A saucy female perspective on sports pop-culture

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


Just…breathe…inhale…exhale…After spending hours yesterday reading “bracketology 101,” columns, message boards, and team breakdowns, I have made my picks. Depending on which bracket you look at, I have Uconn, Memphis, or Boston College winning the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. My 3 winners are the result of three different brackets I have entered in various pools. To put it mildly, I was soaked by the time I made my final decision. I tried to absorb as much of the advice as I could handle. I did not use my mother’s technique and pick teams based off of their school colors, the likeability of the mascot, or the “cuteness” of the players. (To her credit, she did really well in last year’s pool playing that way!) Many people have broken down the brackets in to a science. Some of my favorite statistics were as follows:
-Of the 32 first round games, roughly one-fourth will be upsets
-In the last five years, one No. 12 has defeated one No. 5
-At least one No. 1 has made it to the Final Four in the last 25 years
-All four No. 1’s have never made it to the Final Four
-For the most part, the Final Four have average between 1.8-3.8 per team
-If your Final Four team seeds add up to less than 7 or more than 15, re-pick

So far, I have followed that advice but the beauty of the bracket is that nothing is certain. What makes this competition so exciting is the unexpected nature of the tournament. Even from the initial announcement of who made the final 65, upsets had already claimed their at-large birth in the tournament and will continue to play a role until the final game.

By last Sunday evening, sports analysts, broadcasters, and fans were already crying “foul” over the selection committee’s choices. Many people were stunned that teams like Cincinnati, Michigan, and Missouri State were left out of the tournament. To Cincinnati’s credit they did compete in the hardest conference this year, The Big East, went 19-12 and had a somewhat high RPI (Ratings Percentage Index). Similar situations existed for Michigan (18-10/Big Ten), and Missouri State (20-8/Missouri Valley). On the flip side, the committee granted tournament play to teams like Iona(23-7), Hampton(16-15), and Winthrop (23-7). Who? Well Iona won the MACC tournament and calls “American Pie” singer, Don McLean, alumni. Hampton won the MEAC conference tournament and made a stunning NCAA appearance in 2001 by becoming the fourth No. 15th seeded team to upset a higher ranked school in the first round. Finally, Winthrop won the Big South conference tournament and can credit Judy Wilkins Rose to their alumni roster. (Ms. Rose is the only female to have served on the men’s basketball selection committee….coincidence? I think not!) It’s not that I think smaller schools should not be allowed to compete against larger ones, but does it seem fair to shut out a school like Michigan, who previously defeated three other AP ranked teams currently in the NCAA tournament, versus giving the slot to a school who may have won their conference tournament but played underwhelming opponents? (For the record, this will be one of the few times I actually defend the School Up North.) So how did these small schools get picked to join the big dance?

Several factors go in to tournament bids. First off there are tournament tie-ins. Most small schools get their bids this way. It is the “fair” way for the NCAA to act, giving all conferences a somewhat equal bidding to the tournament. Secondly come the 34 “at-large” births. This gets a little more complicated. The NCAA selection committee looks at several factors when handing out bids, first by secret ballots. One week before selection Sunday, the committee gets secret ballots where all eligible D-I schools are listed. On the first ballot, the member chooses 34 teams who should be invited based on their season success, even if they could win their conference tournament. The second ballot represents all the other programs the member feels also deserves the recognition to play in the tournament. If a team receives all but two votes on Ballot 1, they get an at-large birth. The remaining teams who were nominated, but did not receive an at-large birth, go in to the “at large nomination” pool. Once in the nebulous “at large nomination” group, the committee selection process is then closed and another series of balloting begins. They use a system of checks and balances, as well as the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) to examine the at-large teams. RPI measures the strength of schedule and how well a team does against its schedule. It actually does not take in to account margin of victory, but whether or not the team won and where the game was played is considered. RPI was first developed in 1981 and is maintained by the NCAA men’s basketball committee. The formula for the RPI breaks down like this:
25% - team winning percentage
50% - opponents’ average winning percentage
25% - opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage
Can you imagine if the BCS took this in to account for NCAA football?!

After all of this is weighed, the committee ballots again, submitting eight teams to be given at-large births. If a team gets all but 2 votes here, then they get an at-large birth. If the team fails again to get enough votes, they are thrown back in to the pool and wait for the next round until all the at-large births are given away.

With all this voting, I still have a hard time trying to figure out how schools like Cincinnati and Michigan didn’t win enough votes or have a high enough RPI to make an impact on the committee’s mind. I mean, I always knew that Michigan would never win a popularity contest, but who would have thought that a small fry would give the Wolverines such a stomach ache?! Although, what is sports without a little drama?

I don’t know about you, but my money is on Monmouth to defeat Hampton tonight. Honestly, I’m not sure either team would really want to win, seeing how the victor will be fed to the wildcats of Villanova, a beastly No. 1 team. Best of luck in your own brackets and enjoy the Madness of March!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure bracketology isn't mom looking at her standings in the the office pool. She is 16th and doing what-if's aginst the 2nd place guy!

1:39 PM  

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