Monday, March 16, 2009

Briejay Whine & Cheese Bracket Party

Last weekend, Creighton played themselves out of the NCAA tournament by getting blown out 73-49 by Illinois State, one night after salvaging a win against Wichita State the night before. Unfazed by the egg their team laid in St. Louis, the Briejay fan continued to pump their way to claim their rightful spot in the NCAA tournament.

And when they didn't make it, the reaction was fast and furious. Sue the NCAA! Billy Packer's on the seeding committee! The fix is in!

I think the message from the NCAA was very clear. Who did you beat? You can throw out RPI numbers and records and Ouija boards to your hearts content, but in the end, it comes down to who you beat.

The Briejay fan expressed outrage that Arizona and Michigan are dancing instead of them. Here's the evidence:

Wildcats: Arizona 69, Gonzaga 64; Arizona 84, Kansas 67; Arizona 106, Washington 97; Arizona 84, UCLA 72
Weasels: Michigan 55, UCLA 52; Michigan 81, Duke 73; Michigan 74, Illinois 64; Michigan/Minnesota 74-62 and 67-64; Michigan 87, Purdue 78
Bluejays: Creighton 77, Dayton 59

Creighton knew that they probably needed to win in St. Louis to make the dance before they even left Omaha, and they didn't. Now, the Briejay fan has a point that the "power schools" won't play Creighton. They have a partial point, in that these schools won't travel to Omaha. Creighton has maintained a position that they'll play these schools as part of a home and home series. But here's the deal: as a mid-major program, Creighton doesn't have the bargaining power to make those deals. As much as they don't want to admit it, they are counting on their mid-major conference to build their resume. A few years ago, that worked for Creighton. It doesn't work now.

To be fair, Nebraska doesn't have that bargaining power, but at least the Big XII gives the Huskers a better opportunity to build that resume. In fact, Nebraska offers a better resume to the NCAA committee than Creighton with victories over Missouri and Texas.

Now, should the NCAA start finding a way to get matchups between schools such as Creighton and some other "Power Conference" teams? Absolutely! Just like in football, the growth of the "money game" played only for home ticket sales hurts the game. But until that happens, it's tough for Creighton fans to argue that they somehow were robbed. Being robbed implies that you had actually possessed something, and Creighton really was fortunate to even be under consideration. (That's better than Nebraska did...)


Anonymous said...

I think the NCAA should use the RPI (or modified RPI, as needed) to select the at-large teams for the dance like they use Pairwise for hockey. This would take out the subjectivity that discredits the basketball selection committee. Using the RPI would let teams know exactly where they stand in relation to others, have a better idea of what they need to do to improve or maintain their ranking, and not have to worry about the ever changing standard of the committee ("whole body of work," win % against top 50, win % against top 100, win % of last 10 games, etc.) I will also grant that the RPI may need to be modified if it is used as the standard.

Husker Mike said...

Actually, the NCAA Basketball committee tries to mimic the factors that compromise the Pairwise formula that has become prevalent in college hockey. It starts with the RPI as the base to make the initial cut of "Teams under consideration" (TUC), then evaluates each team on how they did against those teams. "Teams under consideration" is the equivalent of "Wins against the top 100", for the most part, with "Wins against the top 50" being the most important.

When UNO made the NCAA hockey tournament three years ago, it wasn't so much their RPI, but rather their record against other "TUC"s. So even when they faded at the end of that season, they still had a strong record against the other TUCs, and merely slipped from a #1 or #2 seed to a #4 seed.

Creighton, due to their schedule, had a very poor record against teams under consideration. Lost 2 of 3 to Illinois State; lost to Nebraska. A "Pairwise" system in college basketball would have made it clear weeks ago that the Jays needed to win the MVC tournament, but would have likely spared the Brie from the drama of Sunday night.