The NCAA Tournament selection committee got it right when it pitted Texas Southern versus North Carolina Central in the First Four Wednesday night.
It is the first time in the history of the 68-team tournament that HBCUs will be paired against each other.
And that reality didn’t sit well with many fans, coaches and those with some kind of relationship to HBCU hoops.
Have already gotten multiple texts from NCAA coaches asking why the committee would have the two HBCUs (Texas Southern and North Carolina Central) in the field playing each other in a play-in. Kind of a shitty look by the committee, IMO.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) March 11, 2018
I’m dissatisfied that the committee put the HBCUs against one another in Dayton.
— Kenny Ocker (@KennyOcker) March 11, 2018
no. and optically having your two HBCUs. have to play in a play in game looks horrendous
— Coach Leszczyk (@roxwbball) March 11, 2018
Black college basketball teams — since the advent of the play-in game/First Four — had been a staple in Dayton, Ohio, with the MEAC and SWAC combining to make nine appearances.
Of those trips to the unofficial opening round of the tournament since 2011, the leagues each are credited with a victory.
But never before had the MEAC and SWAC representatives been foes on the court in the games that mattered.
Which brings us back to the original thesis that this year — at least this year — the committee was correct in scheduling the HBCU Division I teams as opponents.
Texas Southern — a SWAC power since Mike Davis was named the head coach — started the season 0-13 navigating the nation’s toughest non-conference schedule en route to winning the league tournament for the fourth time in the last seasons.
Going winless against non-SWAC opponents and then winning the league arguably hurt the reputation of the league, especially after Grambling State, which won the regular season crown, was ineligible for postseason play.
The same can be said for North Carolina Central, which finished sixth in the MEAC during the regular season before knocking off regular season champion Hampton in the conference tournament despite going 3-13 on the road and 2-8 overall versus non-HBCU Division I schools.
Those wins were against McNeese State and Southeast Missouri State.
And heading into the MEAC Tournament, NCCU lost two of its last three games, with defeats to 15-17 Savannah State and 10-22 South Carolina State.
Based on those factors alone, the Tigers and Eagles were on a likely collision course to meet in the tournament, as evidenced by North Carolina Central and Texas Southern being ranked the 67th and 68th teams in the field, respectively.
Quite frankly, these two — nor the conferences — have earned the respect from the committee to be placed anywhere else.
The other factor is obviously the history of both teams in the tournament.
Texas Southern and North Carolina Central have gone a combined 0-9 in NCAA games, losing by an average of 12.7 points per game.
Which is why both schools competing against each other is a good thing from the standpoint that it guarantees an HBCU will be in the win-column and earn a valuable NCAA monetary unit for its conference — something that hasn’t happened since Hampton won a First Four game in 2015.
Agreed and generally support this. The play-in round is highest percentage opportunity year in year out for HBCUs to make $ for their conferences and with a win, 2x the exposure. And Dayton puts on a great show/has tremendous atmosphere.
— will broussard (@DeadLecturer) March 11, 2018
Even though the First Four isn’t a desirable position for HBCUs, being part of it gives schools statistically a better chance instead of starting out the NCAA Tournament versus a No. 1 seed and having realistically little shot of pulling off the upset.
The coaches understand that, too.
“I want a play-in game,” Davis said on Sunday. “I wanted one last year. “The play-in game gives you a chance to get a win.”
That is the point of all of this, right?