Sunday, March 15, 2009

Some More Bracket Notes

I just wanted to talk about two more issues before actually analyzing the specific regions and games:

The Selection Committee should ease the rules on conferences playing each other in the Tournament: I understand the rationale here, with you not wanting to have two teams from the same conference ending up playing each other in the first round. You want to have different match-ups in the NCAA Tournament. I'm totally on board there. But I have a problem with them not allowing two teams to play before the Elite Eight. They should move it up to the Sweet Sixteen. When you have these massive super-conferences (like the Big East, with 16 teams), you are going to have conferences getting seven or eight teams in every year. When you have a conference getting seven or eight teams in, it really pigeonholes the Selection Committee. They already have an official rule that they can break this procedure when a conference gets nine teams (which you have to figure the Big East will do over the next few years), and I think that once that happens there will be a movement to push things back. Keep conference teams apart for the first weekend, but let them play in the Sweet Sixteen. I saw too many cases this year of an ACC, Big East or Big Ten team clearly one line away from where they should have been, and it was most likely because of this rule.

The Selection Committee gets injuries backwards: Just look at how they judged injuries this season. You had several teams that had injuries to key players, and those players will not be back for the NCAA Tournament. Some that come to mind are UConn, Marquette and Illinois (Chester Frazier might come back, but he likely will not). The Selection Committee chose to completely ignore these injuries, and ranked all of these teams as if the injuries weren't there. Then look at the other side, which is teams that had key players missing for part of the season but now have them back and (relatively) healthy. Two teams that come to mind are Purdue and Saint Mary's. The Selection Committee completely ignored those injuries, and treated their resumes as if the injuries had not happened.

Now to be fair, at least the Committee was consistent. They did not judge the injuries at all, and just judged the teams as if they had no idea who was on each roster. And there's something to be said for that. But I think you've got to go the other way: you want the 65 best teams now, and not the 65 best teams from November. You can't tell me that Arizona has a better chance of making a Tournament run than Saint Mary's. You can't tell me that Marquette has an equivalent chance of making a run as Purdue. You've got to take into account how good teams are now, based on who is injured and healthy now.

What's interesting is that the Committee already finds a balance here when it comes to teams that finish well versus teams that stink it up over the final few weeks. They don't completely ignore games from November or December (or else Michigan wouldn't have been in the bracket), but they weight the games from the last few weeks much more than the games from a few months ago (or else USC would never have gotten a ten seed). Similarly, you've got to weight teams by their injuries, by weighting how they've played with the current lineup more than the lineup before their health situation changed. Take Marquette: they haven't even played like a Tournament team at all since Dominic James got hurt (they're 1-5, with that one win coming over St. John's), but you're not going to completely throw out what they did achieve with James either. That's why you should drop them to a 7-9 seed, from the 6 where they were instead seeded. The Committee needs to find the same balance with injuries that they have with comparing teams that finished well versus teams that played better back in the out of conference slate.

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