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Pat Forde Asked the Right Question But Has the Wrong Answers on NCAA Tourney!

Pat Forde at Yahoo Sports has a incisive and thoughtful article on the NCAA Tourney selection process:

Loyola Chicago’s Final Four run reveals flaws in NCAA tournament’s selection process

Forde tells a great story that I did not know:

With seven minutes left in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament quarterfinals, Loyola Chicago was fighting for its NCAA tourney life against Northern Iowa.

The score was tied. Conference Player of the Year Clayton Custer was scoreless, struggling with an injured ankle. Another futile Loyola possession in a game full of them was reaching its end, with the shot clock closing in on zero. The pressure was mounting on a 25-5 team that ran away with the MVC regular-season title.

Out of options, guard Ben Richardson rose up and drained a long 3-pointer as the shot-clock horn went off. Loyola never trailed again on its way to winning that tension-drenched contest, 54-50.

Now I have what my family calls the standard rant about how schools with better records (but admittedly not stronger schedules) in  what they call “mid-major” conferences – get left out and I have some solutions, too:

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.

Now Pat Forde asks the right question:  Is there something wrong with the selection process?

But his solution is, with all due respect, lame (it is actually the suggestion of Greg Shaheen, a NCAA vice president who presided over the tournament – maybe that explains the lameness):

Along those lines, he has some radical ideas: home games against a team in the 300s in the RPI would nullify that program’s top-ranked home game; an RPI bonus for flipping a contracted home game to make it on the road against a low-major opponent; requiring every FBS team to play at least one non-conference game on the road against the defending champion of a non-FBS opponent.

This is typical thinking of an NCAA official:  Ban it or require it!

First, the taking away the best home game for scheduling a team in the 300s defeats the purpose of encouraging play against lower ranked teams.  The RPI bonus might have some merit but seems there ought to be a better way to reward wins by a mid-major.  The play the prior champ has potential merit but will be dependent on how the team comes up – what if the prior mid-major team was senior laden and now rebuilding again?

Shaheen will not touch the Division I officials choosing the teams:

One: the makeup of the 10-member committee skews in favor of the bigger conferences. There are six members from schools in the 10 FBS leagues, and four are from schools in the 21 non-FBS leagues.

“These are honorable people,” Shaheen said, “but it is hard to entirely overlook that 60 percent of the votes come from 10 conferences.”

The selectors may be honorable but the selection system is inherently a conflict of interest.

To sum up, Forde is raising the right issue but has the wrong solution.  Maybe if the NCAA was more concerned about the fairness of their marquee event and less about the mascot of UND or Confederate flags or arcane rules that punish offering a jelly bagel to a recruit we might find a better way to make sure the NCAA Men’s (and Women’s) Basketball Tournament is inclusive.





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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