The college basketball selection committee is shooting itself in the foot with constant inconsistencies at every turn. They clearly don’t value anything specifically and just talk out of both sides of their mouth. Any argument they’re using for leaving a team out of the tournament or including a team in the tournament can be flipped around by using their own double-standard logic.
No matter how you want to twist it, the committee committed PR suicide and completely destroyed their credibility.
If you read my column or listen to my podcast or radio show (or just know me personally for that matter), you know that when it comes to college sports, I’m a big philosophy guy, and I constantly take the elites to task for what I view to be philosophical flaws. I did it all the time with the college football playoff committee (the Enlightened 13). As somebody who follows college football and college basketball, I like the College Football Playoff committee so much more than the basketball committee. Sure, during the season, I’ve ripped the Enlightened 13 to shreds for making ill-advised decisions, but one thing is for sure, as far as who they’ve selected as their final four playoff teams for the past four years, there haven’t been any inconsistencies. Zero. I’m not saying it can’t happen in the future, it most certainly can, but so far it hasn’t. So, I may disagree with them at times, but at least they haven’t lit their credibility on fire, like the Dopey Dectuplet (my new nickname for the college basketball committee).
What I also always harp on is that anybody who is any position of authority, whether that be in politics, school principal, boss, teacher or a parent, you have to be consistent with your criteria, or you lose all credibility. Nobody should be able to beat you with your own logic. The committee failed to avoid this problem.
I can get on board with all different ideas for which teams in college basketball make the tournament. Generally, everything is taken into account, RPI, in-conference record, non-conference creds, head to head, conference tournament performance, as well as the strength of the team late in the season compared to earlier in the season (which often takes into account injuries and absences). The problem is that of these aforementioned factors, the Dopey Decuplet cherry pick their priorities. Notre Dame had the exact same record in the ACC as Syracuse (8-10) and this is including the times Notre Dame was without Bonzie Colson, in which they were 6-9–including five of those games in which the Irish were without Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, where they went 1-4. (Best part is, that one win without Colson and Farrell was in Syracuse, but more on that later.) What happened to the committee’s standard of claiming they value how a team finishes more than how they start? By their logic, how can they take a previously injury-riddled Notre Dame team who overall has the same, if not better resume than Syracuse and give Syracuse the nod over Notre Dame? Moreover, two years ago, Syracuse took into account Jim Boeheim’s absence, which was a suspension! You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. In addition, if what goes on early in the season is just as important as what goes on late in the season, then why did Syracuse get in over Notre Dame considering Notre Dame beat Syracuse on the road without Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell.
What about the RPI?
I’m not a big RPI guy. In fact, when it comes to college sports, I’m not a fan of any of this computer system formula nonsense. For those of you who don’t know, the formula of the RPI is a team’s winning percentage (.25) + opponents’ winning percentage (.50) + opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage (.25). Why is this the blessed formula? Why are these the specific numbers? Why is it not your own win percentage at 50%, your opponents’ winning percentage at 30% and your opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage at 20%? Why is it that your opponents’ win percentage is twice as important as your own win percentage and your own win percentage is equally important as your opponents’ opponents’ win percentage. Does anybody else realize how absurd this is? In this enlightened system, the transitive property in college basketball is equally important as a team’s actual head to head record.
For the sake of clarity, in 2014, Ohio State got trounced by a two-touchdown margin against Virginia Tech in Columbus. About two and a half months later, Virginia Tech lost to Wake Forest, who finished the season 1-7 in the ACC and a 3-9 record overall. Ohio State ended up getting to the playoff as a 4 seed. Imagine if the college football playoff committee stated that a factor in their decision was Wake Forest’s record. There would be an uproar and every sports fans would call the committee stupid. Nobody thinks it would make any sense for the committee to even factor Virginia Tech’s opponents’ records. Nobody who argued against Ohio State making the playoffs said “Look at Wake Forest, they beat Virginia tech and Virginia Tech beat Ohio State, so they shouldn’t get in.” If one were to describe RPI in plain language, no sane person would agree with the concept, but if you call it a formula and give it a sexy name, it gains credibility. This is exactly what the Dopey Dectuplet did, they made stupid sound smart by calling it a formula. This is the equivalent of making people believe Diet Soda is healthy because the word Diet is in it.
In general, I don’t like any sort of formula with college sports. It waters down all sense of nuance, takes away the human element and doesn’t ever provide context behind wins or losses, which is what separates college sports from professional sports. What everybody seems to forget is that in college sports, teams can control part of their own schedules, and some teams challenge themselves in the non-conference while others just pay off small colleges and essentially email and dial their way to wins. In college basketball, some teams play more non-conference games than others. No formula takes this important factor into account. In addition, it doesn’t differentiate the conferences. So a team’s record in the Sun Belt is viewed the same as a team’s record in the ACC or the Big 12. One conference is at the top of college basketball and the other is lower level whose games aren’t even nationally televised and this fool-proof RPI system doesn’t take this into account either.
What needs to happen is that there needs to be some form of consistency from the committee in order for me to stop calling them the Dopey Dectuplet. If they claim they care so much about RPI, and that’s why Syracuse and Oklahoma made the tournament instead of they why did they leave out Louisville, who had a higher RPI and a better regular season in-conference record than Syracuse and Oklahoma? If they care so much about how a team finishes vs how they start, and how they have to take into account how a team changes throughout the season, which they’ve claimed on numerous occasions in the past, then why did Oklahoma get in over Oklahoma State? Oklahoma State beat them in the conference tournament, Oklahoma is 2-8 in their last ten games, while Oklahoma State is 5-5. However, now they’re trying to sell us the idea that what happens in November is just as important as what happens in February and March. I don’t know about any of you reading this, but I never got the memo, must’ve gotten lost in the mail. No really, here’s an actual quote from Bruce Rasmussen:
“We look at the entire body of work,” said Rasmussen, the athletic director at Creighton who is in his first year chairing the selection committee. “So we look at all the games. The games in November, December count the same as the games in February and March. And Oklahoma had six wins against top 35 RPI [teams]. They had some absolutely great wins. We know that they stumbled down the stretch, and that certainly affected their seeding, but they had enough on their resume to get in.”
So now, what goes on in November is equally as important as what goes on in February and March. How clueless and tone deaf can he be to make such an erroneous statement? This quote displays a gross misunderstanding of how college sports function. Everybody and their moms all know that what goes on in September for a college football team isn’t the same as what goes on in November and that for a college basketball team, what goes on in November isn’t as significant as what goes on late in the season. This isn’t a difficult concept.
Don’t let the Dopey Dectuplet talk you into drinking Diet Soda.