Commentary

Mid-majors deserve at-large bids

Updated: March 8, 2012, 11:30 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

I love this time of the season, Championship Week, baby! Teams have a chance to state their case, trying to improve the resume to make it to the big dance.

There are teams that score shock city results and get the automatic berth to the 68-team field. Look at Western Kentucky, a school that got hot at the right time and won four straight games in the Sun Belt tournament. The Hilltoppers are dancing despite losing 18 games this season.

[+] EnlargeTeeng Akol
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireTeeng Akol and the Hilltoppers overcame a 13-point deficit to beat North Texas and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Will Championship Week gives many a chance to redeem their season, it also provides surprises to the creme de la creme in a number of mid-major conferences.

Look at some of the teams that won their regular season title, only to fall in conference tournament action. Now they have to sit and sweat it out, waiting for Selection Sunday, hoping to hear their name called.

Think about a school like Drexel, which closed 19-1 in its last 20 games. It was heartbreak hotel in a loss to a tough VCU team in the Colonial Athletic Association final. It would be disappointing to me if Bruiser Flint's Dragons did not get an invite to the greatest sporting spectacle of them all, March Madness.

Look at Iona in the MAAC losing in the tournament semifinals. Valparaiso fell in the Horizon League final. Oral Roberts was upset in the Summit League. Middle Tennessee State won 25 games but was ousted in the Sun Belt.

The bottom line is, a lot of these teams deserve consideration for at-large berths. Who is to say that they are not better than a team that finishes below .500 in a so-called power conference? Will the success of a VCU, Butler or George Mason of recent years lead to more mid-majors getting their opportunity this season?

I feel the committee should give the little guy a break and reward success in the regular season. Drexel won 27 games. Iona went 25-7. These teams can flat-out play and may be more deserving than a team which finished below .500 in a prominent league. I feel that if you have a losing league record, you should not be in the NCAA tournament; why reward mediocrity?

We will find out this weekend. Right now, it is worth watching to see teams raise their stock by getting big Ws in these tournaments. Upsets can knock teams off the bubble.

The VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) is working overtime. I will have projections on the field over the weekend.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.