Welcome to the 101st edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, where I am NOT TAKING THINGS WELL. Let’s get into it… (I suppose I should warn you about a little uncharacteristically coarse language in this one.)
Almost exactly two years ago, I published my first edition of Tuesdays With Mitch, titled “Did Colorado State Deserve A Better Seed And A Better Matchup?”. A couple days prior to that posting, the NCAA Tournament selection committee screwed Colorado State badly with an 8-seed that forced them to play the number one overall seed in the second round in what amounted to a true road game. It was pretty clear CSU deserved much better. Two years later, the committee completely, thoroughly outdid itself.
Over the course of this college basketball season the Colorado State Rams did more than enough to secure an NCAA Tournament bid. They didn’t get one on Selection Sunday because the selection committee is able to simply alter the criteria required for an at-large bid if the outcome favors a popular brand name at the expense of a team that’s lesser known nationally.
Make no mistake, that’s all this was. It’s extremely simple, really. The committee favored brand names. Sure, it’s about the conference affiliation. Sure, it’s about how well a team’s fan base will travel. Sure, it’s about the tradition of a program. But all of that contributes to a brand name. And this year, the selection committee based their “bubble” selections entirely– ENTIRELY– on brand names.
And that is fucking bullshit.
The NCAA Tournament is the center of the sports world when it comes Cinderella stories (THE SLIPPER STILL FITS!) and David taking down Goliath. The success of schools few casual basketball fans are familiar with is what provides much of the March Madness hype every year. But those romantic themes and story lines lose a lot of luster when the “little guy” can’t even get into the damn tournament. How is the scrawny nerd supposed to hook up with hot chick if the bouncers don’t let him into the bar?
The thing is, CSU basketball isn’t really that little of a guy. The Mountain West is an upper-level mid-major. This isn’t Murray State from the Ohio Valley pleading in vain for an at-large bid. CSU was in line to earn their third at-large bid in four years. They have a well-respected head coach who has been around forever. They are firmly on the college basketball map.
But Colorado State is not a BRAND. Indiana is a brand. Ole Miss is a brand. Georgia is a brand. Texas is a brand. UCLA– ohhh fucking UCLA— is a brand.
The NCAA makes a seed list that ranks every team in the tournament from 1-68. The bottom of the at-large field looks like this:
- 37. Indiana
- 38. Davidson
- 39. Ohio State
- 40. Georgia
- 41. Texas (!)
- 42. UCLA (!)
- 43. Ole Miss
- 44. BYU
- 45. Boise State
- 46. Dayton
- Dayton was the last at-large team selected. The committee has made it clear the first team out was Temple, followed, presumably, by Colorado State. So had the list been extended before adding automatic qualifiers, it would have looked like this:
- 47. Temple
- 48. Colorado State
This is utterly absurd on so many levels. Dayton should have been comfortably in the field and far from the last team in. How in the hell is Indiana ahead of Ohio State?! You could make the argument that Georgia, a team with ZERO top-50 wins and two sub-100 losses, should have been on the outside looking in, yet there they are with SIX teams behind them in the seed list. How does Boise State get sent to a play-in game against Dayton, IN DAYTON?! Texas doesn’t deserve a spot at all, and they have FIVE teams behind them. And then, of course, you have UCLA who wasn’t even on ANYBODY’S radar, and they’re chilling at 42 without a care in the world.
The biggest retort to all of this discussion will be Whatever, man. CSU should have played a tougher nonconference schedule. Well, let’s take a look at this argument.
CSU’s nonconference strength of schedule is ranked 83rd in the country. Texas? 85. Georgia? 92. Indiana? 109. Ole Miss? 95.
But these teams are all in good conferences, so they don’t have to load up in the nonconference schedule right? Well, kinda. All of these schools’ overall strength of schedule was launched significantly ahead of CSU once everybody played a full slate of conference games. So they all definitely deserve credit for playing in a tougher conference, especially when the Mountain West was down a little bit this year. But how much credit does each team really deserve for their conference play? Texas finished 8-10 in the Big 12. Georgia and Ole Miss both finished 11-7 in the weak-ass SEC. Indiana finished 9-9 in the Big 10.
Indeed, the argument for the tournament’s inclusion of the Texas brand is they played a very tough schedule. They played 15 games vs. top-50 opponents. FIFTEEN! That’s a lot! But Texas went just 3-12 vs. the top-50. My math tells me that’s not a very good track record against good teams. Why are we so devoted to rewarding teams for losing to superior opponents? This is such a flawed logic. Put those 12 top-50 games that Texas lost on CSU’s schedule and I guarantee you– GUARANTEE!– that CSU can go at least 0-12 like the Longhorns did.
Then there’s UCLA. Again, this
team brand wasn’t on anybody’s radar as a potential tournament team brand. They weren’t even on the bubble. Then they got in, somehow.
When comparing UCLA’s body of work with CSU’s, it’s clear that the two resumes are not even close. CSU has seven more wins, CSU’s RPI is 19 spots higher, UCLA has two more sub-100 losses. And as this tweet points out, Colorado State lost to one non-tournament team all year. UCLA lost to FIVE different teams that didn’t make the field. And again, UCLA didn’t just make the field, they made the field COMFORTABLY!
Take this moronic tweet from ESPN’s Jay Williams, one of the few national voices dumb enough to support Colorado State’s snub:
Okay, Jay. But CSU also went 10-4 vs. the top-150, while UCLA went 11-13. One of those records is better than the other, you dipshit.
Oh, and CSU’s 16 wins vs. sub-150 teams is really bad, right? Well nine of UCLA’s whopping 20 wins came against sub-150 teams.
By the time the conference tournaments come and go, every team on or near the bubble has plenty of warts and misgivings attached to their resume. The traditional line of thinking says that if you don’t get in, you only have yourself to blame. You can argue about seeding, but if you don’t even make the field, that’s on you. This is especially true in the 68-team era of today. With Colorado State, bracketology-expert-guy Patrick Stevens disagrees:
So yeah, we’re talking about an all-time snub here.
Of course, the committee has to come up with something to justify keeping the CSU brand (or lack thereof) out of the tournament. It sounds like it found the one weak spot associated with this year’s CSU team and keyed in on that. The Rams’ weak spot is… the Kenpom rankings. Kenpom is an advanced ranking system using, among other things, adjusted efficiency statistics. CSU’s Kenpom ranking this year didn’t line up with the rest of their resume. They ranked 68th.
Here’s the chairman of the committee, Scott Barnes, as quoted in the Coloradoan: “When you think about Colorado State, their RPI was fairly strong but the other metrics that we use weren’t nearly as high in terms of ranking.” He’s obviously referring to Kenpom, or Sagarin (CSU ranks 57th) or BPI (also 57th).
But this leaves Colorado State fans (and coaches and players) screaming something along the lines of: SINCE WHEN HAS THAT SHIT MATTERED?!
For years, coaches at mid-major programs have been told to get their RPI up. We’ve all been told the RPI is a crucial tool for the selection committee, even if we’ve known the formula is antiquated and not a solid way of ranking the best teams in the country. So what does the committee do when a mid-major like CSU combines clever scheduling and a lot of wins to produce an excellent RPI that essentially guarantees tournament entry?
It decides that, in this case, the RPI is no longer important.
Yeah, now– NOW– it’s time to move on from the RPI and use more complex ranking systems. That pretty fucking coincidental timing, if you ask me.
Colorado State was projected by every single bracket-projector-person to be in the field for a reason. Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi and Patrick Stevens aren’t picking their favorite teams or the teams they think are deserving. They are projecting what the committee will do. The committee has a set of guidelines to use. They have historical tendencies from previous tournaments. And every single person that studies and projects brackets for a living deduced that said tendencies and guidelines meant CSU was in. What all the bracket experts and analysts failed to consider was that the committee can ignore their guidelines and tendencies whenever they want if it serves a bigger and better brand name.
And for the love of all that is holy, WOULD YOU ASSCLOWNS JUST ADMIT THAT CONFERENCE AFFILIATION DOES MATTER? You were never going to take four teams from the Mountain West; it would be great if you could just acknowledge that.
I’m also tired of hearing people play the “what-if” game. CSU let one slip at Boise in January. CSU shouldn’t have lost at home to Wyoming. CSU should have played JJ Avila against San Diego State. If a school like CSU wants in, they need to win their conference tournament.
This is all bullshit. CSU didn’t need to do any of those things. They did enough. They were in.
That’s the bottom line for me: CSU did enough to get into the tournament. They did more than enough. And the committee found a way to keep them out. Whether that was a sudden, newfound emphasis with very peculiar timing on advanced metrics like Kenpom or a focus on conference RPI and keeping the number of Mountian West teams to a minimum, they simply found a way to keep them out. And they did it because they wanted bigger, better brand names in the tournament.
If you believe for one damn second that if the roles were reversed and UCLA or Texas was considered by all the bracketology experts and analysts to be comfortably in the field the way CSU was, and if CSU was considered a longshot bubble team like UCLA or Texas were… If you believe for one damn second that the committee would have balls to shock everyone and put CSU ahead of those brands, you are absolutely insane.
And it’s pretty depressing to think about those details. When you consider that CSU isn’t in a fair fight and there is nothing that they or their fans can do about it except start cussing in blogs, it makes you question the the whole operation.
What’s the point? Why should I invest so much into such a rigged system?
The NCAA Tournament, The Big Dance, and March Madness are my three favorite sporting events of the year, every year. The only thing that comes close, for me, is the MLB Postseason. But even the best Octobers can’t hold a candle to the ceaseless fun, intensity, and overall craziness the first four days of March Madness brings.
But on Sunday we learned, in no uncertain terms, that March Madness is more fun, intense, and crazy if you have a brand name attached to that resume. Then you might actually get to participate.
Off to the weekly departments (which are admittedly a little rushed this week)…
NBA Tank Watch 2015!
The Nuggets continue to absolutely screw everything up in the worst way by winning games. They’ve fallen to the 8th spot in the Tankandings.
- New York, .197
- Minnesota, .212
- Philadelphia, ..224
- L.A. Lakers, .262
- Orlando, ..309
- Sacramento, ..338
- Detroit, .348
- Denver, .382
Douche(s) of the week:
Umm… See above.
Studs of the week:
Nice moment at a Nuggets game here. These do not get old.
Vine(s) of the week:
My favorite of the year! Glorious.
The only thing better is the super slow motion version here.
This one is also pretty glorius. Just a bit short, my man.
Photo of the week:
This isn’t exactly an amazing piece of sports photography, but it’s still my favorite photo of the week. The perils of having a live mascot.
A couple other things worth sharing:
The best game of the weekend might have been Albany’s win over Stony Brook. Here’s the game-winner and ensuing court storm.
More conference tournament fun! Oregon’s game-winner over Utah.
And this play here took some ONIONS!
(Hey look! Texas lost to a good team!)
And here’s something to distract the CSU basketball fans. Another episode of “The Grind.” Still really well done.
And finally, Deadspin brought this video to my attention. After the way my week went, it’s very necessary viewing.
Happy Tuesday everybody. Thanks for reading. See ya next week.
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