FODDER: Aggies deserve NCAA tournament bid | NevadaAppeal.com

FODDER: Aggies deserve NCAA tournament bid

Joe Santoro
For the Nevada Appeal

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . . The Utah State Aggies deserve to go to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament no matter what happens this weekend at Lawlor Events Center in the Western Athletic Conference tournament. Whether the Aggies win one, two or all three games at Lawlor should have no bearing on whether or not they get invited to the only postseason tournament anyone pays attention to. The Aggies won the WAC regular season title again this year. They won 25 games before coming to Reno. Whether or not they have earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament should not be an issue anymore.

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That’s why the best thing for the WAC this weekend is for Utah State to lose. It’s the only way the league has a chance of getting two teams into the NCAA tournament. It’s one of those unfortunate set of circumstances in college sports where the conference secretly hopes a certain team loses in order to benefit the entire conference. It shouldn’t be that way, of course, but that’s what happens when you allow television money to run college sports. It was the same when Nevada played Boise State in football the day after Thanksgiving. A Boise State loss that day would have had a negative ripple financially on the entire conference.

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The NCAA is actually thinking of expanding its premier postseason tournament to 96 teams. That would mean roughly 25 per cent of the Division I teams in the nation would get a spot. It would also deem made-for-TV events like conference tournaments a complete waste of time. If this year’s NCAA tournament had 96 open sports, the WAC (in theory) would likely get four spots (Utah State, Nevada, New Mexico State and Louisiana Tech). That’s why a 96-team tournament would be wonderful for a mid-major conference like the WAC.

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The WAC should have given Utah State men’s basketball coach Stew Morrill more than a mere slap on the wrist recently for using “provocative language” toward New Mexico State player Jahmar Young. It’s one thing for a coach to criticize the officials. Idaho’s Don Verlin was given the WAC’s official, meaningless “reprimand” last month when he bad-mouthed the officials after a loss to the Wolf Pack. That’s fine. The officials are grown men and women. They should be able to take some public criticism. But coaches should not be saying negative things to athletes, either their own or especially those on opposing teams. Morrill should have been forced to sit out the first game of the 2010-11 season.

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Does anybody really want to see the Wolf Pack take part in another College Basketball Invitational game next week? Of course not. Nobody wants that. Fans certainly don’t want it. Just 7,281 showed up at Lawlor the past two years combined to see the Pack lose to Houston and UTEP in the CBI. The CBI is not a reward for a job well done. It is almost an embarrassment to be involved. Talk about your made-for-TV events. The NCAA and its member schools need to stop trying to figure out ways to squeeze every single last dollar it can get out of its athletes. Either that or stop complaining when athletes leave school early to make a living.

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While on the subject of meaningless made-for-TV events, we’re going to have yet another football bowl game this December. Remember that tedious three-hour game in late December between bowl games when you had nothing to do but hug the wife and kids and tell them how much you loved them during the holidays? Well, ESPN has filled it. The Big East and Big 12 will each send one of its also-rans to the new Pinstripe Bowl at the new Yankee Stadium on Dec. 30. ESPN, of course, has already put its stamp of approval on it. We didn’t have enough bowl games to ignore, right?

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Tim Tebow, according to the NFL’s Wonderlic test, is dumber than fellow quarterbacks Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy and Jimmy Clausen. Of course, that doesn’t say much for Tebow’s institution (Florida) which allowed him to compile a 3.66 grade point average. But it also doesn’t say much about how the NFL grades its prospects. According to the Wonderlic test, quarterbacks like Dan Marino and Donovan McNabb practically needed someone to tie their shoes and zip up their coats every morning. Yeah, there’s definitely something wrong with the evaluation process.

Now they’ve created one out of thin air and named it after a feature on a baseball uniform in a city that cares as much about college football as Nevadans care about the Stanley Cup.

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 I guess we should all be thankful for ESPN and the way it takes over stadiums and arenas on game days and dictates time-outs, start times, schedules and who knows what else. Without ESPN there would be no more college sports (and certainly no more millionaire college coaches). There also wouldn’t be events to attend that begin at 9 p.m. What else should a college student be doing at 9 p.m.? Studying or getting some rest before that 8 a.m. class the next morning? Yeah, right. Thank goodness for ESPN. Still, you have to wonder how close we are to the day when ESPN builds its own stadiums and arenas and officially stages its own private events, sort of like a television studio filming a sit-com where the lucky audience only applauds when told by the bright and flashing neon sign in front of their faces. It’s closer than you might think.