Turn on any random regular season college basketball game, and chances are it's a game involving teams from one of the six high-major conferences. If you get some other conference you probably live in or near it. It's teams from the six biggest conferences that get the most NCAA Tournament bids, and it's teams from those six conferences - the same ones that make up the BCS conferences in college football - that get the most attention. They're the teams from the ACC, SEC, Big 10, Pac-10, Big 12, and Big East.
But... there are a lot of conferences outside the Big Six. Conferences with names like the MEAC, the SWAC, the WAC, the Southland, the Big South, the Big Sky, Horizon, America East, Atlantic 10... that's just the tip of the iceberg!
Every year, teams from these conferences shock the world by beating Big Six conference teams in the NCAA tournament. They valiantly fight their way to bids in the NCAA Tournament, even if they don't win their conference, and people get mad at them because they think all the bids should go to Big Six teams. Teams like Gonzaga have consistently proved the mettle of teams in the mid-majors by beating the odds and having high levels of success.
In fact, if you took all the best teams from the mid-major conferences and put them in one super-conference... that conference would probably have to be considered on a level with the Big Six conferences, maybe better.
So, at the end of the season, after the Final Four, I will name the eight teams to make up the 2007 Mid-Major Conference. It won't have any bearing on anything right now - there's no reward, monetary or otherwise, and it isn't anything more than something on paper - and probably won't even be heard of beyond the small group of people who read Da Blog. The goal is to recognize eight teams whose quality of play competes with those in the best conferences in the country.
There are some simple, but restrictive rules governing the selection of the MMC teams, with restrictions higher on the list taking precedence:
- The Mid-Major Conference shall consist of eight teams representing the best of college basketball, outside the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Big East, Pac-10, and SEC conferences.
- No conference shall have more than one team in the MMC.
- Any conference that produces at least one at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament will be represented.
- Any team that makes it to the Regional Semifinal ("Sweet 16") or later in the NCAA tournament will automatically be represented. In the case of a conflict between two or more deserving teams under this criterion, the team to have advanced the furthest shall be counted. If two teams from the same conference advance the same distance in the NCAA tournament, the tie is broken by head-to-head record and respective distance traveled in the conference tournament.
- If conferences with automatic spots under the third criterion have no qualifying teams under the fourth, the tie is broken in this order: whether or not any teams won their first-round tournament game, head-to-head record, respective distance traveled in the conference tournament.
- If spots remain in the Mid-Major Conference after these criteria have been exhausted, or if there remains a tie in a conference under the third criterion after the criteria in the fourth or fifth criterion have been exhausted, the remaining selections will be made by my discretion. Being in the NCAA Tournament is not a qualification for being selected to the MMC, and in fact it is possible (but rare) for a team that won its first-round game to not get in the MMC while a team that settled for a long NIT run does. This is the "Northwestern State Rule": getting lucky in one game doesn't get you an automatic spot in the MMC.