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:
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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………