Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Doc Sadler Speaks the Painful Truth

It was just a minor side quote in today's World-Herald, but Doc Sadler's quip in a season wrapup press conference sure got the BrieJay fan base all riled up.
"A loss to Creighton hurts us. A win over Creighton, the only thing it does is make our fans happy. It doesn't help you come Selection Sunday. That's just the way it is."
Nevermind the fact that Sadler was mostly right. The NCAA selection committee said it last week: it's the quality of the teams that you beat. And specifically, it's victories against the elite teams. RPI is just a starting point; and the teams that supposedly aced Creighton out of the tournament all had many, many more wins against the elite teams in college basketball.

Now, should Doc have said that? The way the World-Herald's Lee Barfknecht reported it, we're not sure what the context of the question and answer is. Part of the reason the Creighton fanbase is so upset is that Nebraska's victory over the Bluejays was the Huskers best non-conference victory. Which is true, but irrelevent.

It ignores the fact that Nebraska's losses to schools like UMBC, Iowa State, and Baylor were the real reason why Nebraska was out of the tournament. Now, if Nebraska had pulled out victories against Kansas (6 point loss at home) and Oklahoma (led most of the way in Norman), as well as Texas A&M and Oklahoma State... that would have added 4 quality wins to the NU resume, and probably have gotten the Huskers dancing this season. The Creighton victory probably was borderline and could have helped, but the sad fact is that Nebraska's tournament resume was going to be created in the conference schedule.

That's because Nebraska has much the same problem that Creighton has; it's not a marquee program, and doesn't draw enough attention from TV to warrant a non-conference matchup with a power team. Nebraska could probably go on the road to play those games, but they shouldn't expect a return trip from most of those teams. And with finances the way they are, Nebraska isn't going to turn down a home game.

Unfortunate? Absolutely. Sad? Absolutely. But it's reality. What's the solution? For starters, college basketball needs to start penalizing schools for playing the Jacksonville State's of college basketball and rewarding schools for going on the road and for playing games against schools such as Creighton.

This year, Nebraska shocked everybody by being as strong as they turned out to be. Down the line, Nebraska will need to upgrade their basketball schedule if they want to be an NCAA tournament team, if only to prepare the team for conference play. But Doc also saw the message the NCAA sent: it's the games against Kansas, Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma State that matter, not the games against Creighton. Doc Sadler didn't set the rules, yet he's portrayed as the villain for admitting the truth of the matter.


Bret Nellor said...

Good post. Until Nebraska steps up their pre-conference scheduling, their NCAA fate will be determined by how they finish in the Big 12. I do think the NU-Creighton game is good for the state's basketball fans though.

I'd love to see us get better competition in the pre-conference because it would better prepare us for those tough conference games. And besides, a loss to a mid/upper level BCS team on the road matters not if we can finish in the top half of the Big 12. We'd still go dancing.

tj.elofson said...

Agree with Doc that playing CU does nothing for NU, tourney-wise. That goes both ways right now, by the way.

Still, as Brad says, it's good for BB fans in the state to see them play, no matter who comes out on top. Sadler and Altman, it's a good thing. Johnson and Collier, not so much...