Losers shouldn't be rewarded

Updated: February 20, 2012, 10:10 AM ET
By Joe Lunardi

It's going to happen. For the first time in two years and the 30th time in the 64-plus team era, a school with a losing conference record is going to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

And it's going to make me crazy. Again.

Don't know yet whether it will be a Big Ten team, as Purdue (7-7), Northwestern (6-8), Minnesota (5-9) and reeling Illinois (5-9) are all candidates. It could be a Big East team, too, with West Virginia (7-7), UConn (6-8) and Seton Hall (7-8) all flirting with the bubble.

Heck, we could see Kansas State (7-7), Mississippi State (7-7), Alabama (6-6) and Texas (7-7) all stumble to the finish line. We could have a record number of "losers" in the NCAA field. The 1991 tourney produced three such teams, and it wouldn't surprise me a bit -- especially with three additional at-large slots now available -- if that so-called record falls this year.

To which I can only ask, "Why?" If league play is the cornerstone of any team's season (and it is), is it too much to ask of those selected to compete for a national championship that they, you know, win at least as many games as they lose?

I can hear the howling already. "Our league is so tough." "Half our losses came against ranked teams." "There's no comparison between the level of play in our conference versus some of these other leagues."

All of these statements might be true, and it's still a bad idea for conference "losers" to dance. Consider: