Will Power Five ruin NCAA Tournament?

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NCAA logo. (Matt Slocum/AP)

AS COLLEGE football gets set for its first Final Four, the "others" in college basketball await their fate. Saint Joseph's and La Salle are among the "others." They are both in a very good league whose priority is men's basketball. Still, even the Atlantic 10 can't protect the "others" forever.

If you don't think the Power Five conferences are in charge of college sports, you really have not been paying attention. Many of those conference power brokers look at the NCAA as middleman that is more nuisance than facilitator. That the ACC and Big Ten are both bringing their conference tournaments to New York over the next few years is more than a test. It is the future and the future of men's basketball will likely be determined by the conferences with the deepest pockets. That would be the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12.

"We can make all the decisions we want, but, until those five say this is the way that it's going to be and then the Atlantic 10 can go to the table and to their presidents and say what do you want to be a part of," St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli said. "We can't be a part of all they're going to do. We can be part of some of the things. We're going to be at the table, but they're going to tell you whether it's a long table or a round table."

And, someday, they will also determine whether the NCAA Tournament becomes the Power Five Tournament, with perhaps a few of the basketball-only leagues (the Big East maybe, the A-10 maybe) allowed a seat at their table. Wonder why football has a four-team playoff and not an eight-team playoff? The big boys don't want to share. And there could come a day when they don't want to share basketball money either.

"A lot of us are not going to be around when they change the tournament," Martelli said. "Even they don't have enough guts to stand in front of the public and say you don't really want to see St. Joe's play UConn; you really want to see Mississippi State play Arkansas.

"First they have to figure out how to spend their billions, not millions . . .

"If they ever go to free agency, which is what they want, then we've got a problem because DeAndre' Bembry is going to be poached. They'll let him play with us for 2 years and then they'll say, 'We'll take him' and what kid could resist that? That's what I fear."

Players who transfer now have to sit out a full season. If that changes and players are eligible immediately at their new schools, it would, in fact, be free agency.

"You had 650 [transfers] this year," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "You'll easily have 1,300 next year. Is that good for college basketball? I don't think so. Is it good for kids as soon as they don't like the way things are going to quit and try something else? Is that good for their personal development? I don't think so.

"I'll tell you this right now - 100 percent of college freshmen think of transferring at some point. If things are going bad for them, they think I shouldn't have come here. If things are going great for them, they think maybe I should go somewhere bigger. Now, you're going to say forget about your prior commitments, do whatever you want. Think about it in life. Forget about whatever you committed to. If you don't like it, leave. I know everyone's about rights, but is that healthy?"

The Big Boys are running college sports. They have separated from their peers, separate but definitely not equal.

The Power Five conferences are running big businesses. They have their own TV networks as well as giant TV contracts with other networks. Teams in those leagues have little in common with schools like La Salle and St. Joe's. They want rules that apply only to them and they are getting them.

So, is the NCAA Tournament as we know it in imminent danger? No. Is it in danger at some point in the not-too-distant future? Absolutely.

When in doubt, follow the money.

 

Twenty years since 42-0

Hard to believe it has been 20 seasons since the Jerome Allen-Matt Maloney Penn teams finished off three seasons without losing a single Ivy League game.

The basketball world (and the Ivies) has changed so much since the mid-1990s. Harvard decided to take basketball seriously and has become the league power. Cornell dominated for three seasons.

As good as those Harvard and Cornell teams are and were, I think the Penn teams were way better. Well, then why have Harvard and Cornell had NCAA success when that Penn group won just one NCAA game.

Again, the sport has changed dramatically. Penn was playing against veteran teams with NBA players. Harvard and Cornell have been winning NCAA games against teams in the one-and-done era.

Timing is everything. If you saw those Penn teams play, you know how good they were. I saw them. They were that good.

 

Real Owls on display tomorrow

Tomorrow night at Delaware will be the first look at the lineup Temple is going to have the rest of the season. Transfers Jesse Morgan (UMass) and Devin Coleman (Clemson) will be eligible and have to help an Owls offense that needs help. The American is not nearly as strong as last season so there is a chance Temple could move way up.

THIS AND THAT
-- By this time last season, the A-10 had so many quality nonconference wins that everybody knew the league was looking at a minimum four at-large NCAA bids. Turned out to be five in the end. A year after getting 12 wins against ranked teams, the league has just two so far. It is 11-28 against the Power Five and Big East so three at-large would be a good number this March.
-- The Big East has been much better in November and December than last season. The league did not get a single team into the Sweet 16 last season, but the early results suggest a deeper, more talented league, multiple teams having a chance to make deep NCAA runs, with Villanova obviously having the best chance to go the farthest. I thought Jay Wright’s team would be good. They are playing even better than I expected.
-- The Big 12 may be the nation’s deepest league. There are simply no easy games. The 10 teams are an incredible 78-13 in nonconference games. Why? Well, good coaches with strong resumés do tend to attract good players. Consider that half the league’s coaches have won 500 or more games — Bob Huggins (West Virginia) with 792, Bill Self (Kansas) has 540, Lon Kruger (Oklahoma) has 544, Rick Barnes (Texas) with 592 and Tubby Smith (Texas Tech) at 532.
-- Army (7-2) has been playing brilliantly and won in overtime at USC on Saturday night. Cadets star Kyle Wilson, playing an hour from home against the Trojans, scored 30 points and is averaging 22.9.