Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Indiana Won the NCAA Tournament In 1987, So They Should Be In This Year

It's an exciting time for college basketball right now, with all of the conference tournaments this week. For many, this is as exciting or even more exciting than the actual NCAA Tournament, which begins next week.

Nothing like a fetid pile of feces courtesy of Gregg Doyel to ruin all of the fun.

Pssst, selection committee: In case of Davidson, break rule

The NCAA tournament selection committee needs my help. That's one of the things I learned during a mock selection exercise last week at the NCAA offices in Indianapolis. The selection committee needs my help.

They do? I would imagine they have plenty of people on the committee.

Not a lot of my help. The committee is hooked up better than I dreamed. Even before arriving for the annual media exercise, which in Year 3 finally got around to inviting me, I knew the committee had access to reams of stats and notes and updated information. What I didn't know was the level of electronic sophistication it had reached. The Internet search engines designed specifically for the committee. The high-speed voting they do online for each team, each seed, each little line in the bracket. Electronically speaking, and this is a little bit humbling considering my place of employment, the selection committee is more hooked up than I am.

Dude, you work for CBSSports.com, not ARPANET or SkyNet. I'm sure what you have access to is great, but the NCAA has been doing this for quite some time now. And since it's for a specialized purpose (i.e. selection of the NCAA basketball tournament field), it's not too hard to come up with specialized software.

And I hope you're kidding about the NCAA "finally getting around to inviting" you. I know you work for CBS, which thinks it runs the NCAA Tournament, but I'll just assume you were kidding.

But the selection needs my help nonetheless.
It needs my help with Davidson.

Oh? Really? Do you have SSS (super-specific-software) about Davidson that no one else could have? I'm guessing not.

See, I know what the selection committee knows. I know what information the committee will consider, and what information the committee will ignore. So I know the committee will be instructed to ignore one of the most vital pieces of information available.

Maybe Doyel has a scoop here: what vital piece of information could the NCAA Tournament Committee be ignoring? What a huge story--that the committee will knowingly ignore vital information about a mid-major school. What a conspiracy! It's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma!

The committee will be instructed to ignore last season.
When Davidson reached the Elite Eight.

Oh. Never mind--it's just stupidity.

It didn't happen, as far as the 2009 selection committee is concerned. Davidson, which is perched dangerously on the bubble unless it wins the Southern Conference tournament, didn't reach the Elite Eight in 2008. Didn't beat Gonzaga in the first round, Georgetown in the second, Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. Didn't almost beat eventual national champion Kansas in the Elite Eight.

Actually, Davidson did do those things, and it was wonderful. How exciting would it have been for Davidson to reach the Final Four? Even so, Davidson again showed how mid-majors should be better considered for the NCAA Tournament than they have been.

Didn't happen, selection committee. Don't consider it. That's a guideline, and not just an implied guideline. So it is written, in the inch-thick folder given to every selection committee member upon arrival in Indianapolis:

Materials not influential:

Performance by a team in a previous NCAA Tournament.

To which I say: You must be joking.

To which I say: you are a Fucktard. Why would last year's performance be a consideration for this year's tournament?

Last year happened. Last year was real.

Yes, I already said that.

And while college teams do change from year to year, Davidson didn't change that much. The Wildcats return three starters from their 2008 Elite Eight team, and they return 10 of their top 13 scorers

Good for them. They should have been very good this year, with a successful team returning so many players. Making the NCAA Tournament really shouldn't be a problem.

Those numbers are all well and good, but in reality, this is all the selection committee needs to know:Stephen Curry is back. And so is Bob McKillop.

Okay...their best player and their coach is back. See above.

Curry was the humble star who put Davidson on his back and damn near carried his team into the Final Four. He had one of the most prolific four-game scoring totals in NCAA tournament history, and he's a better player this season. McKillop, meanwhile, is the coach who made it happen. Designed the offense to free up the heavily guarded Curry. Designed the defense to stop Davidson's bigger opponents. Gave his team the confidence and toughness to believe it could do things logic said couldn't be done.

But as far as the 2009 selection committee is concerned, none of it happened. None of it can be considered. When the committee convenes next month, Davidson -- which has lost two consecutive games -- will clearly be on the far side of the bubble with its CBSSports.com RPI of 54. Davidson would be behind, presumably, Michigan (No. 48 RPI), Miami (49), Cincinnati (50), Boston College (51), Creighton (52) and Baylor (53)...

This article is a bit old, so I'll update: Davidson is 25-7, but its CBSSports.com RPI is now 73. This is a team that likely needs to win its conference tournament to get in.

Which would be a travesty. None of those schools has done a damn thing in the NCAA tournament in years.

And that has what exactly to do with this year's tournament? Oh, yeah--nothing!

The primary duty of the committee, if I'm not mistaken, is to put together the strongest NCAA tournament field possible. With that as the most important guideline, this Davidson team -- one year after that Elite Eight run -- gets in. Simple as that.

The RPI and the strength of schedule and any other bullcrap statistic the committee considers won't take into consideration this: Davidson did it last year, and its most important pieces -- the star and the coach -- are back.

Yeah, RPI is a "bullcrap statistic." All it does is try to rate teams objectively based on strength of schedule, wins over quality opponents, etc. Objective measures are bullcrap, man!! Let's use stuff that has nothing to do with this year instead, like last year's performance or the number of players with size 12 1/2 shoes. Fuck yeah!

This isn't even a Davidson argument. This is a common sense argument. Three years ago, underdog George Mason reached the Final Four. If the Patriots had entered the 2007 selection phase on the bubble (they didn't), and then been left out without the committee even considering their Final Four run from 12 months earlier, that would have been imbecilic bordering on irresponsible. Whoever the darling is this year -- and there will be a Davidson-like darling this year -- that team will deserve this same consideration if it's on the bubble in 2010.

So let me get this straight--you're saying that if a team is on the bubble (which at the time Doyel wrote the article Davidson was), if it had a good performance in last year's tournament, it should be automatically included in this year's tournament, even if its not as deserving as another school based on this year's performance?

This makes absolutely no sense. As you said already, the job of the selection committee is to put together the "strongest NCAA tournament field possible." How would rewarding a team for last year's performance accomplish that?

This is common sense, people. Let's assume Davidson doesn't win the SoCon tournament. Upsets happen, so let's assume one happens to Davidson. Even so, Davidson already has played its way onto the 2009 NCAA tournament bubble. This isn't a below-average team needing a sentimental gift from the selection committee. This is a team that has earned its way onto the bubble thanks to its 2008-09 victory total and its RPI.

And from the bubble, Davidson played its way into the 2009 field by nearly playing its way into the 2008 Final Four.

Yes, Davidson has played its way onto the bubble--not into the tournament. Playing its way onto the "bubble" just means Davidson should be considered. Lots of teams are on the proverbial "bubble." How will the selection committee decide who gets in and who doesn't? By using objective measures such as RPI and strength of schedule.

Look, I love mid-majors. I want to see Davidson get into the tournament. And I would agree that it's a legitimate criticism to say that the NCAA often rewards big conference schools over small conference ones. The fact that there was legitimate discussion about the Big East possibly getting 10 teams into this year's field shows how ridiculous this can be.

And I'd say it's a valid complaint that the RPI favors big conferences. It's been well documented the troubles mid-majors have had scheduling schools from big conferences. Since teams like Davidson, Butler, or Gonzaga play in weaker conferences, their strength-of-schedule suffers because of the conference games. Since schedule strength is a factor in RPI, this gives the big conferences an advantage in RPI.

But you can't use last year's performance as a criterion! And even if you did, you'd have to apply it to everyone. What happens if you have two teams left on the bubble that both performed well last season? Do you go back two years? Five?

Why stop there? Why not reward teams for all-time performance? Indiana has five national championships. Of course IU is having a dreadful season this year, but shouldn't its history of providing exciting and memorable tournament performances be taken into account?

How about Loyola Marymount? CBSSports.com RPI is 319. But remember Bo Kimble and the 1990 Loyola Marymount team that got to the Elite 8, losing to UNLV? The team that dedicated its tournament to fallen teammate Hank Gathers? Why not reward them?

What about Indiana State? Their CBSSports.com RPI is a whopping 200. But remember Larry Bird carrying ISU to the final game against Michigan State? If ISU gets in this season, it could set up an ISU/MSU rematch! Who wouldn't want to see that?

It's a ridiculous idea to use last year's performance--or any other year's performance--as a criterion for selection into this year's tournament. I'll definitely be rooting for several mid-majors who are on the bubble to get at-large berths, and I'll know if they do indeed get in, it will be because the NCAA selection committee thinks they deserve it for this season...period.

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