|A year after pulling of a huge NCAA Tournament upset, Norfolk State may be heading for a low NCAA seed. (AP Photo)|
Neither of the two Division I HBCU conferences are strangers to the NCAA Tournament’s Opening Round games. SWAC teams have participated in these games seven times since their introduction in 2001. The MEAC has had its’ conference tournament champion play in the game five times. The two conferences are a combined 2-10.
If ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s current Bracketology holds true, that win-loss total will increase by one on each side. As of Jan. 22, Lunardi has Norfolk State and Southern facing off in a matchup to decide who will meet a hypothetically no. 1 seeded Michigan squad in the Midwest Division.
Both teams currently sit atop their conference’s standings. Norfolk State’s win over Morgan State last night nudged its record over .500. If Lunardi’s bracketology holds true, the Spartans (11-10) would have to face the daunting task of winning an opening round game and then pulling off an even bigger upset than it did against Missouri last year.
Southern’s 82-68 win over Alabama A&M on Monday was its tenth straight. At 14-6, the Jaguars are the only SWAC team over .500.
Only two teams forced to play opening-round games since 2001 have advanced past the next round. Last year South Florida defeated Temple but fell to Ohio in the second round. Virginia Commonwealth is the ultimate opening round success story, advancing all the way to the 2011 Final Four.
The NCAA has been criticized in the past for handicapping HBCU squads by unfairly putting them in a position to fail. A look at the RPI by conference shows that the SWAC has the third lowest RPI, while the MEAC is currently 28th out of 33 conferences.
With three SWAC teams featuring less than three wins more than two-thirds through the basketball season, it’s hard to argue against the its tournament winner being placed in an opening round game.
The same goes for the MEAC if anyone else wins the conference tournament other than Norfolk State. The Spartans proved last season they weren’t afraid of the big stage. If they can come up with 20-plus wins and still end up playing in the opening round game, they have a legitimate gripe.