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JOHN FEINSTEIN has the RIGHT IDEA; I MIGHT even AGREE with IT!

I regard sportswriter John Feinstein with the utmost of respect and some admiration.  Feinstein has written several books on sports-related topics.  Tuesday he called for a new source of persons for the NCAA selection committee – venerable, respected, retired coaches and true basketball persons like Bobby Cremins, Denny Crum, etc:

Who should be on the committee? To name a few: Gary Williams; John Thompson Jr.; Denny Crum; Sonny Smith; Wimp Sanderson; Frank Sullivan; Nolan Richardson; Bobby Cremins; Terry Holland (who was the committee chairman in 1997 when he was an AD) and Mike Montgomery.  *  *  * Billy Packer, who was a star player and coach before he becoming a TV analyst, Bob Ryan, Dick Weiss, Keith Drum. Ryan and Drum have covered college basketball forever and know the game cold. Drum covered college basketball for 20 years, then scouted it for NBA teams for 20 years.

I still would hold out for the Division II/III coaches picking Division I and vice versa.  But I am warming to Feinstein’s concept.  Apparently the NCAA rules prohibit it (who knew!); only administrators and league commissioners can select teams!

I quickly sent an e-mail to a friend who works at the NCAA: “Extensive basketball backgrounds? Seriously? This is why it is impossible to take you people seriously.”

Most times, my friend will respond with humor; this time, I evidently made him a bit angry. “If you understood the rules,” he wrote, “you would know that to be on the basketball committee, one has to be a current Division I athletic director or commissioner.”

Feinstein also makes the charge that I had not given credence to before:  Leading schools in power conferences seldom give up and comers like Murray State the time of day:

Steve Lappas often tells the story about getting the job at Manhattan in 1988. The Jaspers had lost 27 games the year before.

“When I walked into my office the first day, I had 100 messages — literally — from coaches wanting to play us,” Lappas said. “Four years later, when we won 23 games, no one would return my call.”

Several years later when he was the coach at Villanova, Lappas cancelled a game with Delaware, even though the schools had a contract.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” Lappas told then-Delaware coach Mike Brey. “You’re too good. We’re not playing.”

Now if Feinstein says it:  You can bank on it.  It’s a fact.  So if it is nearly impossible to get good gigs to play, then you get blamed by the selection committee when you don’t play good teams, it’s a no win situation for the minor and mid-major conferences.  I’d guess Albany will seldom be asked to play a top team unless it is at home.  Maybe.

I am shocked (although I admire Lappas’ honesty) that this coach would admit – we won’t play you because you are too good.  Coach Lappas would be barred from my selection committee but if we did that, we’d never have a coach on the selection committee!

There is only one solution:  Expand the NCAA tourney to say 80 teams and take EVERY regular season and conference tournament winner.  If it lowers the number of retreads from major conferences, usually with double digit losses, so be it.  I also would openly do what I suspect is covertly done:  Consider past performance for present teams as a tie-breaker.  If a team has been regularly getting into the NCAAs and even winning some games, they should get the benefit of that against another team that has not.  Now I would also say, if a team has not been in the tourney for years or never at all (Northwestern or William & Mary) I would also give them a tie-breaker over a team that is average.

Feinstein says basically look at basketball:

As for the rules, there should be none. Forget all the silly talk about RPI and SOS and away wins and wins against the top 50 or top 100 or top million. Forget the numbers.

***

No rules, just basketball. It’s wonderful that committee members cite the “eye-test” as a reason for picking a team. The problem is their eyes don’t know anything about basketball. Put the committee in the hands of those who know the game and give them one marching order: Pick the best field. Watch basketball — double-check numbers and away wins for backup if you want –  and just pick the best teams.

I am not totally agreeing with this.  Numbers are nice.  But, the numbers are a bit misleading in that they favor major conferences who play each other and few upstarts.  But it’s a start.  So I’ll be the prod – my beau ideal William Lloyd Garrison would be proud of me! – let’s keep it up every year until something is done.  Maybe a petition to President Obama.  Or to the NCAA.  Let ’em know how we feel.  Make the tournament fair and it’ll be more popular than it already is!

 

 

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood “Sandy” Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia’s first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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