Puppet Ramblings: The Good, the Bad, the Right, and the Wrong About the Basketball Selection Committee

Let me begin by sharing this….

I was once on a party planning committee for a 4th of July picnic.  Our committee decided (stupidly) that cold turkey and cheese sandwiches would be better than grilling out burgers and hotdogs.  Cold cuts and cheese typically costs more, and is not nearly as suitable for the 4th of July as burgers and dogs would be.  Our reasons for doing it were rather stupid as well.  Some said that hotdogs weren’t healthy.  Others worried that a kid may choke on a hotdog.  Someone mentioned the grill being a potential safety hazard.  We made a stupid decision with a predictable outcome.  People showed up and wanted to know where the burgers and dogs were.

My point is this.  Committees of all sorts get things wrong all the time.  Most people reading this have probably been a part of some sort of committee that collectively made a stupid decision for a stupid reason.  Hell, chances are everyone reading this has been on a hiring committee, or a planning committee, or some sort of committee that made a decision they didn’t like, but had to go along with because it was a committee decision.

The Men’s Basketball Selection Committee really isn’t any different.  It’s made up of ten people who all have other jobs and who primarily do other things.  The committee changes every year.  There are two members who leave, and two members who join.  So, what the committee tends to favor one year may not be the same was what they favor in future years.  That’s the nature of ANY committee.  As much as I love the work that bracketologists do, there is a human element to this as well that oftentimes isn’t accounted for.  It’s a group of ten people that is always changing that are tasked with selecting the 36 best non-automatic qualifiers, and then ranking/seeding them.  The word “best” can mean twenty different things to ten different people.

Is it corrupt??  Haha.  Well I believe that it is part of the human condition that when we don’t get something that we want, we feel it is a huge miscarriage of justice!  It’s unfair!  And furthermore, it must be due to a conspiracy!  When under the radar teams like Middle Tennessee this year, and Illinois State last year, are left out people jump up and down and scream and yell about how the committee is biased toward the power programs, and how the networks are concerned about money, and how it’s a conspiracy of the highest order!  In years where we see a lot of mid-majors selected, it’s the same thing!  People jump up and down and scream and yell about how the committee is biased, and how the networks want the Cinderella stories, and how those teams play in easy conferences, and all that stuff.  Anyone that doesn’t get what they want is going to scream about how it was unfair, and furthermore they’re going to be convinced that there some sort of conspiracy working against them.

Does the committee get things wrong??  Yes.  Like my 4th of July committee, all kinds of committees get things wrong.  Are there things that put Under the Radar programs at a circumstantial disadvantage when it comes to scheduling that the committee oftentimes does not account for??  In my opinion, yes.  Is the committee corrupt and do they conspire against a certain group of teams??  No.  And when you stop and think about it, it’s kind of ridiculous to think that they would.

Committee members receive little to no money for being on the committee.  They all work in college athletics, but all have other jobs and primarily do other things.  They receive no personal gain whatsoever based on who gets into the tournament and who doesn’t.

The NCAA makes $1.1 billion a year off the tournament, and will continue to do so throughout 2032.  That is also a set amount that won’t change regardless of who is in the tournament.  That’s fifteen years into the future.  Pretty much anyone that had anything to do with putting this tournament together, be it a selection committee member or someone on the NCAA staff that works with championships, will be retired by then.  I just can’t believe that they would make any decisions or selections because they’re worried about what the new television deal is going to look like fifteen years from now.

The NCAA is also an organization that failed miserably the last time they tried to conspire.  The whole thing with Miami and Nevin Shapiro kind of blew up in their faces, and that was a rather simplistic conspiracy compared to what it would take to rig the basketball committee year after year after year.  When people are wrong, sometimes they are simply that.  Wrong.  They’re not wrong on purpose due to some sort of elaborate conspiracy.

So I guess this raises another question.  Should there even be a committee that puts the tournament together?  We now have a committee in college football.  But, we didn’t used to.  We had a BCS formula that people also didn’t like.  So it would seemingly change every year.  Kind of like the committee.  So, that didn’t work, and we have a committee now, and a lot of people feel that isn’t working either.

Should the RPI go away??  This debate always intrigues me.  As a power ranking the RPI is awful.  The thing is, it’s not used by the committee as a power ranking.  It’s used as a very general rating.  It isn’t quite as basic as simply looking at a team’s record, but it is only slightly more sophisticated.  And, it is treated as such.  No one argues that a team’s overall record shouldn’t be on the profile.  The RPI is just supposed to be a slightly better general indicator.  I also think it’s funny that while people whine about how bad the RPI is, others also use it as evidence as to why a team like Middle Tennessee should have been in this year.  So, again, we have people on two different sides of the fence and every time a decision is made, the people on the side of the fence that didn’t get their way will think the committee did it wrong.  Damned if you do.  Damned if you don’t.

I personally don’t think it’s the committee that needs fixing.  I think the fundamental problem is that outside of the P5/multi bid leagues, we have 22 conferences, which consists of close to 250 of the teams, that simply do not get enough opportunities to play against the teams they need to in order to impress the committee.  A team like Alabama can improve throughout the year, get hot in February, and rack up quality wins.  A team like Middle Tennessee or New Mexico State gets limited chances in November and December, and they better hope they’re good enough to take advantage of them then.  After that, if they’re fortunate enough to win a big game or two, the best they can hope for in January in February is to not blow it.  So you get P5/multi-bid teams that are making their case in January and February, and a smattering of UTR teams that won big games in the first half of the season simply trying to avoid bad losses in conference play.

Now, how do we fix that??  I really don’t know.  But, that’s what needs fixing more than anything.  That has nothing to do with the committee.  They can only evaluate what they see.  They’re not part of some conspiracy because they’re worried about what the next TV deal will look like in fifteen years.

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