If you walk into the wing of the hotel in Indianapolis that houses the NCAA Basketball Men’s Tournament Selection Committee and handed each member of the committee the following list; South Florida, Alabama, Cincinnati, Washington, Texas, Long Beach State, Harvard, BYU and Virginia Commonwealth and tell them they must pick only five teams to get bids to the tournament. The chances are good that you would get different lists from each committee member, and that would be of the subjectivity involved in the process.
Every February pundits argue about “bubbles”, “must-wins” and “resumes”, what makes them all different is the fact that there are so many different ways to evaluate these fringe teams. Whether it is a statistical metric such as;RPI, KenPom, Sagarin or ESPN’s new BPI or the “eye test”, does a team look like a tournament team when you watch them? Or “shirts vs. skins” put two teams on the court and which one wins?
It is this cornucopia of options when evaluating teams that gives the NCAA Tournament part of its allure, and adds to its unpredictability. Every year Greg Shaheen who oversees the tournament helps conduct a mock selection process for members of the media to get a better idea of how conclusions are come to by the committee.
It seems every year we hear some of the same things from those in attendance, “they really don’t pay attention to conference affiliation”, “the RPI is just a tool”, etc.
This year there was something new (at least to me), as Matt Norlander of CBSSPORTS.COM after his experience, “Now, Here’s what I was most surprised about: the short amount of time we paid to seeding and bracketing. Now, here’s what I was most surprised about: the short amount of time we paid to seeding and bracketing. “
The majority of the time spent before the bracket is unveiled to the world is spent on selecting and seeding the 68 teams chosen for participation. While there is no set-in-stone criteria on what makes one team better than the other, the diversity of opinions involved in making the decisions in Indy do have some ground rules to guide them through the process. Other than that the committee has free reign to interpret all the information at their disposal in any way they wish.
So while we hear complaints about one team being in over another, one team’s strength of schedule is awful and another one has no top-50 RPI wins, or listening to Andy Glockner and Doug Gottlieb arguing about the awfulness of the PAC-12 on Twitter, remember through all of the belly aching it is all part of the fun that leads to March Madness.
Besides it could be worse, the post-season could be decided by a bunch of HAL2000s spitting out numbers, while we await the most anti-climactic announcement of the results, ever. Oh, wait sorry that’s that other sport that is driving all of this conference realignment, but I digress that is another debate for another time.
Until then, enjoy the debate, the angst and most of all, the basketball.