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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Pizza’s Deliveries: MWC don’t get no respect

By Tony Pizza

See if you can answer this quick trivia question: Name the only two schools outside of the NCAA’s six major conferences (SEC, Pac-10, Big East, ACC, Big Ten and Big 12) to participate in the championship game of the men’s NCAA Tournament in the past 20 years.

If you said Utah and UNLV, then you’re absolutely correct.

Led by future pros like Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and now-ESPN analyst Greg Anthony, the Runnin’ Rebels captured a No. 1 seed after a 34-1 season and then ran through the 1990 NCAA Tournament en route to the school’s first basketball championship.

Utah was also led by a future pro trio in Andre Miller, Hanno Mottola and Michael Doleac as the Utes captured a No. 4 seed in the 1998 tournament, shocked two No. 1 seeds and made their way into the championship game.

Coincidently, these two teams now play in the Mountain West Conference. You may have heard of the MWC before. It’s the conference with the first non-BCS school to break through to a BCS bowl game.

But this isn’t exactly news for someone who attends the U.

Something else that isn’t news for all nine of the teams that play in the MWC is getting treated worse than Rodney Dangerfield when it comes to getting put on the national scene.

The latest crime levied against the MWC is when it came to NCAA seeds in this year’s men’s NCAA Tournament.

UNLV came out on top of the Mountain West in a year in which the conference seemed to overachieve even more than usual.

Air Force was a ranked team during the season before losing its final four games. BYU and the Runnin’ Rebels both finished the regular season as ranked teams, and San Diego State was no slouch, either.

Yet with all the noise potential, the top four teams in the MWC stood poised to make it in this year’s Big Dance, and only BYU and UNLV had their tickets punched. As much of a sin as it was to force a team like Air Force into an NIT consolation prize, that wasn’t the worst deed by the NCAA Selection Committee this year.

UNLV, which finished the ranked No. 25 in both polls, also entered the NCAA tournament with a 28-6 record and an MWC Tournament championship under its belt. It turns out that rsum was only good enough for a No. 7 seed, and that’s where the problem lies.

Forget that MWC regular-season champ BYU ended up a No. 8 seed, There was plenty of room for UNLV to get a more favorable match-up. If someone can explain how Virginia gets a No. 4 seed, or how Butler gets a No. 5 seed over UNLV, that might help. The other problem is the Runnin’ Rebels’ opening-round opponent. It’s as if the selection committee wanted to guarantee the best possible chance for a No. 7 to get upset by pairing UNLV with Georgia Tech, which is arguably out of place at a No. 10 seed as well.

After BYU failed to get past Xavier, at least one MWC team will be relegated to playing with a chip on their shoulders once again and my money-or at least my bracket-says that UNLV gets past the Yellow Jackets for a chance to send the Wisconsin Badgers home early. For me, that’s hardly a booby prize for the MWC getting disrespected again.

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