The Case Against the SIAC

The Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is made up of 13 schools and is one of three D-II South Region conferences that receives an automatic bid to the eight-team NCAA Regional Tournament each year, alongside the Gulf South Conference and the Sunshine State Conference.

In 2003, the NCAA Tournament field expanded to 64 teams, eight in each region. In the eight years of this new era, the SIAC is 3-14 in the regional tournament. They have just a single berth in the Regional Final and no championships.  Download the full data for the South Region here (xls).

Despite the mounting evidence of the relative weakness of this conference, the D-II Men’s Basketball Committee continues to place SIAC teams in the weekly top-10 regional rankings year after year. Six SIAC teams have made the regionals as at-large teams, meaning they were ranked among the top five non-conference-champs in the region. Currently, Benedict and Stillman are the beneficiaries of this ranking, particularly the former: Benedict is the SIAC leader and the region’s third-ranked team. Current regional rankings may be found here.

The voters for the Division II/NABC Coaches poll see things differently in the South, and in my mind, it’s a more realistic view. Benedict are relegated to the “receiving votes” section, while Arkansas Tech and Harding, who play tonight in Searcy, are currently ranked 9th and 14th nationally (6th and 7th in the region).

I won’t pretend to understand the collective motivation of the Men’s Basketball Committee, which contains one representative from each of the eight regions, who is then the chair of a six-person regional “advisory committee” containing athletic directors and head coaches. However, they seem to be trying to balance out the regional rankings by conference, regardless of actual performance. There’s no other logical explanation for ranking a SIAC team, especially more than one, based on their performance in past regionals.

But what about this year? Perhaps things are different this year, and the committees aren’t supposed to rely on prior years anyway. Maybe the SIAC has finally turned things around and become nationally competitive.

To that, I say: prove it.

Proving it presents a problem because of one little quirk in the SIAC. Despite their size (13 teams), they play a full round-robin schedule of 24 conference games. In general, that leaves room for only two non-conference games a year, which (win or lose) offers precious little evidence to suggest that times have changed.* This year is no different. In the case of SIAC leader Benedict, they lost their two non-conference games to Augusta State and SC-Aiken, both teams outside the South Region. And that’s just the beginning.

Below is a detailed breakdown of each SIAC team’s non-conference performance during the 2010-11 season. The facts virtually speak for themselves, and they don’t paint a rosy picture for a conference that generates a lot of internal enthusiasm but not much in the way of external results.

In the 2010-11 season, the SIAC is 9-22 in non-conference games: 3-17 against other Division-II teams (0-10 within the South Region), 0-4 against D-I, and 6-1 against schools at lower levels of play. What the Committee should focus on are the very poor 3-17 D-II and 0-10 in-region marks. Furthermore, the three wins came against poor D-II teams: unaffiliated Central State (Ohio) and St. Paul’s (Virginia), a bottom-dweller in the CIAA.

To be fair, Benedict and Stillman, the two regionally ranked SIAC teams, were not responsible for many of those D-II losses, compared to their lesser SIAC brethren Albany State (0-3) and Fort Valley State (0-4). But the fact remains that Benedict was 0-2, and Stillman didn’t even schedule a non-conference D-II game!

To conclude, I have no idea how the NCAA purports to assess the quality of SIAC teams when they play so few other teams. Even if you do consider those games, the conference comes out in a very unfavorable light compared to their regional counterparts in the Gulf South and Sunshine State conferences.

What is a SIAC win worth? In light of the evidence, it shouldn’t be worth much.

*Note: NCAA rules seem to prohibit more than 26 games in the regular season. I’m not sure if the SIAC has a documented exception for this, but some of the teams, as you’ll see below, have more than 26 (completed or scheduled). I would guess that only 26 of the games qualify, although I wouldn’t be sure which games count for those teams.

SIAC in Non-Conference Games 2010-2011
Through games of 2/23/11

Abbreviations:
IRNC = In-region, non-conference opponents
ORD2 = Out-of-region Division II opponents

SIAC Non-Conference Totals
9-22 Non-Conference
0-10 IRNC
3-7 ORD2 (Wins: Kentucky St over Central St, Clark Atlanta over St Paul’s, Claflin over Central St)
0-4 D-I
6-1 Other

Albany State
W
L Fla Tech (SSC) 79-83, Tampa (SSC) 57-72, Valdosta St (GSC) 69-79, Alabama St (D-I, SWAC) 53-61
7-20 Overall
7-16 SIAC
0-4 Non-Conference
0-3 IRNC
0-0 ORD2
0-1 D-I
0-0 Other

Benedict
W
L Augusta St (#5 D-II, PBC) 59-65, SC-Aiken (D-II, PBC) 61-76
20-6 Overall
20-4 SIAC
0-2 Non-Conference
0-0 IRNC
0-2 ORD2
0-0 D-I
0-0 Other

Claflin
W Central St (D-II, Ind) 57-56
L Elizabeth City St (D-II, CIAA) 46-67
11-15 Overall
10-14 SIAC
1-1 Non-Conference
0-0 IRNC
1-1 ORD2
0-0 D-I
0-0 Other

Clark Atlanta
W St. Paul’s (D-II, CIAA) 76-72
L Bowie St (D-II, CIAA) 64-82
16-8 Overall
15-7 SIAC
1-1 Non-Conference
0-0 IRNC
1-1 ORD2
0-0 D-I
0-0 Other

Fort Valley State
W
L Tampa (SSC) 70-76, Fla Tech (SSC) 84-90, Valdosta St (GSC) 61-89, GA Southwestern (D-II, PBC) 77-89
8-19 Overall
8-15 SIAC
0-4 Non-Conference
0-3 IRNC
0-1 ORD2
0-0 D-I
0-0 Other

Kentucky State
W Central St (D-II, Ind) 92-80
L Central St (D-II, Ind) 73-94
14-10 Overall
13-9 SIAC
1-1 Non-Conference
0-0 IRNC
1-1 ORD2
0-0 D-I
0-0 Other

Lane
W Fisk (NAIA I) 77-61
L
6-17 Overall
5-17 SIAC
1-0 Non-Conference
0-0 IRNC
0-0 ORD2
0-0 D-I
1-0 Other

LeMoyne-Owen
W Rust (D-III) 105-99
L Harding (GSC) 81-86, Christian Brothers (GSC) 51-62, Tennessee St (D-I, OVC) 48-84
9-18 Overall
8-15 SIAC
1-3 Non-Conference
0-2 IRNC
0-0 ORD2
0-1 D-I
1-0 Other

Miles
W Concordia-Selma (USCAA) 73-69, Concordia-Selma (USCAA) 54-48
L
10-15 Overall
8-15 SIAC
2-0 Non-Conference
0-0 IRNC
0-0 ORD2
0-0 D-I
2-0 Other

Morehouse
W
L West GA (GSC) 66-79, Talladega (NAIA I) 69-75
11-13 Overall
11-11 SIAC
0-2 Non-Conference
0-1 IRNC
0-0 ORD2
0-0 D-I
0-1 Other

Paine
W Morris (NAIA I) 80-73
L Augusta St (#5 D-II, PBC) 39-59
10-16 Overall
9-15 SIAC
1-1 Non-Conference
0-0 IRNC
0-1 ORD2
0-0 D-I
1-0 Other

Stillman
W Concordia-Selma (USCAA) 99-79
L Lipscomb (D-I, A-Sun) 78-103
19-5 Overall
18-4 SIAC
1-1 Non-Conference
0-0 IRNC
0-0 ORD2
0-1 D-I
1-0 Other

Tuskegee
W
L Alabama A&M (D-I, SWAC) 67-70, Fla Southern (SSC) 78-96
16-8 Overall
16-6 SIAC
0-2 Non-Conference
0-1 IRNC
0-0 ORD2
0-1 D-I
0-0 Other

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