Hard to brag about tournament brackets that are already busted

When Thursday rolls around, college basketball fans won't worry too much about the travesties that took place on Selection Sunday.

They'll be bellied up to bars all over the country, playing hooky from work, and comparing office pool picks in their NCAA tournament contest. Gambling on such things is usually frowned upon, of course, but everyone and their mother (and grandmothers!) fills out a bracket.


My dad pulled off a contest win a few years back and still finds time to crow about it to me and my co-workers, the ones who are supposed to know way more than he does about the field of 68.

But the folks on tournament selection committee, they're the true geniuses.


And if you believe that, you're part of the problem.

Coming up with the field is no easy task, and the committee gets it right more often than not. I don't envy the job at hand, for sure.

And at the same time I'm amazed at guys like ESPN's Joe Lunardi, or Jerry Palm of CBS Sports, or Patrick Stevens, formerly of syracuse.com, who are called something silly like "bracketologists" and then all but nail the entire field before CBS unveils the picks.

(And not only the picks, but most of the seeds!)


But let's get serious — can you explain the logic behind some of these so-called "bubble" teams joining the dance? Or how a few of the best mid-majors in the nation got snubbed so hard they'd be better off declining the NIT on principle?

I'm looking at you, Monmouth. You too, San Diego State.

So the committee (some of its members, anyway) has gone on record with its feelings that the mid-majors need to bolster their non-conference schedules in order to stand a better chance of earning one of the 36 at-large bids out there.

Understood, and agreed.

So what did Monmouth do? The Hawks got Notre Dame, UCLA, USC (twice, actually), and Georgetown on their docket. Then they beat Notre Dame, UCLA, and Georgetown, and split with USC. They also won 13 games on the road.

Yes, they lost to Army, not a great defeat in the eyes of any NCAA tourney fan. But Monmouth's resume — an 8-3 record against non-conference D-I teams, an RPI of 55 — is enough for me to be included in the field of 68.

Same goes for San Diego State, which beat Cal (RPI-16) early in the season and played top-tier opponents such as Kansas, Utah, and West Virginia.


The Orange finished 10th in the ACC — 10th out of 15 teams, remember — and went 19-13. That includes three losses to Pitt (three!) and a loss to lowly St. John's.

Their record over the last six games? That would be 1-5.

Now, Syracuse lost only once to a team with an RPI lower than 200, while Monmouth did so three times. And San Diego State fell to San Diego (RPI-302). Yuck.

But that's the difference between a mid-major and a power conference team. Mid-majors are going to drop a few games like that, particularly ones that bulk up on better opponents in an attempt to appease the NCAA tournament committee.

Juiced up to beat a Notre Dame? Absolutely?

Looking past an Army to get to the next Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference foe? Probably.

At least the committee pushed Tulsa and Vandy and into the First Four round, the play-in games that tip off tonight in Dayton, Ohio.

A Tulsa team that lost twice to Memphis and once to Oral Roberts.

A Vanderbilt squad that wound up fourth in a bad SEC this season, and lost to Mississippi State.

Are those teams terrible and unworthy of an NCAA tourney spot? I'm not going to use those words to describe them. In fact, I can't think of any words to describe them.

They're OK. Fair. Average.

And that seems to be the formula for NCAA tourney appreciation.

But Tulsa, Vanderbilt, Michigan, and Wichita State were the last four teams picked for the field.

The committee downright rewarded Syracuse with a 10 seed in the Midwest Region. Monmouth and San Diego State got the old heave-ho, with high seeds in the NIT as their parting gifts.

It shouldn't be about middling power conference teams playing those 8-9 tourney games. Give the little guys a chance to get in if they do what is asked of them all season long.

I could throw in St. Bonaventure, and South Carolina, and St. Mary's. They all have arguments.

It doesn't really matter at this point. The field of 68 is set. The committee's work is done. We're left to analyze and whine and complain when the time comes to fill out brackets.

I just wish I had a chance to pick Monmouth.


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