Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Looking at Loyola of New Orleans

In his column today, Kevin Blackstone takes on the NCAA Tournament “bias” toward major BCS conferences.
That's because the NCAA tournament selection process is increasingly biased nowadays. It favors the haves and discriminates against the have-littles. It is turning the college basketball championship into just another weekend of games on ESPN or CBS. It is slowly but surely exorcising the marvel of madness from March.
I’m sympathetic: four mid-majors got in at-large versus thirty BCS schools. I’m not so sure you can really parse those last three/four at-large bids that concretely- and as Blackstone implies, the game is so rigged toward the power conferences- that I wish the committee would defer to the St. Mary’s of the world instead of the Michigans.

That being said, I’m inclined to do nothing vis-à-vis the tournament selection process- to the extent it does takes the best 34. First, I’m not sure ordering the committee to lean toward taking another one or two mid-majors to populate the thirteenth seed spot is going to do anything to materially change college ball’s status quo. And second, as many of the commentators below Blackstone’s articles write, this tournament is not an exercise in propping up mid-major athletics.

If fairness comes at the expense of entertainment and interest- so be it. (editor’s note: yes, it hurts to hear BCS fans whining about fairness- as if Michigan would ever play a game at Fogelman). But, my lack of interest is the consequnce- albein only anecdotal. I increasingly don’t follow college basketball. I haven’t watched a non-Tulane regular season game from start to finish in years. And the only tournament games I watch in their entirety are those featuring mid-majors. For example, I watched every George Mason game during their recent run- and really none of the others.

Still, a simple “populate more bracket lines with mid-majors” solution is not going to be coming soon. But there are openings to attack the underlying issues. For example, the selection committee can be instructed to ignore wins generated by Blackstone’s “pick and choose scheduling” that BCS schools frequently exercise. Refuse to play out of conference games on the road, etc. then your home wins are marked down. Why not? Playing a ton of home games is an economic decision, not a competitive one- so why treat those wins solely competitive achievements? Stop rewarding aristocracy.

Mind you, Tulane is one of the worst offenders of this- the reason the home slate is so bad is we’ll obviously schedule anyone who doesn’t want a reciprocal home game. Loyola of New Orleans, I’m lookin’ at you.