On the men's side, the NCAA is once again denying a spot in the national tournament to a team that won its conference title. It used to be that all the conference champions earned a bid to the national tournament, but a few years ago, following the creation of a thirty-first Division I athletic conference, the NCAA started forcing the two conference champions with the worst records to compete against one another for the right to play in the tournament. This year, either UNC-Ashville or Texas Southern will be denied their rightful place in the tournament because of this blatantly unfair rule.
Granted, UNC-Ashville probably doesn't deserve to be in the tournament, because they ended the season with a losing record, and only qualified for the NCAA tourney by pulling off an improbable series of upsets to win the Big South tournament. Nevertheless, they won, so they should be allowed their chance to be eliminated in the first round.
The real loser, though, is Winthrop University. Winthrop ended the season with a very respectable 20-10 record. But then they lost by one point in overtime to UNC-Ashville in the Big South tournament, and since Winthrop is not a big-name college from a big-name conference, they were denied an at-large bid. Meanwhile, big-name colleges from big-name conferences that ended the season with worse records than Winthrop, such as Maryland (19-9), Alabama (17-11) and Arizona State (19-11), did get invitations.
The NCAA women's tournament does include all the conference champions, but it's equally unfair in its own way. Unlike the men's tournament, which schedules its games at neutral sites, the opening rounds of the women's tournament have historically been played on the home courts of the highest-seeded teams. This, of course, gives the home teams a unfair advantage.
To their credit, the NCAA has taken steps this year to rectify this inequity. For example, the number one seed in the west regional is Louisiana State University, and where in past years they almost certainly would have played their first round game in Baton Rouge, they're playing this year in Eugene, Oregon, which is a neutral site for all teams in that bracket. And in some cases, the games are being played on the home court of a low-seeded team. For example, Old Dominion is seeded 12th in the east, but they'll play their first round game (against no. 5 Boston College) at home. That's not fair to BC, of course, but it's less unfair than if ODU had to play BC in Boston.
So until the NCAA ends these discriminatory practices, I will continue to boycott the tournaments.