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Committee Madness

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Let's see if we can glean some meaning from the Committee's work this past weekend.

Lesson 1: The conference tournaments matter a lot.

See: Syracuse, Utah State

Lesson 2: The conference tournaments don't matter much at all.

See: Boston College, Tennessee, George Mason

Our first set of conflicting messages. Tennessee gets waxed out of the SEC tournament early and the committee doesn't blink, handing the Volunteers a #2 seed. Boston College, meanwhile, tears through the ACC tourney, nearly knocks off Duke, and is rewarded with... a trip to Salt Lake City and a #4 seed? The only eastern time zone team that has to travel out west? Huh? Okay, well, obviously the conference tournaments don't matter.

But wait! They -do- matter. A lot. The Orangepeople of Syracuse, ostensibly out of the NCAA tournament prior to the miraculous win over UConn, climb an astounding seven seeds, to #5, for their Big East tournament win. And Utah State? Well, Committee Chairman Craig Littlepage said their advancement to the finals of their conference tourney, as well as near-win over Nevada, got them in.

Conflicting messages abound here. In past years, you could always sense that the conference tourneys didn't affect people getting in, or flying up (or down) the seeding charts much. The committee would talk about the "body of work" that a team had. This year, the conference tournaments had huge effects on certain teams. Unfortunately, that effect was only selectively applied.

Just a disastrous job by the committee.  Another set of lessons:

Lesson 1: Non-conference schedule and wins matter a lot.

See: Missouri Valley Conference, George Washington

Lesson 2: Non-conference schedule and wins do not matter a lot.

See: Texas A&M, Air Force

The Missouri Valley Conference gets four bids based on their clever non-conference scheduling (to which I congratulate them). George Washington, meanwhile, gets hammered for not scheduling (and therefore not beating) anybody worth mentioning out of conference. Okay, fine. Hammer the pansy schedulers and reward those who play good teams.

But wait! Texas A&M and Air Force got in the tournament. Who the hell did A&M beat out of conference? Those ferocious Nittany Lions of Penn State? Auburn? Are they getting credit for traveling to Pacific and losing? And what about Air Force? They had two decent wins over the relatively awful ACC tandem of Miami and Georgia Tech. Their only other decent opponent, Washington, was a loss. This is a team that lost to 13-17 Wyoming, folks. Twice.

So what are we to learn from this? The only lesson I learned is that you'd better make sure you're nowhere near the bubble, because the committee might just job you where the sun don't shine.

It's hard to garner too much sympathy for teams like Michigan, Florida State, and Maryland. They just weren't that good this year. But when the committee puts together a seemingly ad hoc bracket, with crazy inclusions, bizarre seeding, and inconsistent messages, you have to be disappointed. Something went wrong this year. Terribly wrong. The NCAA tournament selection has enjoyed a relative free pass on careful scrutiny. I don't know that this year will change anything, but that doesn't mean I don't think it shouldn't.

--PB--