The University of Akron men’s basketball team’s season is over after a first-round loss to Ohio State in the National Invitation Tournament. Still, commentator Terry Pluto argues Akron deserved a bid to play on a much bigger stage: March Madness.
The NIT is for teams that either didn’t get an automatic bid or weren’t selected to play in the NCAA Tournament. Terry Pluto says Akron had a solid season with a 26-8 record. They lost to Buffalo in the Mid-American Conference Tournament final, so Buffalo got the automatic bid into March Madness. Akron could hope to receive an at-large bid, but that hasn’t been awarded to a MAC school since Miami of Ohio in 1999.
The regular season is meaningless
There are 68 teams that make it into the NCAA Tournament. Each conference tournament winner gets a bid. Then the NCAA awards about 15 at-large bids to schools that they call “in the bubble.”
“The tough thing is you’re Akron or Kent or any of the MAC schools, your regular season almost becomes meaningless. If you don’t win the MAC tournament – meaning, if you don’t have a good three days, they’re not going to the NCAA tournament.”
According to the stats, Akron should be in
The NCAA relies on its stats system called the RPI. It’s a number basked upon a team’s wins and losses and its strength of schedule.
“It’s almost like golf – you want to shoot a low number,” Pluto says.
“Akron’s RPI this year is 34. That’s telling you according to this system of all the 340 Division I teams in the country, Akron’s the 34th best team. And they take 68 teams. They should have been in.”
More RPI confusion
St. Bonvature had an RPI of 30 and was passed over too. “They’re in Atlantic 10 and it’s one of the smaller schools and it’s way in upstate New York,” Pluto says. “But the thing is, if you were to pit St. Bonaventure against Duke or Akron against Kansas, other than the fans in those stands for those schools, they’d immediately adopt St. Bonaventure or Akron. So why not reward them as opposed to some team that was 19-12 in the Big Ten?
Rewarded based on a name?
Pluto points to teams like Syracuse. “A big basketball name. Great program -- not this year. Their record was 19-13. They lost 5 of their last 6. Their RPI is 72.”
Why don’t schools like Akron take action?
“They argue and [Akron coach Keith] Dambrot said he doesn’t know whether he’s supposed to call people on the committee and lobby for it or would that make it worse?
“It’s not like Akron came out of nowhere. The Zips have been to the NCAA tournament three times. They’ve won at least 21 games in the last 11 seasons under Dambrot.”
“Akron has had trouble in the NCAA. The last three times they’ve gotten in they’ve gotten knocked out. But I guess my argument is, they’ll be a lot of Big Teams that will lose in the first round too. But this is the highest rating Akron ever had for an RPI that they didn’t make it.”
Pluto concludes, “Fans love upsets. Upsets are good for the tournament. They’re good for ratings. But when those guys from the NCAA get in that room, the elitist attitude rules.