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Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

The student news site of Edwardsville High School

Tiger Times

Top tier nobodies or middle-of-the-pack studs?

AP Images
Drake’s Tucker DeVries (12) drives against Indiana State’s Julian Larry (1) during the second half of the championship game in the Missouri Valley Conference NCAA basketball tournament Sunday, March 10, 2024, in St. Louis.

If you’re reading this article and you’ve seen the title, then you might be confused about what this story is about. Well, believe it or not, it’s actually a college basketball story and more specifically about the controversy around whether average power six conference teams should make the NCAA tournament over the best teams in all the other conferences.


On Sunday, the Drake Bulldogs men’s basketball team won the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament championship, which guarantees them a spot in the NCAA tournament. The losers of the tightly contested game were the Indiana State Sycamores, the conference’s regular season champs. The Sycamores had a 28-6 regular season record and a 17-3 conference record. While the record is great on paper, their lack of marquee wins is leading many to suggest that the Sycamores should be left out of the NCAA tournament all together.


The question remains, however, can you really punish the Sycamores for not having major wins when they play in a conference without marquee teams?


Let’s take a look at the Big East and their several “bubble” teams, or teams that are very close to either making the NCAAT or just missing out. UConn, Creighton and Marquette are the top teams in the Big East and will make the tournament with ease, as they should. But, if you look further down in the conference standings, you will find teams like St. Johns, Villanova and Providence or what you might call the “bubble teams.”


All three of these teams have fewer than 20 overall wins, and their conference records are clinging to 500. Yet all of these teams are held in higher regards than Indiana State when it comes to the NCAA tournament.


So why are these teams currently ahead of Indiana State in the race to make the NCAAT?


The answer is simple, the lack of opportunities. St. Johns, Villanova and Providence all play in a conference with some of the top teams in the country who they play multiple teams a year which gives these teams plenty of opportunities to earn major wins that can help their case to get into the tournament. They also avoid really bad losses by playing in a conference without those really bad teams that can hurt your chances immensely.


On the flip side, Indiana State essentially has to be perfect in their conference to make the tournament. They can’t lose to anybody because that would be one of those bad losses that you have to avoid to make the tournament. They live in a world where a win does not help them, but a loss certainly hurts them.


The Sycamores do have one important asset on their side, they are 29th in the NET rankings, and no team in the top 32 of the NET has ever missed the tournament.


I do think that most people would want to see Indiana State get into the tournament and have a chance over a team like Virginia or Villanova, who make it every year. The question, however, is how many teams that are on the “bubble” do well in their conference tournaments. If a couple teams win a couple more games than they should, then the bubble shrinks and other teams have to be left out.


The NCAA men’s college basketball tournament is one of the most fun and prestigious sporting events in the United States. Part of what makes it so fun is the constant upsets and the yearly miracle run to the Final Four from a team that nobody had making it out of the first round of their bracket. Indiana State seems to fit the mold of that team, they’ll be hungry and desperate to prove that they belong with the top teams in the country and that is what makes this tournament so good. UConn has been the best team in college basketball this year and they might send multiple players to the NBA, as they did last year, but Indiana State and the legend of their 6’10”, 240-pound, geeky looking center, Robbie Avila will only be alive in March and in this tournament.

About the Contributor
Zach Cohn
Zach Cohn, Staff Writer
Zach is a junior and second year journalism student. He has been a member of the Edwardsville Hockey team for 4 years and is also a member of the EHS broadcasting club where he broadcasts EHS football, basketball and baseball games.