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SMSU shouldn’t be at mercy of selection process

March 11, 2008
Andy Rennecke
This column was written before.

In fact, probably a year ago to the date former Independent sports editor Tom Berg wrote the same one.

But the fact that it’s being written again is kind of sad.

The Southwest Minnesota State men’s basketball team was denied a chance at playing in the NCAA North Regional Tournament Sunday night because a bunch of guys on a committee said they couldn’t go.

It’s as simple as that. Whether or not these committee members have a hippocampus in their brains is still being investigated. (See biology book for definition of hippocampus). Magnum P.I.’s on the case.

The Mustangs were denied entrance into the tournament in favor of Colorado Christian, a team with the same record and weaker schedule. Both teams were 17-12 after the conclusion of their conference tournaments. The only difference was Colorado Christian advanced to the RMAC championship game and SMSU didn’t advance to the NSIC championship game.

Apparently, that was enough to get Christian into the NCAA Tournament where they will no doubt be slaughtered by Winona State in the first round. At least Southwest would’ve gave the Warriors a game.

I’m not being a homer here, folks. The fact is, Colorado Christian didn’t play the same type of schedule the Mustangs did. They didn’t play two of the top five ranked teams in the country five times like SMSU did in Winona and Northern State. The only problem was Southwest never won one of those games. However, they should be awarded for playing better teams than Christian, a team that only played one top-seven team in the region in Fort Lewis (Colo.).

According to SMSU head coach Greg Stemen, the selection process “has no room for common sense. There’s no room for subjectivity.”

If that’s the case, why hasn’t Division II altered the selection process to the tournament that compares strength of schedules.

This is where we get into sensitive territory. The more money a Division II program has, the more pull it can have to bring in respectable teams to their home venue.. In other words, programs are paying other programs to come and play them. That’s really no secret.

But, the more money a program has, the better position it puts itself in record-wise. Unfortunately for SMSU, it doesn’t ha0ve that sort of pull.

“If we had the resources to do that, we would,” Stemen said. “It would make sense for us to do that. The fact is, we don’t. We choose to go out and play the best D-II competition on the road. We want to get those wins to get our guys ready so they can play their best basketball by the end of the year. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Unfortunately for us, one or two games have hurt us the past couple of years.”

Those one or two games this year for the Mustangs were road losses at Upper Iowa and Concordia-St. Paul. But those were road losses, not home losses. Losses at home should count against a team more than setbacks on the road.

Stemen described the selection process this way: “The selection process involves numbers and direct comparisons to another team. A set of primary criteria are used and then a second set are used if the primary criteria are too close. Even though that common sense says that one team is better than another, that’s not discussed. It’s all about numbers. I had a gut feeling we had to beat Northern going into the NSIC Tournament. That didn’t happen and we didn’t get in.”

Stemen even said the process for selection changes from year to year.

“I’m not bitter or angry about this,” Stemen said. “When I say there’s no common sense, that’s just the situation. It’s not an angry observation. It just doesn’t allow you to sit down and say ‘let’s talk about these teams and who they played against.’ “

After talking with Stemen Sunday night, it appears he’s used to this after his team was denied entrance into the tournament last season. But last year might have stung more, especially since the Mustangs went 20-10, advanced to the NSIC championship game and 0lost to eventual national-finalist Winona in that game.

“Last year, we deserved it more. This year, we were in a better position to get in. Either way, it comes down to winning one or two of those games we didn’t win,” he said.

The most puzzling thing about Christian getting in and not SMSU is that the Mustangs were ranked No. 8 in the last North Central Region poll and Christian wasn’t even on the list. Nebraska-Kearney was No. 9 and Adams State (Colo). was No. 10.

So how can a team that is at least three spots behind another squad with the same record but got past one more bracket in a weaker conference tournament, all of a sudden skip up that far?

That’s the million dollar question. It’s a question that doesn’t make sense. So, next year, don’t pay attention to the North Central Region rankings.

They’re pretty much hogwash.


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