Don’t let the name deceive you – the Big West really isn’t all that big. It’s no secret we’re not the Pac-10 or the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and, subsequently, several good teams have been shafted by the NCAA selection committee because the Big West is perceived as a weaker conference. Who said that great teams don’t play in weak conferences? So without further ado, here is a list of Big West squads that were punked by the powers that be.
2004 UCSB Men’s Soccer Team: All the Gauchos did was defeat the two-time defending national champions – and the #2 seed in the brackets – go 4-1-1 against teams in the tournament and be ranked #1 in two major national polls and ratings percentage index (RPI). To put that into perspective, the RPI is somewhat like college football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings. How would all you USC fans feel if your Trojans were knocked down to #9 and didn’t even make a BCS bowl game despite being #1 in the BCS and in most national polls? Just ask anyone on the UCSB men’s soccer team to find out how you would feel.
2003-04 Utah State University’s Men’s Basketball Team: The Aggies had a virtual lock on winning the Big West Tournament and getting an automatic bid. A hiccup one-point loss to Northridge ended that bid, but they were still virtually certain to get an at-large bid. They won 25 games and dominated their Big West counterparts with a 17-1 record in conference play. They spent six weeks in the top 25 in the nation in most major polls while spending the majority of their time at the #19 spot. That apparently wasn’t enough, considering they were passed up for the mediocrity of the Mountain West Conference when the committee handed out unwarranted bids to unranked Brigham Young University and the Air Force Academy instead of USU.
1999-2000 Long Beach State Men’s Basketball Team: The 49ers used to be a force to be reckoned with on the hardwood. LBSU had some impressive nonconference victories and an impressive 24-6 record but choked in the conference tournament. Popular belief was that their strong play against the basketball elite would warrant them an at-large bid – but they were wrong.
1995-96 UCSB Women’s Basketball Team: Despite dominating their conference schedule with a 17-1 mark and a 22-6 overall record, the Gauchos failed to receive an at-large bid. They did lose in the Big West Tournament, but only in a double-overtime nail-biter.
1982 UCSB Men’s Soccer Team: 2004 wasn’t the first time the men’s soccer team was wronged by the selection committee. In 1982 the Gauchos were among the nation’s elite with a 16-2-4 record but weren’t even given a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Most pollsters had UCSB at #2 in the NCAA Western Region, neck and neck with UCLA for the top spot. Rather than awarding the Gauchos a spot in the tournament, the committee overlooked them entirely and gave spots to UCLA and the #3, #4 and #5 squads.
The committee’s treachery will likely continue until the Big West cements itself as a moneymaker. So until our little conference starts pumping out more elite squads like the ACC or Pac-10 does, the Big West will have to get used to getting screwed over by selection committees – regardless of how good our teams are.