One comment was repeated multiple times during the NJCAA’s selection shows for the women’s and men’s basketball tournament Monday: the seeds are selected differently than the polls. It seems obvious now that the comment was less directed towards the teams and fans, and more as an attempt for the organization to convince itself that 27-6 Barton was actually more deserving of an at-large berth than 26-5 Moberly. Barton finished tied for second in Region 6. Moberly finished first in Region 16. Barton had five losses in region play. Moberly had none. Both teams were eliminated in their region tournament semifinals. Barton was 1-4 against other tournament teams, with three losses coming to the #11 seed, and perennial at-large berth, Hutchinson. Moberly was 2-2 against the field, with the two losses coming to the overall #1 seed, Indian Hills. I had hoped the decision to replace zone qualifiers with four more at-large berths was an attempt by the NJCAA to get a few more compelling teams into the field. Unfortunately, this year it looks to be an attempt to get more local teams into the field.
Just so it doesn’t look like sour grapes for Greyhounds fans, we should hope the Cougars somehow get past Tyler in the first game of the tournament. Besides, it’d be more fun to see Indian Hills give them 40 minutes of pain on Tuesday.
As for a fix, both the NJCAA and Region 16 probably need to make changes. Moberly wasn’t the only deserving team left out of the field. Northwest Mississippi was ranked 12th in the last poll. It’s time for the NJCAA to expand the field to 28 or 32. I’d also add 3 more automatic berths, by eliminating the men’s district championships that pair regions 4 & 16, 1 & 18, and 11 & 13.
And fairly or not, Region 16 is not getting the respect its members say it deserves. The fix for that might be finding more Division I competition for all of its members. It would be difficult, but not impossible, for Jefferson or Crowder to add men’s basketball. The biggest obstacle for those programs would likely be adding an additional women’s sport at the same time. It would be difficult for different reasons, but again not impossible, for St. Louis and Penn Valley to move up to Division I. If someone wants to invite St. Charles into the world of collegiate basketball, I’d be all for that. But the easiest way might be for the five Region 16 teams include one game each with the five Region 11 D-I schools: Indian Hills, Iowa Western, Marshalltown, Southeastern Iowa, and Northeast Nebraska. A Region 16 team could play three of those on the road the week after finals in December, and the other two at home during the second semester. Or an ambitious community or two could invite all ten schools to come together for a total of 25 crossover games over two weekends. An event like that would fill the seats. And apparently to the NJCAA, that matters more than it should. -JBC