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VCU's run is a thing of beauty

What do Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas have to say about Virginia Commonwealth now?

The ESPN guys were aghast when the NCAA selection committee gave VCU one of the last four spots in the Big Dance. Bilas called the choice "indefensible." Vitale, in a typically lame attempt at humor, said taking VCU over Colorado was like choosing Roseanne Barr over Scarlett Johansson in a beauty contest.

Well, Roseanne is looking pretty sweet at the moment. VCU, out of the Colonial Athletic Association, beat Southern California in the first round. Then the Rams drilled higher-seeded Georgetown and Purdue, both by 18 points, to move into the Sweet 16 this Friday in San Antonio.

Score another win for the "mid-majors" against the mighty BCS conferences. VCU took down a team from the Pac-10, Big East and Big Ten. Next up: Florida State of the ACC. Win that one and they might get a chance against Kansas of the Big 12.

It's no surprise to hear Vitale and Bilas rip a mid-major. They work for ESPN, which has a big stake in the elite leagues. Maybe Bilas is still upset about VCU upsetting his alma mater, Duke, in the '07 tourney in Buffalo.

But instead of ripping the Rams, they should be trashing the Big East for getting 11 spots in the field. The Colonial has done just fine for itself. VCU is still alive. George Mason beat Villanova. Old Dominion, the best team in the league, had the misfortune of drawing Butler in an 8-9 matchup in the Southeast.

Meanwhile, just two of the Big East's 11 teams are alive. Five lost to double-digit seeds. That doesn't include Pittsburgh, a No. 1 seed, losing to Butler. They lost a 2 (Notre Dame), a 3 (Syracuse), a 4 (Louisville), a 5 (West Virginia) and two 6s (Georgetown and Cincinnati).

The only remaining Big East teams (UConn and Marquette) were fortunate to play conference foes in the second game. Could it be the Big East is a tad overrated? They have a lot of good teams, but no great ones.

And VCU needs to apologize?

The NCAA Tournament should have more mid-majors, not less. For years, I've advocated a rule that would prohibit a conference from getting more than half its teams in the field. But the super leagues keep growing, expanding their power and making it increasingly difficult for the smaller leagues to keep up.

People criticize the mid-majors for weak schedules. But it's hard to build a resume when the big boys won't play you. Many elite schools don't play a single road game outside the conference.

Pitt, Syracuse, UConn and Notre Dame didn't play a true road game (not including neutral site tournaments) until January! Why play on the road against a strong non-BCS school? They can load up on cupcakes, confident that the strength of their league schedule will carry them into the NCAA field.

You think it's easy for a top mid-major to get home games against BCS opposition? The entire Colonial played two home games all season against teams from the six BCS leagues (Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Big East, SEC, Pac-10).

So it's hard to compare the eighth team in the Big East with the third-best team in the Colonial. Or a good BCS team with strong mid-majors like Butler or VCU, who are dragged down by bad teams in their leagues. Cornell was a lot better than its 12 seed last year. Richmond is a 12 this year due to a lack of depth in the Atlantic 10.

By its very nature, the system favors the major conferences. The rich get richer. The poor get no home games against the privileged. That's why it's sickening when experts who rub elbows with the elite cry foul when one of the little guys gets a break from the committee.

I'm rooting like hell for one of the little guys to get to the Final Four, like a year ago. Another Butler. Butler would do. But VCU would be just lovely.


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