FOX Sports Radio host Jason Smith just broke in with a lava-hot take on the NCAA Tournament. As we enter a Sweet 16 featuring three schools would usually be considered "mid-majors," Smith doesn't think they belong.
Smith, a co-host of The Jason Smith Show With Mark Harmon, went on a three-minute rant about separating out mid-majors. His argument makes about as little sense as you'd imagine.
Listen to Jason Smith's full anti-mid-major screed here, if you so desire.
Mid-majors offer us many of the most fun moments of every tournament. And while the one-and-done aspect of the tournament may not be "fair," it poses the same challenges to every school involved, across the board. Let's dive into this argument:
"As much as the mid-majors are playing well, and they're winning games, and they're proving 'hey, we belong on the same court.' Leonard Hamilton, the coach of Florida State, says 'everything's out the window now, the gap has narrowed and the conferences don't mean anything anymore,' mid-majors still should not be allowed in the NCAA Tournament. They should not be allowed in. Not because they can't play with the other teams, because they can, but...you play a Triple-A season in baseball. The Syracuse Sky Chiefs play a Triple-A season. The Las Vegas 51s play a Triple-A season. At the end of the Triple-A season, they don't get to jump into the MLB playoffs. They don't. I'd like to see it, but they don't do that."
This may be the weirdest part of the argument, right from the jump. Triple-A teams don't ever compete against MLB teams, and are parts of those franchise's farm systems, while mid-majors play high-major clubs during the year. Loyola-Chicago is probably only an 11-seed, vs. a 13 or 14, because it went and beat Florida at Florida this year.
Also, Triple-A baseball teams may not jump into the MLB playoffs, but minor league players do on a regular basis. Every year, teams call up their prospects to see what they have, and we've seen numerous guys break out during the playoffs with very little MLB experience, after September call-ups. Since advancing to the majors is the objective of minor-league baseball players, it kind of undercuts the argument here.
"Mid-majors play a horrendously bad schedule. They play other mid-majors, many teams who are awful. They play a lower level of competition than the power conferences do. You could take anybody, a mid-major darling, and put them in the ACC, or the Big Ten, or the Big 12, and how many games are they winning? Are they going .500? Maybe, and if they go .500, that's a big accomplishment. But you're talking about a team that's supposedly so good, and you put them in a Power Five conference, and they go .500, maybe. Maybe they'd win 10 games."
Power conference teams that are going .500 in league are getting into the NCAA Tournament now. Syracuse was 8-10 in ACC play, and now finds itself in the Sweet 16. Florida State was 9-9, and dominated eight-seed Missouri and knocked out No. 1 seed Xavier. Texas A&M was 9-9 in the SEC, and has looked great en route to the Sweet 16.
TCU was 9-9 in Big 12 play, and earned a No. 6 seed. Oklahoma and Texas made the dance at 8-10. Arizona State was 8-10 in the Pac-12 and made the First Four, losing to aforementioned Syracuse. Alabama was 8-10 in the SEC and advanced to the Round of 32. If top mid-majors are good enough to go .500 in power conferences, they are certainly good enough to make the NCAA Tournament, and based on this year, advance.
"Oh, teams like St. Mary's are ranked 20th in the country. Who'd they beat? They beat absolutely nobody. It's not fair, because the mid-majors don't play a great schedule, and yet they can still win enough...'hey, we won 25 games in the WCC or whatever else, and we get in the tournament. And we get a one-and-done game against a Power Five team from the ACC that played 30 games, and 24 of them are against really good teams."
St. Mary's...did not make the NCAA Tournament. Everyone immediately identified the Gaels' weak schedule as the reason. How is this the example here?
"That's not fair. It's not fair that now you have one shot to knock me out. It's not, because if you played a bigger, better conference schedule, okay. In college football, you don't see teams in the WAC...'hey, we're 12-0,' yeah, well you're not getting in. We're taking a three-loss Ohio State team, because they're not playing a level of competition that the higher level is."
I'm picking nits here, but a.) the WAC hasn't played football since 2012, and b.) no team with more than one loss has crashed the College Football Playoff field yet. It may very well happen, but it isn't a great example, since it isn't a real one.
"There should be a Power Five NCAA Tournament, and there should be a mid-major NCAA Tournament. You can replace the NIT. You can play the final at Madison Square Garden, everyone would still love it, we get to see all the mid-major teams play. Butler's going to take on Nevada, this is going to be awesome. But really, they need to do more during the season to show 'okay, we proved belong at the table.' Not that they can't beat anybody, because we've seen they can. But they have to play a better schedule, because I can go 25-5 against teams that suck, and I get to get in. Meanwhile, I'm playing against a team that sweated their way through a 20-12 season and got in as a 10-seed. And is that really fair? It's not."
If Butler is going to take on Nevada in the mid-major Big Dance, is Villanova subjected to that now? Because the Wildcats are also in the Big East, and just won a national title two years ago, and may very well do it again. What about Gonzaga? They are definitely in a mid-major league, and yet, prove that they can compete at this level every single March.
Overall, I just don't know what Smith is trying to solve here, and this comes from a fan of one of the Power Five schools—Syracuse—that has already benefited from Big East and now ACC association with multiple bubble trips. The power conference schools already have major help by being in their leagues, we don't need to add to it by admitting even more sub-.500 Power Five teams. In no way does this plan make the NCAA Tournament more fun, improve the quality, or lead to a more qualified winner, but I'm sure Smith knows that.