Why “Mid-Major” Is More Accurate Than Ever

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts at 6:27 pm by

xavier coaches

(non-mid-major coach Chris Mack and his four Xavier predecessors, from Cincinnati magazine)

If you’re hoping, as Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel is, for the term “mid-major” to go out of circulation, perhaps writing a whole column on the subject isn’t the best way to assure that:

No one can identify for sure when exactly the term “mid-major” became a fixture in college basketball, but the 2006 NCAA tournament — the year George Mason reached the Final Four — was clearly its boiling point.

Years from now, here’s hoping we’ll similarly look back at the 2010 Dance as the event that rendered said phrase outdated, unnecessary and (this one’s a long shot) extinct.

We’ve been conditioned to believe in some mystical distinction between schools that belong to the six power football leagues and those that don’t, even when discussing a completely different sport. But if that’s the case, how is it that 11 different conferences will be represented when this year’s Sweet 16 commences Thursday night?

But, um… that’s exactly why these teams are called “mid-majors!” Not just to distinguish them from “major” (i.e. BCS) conferences, but also to distinguish them from the 15 or so conferences – half the automatic field – that enter every March just hoping they don’t have to play on Tuesday, and NEVER make the second round. The key word should be “major,” not “mid.”

And so long as Mandel can also write:

Butler is not going to win the national championship — but it’s fully capable of preventing someone else from doing so.

There’s still a hierarchy.

Does the fact that Cornell can play with anybody mean the entire Ivy League is suddenly as good as the Big 10 (or even the Missouri Valley), especially over 30 games instead of two? Of course not. Now that the world has realized (a season too late, given Patty Mills’ health last year) there are two good West Coast Conference teams, does that mean third-place Portland should have made the field instead of Big East team #8? Maybe so.

I kind of figure if you’re really bothered by the term “mid-major,” that also means you are one. Thing is, I would argue that we need to use the term more, and define it more precisely, based on student body size, attendance and/or athletic budgets, especially with the likely tournament expansion.

Why? Because of how they pick the NCAA selection committee, which is currently made up of “ten members, including six FBS representatives, and four Division I or FCS representatives.”

That means you’ve got 6 people (from UCLA, Ohio State, Kent State, Wake Forest, UConn and the Big 12 conference) representing 120 teams, and 4 people (from Xavier, UC-Riverside, UT-San Antonio and the Big Sky conference) representing 227 teams.

So not only is the process skewed towards power programs, but there is no middle ground – as the athletic director of what is by far (given Gonzaga’s recent early flops and Memphis after Calipari) the most successful non-BCS hoops program, Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski has a lot more in common with his ACC counterpart – Xavier and Wake Forest just began a 10-year home-and-home, in fact – than someone from the Southland. Only Kent State is really part of the same world as the Horizon or Missouri Valley or the CAA, even if they’re in the other column due to football.

With 96 teams and no NIT, the big battle is going to be between those second or third “mid-major” schools and bigger-conference powers on the bubble. If the selection committee was actually divided into BCS, mid-majors (which would include the Mountain West and Conference USA) and non-majors, we might get a process that is more balanced for every school, no matter what you want to call ’em.


Is That Casual Encounters, or Adult Services?

Posted in Basketball, College Spurts, twitter twatter at 4:54 pm by

Sports Illustrated‘s Stewart Mandel tweets this fascinating link: a scheduling board for college basketball.

It’s the Craigslist of college hoops scheduling!,he writes. Note St Bonaventure’s pitch: “We lose 2 of our top 3 scorers”

Among the other highlights: Kansas needs to buy someone (a “guarantee game”) for 11/21 or 11/22, St. Bonaventure is hoping that the prospect of a game at Buffalo’s HSBC Arena might attract a “high major” opponent home-and-home, and Cameron Dollar at Seattle University is offering “competitive and creative guarantees” (is vacant Key Arena pitching in, perhaps?).

And: with a good enough opponent, Penn State dangles the prospect of ESPN or ESPN2, while Youngstown State, which needs a pair of home-and-homes, plays up its sacrificial status even more than St. Bonaventure: “We loose (sic) 5 seniors, 4 starters, 3 out of 4 top scorers. We have a lot of open dates.”

None of this is shocking of course, just interesting to see the nuts and bolts, as well as the volume of schools looking for games at any given time. I guess I’m used to college football (fewer games, and all non-conference action finalized much further in advance).


A&M Commerce: Where the Football Players Aren’t Too Bright. Just Ask the Athletic Director

Posted in College Spurts, Gridiron, Lower Education at 6:14 am by

Print is dead? Not, apparently, to Guy Morris, who at least you can’t accuse of failing upwards. The former Kentucky and Baylor coach is now at Texas A&M University-Commerce, which I guess is where the kids who aren’t good enough to play at Texas A&M-Kingsville go. From The Battalion, via Romenesko:

Texas A&M University-Commerce football Head Coach Guy Morris admitted to police that his team was responsible for the removal of student newspapers distributed on campus Wednesday.

The East Texan published a story on Wednesday titled œFootball Player Arrested in Drug Bust.

Lt. Jason Bone, crime information officer, later interviewed Morris, who admitted to his team members™ involvement in the theft and said he supported their actions.

œI am proud of my players for doing that, Morris said. œThis was the best team building exercise we have ever done.…

According to Bone™s police report, Athletic Director Carlton Cooper said the football team could not have stolen the papers without the aid of outside help.

œI don™t think they are smart enough to do this on their own, he said.

Nor smart enough to realize there’s an Internet.


What’s Shaughnessy’s Idea of “Football Weather?”

Posted in Hockey, Sports Journalism, Weather at 2:55 am by

(Ty Conklin, sadly absent from an outdoor NHL game for the first time ever)

Dan Shaughnessy’s SI.com love letter to the Winter Classic – it’s so upbeat, he says the NHL is “Number Four!” – is a nice thing for the game of hockey, but he stumbles just a bit along the way:

Hockey owns New Year’s Day the way baseball owns the Fourth of July and football owns Thanksgiving. Sure, there’s still plenty of college grid action on the first day of the year, but many big bowls have been pushed back in the name of ratings and rankings. The NHL has stepped in with the Winter Classic which will be held this year at Fenway Park, featuring the Boston Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers…

Seizing the (New Year’s) Day, league czars took the game to Wrigley Field last year and the 2009 Classic produced the NHL’s highest regular season television rating in 13 years. Now the torch has been passed to Fenway Park and the Bruins of Original Six lore. Boston is positively agog at the sight of a Zamboni parked in front of the Green Monster. I kid you not.

The average high temperature in Boston on January 1 is 38 degrees, but nobody seems to be worried about the cold.

Surely Boston sports fans don’t consider such a temperature to be “cold.” In fact, as Fanhouse’s Chris Botta reports, it may even be hot enough to get the game postponed.

Like most of the East, Massachusetts had unseasonably warm weather the last two days. On Monday, the rains came. NHL ice man Dan Craig said his weather forecasters initially told him to expect a 50 percent chance of snow on New Year’s Day. Now their projections have changed to rain….

The decision to play the 1 PM ET game on Friday between Boston and Philadelphia comes down to two factors, according to Craig. “Our focus is on player safety and fan safety.”

I’d like to say I’m looking forward to the game, but with both my alma mater and my lifelong favorite team in bowls until 4:30, I probably won’t be making time for the pathetic Flyers in what’s really just another conference game. As an event, the Winter Classic’s surely cooler than an NFL contest in London, but it doesn’t count for extra in the standings.

Which is not to say the morning football action is of major consequence, but hey, it isn’t every decade that Northwestern plays on New Year’s Day (or every century that they win a bowl). And Penn State’s still looking for its first win over a BCS Top 15 opponent (which at least gives them something in common with the University of Texas).


The New York Yankees: Hated, But Still More Popular Than Health Care

Posted in Baseball, politics at 12:02 am by

Missed this until now: last week New York Congressman Jose Serrano led the way with one of those time-wasting boilerplate Congratulations! resolutions for the Yankees.

H.RES 893 passed, but not everybody played along. From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

As a life-long Cincinnati Reds fan, Steve Driehaus couldn’t stomach supporting a resolution last week congratulating the New York Yankees on winning their 27th World Series title.

“They bought a World Series,” said Driehaus, D-West Price Hill.

When Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., and 66 co-sponsors offered the resolution last Friday, it easily passed, but 28 members – mostly from districts near Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Boston and Minneapolis-St. Paul – voted either “no” or “present.”…

Since 1973, no resolution honoring a past World Series champion has drawn a negative vote.

The vote Friday stands in stark contrast to 1975, when the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., sponsored a resolution congratulating the Reds for winning the World Series against his beloved Red Sox. The Senate approved that resolution unanimously….

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., who voted for the resolution, asked for ”the record to reflect the fact that I am a Mets fan, and I do not associate myself with the previous comments” favoring the Yankees.

Only one of the 28 naysayers was actually a representative from Pennsylvania.


Thomas Boswell’s Thoughts on Hockey

Posted in Blogged Down, Hockey, Sports Journalism at 6:41 pm by

Are about the same as his thoughts on VORP, which is to say, he has none.

During an online chat today, the Washington Post writer – I’d call him the “baseball writer,” but he long ago became a general sports columnist, and the header on “Ask Boswell” plugs the “Redskins, Nats, Orioles and more” – got thrown for a real loop by somebody who cared enough to ask about the so-called hottest sports team in D.C. – the Capitals, currently facing off against the Boston Bruins on a channel that I don’t receive.

Iceplex: Opening night up in Boston. Think Theo can pull a consistent season out of his … hat.

(Not the GM of the Boston Red Sox)

Tom Boswell: The regular season as been a dud. I think the post-season will be excellent. These are really entertaining teams with lots of glamor. Of course, part of the reason is that this has not been a good year for parity. A lot of rich teams have come through the draw.

You can get me to watch the Yanks, Dodgers, Red Sox, Phils, Angels or Cards any day. I’d put their chances of reaching the Series in that order __and any of them could do it. Hope the Tigers hang on for detroit and Illich’s sake. The Rox have wonderful fundamentals and strong arms. But they had their WS, didn’t they?

But to answer your question, Boston has recently gotten excited at the way their pitching has gotten back to health and Ortiz supposedly done and dsicredited is one of the top A.L. HR hitters in the second half. They’re baaaack.

(Via @emcerlain and Japers’ Rink.)

Hot Gelf Action

Posted in Baseball, Blogged Down, Internal Affairs at 12:23 am by

Gelf Magazine’s Varsity Letters Series returns to Jan Larsen Art Studios in Brooklyn tonight (October 1), with an all-baseball night featuring authors Jennifer Ring (Stolen Bases: Why American Girls Don’t Play Baseball, Larry Tye (Satchel: The Life and Times of an American Legend and Joe Posnanski (The Machine: A Hot Team, a Legendary Season, and a Heart-stopping World Series: The Story of the 1975 Cincinnati Reds).

And who better than to interview the prolific Posnanski (above) than CSTB’s own prolix wordsmith David Roth? My favorite parts of the interview involve Posnanski’s ever-smart, yet not dogmatic take on baseball stats and Moneyball, including several anecdotes he shares about Joe Morgan:

Bill James tells a great story about how one time Jon Miller showed Morgan Bill’s New Historical Baseball Abstract, which has Morgan ranked as the best second baseman of all time, ahead of Rogers Hornsby. Well, Morgan starts griping that this was ridiculous, that Hornsby hit .358 in his career, and Morgan never hit .358, and so on. And there it was, perfectly aligned”Joe Morgan the announcer arguing against Joe Morgan the player.

You’re right about Joe Morgan being the ultimate Moneyball-style player, too. It wasn’t just his style of play, either; Joe Morgan quotes from 1975 sound like they could have gone into the book Moneyball, verbatim. He talked all the time about how batting average was overrated, and how you had to get on base, and how RBIs were just a context statistic, and how you had to steal bases at a high percentage, and so on and so on..

That’s just a taste… by all means click to read in full.