Two Things To Avoid …

Because I need to travel tomorrow despite the impending major snowstorm that is about to happen in the Northeast US, I am writing this over the weekend instead of on Monday morning.  There are two things that will be “hot topics” on Monday in the sports commentary cosmos and I prefer to have nothing to do with either one.  The first thing I would like to avoid is to be part of any discussion of which team “got snubbed” by the Selection Committee and were denied participation in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.  The reason I will not do that is simple:

  • No team is ever “snubbed”.

The reason why this annual “debate” happens in the first place is because sports fans – and sports commentators – have an unrealistic set of expectations for the Selection Committee.  This will sound harsh but I will say it anyway.

  • The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee is fundamentally unqualified to make the kinds of marginal decisions that sports fans expect them to make flawlessly.

The Selection Committee has ten members.  Nine of the ten are Athletic Directors at NCAA member schools; the tenth committee person is a Vice President AND the Athletic Director as his school.  Expecting that agglomeration of folks to make reasoned, unbiased and difficult judgments about basketball teams is simply unrealistic.  Let me count the ways…

First, Athletic Directors are not necessarily knowledgeable about basketball.  Athletic Directors are far more knowledgeable about fund-raising and managing their enterprise to a budget.  Sure, they will go and see their school play a dozen games or so and maybe take in another two dozen games in-person or on TV over the course of a season, but the bottom line is clear.  Athletic Directors in general are more about dollars and cents than they are about rebounds and assists.

Second, the fact that they are Athletic Directors for their schools means that they already have a full-time job.  If the expectations of sports fans were even to be approximated, these folks would need to spend full-time paying attention to and analytically watching college basketball games.  NEWS FLASH!!  They don’t.

Let me personalize this for a moment.  I really like college basketball and I watch a lot of college basketball games on TV.  I follow teams and conferences in general terms from around the country.  I have probably seen more games and more teams than anyone on that Committee.  Now hear this:

  • I would not be able to say with confidence which teams should be the last half-dozen to be placed in the tournament field and which teams are the next half-dozen meaning that they would not be placed in the tournament field.
  • If I cannot do that, the Selection Committee cannot either.

Add to the fact that the Committee members are not basketball people, they simply do not have the time – or probably the inclination – to focus sufficient attention on the non-glamor games involving the teams that we say are “on the bubble”.  For the dozen or so teams in that category, Committee members should have seen them play at least 5 games and preferably 8 or 9 in order to make judgements about an ordinal ranking of those teams.

Let me be clear; any jamoke who even pretends to follow college basketball can name with great confidence at least 25 teams that belong in the tournament field this year.  That same jamoke can also deduce with confidence that a team with a record of 4-22 for the season does not deserve consideration as an at-large entry.  Those are the easy decisions; the hard decision involves the “bubble teams” and to make those decisions means watching those bubble teams play games other than the ones over the past week or 10 days.

Moreover, there will be biases associated with the Selection Committee as there will necessarily be with any committee made up of human beings.  My point is that the Selection Committee did not “snub” anyone because I do not believe that they have the knowledge/insight to recognize that Bewildered State really does belong in the tournament over Disco Tech but the Committee then decided to put Disco in anyway.  That would be “snubbing Bewildered State” …

The other thing I do not want to participate in on Monday is to declare the winners and losers of the first weekend of NFL free-agency.  I suspect that most of the sports radio segments not devoted to “Committee snubs” on Monday will be focused on “NFL free-agency hyperbole”.  I know that some folks will aver that a signing in the past three days is the “worst free agent decision EVER”; and for those folks who are memory challenged, let me offer just a couple of bad signings that need to be milestones along that continuum:

  • In 2009, Skins signed Albert Haynesworth for 7 years at $100M with $41M guaranteed.
  • In 2016, Texans signed Brock Osweiler for 4 years and $72M with $37M guaranteed.
  • In 2012, Raiders signed Matt Flynn for 3 years and $26M with $10M guaranteed.

There were, however, four moves made in the past several days that deserve a brief comment – even at this early date:

  1. The Niners signed QBs Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.  Both Barkley and Hoyer were QBs with the Bears last year and – to be polite – the Bears were not exactly an offensive juggernaut.
  2. The Bears signed QB Mike Glennon for some big money – 3 years and $45M with $19M guaranteed.  The Bears also released Jay Cutler.  I have never been a big Jay Cutler fan going all the way back to his days at Vandy, but is Mike Glennon with $19M in guaranteed money a big step up from Jay Cutler?  I am not seeing that yet…
  3. The Pats signed CB Stephon Gilmore away from the Bills.  The Pats have been unable to come to terms with Malcom Butler and they have given him a tender offer.  Having Gilmore around means the Pats might find a way to trade Butler to someone willing to pay him what the Pats are unwilling to pay him.
  4. The Panthers signed OT Matt Kahlil for 5 years and $55.5M.  [Aside: Is his favorite poker game “Fives Wild”?]  I saw the Vikes play several times last year and I did not see Kahlil as a player worth more than $10M per year for even one year…

Finally, here is a comment from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:

“A 7-year-old in St. John’s, Newfoundland, had his bowling gold medal taken away when, just before the awards ceremony, officials ruled his black faded jeans violated the tournament’s black-pants rule.

“So who put Roger Goodell in charge of kids’ bowling, too?”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



7 thoughts on “Two Things To Avoid …”

  1. I think the NCAA has a flawed and confused protocol for selecting teams. There seems to be a conflict between selecting the best 68 teams and the most deserving 68 teams. The most deserving argument says that teams should be judged on their season as whole, not just the final month. So the overall record, including games played in November, is more important than how they finished the season. The “best” argument says that a team like Wake Forest may be the 30th best team in the country, but their record does not support that argument. The fact that they lost to Clemson twice and to Syracuse, two teams likely to be left out, early in the year may hurt their chances to be selected. They have also only beaten one team in the top 50 RPI rankings. What they can brag about is that their losses to the top teams in the ACC were battles down to the wire and the ACC may be the toughest conference.

    Where I am in perfect agreement with you is that AD’s are far too busy with other duties to be up past midnight every night watching Gonzaga or Oregon or Arizona play. How can they know which of those teams deserves a #1 seed over the others? Or whether Wake Forest is actually better than Syracuse or Clemson.

    Maybe the NCAA could let Nate Silver make up the bracket! Otherwise it will remain largely subjective and beyond the capacity of any individual to know all the teams.

    1. Doug:

      If I were Nate Silver, I would not take on the job you suggest. Sports fans have become too accustomed to supposed biases and conspiracies in the Tournament Selection process and I would fear that the “contagion” would carry over.

  2. They won’t get a #1 seed, but anyone watching the ACC Tournament has to acknowledge that Duke is one of the top four teams this year. BUt they are unlikely to get a #1 seed. Gonzaga or Kansas or Oregon or UNC will be paired with Duke in a bracket where they will be an underdog to make the final four.

  3. Apparently agrees with Doug, the NCAA’s process is very RPI-heavy, but other metrics (i.e. ken.pom) are gaining more traction for better prediction of team performance. Basically, the ADs are looking for a ranking system, nothing more.

    Off topic, but something that will turn up shortly, is that the Raiders skipped a meeting with the Clark County stadium agency. This means that the owners will be in the dark about the actual financing when Mark Davis goes to them later this month. Even though the absence was reported to be excused (on Friday in the Mercury News), the Clark County Commission chairman (not the agency) Steve Sisolak is wondering where the 46 M$ will come from to cover the 20 M$ principal and the 26 M$ financing (at 4 %) that will run over the next 30 years because he can’t see it. Since he was a key mover to get the process to this point his concerns carry some weight and just might get 9 owners to demand more time. On Sunday, the SJMN columnist had an interested take on why the Raiders-to-LV has traction: the opportunity to be “the most important game in town”, even though the market is 1/3 the size of the Bay Area.

    1. rugger9:

      I wonder if the Raiders would not be “the most important game in town” back in Oakland if they had a decent place to play. The overlap with the A’s is minimal – and the A’s also do not draw flies to that venue. With the Niners playing about 50 miles away, why would the Raiders not be the “hot ticket”?

      1. I think with a decent stadium they would, as long as the ticket prices are accessible. The Raider and Niner fan bases do not overlap either but to pay for the stadium it will probably mean someone(s) will have to cover it. It’s like debating whether one would pay 200 k$ for a Countach or a Mini Cooper. Or in other terms whether someone would try to drive the Lamboghini in SIlicon Valley (I saw one last week), since that is really a car that needs wide open spaces, like Wyoming.

        Is there a happy medium price point in Oakland for accessibility and stadium quality? I don’t know. Oakland is slowly getting more done in solving its problems (many parts of the city are not war zones, but there are a couple of parts that are) and Yuppies are moving in with their foodie obsessions, etc., so maybe there is hope.

        1. rugger9:

          It has been 4 years since I have been in Oakland so if gentrification is happening quickly, my impression(s) may be well out of date. I thought Oakland was a place where the tax base had eroded significantly and that the city would be on a financial knife-edge for a long time to come. In that circumstance, the local folks were right to spend the money they had on something other than a gaudy playpen for a football team and that has sort of put us where we are today.

          The NFL owners are now looking at $750M in State of Nevada money plus about $650M in Bank of America money to build a stadium for one of their teams. Not a lot of other jurisdictions are lining up to do the same so I still think the owners are going to find a way to make that happen. I just do not see them looking at $1.4B on the table and then looking the other way…

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