by Colin Zalewski
Whitworthians, I write to you this week full of bitterness and anger. The injustice served to our men’s basketball team last Saturday in Ohio was nearly O.J. Simpson status. Do you have to take responsibility for a loss? Yes, but the NCAA’s move to have our team play at an opposing and lowered seeded team’s home court, is simply unjust and unacceptable on every level.
Wooster, the No. 5 team in the nation (which by the way shouldn’t have even been in our section of the bracket according to traditional bracket making, the highest seed in our section of the bracket should have been the eighth ranked team) hosted our men’s basketball team last week in their home state, their home city and right smack-dab in their own gym.
Now, this rant isn’t directed at Wooster. They didn’t do anything other than play good basketball and support their team well. This rant is directed at the NCAA. The NCAA has embarrassed itself on a national level by forcing the No. 1 team in the nation to play on an opposing team’s home floor in a huge heavy-weight Elite 8 game. How dare it have the audacity and the bias to unjustly demand such a scenario.
The whole point of the national tournament is to determine the best team, which is why tournament games are always played at neutral locations. What happened Saturday is the equivalent of Duke hosting Ohio State in the Elite 8, which would never happen. To be honest, the second round game we hosted should have never happened at Whitworth. However, as the tournament progresses, so does the quality and the importance of each game and the need for a neutral playing site.
Would Whitworth have won if the game was not held on Wooster’s home court? I don’t know, maybe. But we will never know who truly is the better team because of the massive X-factor a home court advantage plays.
Our men walked into a gym of 3,300 screaming Wooster fans Saturday night and dealt with all the chanting, insult hurling and beleaguering that comes standard at any well-supported team’s gym. Again, I would like to credit our guys as well as the men from Wooster and their fans on a well-fought game because this attack goes straight at the NCAA. It is simply impossible for any NCAA official (regardless of the cost of travel, which is the excuse used by the NCAA for not moving the game elsewhere) to justify playing that game at Wooster. Our team has outworked every team in the nation for the past several months just to reach the Elite 8 and have the opportunity to win a national championship, and they were denied a fair fight because the NCAA was too cheap and too East-coast biased to shell-out a few extra bucks to create an equal playing environment.
Congrats to our Whitworth Pirates. You will always be the best team in the nation to us, and your representation of our school will never be forgotten. In sports, all you want is consistency and fairness, and due to yet another NCAA blunder, our team and surely others around the country have been denied the justice due to any athlete in a tournament situation. All we’re asking for is a neutral court, NCAA; that’s all we wanted, and if Wooster had still won the game, we’d tip our hat and wish them luck. Instead we will always dwell in dreams of “what if …”