Monday, November 30, 2009

Bobcats Sentenced to Death by NCAA - Play Texas in First Round

No chance. Zero. Ain't gonna happen. It's unfortunate, really. As long as the Texas schools in the Big 12 have incredible years, the Southland Conference Tournament champion will always await doomsday in the Big Dance with a national powerhouse.

If the Southland representative played a really strong schedule and ran through the conference basically unscathed, then its possible that the NCAA would not assign our school a "Texas-like" fate in the first round. Of course, the big giant will lurk in the attempt to get to the Sweet 16. Witness a couple of years ago when we were assigned Alabama before our date with death.

For a Southland school to ever make the Sweet 16 would be a true odds-beater. Think about how different things will be in Gregory Gym (nice name, BTW) as opposed to the Convocation Center in San Antonio. Both facilities hold roughly 4000 fans. There will be a ton of burnt orange in the stands and it most certainly will be loud and intimidating.

I applaud Texas State's run to this point. They earned this right, but let's not get confused. They're done. No one would be surprised to see Texas meet up with undefeated Penn State in the title match. Texas' only loss on the season was a five-setter in Ames, Iowa to Big 12 foe Iowa State. It wasn't a huge upset. Iowa State was ranked #8 at the time. Man, wouldn't you have loved to have seen that match? In an interesting twist.. ISU and Texas could meet up again in the Elite 8 - if all falls according to seed, then they will.

NCAA Volleyball tournament pairings are generally much more true to region that you see in basketball. Most folks familiar with the basketball tournament know that geography is often minimized when assigning teams to various brackets and regions. That's not true in volleyball. A case in point is that Rice and TCU will play before Texas and Texas State on Thursday afternoon. One exception to the regionalization issue is yours truly's alma matter Baylor who was sent out to LA to face off against Georgia Tech and then play the winner of host UCLA and Long Beach State.

To give you a feel for volleyball strength around us, half of the Big 12 is in the tournament with Texas (2), aforementioned Iowa State (7) and Nebraska (10) earning three of the 16 host "top seeds". Then there is Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma also playing in post-season. (Note: the Big 12 does NOT have a conference tournament). Couple those six with Rice, TCU, LSU, and (SFA-opponent) Tulane and that represents some good local competition.

Non-conference scheduling has been a subject of my posting here before. In fact, Debbie Humphreys and I have discussed this on various occasions and I have a slightly different view on it than her. I favor the Texas State model...try and load up on tough non-conference teams. In my mind, the eventual SLC tourney champion needs to position themselves for a reasonable shot at the Sweet 16. To do this, you have to rip the conference and finish with a high enough RPI that you don't get assigned "Texas" in the first round. If you can get a more reasonable opponent in the first round, then there are two good things that can happen. First, you have a decent shot of winning and second - there is the chance the "big boy" will get upset in the first round and you get a weaker opponent in order to make the final 16. Worst case scenario is what happened to us a few years back: you lose to the host in the sub-regional final. Well, real worst case scenario is you still lose in the first round, but I think you see my point.

See, without scheduling a cracker-jack non-conference schedule, I don't see how a SLC team will really ever get a "break" in the first round of the tourney unless you win 62 straight conference games or something. If your ULTIMATE goal is to give yourself a chance to make the Sweet 16, then it seems you have to schedule heavy.

Hey, I don't cheer for the University of Texas at all. NEVER. So, yeah, I'd love it if the Bobcats "shocked the world". But...they're season is done. Need more evidence? Texas lost 10 SETS all year. Every one of the sets they lost was either to a foreign national team or a team in the NCAA tourney. Now, that's impressive.

Texas State loses 3-0 in what will be a very quick match. But, if you ask me would I rather be traveling to Austin this week to watch SFA play in the tournament against UT? You know my answer would be "yes".