection committee.
There's no rule stating that conferences are required to send their tournament winner to the NCAA tournament. That's just the way everyone does things. Each conference has the right to award the automatic bid however it sees fit, and based on how chaotic the minor-conference tournaments were this season, it's time for some of them to explore those alternative avenues to be best represented in the Big Dance.