Saturday, March 10, 2007

Championship Week Overreactions

What a difference a day makes. On Thursday it seemed like bubble teams everywhere were going down early in their Conference Tournaments. Favorites were winning mid-major Tournaments. At the end of the day I found myself scrambling to fill out my bracket. I couldn't find enough deserving teams. On Friday, everything flipped over. There were good wins for bubble teams everywhere. Off the top of my head: Purdue, Illinois, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all had good wins, and all but one (Illinois) started the day outside the BP65. On top of that, two bids disappeared as Xavier and Nevada fell in their own Conference Tournaments. Both should still draw at-large bids, meaning two less spots for all of the aforementioned teams.

And on top of all of that, fans get distorted ideas of their team's chances because the tv announcers during the games overhype each team's chances. I think part of it is just that most of these television analysts aren't filling out their own brackets, and don't realize how few bids are available. They put teams "in the Tournament" that "feel" like they should be in based on their resume. But it's impossible to judge a team's resume without comparing it against the 20 other teams competing for the final few spots. And since you can generally make good arguments for a lot more than 65 teams (because of days like Friday), television analysts tend to put way too many teams into the Tournament. Watching College Gameday this morning was interesting because I was adding the numbers up in my head as Jay Bilas and the others were saying who was in and out. They're going to need a bracket of about 72 teams to put in all of the teams they want to put in. The most egregious was Digger's pick of Stanford getting in, but that's just me. The correct conversation that you need to have, that they didn't have, was "Now that Nevada and Xavier went down, which two teams 'deserve' to get in but are now going to get booted?"

So, we start off with the fact that people who aren't filling out their own brackets think too many teams are getting in, and you have to add in the fact that tv announcers are trying to keep viewers. If an announcer honestly says something like "It doesn't matter if ____ wins this game, they're still not making the Tournament" it's going to turn people off. So announcers are constantly making outrageous proclamations of what teams should be in with a win, or even with a loss, in the games they're doing. I don't remember which announcing teams did which games, but one example was during the West Virginia/Louisville game that West Virginia had a decent shot of getting in even with a loss. And that a win would surely put them in. Nope on both counts.

The worst offenders, in my view, were the Pac-10 announcers on Fox Sports. Because Fox Sports has become the de facto Pac-10 Network, they have made it their business to overhype the conference. So during the Stanford/USC game we heard that Stanford is probably getting in the Tournament even with a loss, when in reality even a win would very likely not be enough. Then we heard during the Cal/UCLA game that a win for Cal would put them right back on the bubble. In fact, Cal needed to win that game and another to even have a real shot at the NIT. They had zero chance at the Tournament unless they won the Pac-10 Tourney. I didn't watch much of Wazzu/Washington, just because I didn't need to hear how Washington was just one way from locking up their own ticket.

So when you're watching the final games today and tomorrow, keep this all in mind. Take anything that an announcer says about a team in the game with a big grain of salt. Before you think that a win over Texas Tech or Iowa is suddenly going to be the win that is going to blow away the Selection Committee, check out what other teams are doing in other conferences. Make your own brackets. You're going to realize that a lot of teams that feel like they should be in are going to get left out. There just aren't enough spots.


Bryan said...

Jeff, I hope you're right about FSU getting in the bracket, but I just don't know if there's enough room for them after Nevada/Xavier, etc. losing their conference tourneys. I also see you have them as a 13 seed.. I've never seen a major conference bid get lower than a 12.. has that ever happened to your knowledge?

Jeff said...

I can't come up with any specific examples off the top of my head of a team from a BCS conference getting a 13-seed, but at-large bids getting a 13 is pretty normal. Last year, two of the four #13 seeds were at-larges. It just so happened that the last two at-large teams to get in were from slightly smaller conferences (Bradley and Air Force), but it could easily have been a major conference team.

However, I'm definitely not sure on FSU. Every day things get worse for them, with Purdue, K-State and Oklahoma State all having "quality losses" that could cause them to jump into the Tournament. A good win for Arkansas. A possible auto bid for NC State. I'll make a final guess tomorrow afternoon after we've seen more.