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Thursday, September 18, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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NCAA talks a good game, but there is always time to play

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



We're No. ...101?

You won't likely hear that chant rising from many rooting sections this month. Nobody waves oversized foam fingers before the TV cameras in that number.

Yet, 40 schools, among them the University of Hawaii, will soon fiercely compete to lay claim to being what amounts to the 101st best team in major college basketball.

There are 345 schools that play at the Division I men's level, and a record 140 of them — 68 in the NCAA Tournament, 32 in the National Invitation Tournament, 24 (including UH) in the Collegeinsider.com Postseason Tournament and 16 in the College Basketball Invitational — will be playing on next week.

And that is pretty much the object of the marathon run that college basketball has become: To be the last — or one of the final ones at least — still shooting before the lights finally go out on Dickie V., Digger and the gang.

Tomorrow is Selection Sunday, when we learn who gets to play in the most prestigious tournament, the NCAA, and the oldest event, the 73-year old NIT, that account for the top 100 schools.

After that there are a bunch of other schools playing on to claim something more for this year or to set their teams up for a better finish next year.

For UH, which was No. 152 in the collegerpi.com ratings this week, there is a chance to improve its standing. The 'Bows, who have sat out the past six postseasons, can validate their improvement and spread their name to potential recruits.

Rarely do schools do what Seton Hall did a couple of years back and actually turn down a postseason bid. To do so would be to risk falling behind their competition.

When they do refuse, it is more often a nod to economics than to make a principled statement about missed class time or sagging graduation rates.

Overall, 41 percent of the teams that picked up a basketball back in October will still be dribbling one next week, and if it sounds like a lot — because it is — it still trails college football in some elements of absurdity.

Check out the bowl season, where 58 percent of the NCAA's Football Bowl Subdivision teams rolled on into a postseason that lasted from Dec. 18 to Jan. 10.

For a time the fear in the bowl community was that there might not be enough bowl-eligible teams to fill every last dot-com game. As it was 13 teams got in with 6-6 records.

Of course, in basketball, the NCAA no longer requires even a .500 record for postseason eligibility. Four teams to date — including 13-17 Oregon State, the 2009-winner, have gotten into the pay-to-play CBI with losing records. And, with a sizable enough check, many have hosted games.

Yet this January, just like many past, the NCAA Convention featured high-minded talk about academic crackdowns in basketball and football.

You can hardly blame the players for wanting to play on and make the most of the four seasons of competition the NCAA grants them. Likewise, the coaches whose jobs depend on the ability to extend their seasons, and fans who want a couple more wins or a championship to cheer.

But you have to wonder about some of the university presidents and administrators who sit on the NCAA panels. The same ones who expand seasons and postseason fields and then wonder why graduation rates lag.

March Madness, indeed.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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