|Photo creds to orangefizz.net|
After expressing his displeasure with the NCAA selection committee's decision to put Virginia Commonwealth in the tournament as an at-large, the 11th seeded Rams made a Cinderella run to the Final Four. Naturally, Bilas received criticism because of course, VCU's deep run justified its place in the tournament. As a 13-year-old, I remember agreeing with the world and thinking Bilas had to be some clown who missed the mark. Now, as a grown man, I've discovered that the Bilas's opinion of the Rams wasn't any more or less valid due to what ended up happening in the tournament.
The 2016 Syracuse Orange pulled a VCU. Despite going 9-9 in the ACC and losing three times to Jamie Dixon's last Pitt team, Syracuse not only made it to the tournament as a 10 seed, but it somehow found its way to the Final Four. Two years later, Jim Boeheim's squad--an 11 seed, amazingly enough--received a surprising at-large bid and is making the most of it, still alive after the tournament's first weekend.
It would be easy to look at this and say that Syracuse-- who has lost 13 games and finished 8-10 in the ACC-- is proving that it belongs in the tournament, and showing that the committee was right and virtually everybody else was wrong. But the truth is that even if the Orange beat Duke Friday night, if they get to the Final Four and even if they win the national championship, it would be no more than a case of them making the most of an opportunity that they didn't deserve.
For the first 33 games of the season, Syracuse was nothing more than an average team with a big name in a big conference. They didn't deserve to be in the tournament, certainly not over teams like conference foe Notre Dame, Big 12 giant killers Oklahoma State and 29-5 St. Mary's. Who's to say none of those teams would in the Sweet 16 if they were given the chance?
To those who feel the Orange have proven their worth over the past week, I say take a look at St. John's. They beat two of the best teams in the country this season in Duke and Villanova, so theoretically, the Red Flash could be in the Sweet 16 if they were given an at-large bid. But 16-17 St. John's didn't get in because it wasn't good enough in the regular season. Neither was Syracuse.
Every decision the committee made this March is as right or wrong today as it was Selection Sunday. The fact that Syracuse has won a few games doesn't mean it belongs, and the fact that St. Bonaventure crapped the bed against Florida doesn't mean it didn't belong. But at the end of the day, none of this will matter when Duke smacks the Orange by double digits.