Frank Stranzl

Where to start this week? There’s a pair of polar opposites both worthy of overwhelming attention.

On one hand, there’s the sad story of the volleyball team, the first Cal Poly team this year to receive a post-season snub, and probably not the last as NCAA selection committees love to slight the Mustangs. See last year’s football, softball and baseball teams for more proof.

On the other hand, there’s the pure jubilation surrounding the football team’s upset win at the University of Montana, a game all the experts predicted would belong to Grizzlies. The community is ready to jump on the bandwagon and see the Mustangs march into San Marcos, Texas and give the No. 4 seeded Bobcats a game.

Both stories are vital to the current stream of sports information in San Luis Obispo, both spicy enough to receive space in this column. So I decided to rant and rave about the volleyball team’s premature end to the season and voice my support for the football team.

First thing’s first: Why isn’t the volleyball team in the NCAA tournament? There are four suspect teams to take note of: Northwestern from the Big Ten, Colorado and Kansas from the Big 12 and Nevada from the Western Athletic Conference.

It’s one thing to play a tough schedule and win a few here and there, but it’s an entirely different situation to play a tough schedule and get dominated. That’s exactly the situation facing three of these teams.

Northwestern was 2-9 versus opponents ranked in the top-25 according to the Rich Kern Percentage Index (RKPI) rankings. In doing so, they consistently proved they are not a top-25 worthy team. Cross them off the list.

Meanwhile, Colorado is a similar case. They faced a tough schedule, due in large part to the conference they play in, but how much sense does it make to include a team that has repeatedly proven they can’t beat the top teams in the United States? The Buffaloes were 1-7 against teams in the top-25. Cross them off too.

Kansas, also part of the Big 12, Colorado’s conference, was 15-14 on the season. The Jayhawks were 0-7 versus top-25 opponents and lost seven of its last 10 games. Yes, they played a tough schedule. But did they win? Obviously not.

The same story goes for the University of Nevada. They were 0-6 against teams in the top-25. But it just so happens Nevada’s athletic director, Cindy G. Fox, is a member of the NCAA selection committee. I’m not saying that there is collusion going on, but it helps if your athletic director is on the committee.

By including these teams, the selection committee is saying it’s better to be a seasoned loser than an untested winner ” one holds promise and the other doesn’t. You tell me which is better.

Cal Poly was 1-2 against teams in the top-25, not an outstanding record, but better than any of the previous teams.

I think it’s also fair to mention that Wichita State finished 28-3, and that wasn’t good enough to be in the tournament.

My case for Cal Poly’s inclusion is this: What consolation is it to say you’ve played with the best if you lost most of the games, except that you have played with the best? Penalizing Cal Poly for a weak strength of schedule is bracket blasphemy. They beat who they were supposed to beat and took wins from perennial tournament teams like the University of the Pacific, UC Santa Barbara and Long Beach State.

To begin my segue, the team shouldn’t have any issues with strength of schedule next season as coach Jon Stevenson told me Monday night that he has trips to South Carolina, Hawaii and Nebraska lined up as well as a tournament to take place at Mott Gym with UCLA as a featured guest.

In other news, the Cal Poly football team is doing OK If you haven’t heard, and I should hope you have or you’re obviously not keeping up on your Cal Poly sports, the team plays No. 4 Texas State in the quarterfinals of the Div. I-AA national championship tournament on Saturday. The game will be broadcasted live at 1:05 p.m. on ESPN2, which means you had better cancel any plans you have (including that silly notion that you might watch the USC-UCLA game, which is conveniently taking place at the same time) and tune in as the Mustangs play their first nationally-televised game.

That’s right, you can watch this weekend’s game on ESPN2. Yep, channel 36 for you San Luis Obispo cable users (Channel 39 back in my hometown of Petaluma). Cal Poly, on national television – it’s just that cool.

Personally, I’m not going to be watching the game on TV. I have better things to do, like traveling with the team to check out the game in person. Booyah!

So does Cal Poly stand a chance? If they can contain Barrick Nealy, the Bobcats’ quarterback, and get their offense rolling, the game is theirs. I’m not going to lie, Texas State looked impressive in its comeback win over Georgia Southern, putting up a 50 spot despite trailing by three scores at one point. But, if the Mustangs can keep Nealy under control, they stand a chance at advancing to the semifinals.

The football team is a tremendous story even if they lose this weekend. I was one of the many who thought the team’s season was doomed when starting quarterback Anthony Garnett suffered a torn meniscus and MCL in the Mustangs’ first trip to Missoula.

The team overcame adversity just to make the playoffs. Playing at Montana, in weather not even fit for a polar bear, and after a three-hour bus ride from Spokane to Missoula (their plane couldn’t land in Missoula due to poor weather conditions); the Mustangs coming away with a win proves the team’s toughness.

Two stories, two different reasons make them newsworthy. One reason to turn on ESPN2 at 1:05 this weekend, and that’s the way it is.

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