March Madness is just around the corner. It is one of the most enthralling sports tournaments in America, filled with unlikely schools making runs deep into the tournament, NBA prospects shining on the biggest stage in college basketball, and endless dramatic finishes that could keep even the hardest of fans to please glued to the television for hours.
But as is naturally the case, there are always those who find ways to nitpick and complain about little things in even the best of circumstances. Andscape writer Mia Berry filled that role in her piece for the infamous race-baiting website.
The article attempted to shine light on how HBCU teams that made the tournament did not get very high seeding (Hampton University got a 12-seed in the women’s tournament eight years ago, the highest for an HBCU), and how this is a blatant disrespect to HBCUs. The article was full of quotes from coaches who also shared her belief that unfavorable seeds for HBCUs was indicative of an unhealthy perspective towards their schools.
“I don’t think we should be playing Baylor, to be honest with you,” Norfolk State’s Robert Jones, the MEAC Coach of the Year, told The Virginian-Pilot. “I don’t understand what more we’ve got to do to get higher than a 16 seed. If you’re going to put us as a 16, you might as well just put us in the First Four. At least you can make the experience longer and better, which we plan to do.”
This is ironic coming from the coach of a program that, as a 15-seed in 2012, pulled off a shocking first-round upset of Missouri in March Madness.
But regardless of how this program, or any other low-seeded HBCU program in this tournament, performs, the fact of the matter is, the unfavorable seeding is not a sign of disrespect. It is a reflection of the reality that HBCUs do not play in competitive conferences, and thus get worse seeding as a result.
There are five conferences that HBCUs participate in at the Division I and Division II levels, and the two D1 conferences that sent teams to this year’s tournament - Norfolk State from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and Texas Southern from the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) - were both ranked incredibly low in terms of overall strength of the conference.
At the beginning of the season, the SWAC and MEAC were ranked 30th and 31st out of 32 conferences in all of division one, respectively, with the best team in either conference landing no higher than 208th out of 358 teams nationwide (Prairie A&M from the SWAC took that spot). In one-bid conferences like these, it should come as no surprise that even the strongest teams in week conferences get such unfavorable seeding.
The bottom line is, HBCUs are not getting purposefully slighted by the NCAA selection committee, and they are not entitled to better seeding until they can strengthen their conferences and program status. Seeding is not awarded based off your school’s history, it is based on how you play that year.
And that’s how it should stay.