Categorized | News, Opinion

MY OFFICIAL NCAA TOURNEY RANT: Start with MOVING SELECTION SUNDAY SHOW to MONDAY and having a FAN on the Selection Committee!

I am mystified:  SMU ranked, that’s right RANKED, 25th was snubbed from the NCAA’s!  This bracket blog says the Mustangs had FOUR top forty wins this year.  Here is ESPN Bubble Watch that had them a LOCK – a LOCK – to make the tourney.  First time I’ve seen a lock not make it to the NCAAs!

We’ve had SMU locked up since its March 1 win over UCF — its remaining conference schedule (Louisville and Memphis) wasn’t a threat to its at-large status. The Mustangs went on to lose both of those games, but, hey, no big deal. Now? After Thursday’s loss to RPI No. 147 Houston? The Mustangs are thoroughly shaking our confidence. SMU’s resume now has three sub-150 RPI wins; just four top-50 victories; a 4-6 mark against the top 100; 16 of its 32 games against teams ranked outside the top 150; and a truly disconcerting nonconference schedule ranking (306 as of Friday). We still think the Mustangs will get in, relative to most of the bubble, and we’re loath to override a lock. But if the rest of the bubble makes a collective upward shift in the next two days, we may be forced to reconsider.

ESPN also says this about Green Bay, also snubbed even though they beat the ACC Champs, UVA!

Green Bay [24-6 (14-2), RPI: 57, SOS: 158] We offered a warm Bubble Watch welcome back to the Green Bay Phoenix on Thursday, who had become something of a mid-major cause celebre since their semifinal loss to Milwaukee in the Horizon League tournament last week. That’s not why they came back, of course; it’s merely worth noting as the committee gets down to business in Indianapolis this weekend. No, Green Bay is back on the page because it’s not clear there are that many bubble teams with better resumes. Yeah, the Horizon League was rough, and yeah, Green Bay’s major claim to fame — its win over Virginia — came at home, in December, back when UVa wasn’t playing nearly as well as in the two months since. But it does have a reasonable RPI (high-50s) and a reasonable nonconference SOS number (also high-50s). And if the committee takes a long look and thinks the Phoenix are worthy, some of the usual considerations and comparisons could fall away. This one may come down to subjective preferences, to the strength of argument between committee members maybe all the way up until the final few hours of selection on Sunday afternoon.

And what about Toledo (26-6) or Southern Mississippi (27-6)?

But the selection committee did find a place for Tennessee (21-12 [11-7 SEC]), Iowa (20-12 [9-9 Big Ten]), and NC State (21-13 [9-9 ACC]) in the tourney.  (I am not crazy about the Xavier pick, either, or for that matter Dayton in the NCAAs and I went to UD for the first year of law school!)

And when a solid commentator like CBS Sports’ Gregg Doyel suggests that there is some sort of funny business (not corrupt but funny) in various selections and seedings it gives me precedent to think we need a new system of selection.  As a lawyer, I like precedent.  Try this from Doyel:

There’s a lot here to consider. Maybe the committee got lucky to make it so interesting. In fact, the more I think about it, that’s what the committee did. It got lucky. Because making this many fascinating games in such a short amount of time requires one of two things: considerable luck, or considerable intelligence.

And after looking at this committee’s bracket, I’m not seeing a lot of intelligence.

Wow, what a cut to the quick!  Could the NCAA be like the IOC – influenced by TV ratings and/or popularity?  Never!

Seems to me that there ought to be the following reforms immediately instituted in the 2015 selection:

1.  Division II and III coaches, ADs and league commissioners should be on the D-I selection committee.  (The Division II and III selection ought to be done by the Division I committee and this applies to both men’s and women’s tourneys)  Yes I said this before.

2.  The Selection Show should be Monday night.  Let’s assume that the number 1 seed that went to UVA was between that school and say Michigan depending on the last game and the only other slot was between Duke and the Spartans or some other minor permutation.  That’s all well and good for UVa or Michigan or Duke but does nothing for the team UVA was beat by:  Green Bay.  Their fate was probably decided before the game.

If Selection Sunday is Monday, they could share it with the women’s selection show and also give the committee one more day to access the events of Sunday.  Even better it will give people like Doyel (and me, although I am not as prominent as Doyel!) the last chance to influence the committee.

3.  The tournament should still place all the conference winners and the tourney winners in the NCAAs.  (Yes I said that before too!) Have a series of play-in games on Tuesday if necessary.  BUT, my alternative is:  The policy is to ensure the best team in each conference gets in and as long as the tourney winner is approximately the best team or equal to the team that won the conference tournament, then the committee is relieved of placing the number one team.  (For example, Mercer and FGCU were tied for first place and a tie breaker decided the number one seed.  The committee can select Mercer and leave out FGCU if it is not otherwise worthy of an at-large berth.)  That rule would require however say UC Irvine into the NCAAs when it loses to 13-19 Cal Poly.

4.  Finally, a fan should be on the selection committee.  Not a coach or sports writer – a real fan.  Someone reasonably prominent.  In 2017 when the President is a private citizen, Barack Obama would be perfect for this position.  It would open up the process a bit and prevent funny business.  Maybe even a drawing for the privilege of being the honorary – but voting – member of the selection committee.

Let me tell you what I would do if I were selected as the fan rep:

There are two ways to look at the NCAA problem for those last few spots:  Do we go with the retreads from major conferences that have a number of losses (NC State was 9-9 in the ACC) or do we go with the nice records of so-called mid-majors?

Seems to me it depends:  The retreads DID have a chance to win those key games and they simply did not win enough.  If you are 21-13, you did lose THIRTEEN games.  Yes some might have been close.  But they lost.

NOW probably the retreads might have a somewhat better (although small) case for winning the national championship.  And the teams in the tourney have to have the credibility to be a potential national championship, although there will be usually be a team like Cal Poly who got in by playing over their head for three or four days.  That reflects the other policy behind the NCAA selection – that every Division I conference be represented in the tourney.

BUT the mid-majors did not have as many chances to play the major schools.  If they did the cupcake thing in their pre-conference schedulings that should be one important consideration.  But if they come from a conference such as the former Colonial Athletic Association, which encouraged their teams to schedule tough games on the non-conference docket.  But that takes time.  Who wants to play Stony Brook?  Or Albany?  Or Vermont?  The first few times, Stony Brook would probably have to go to Duke or NC or Kansas.  There has been more willingness of the major powers to play up and comers and sometimes a new team can be invited to a early season tourney such as when the rise of Butler when it won the 2006 NIT Tip-Off.

So, if the mid-major tried to have a competitive schedule, like Green Bay (They played UVA, Harvard, Tulsa and Wisconsin out of conference and won two of those games [UVA, Tulsa]) and had a nice record say 24-6 then I would select the Green Bay over the NC State.

I also would have selected SMU because they were ranked.  Otherwise, you are saying the coaches and sports writers are incompetent.  They selected a team to be ranked that did not even deserve to be in the top 68 teams in the nation!  I do think those sports writers and coaches deserve more respect than that; they actually do try to get the rankings right.

Finally, the committee (who I do not think is corrupt but perhaps motivated by other non-basketball reasons if Doyel is right) should always remember:  These are the dreams of young people they play with.  The kids who go to say NC State are more likely to have banked on the NCAAs when they went there (unless a player wanted to go there because Daddy or other relative or hero did or they liked the programs of study) but when you go to Green Bay, you probably went there because you liked the school or were not “good enough” to go to say NC State or say Wisconsin and the Phoenix were the best choice.  I’d go with those teams all things being roughly equal for those last few spots.


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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