Don't Kill The Mellinger

On the Big 12’s terrible, horrible, no good, very (expletive) bad day

Well, I’m glad glad I got this down on paper or computer screen or internet space or whatever a few weeks ago because the stink is unmistakable:

“Referencing themselves as "the No. 1 RPI league in the country" has become a primary talking point by the coaches, but it will be used as fair criticism if history repeats itself this month.

This is about success, but it is also about perception. So much of college sports is about perception, which means a problem here can grow tentacles that reach fundamental parts of the business like recruiting and television exposure and NCAA Tournament seeding.”

Depending on when you’re reading this, much of the last hour or day has been spent with people making a fair mockery of the Big 12 and its fancy computer rankings.

Iowa State and Baylor, each a No. 3 seed, lost to UAB and Georgia State. Baylor’s loss gave us what might be the moment of the tournament, Georgia State coach Ron Hunter falling off his stool as his son hits the game-winner:

But for the Big 12, that’s a lowlight, not a highlight, and part of a horrendous first day of the NCAA Tournament that played out like a bit of a nightmare.

All year, the Big 12 promoted its RPI ranking as a point of pride, and it was, but the possible disaster was easy to see coming.

The column I referenced at the top has the numbers, but the Big 12 has a history of underperforming in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s unfair to criticize the league for promoting itself during the season. College sports is largely about perception, and a coach or visible administrator who isn’t working to improve perception is being negligent. But you can’t brag, then fall on your face, and not expect to hear about it.

This was a strong year for the conference, and that’s true despite a dumpster fire first day. The NCAA Tournament is far more random than we’d all like to believe, but this is also big business and these are the results that matter most.

On Thursday, shortly after Texas’ loss made the league 0-3, I saw a Big 12 official and gave him the universal facial expression for ouch.

"Well," he said, "we’ll go 4-0 tomorrow."

That would be a good start.

Otherwise, in summary:

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365 or send email to smellinger@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @mellinger. For previous columns, go to KansasCity.com.

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