Commentary

The Hype: There is crying in hoops

Originally Published: February 22, 2012
By Myron Medcalf | ESPN.com

The Hype Machine knows what time it is. Just a few weeks before the start of March Madness.

But why are players crying before the first airing of "One Shining Moment"?

Speaking of March Madness, the selection committee will have a tough task on Selection Sunday. This mantra will help: Reward winners, even if they're not from major conferences.

And finally, game officials have made headlines in recent weeks. That's not good for the game.

The Past: There's no crying in basketball.

DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE

[+] EnlargeLeonard
AP Photo/Ted KirkMeyers Leonard got some heat for crying during Illinois' loss to Nebraska.

The image from this past weekend symbolized Illinois' entire season: Meyers Leonard, sitting on the bench, crying as his teammates tried to fight off … Nebraska?!?!

The scene symbolized Illinois' disappointing season, one that hasn't made much sense considering its recruiting class, Leonard's lottery status and other returning standouts … a Big Ten title-contending trifecta, right? Wrong.

Many folks criticized Leonard's emotional display via Twitter. Coach Bruce Weber reportedly told his players to save the tears for the offseason.

All nonsense.

In the middle of a blowout loss to arguably the worst team in the Big Ten, Leonard shouldn't have been the only guy crying. Weber should have joined him. Illinois has been a disaster. And sometimes, a player or coach reaches an in-season breaking point.

But at least Leonard proved that he's still invested, despite the drama his team has endured -- a nasty stretch that will likely end with Weber's termination.

I'm shocked that we haven't seen more tears in college basketball recently.

Why didn't Mississippi State players and coaches gather at midcourt Tuesday night to weep after they'd squandered a 41-28 halftime edge over No. 1 Kentucky to lose their fourth in a row?

Connecticut might be better served by a postgame sob session than the finger-pointing that's become routine. And the Pac-12 should use its TV money to buy Kleenex in bulk to prepare for Selection Sunday.

Given the situation and his program's collapse, I don't think Leonard's tears should have led to questions about his toughness. It was an emotional reaction to a bizarre game that highlighted his team's fall.

At least he cares.

The Present: The selection committee should pick successful mid-majors over struggling "big six" squads.

BELIEVE THE HYPE

I watched the weekend's BracketBusters games because I'm a fan of the game. I love the underdog. And it's always entertaining when some of the top mid-majors battle in late-season matchups that can dictate their postseason positions.

But some of the teams involved might not have swayed the selection committee. The event, however, showcased a number of borderline NCAA tourney squads that might get overlooked on Selection Sunday. And that's too bad. Because some of the big six schools that will earn at-large slots won't deserve them.

A team like Long Beach State has the toughest nonconference strength of schedule in the country. But its success in Big West play might not be enough to woo the selection committee if it loses a game during the regular season or in the postseason tournament.

Drexel didn't wow anyone prior to the start of CAA play, but the Dragons (wins over George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth) looked like an NCAA tournament squad in their Saturday road victory over Cleveland State.

Middle Tennessee State pushed Vandy in Nashville a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, three ailing Big Ten squads (Northwestern, Illinois and Minnesota) with a combined 16-28 conference record could earn at-large bids. Yes, South Florida is in the at-large conversation, too. But the Bulls' 10-4 Big East record has essentially been amassed through victories against the Big East's "B" teams.

If it comes down to it, the selection committee should pick the surging smaller schools over their larger counterparts who possess inflated résumés. That thinking would offer additional David versus Goliath themes and storylines to the NCAA tournament pool. It would reward the teams that have actually won in conference play.

I want to see teams in the Big Dance that have managed to build momentum down the stretch. And some of the big six schools that might squeeze into the field haven't done that. But a multitude of mid-major squads fit that description.

Reward them.

Future: Refs should calm down

BELIEVE THE HYPE

I get that the Cincy-Xavier brawl in December put officials around the country on high alert. But some officials have gone overboard in recent weeks.

[+] EnlargeTom Gugliotta
Ethan Hyman/Getty ImagesThe ejections of Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani were just another example of officials going overboard in recent weeks.

Tom Gugliotta and Chris Corchiani were ejected from a weekend matchup at North Carolina State due to "excessive demonstration on several calls as they came right up to the scorer's table." Huh? That's grounds for ejection?

During Kentucky's victory over the Bulldogs on Tuesday, Anthony Davis picked up a tech for hanging on the rim. Questionable call. He was blazing down the court on a fast break. Perhaps he held on too long, but letting go of the rim prematurely could have led to a devastating fall.

We don't need a litany of the latter in the coming weeks. Yes, we know you have the whistles. But please use them to govern the game, not to prove a point, especially as March Madness approaches.

The Hoopla: Four Mountain West squads will get into the NCAA tournament (BELIEVE THE HYPE) … Northwestern, Illinois and Minnesota will all earn at-large bids (DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE) … Seton Hall's Tuesday victory over Georgetown proves that the Pirates can win a game in March, not just make the tournament (BELIEVE THE HYPE) … If it makes the field, Long Beach State will win an NCAA tourney game (BELIEVE THE HYPE) … Vanderbilt will give Kentucky its toughest game to date Saturday (DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE) … Boilermakers and Bama will thrive in the final weeks of the season despite personnel problems (DON'T BELIEVE THE HYPE) … Tom Izzo deserves serious consideration for national coach of the year (BELIEVE THE HYPE)

Myron Medcalf covers college basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mmedcalf3030@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MedcalfbyESPN.