If a college basketball team closes the season by winning 25 straight games – and then loses its final game by one point – then that team deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament.
Unless that team is Murray State (27-5, 16-0), which many feel was shafted on Selection Sunday.
“I wasn’t surprised,” CBS Sports college basketball insider Gary Parrish said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “Sadly, I wasn’t surprised because I understand that the numbers will always kill you if you’re outside the power structure. They’ll talk around the numbers like they did with UCLA, but if you don’t have the numbers on your side and you’re outside of the power structure, you’ve got no chance.
“The only way you could put Murray State in, honestly, is to say the same things about Murray State that you said about UCLA, which is, ‘Hey, we thought they had momentum. We thought they competed well. We watched them play.’ Because they had one top 100 win (and) no top 50 wins. There wasn’t much there – and I assumed the committee would hit them with that.”
There’s just one problem with that line of thinking.
“You’re holding them accountable quite literally for things that happened four months ago,” Parrish said. “For a team like Murray State, the simple answer everybody says is ‘Well, you should have played somebody in your non-conference schedule.’ Quite simply, they can’t do it. They have to have 15 home games for budgetary reasons so they can create a season-ticket package, so that leaves only a handful of games to go play.”
Murray State started the season 2-4, losing to Xavier and Valparaiso by a combined 62 points. The Racers, however, were a young, inexperienced team battling injuries, among other issues.
“The team they were in November is not the same team they became – any more than the team Michigan State was in the first two weeks of the season isn’t the same team they became,” Parrish said. “And once you’re Murray State in that regard, you’ve sealed your fate. Once you do damage in the first two weeks of your season, you can never get that back playing in the OVC.”
It doesn’t help that Murray State no longer receives invites to high-profile, in-season tournaments – despite winning the Great Alaska Shootout in 2011-2012 and finishing runner-up in the Charleston Classic in 2012-13.
“Guess what happened?” Parrish asked. “The power conference-schools subsequently said, ‘No more Murray State in these events.’ We don’t want to take a chance of taking a loss on a neutral court to an OVC school.”
As a result, Murray State – which has built a brand, consistently wins 20+ games a year and sends payers to the NBA – no longer gets invited to various showcases.
“So basically, this is the way it breaks down,” Parrish said. “The power-conference schools refuse to play them on any sort of level playing field and they spend all March yelling, ‘Murray State didn’t play anybody.’ Well, it’s only because you’ve rigged the system against them.”
Viewing Murray State through a 2-4 prism, Parrish explained, is like viewing the Cleveland Cavaliers through a 19-20 prism as opposed to the team that has since gone 24-5 – or, in Murray State’s case, 25-1.
“I’m not comparing one to the other, but basketball is similar,” Parrish said. “Teams get better; teams get worse. Murray State got way better. They were playing like a better team at the end of the year – and then they just got caught. When a supposed inclusive sport keeps a team out without really any conversation because of things that literally happened four months ago, I just think that suggests there’s a flaw in the system.
“It’s a little bit like the Dez Bryant catch,” Parrish continued. “When we watched it and they ruled it wasn’t a catch and then they explained to you by rule why it wasn’t, I get it. I get it. I understand why according to the rules, that wasn’t a catch. But if that’s not a catch, we need to look at the rule. Same thing with Murray State. I understand why they were left out yesterday. But if they’re so easily dismissed from the conversation, we should probably look at how we do this.”