Monday, March 13, 2006

No prom date

I don't think that Maryland got snubbed by the selection committee. I think the committee did make some odd and indefensible decisions but leaving Maryland out for the second year in a row was not one of them. When Chris McCray flunked off the team Maryland was in big trouble because almost the entire first half of the season would be discounted by the committee. Without McCray the last half of the schedule, that included seven road games, would take precedent. Maryland did not play well enough in those last 12 games (5-7) to warrant a selection to the NCAA tournament.

Gary Williams initially announced to the press that Maryland had declined an invitation to the NIT but then was interrupted in the middle of the press conference by a phone call from NIT representatives and changed his mind. The NCAA, which now owns the NIT, probably put pressure on Maryland to participate as a high profile program that would make ESPN happy. I'm sure the possibility of extra ticket and parking fees perked the interest of the always revenue hungry Debbie Yow as well. It was reported that Maryland had already committed to a home game at Comcast center should they fail to reach the NCAAs again yet Gary Williams was not even aware of the arrangement. The players and Williams voted against playing in the NIT due to injuries suffered by Nik Caner-Medley and DJ Strawberry. This is another example of the disconnect of the athletic department and the basketball team. I know of no other university that has such poor relations between the management of the athletic department and the gold standard and money making sports program on campus.

It is unclear whether Caner-Medley would be available in the NIT which would start Saturday at 11am against the winner of the Manhattan and Fairleigh Dickinson game. Maryland played Fairleigh Dickinson in the first game of the year and won 111-85 at Comcast. I understand why Williams and the players did not want to play in the NIT and their reversal was probably due to public relations and political reasons, not because they want to participate in the NIT. There is little to gain for Maryland since most of the corps of next years team are already juniors and there are few younger players that would benefit from the extra experience. The idea that teams benefit from the extra play is probably one of the more overrated theories on college basketball. Most NIT teams are just as mediocre the following year even if they do well in the NIT. Players like Ekene Ibekwe and Will Bowers are not going to be appreciably better for having played a few games in the NIT against teams like Manhattan. What you see of them now is likely what you're going to get next year, for better or worse.

I have been busy the last two days but will have a write up about the Boston College debacle in a day or two and maybe my thoughts on the NCAA tournament.

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