- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Enough with the sentimental mush pushing the Davidson Wildcats.

Enough with the teary-eyed dispatches. Enough with the lament that the NCAA tournament and CBS could use the star power of Stephen Curry.

The Wildcats lost to the College of Charleston in the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament and do not belong in the NCAA tournament.

Their 26-7 record was largely fashioned on the “cupcakes” of college basketball: the Samfords, the Woffords, the Georgia Southerns. These are the programs that form the Southern Conference.

Give Bob McKillop credit. He maintained a rugged nonconference schedule in response to the weak conference schedule. He littered it with big-name programs to avoid the NIT prospect that is before his team now.

He littered it with Oklahoma, N.C. State, West Virginia, Purdue, Duke and Butler. And the Wildcats performed relatively well against those teams - even defeating the Wolfpack and Mountaineers - but a 2-4 mark against high-caliber opponents is hardly persuasive.

You do not receive bonus points from the selection committee because of a four-point loss to Oklahoma in November. That loss does not somehow look more impressive than the 18-point loss to Purdue in December.

Flip two of those four losses to the win column, and the Wildcats would have a more compelling argument, plus an RPI that would distance them from the also-rans of the major conferences.

The Wildcats were carrying an unimpressive RPI of 69 going into the games on Tuesday, according to realtimerpi.com. That left them behind Georgetown at 47, George Mason at 55 and Maryland at 67.

Does anyone believe the Patriots are going to receive an at-large bid after falling in the Colonial Athletic Association final? Does anyone believe the Hoyas and Terps have done enough to impress the NCAA Selection Committee? Both the Hoyas and Terps are destined to be in the NIT unless they make an improbable run in their respective conference tournaments.

The argument being dispensed on behalf of the Wildcats goes something like this: They have that impeccable 26-7 record, they have the dynamic Curry hitting a bunch of 3-pointers every game, they were the darlings of the tournament last season and they are just so darn cute and precious.

The argument has more holes in it than the Wildcats’ record, not the least of which is: Since when does a team’s performance the previous season merit consideration in the selection process?

By that logic, perhaps the Patriots should be receiving consideration because of their Final Four appearance in 2006. Their 22-10 record is solid enough, and the CAA’s conference rating is 14 compared to the Southern Conference´s rating of 20.

This is not to dismiss the success of McKillop, Curry and the Wildcats. Their ascent has been good for college basketball. Everybody loves an underdog, and the Wildcats fit the moniker far better than the Patriots ever did because of their tiny enrollment of 1,700 students.

But cheap sentiment should not trump the hard facts. The Wildcats are a nice team but hardly a “bubble” team. Curry is a wonderful shooter but hardly Pete Maravich. The Wildcats are a one-trick team that benefited from the single-elimination format of the NCAA tournament last season, just as the Patriots did in 2006.

Awarding the Wildcats an at-large bid would result in an injustice to a more deserving team. That is a prospect the selection committee members are obligated to avoid. They cannot get it entirely right each March because of the automatic bids that go to each of the conferences. But they cannot dip to the No. 69-rated team.

There would be no way to justify it, not with the Patriots, Hoyas, Terps and so many other teams with higher RPIs than the Wildcats expected to be left on the outside on Selection Sunday.

There would be nothing cute and precious about it. It would be a travesty.

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