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Why Underdogs Don't Need More At Large Bids

Thursday, March 27, 2014 10:04am
  • Clemson beat Belmont to make the NIT Final Four. (AP)
     Clemson beat Belmont to make the NIT Final Four. (AP)

 By Shawn Krest

The little guys need to get a chance! 

We hear that same refrain in the run-up to every Selection Sunday, and every time there's a Mercer-over-Duke upset in the tournament, the champions of the underdogs use it as evidence to support their argument. 

But this week, we saw again why, if there are more at-large bids to be doled out, the middling teams in large conferences should get them. 

The postseason NIT's Final Four is set. That's the tournament that matches the teams that ended up on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Everyone that has a complaint to lodge with the selection committee can use an NIT run to help cement their case that they got the shaft. 

And the four teams headed to New York for the NIT championship are: Clemson, Florida State, SMU, and Minnesota. They represent the ACC, the ACC again, the AAC, and the Big Ten--about as big as big conferences get.

What about those little guys who don't get enough respect? The UC Irvines and Green Bays and Davidsons? Most didn't make it out of the first round. 

That's nothing new. In the last 10 postseason NITs, the 40 Final Four spots have been filled by teams from: 

ACC: 6

SEC: 7

Big Ten: 6

Then throw in the two teams the Pac 12 advanced that far, and spots taken by SMU, Baylor (three times), BYU, Memphis, Louisville, West Virginia, and Notre Dame and you've filled 30 of the 40 spots with the polar opposite of the little guy. Most of the rest of the spots are taken up by Atlantic 10 squads and the like. In fact, the only true underdog to make a NIT final four in the last 10 years is Old Dominion. 

Granted, the big-conference schools generally get to host NIT games, putting underdogs at a disadvantage, but there's also the question of which team will be more motivated--a middle-of-the-pack big conference team finishing up a disappointing year, or the top team in a little conference, still smarting from an upset in their conference tourney?

It's tough to explain away 39 out of 40.