Bzdelik: MWC not a 1-bid league

By DAN WOLKEN THE GAZETTE Updated: February 21, 2006 at 12:00 am • Published: February 21, 2006
When Jeff Bzdelik coached in the NBA, figuring out how to get into the playoffs was as easy as looking at the standings. But things are a little more complicated now that Bzdelik is at Air Force. The Falcons’ NCAA Tournament fate could be tied to how the Mountain West Conference is perceived when the selection committee sets the bracket March 12. Though Bzdelik said Monday during a conference call he prefers to let the politics of the selection process play out behind the scenes, he strongly criticized television analysts who have called the MWC a one-bid league. “I’m very disappointed in the announcers that are doing our games for our league that don’t give our league enough credit. That’s absolutely wrong,” Bzdelik said. “Who are they? And this is a great league. “In my mind, there has to be more than one team going into the NCAA Tournament from this league and hopefully those people that are talking like that aren’t the ones making the decisions. They’re just yapping.” The point hits home for Air Force, since the Falcons are 21-5 overall, 9-4 in the league and ranked 49th in the Ratings Percentage Index heading into Wednesday’s game at Clune Arena against New Mexico. Except for the 2000-01 season, when Brigham Young was the MWC’s only entrant, the league has had two or three teams in the NCAA Tournament every year. The MWC is the eighthrated conference in the RPI, ahead of the Colonial Athletic Association and the Western Athletic Conference, both of which have generated more positive conversation nationally this season. The eighth-rated conference has received three or four NCAA bids the past four seasons. ESPN announcers have been particularly skeptical of the MWC, and one theory is there’s some fallout from the bitter contract negotiations that led to the league breaking away from ESPN and signing with upstart College Sports Television. The CSTV deal begins next season. MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said he didn’t think there was any edict from ESPN headquarters to criticize the conference. “In seven years, I don’t think there’s been a lot of positive conversation about the Mountain West by anybody, whether it be ESPN or Web services or some of those predictions of people that put out RPIs,” Thompson said. “I don’t expect any favors but I do hope that it improves and becomes a little more favorable (with CSTV).” During a recent WAC game, ESPN analyst Hubert Davis said that league deserved at least three bids. The WAC and the West Coast Conference have taken up ESPN’s “Big Monday” slots the MWC occupied until this season. Though Bzdelik didn’t mention any analysts by name, both Doug Gottlieb and Jimmy Dykes have downplayed the MWC’s at-large hopes during recent ESPN telecasts of league games. “It disappoints me,” Bzdelik said. “There’s so many agendas out there with people, and people just talk and they don’t think before they talk or do their research or they have their own agendas for whatever reason. “I don’t want to make too much of it because the bottom line is we need to win games, but there certainly in my mind has to be a strong case league, that’s for sure.” Etc. Junior forward Jacob Burtschi was named the MWC’s co-Player of the Week Monday with San Diego State’s Brandon Heath. . . . Senior guard Antoine Hood was named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District second team. CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0258 or dan.wolken@gazette.com Next: New Mexico (16-9, 7-5 Mountain West Conference) at Air Force (21-5, 9-4), 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, UPN, 740/560 AM
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