Unverified What Voracity Jay Bilas What

Submitted by Brian on March 10th, 2009 at 2:30 PM

Bubblin'. Both results last night went Michigan's way, with Gonzaga stomping St Mary's and Siena beating Niagara; St Mary's is now a bubble compatriot of Michigan's and the MAAC is a one-bid league. Diverse alarums. Lundardi, for one, has the Gaels as the second team out—Creighton is first. Did I dismiss their chances too quickly? Eh… even with an M loss to Iowa Creighton can make up no ground and you'd think would get slotted in after M. Probably. Who knows?

Back to St Mary's. Bracketology 101 on the Gaels:

We are sticking with the Gaels for at least one more day. We still like their OOC wins against fellow bubble teams Providence and San Diego State and their Bracketbuster win over Utah State. We also think there's a slight chance the committee takes a flier on them based on how they played early in the year before Mills got hurt and, potentially, based on how Mills looks against Eastern Washington on Friday. We bumped the Gaels down to a 13 seed in today's bracket, which means they are very, very thin ice. If there are any other mid-major bid stealers (Cleveland State tonight?) or if there are any other upsets in the big conference tournies, St. Mary's will be the first team to go.

Is Michigan ahead of St Mary's with an Iowa loss? Eh… probably, but the Mills thing makes them hugely variable.

As for today's viewing schedule, ESPN is so down on the Big East trio that it lists no relevant games even though Georgetown, ND and Cincinnati are in action. Aaaand Cinci just lost to Depaul, so maybe they're right to be skeptical.

There is one game with obviously huge implications: Butler and Cleveland State face off in the Horizon* League final at 9:00 PM. Butler is in either way and Cleveland State is looking to steal a second bid for the Horizon; you're very heavily in favor of the Bulldogs. Oakland also takes on North Dakota State with a Summit League bid on the line, if you want to get your granfalloon action on.

*Note! Not only does the "MidCon" conference not even exist anymore, Butler was never in it and is currently in the Horizon League. Mea culpa to the two annoyed emailers.

In the long annals of sports opinion, this might be the worst idea ever recorded:

If the goal is to have the very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament, and to have an eye on providing a chance to the very best mid-major teams, expanding the field is not the answer. The answer lies in shifting the automatic bids to the best teams in the country.

That's Jay Bilas, and let's just leave aside all the Manny Harris elbow stuff and Tommy Amaker stuff as we attempt to wrap our heads around this fantastic idea: get rid of automatic bids. Bilas spends 1151 words on this idea, beginning with the premise that "more good teams play in Division I than ever before"—what does that even mean?—and arriving at the conclusion that the problem with Creighton or Penn State is the SWAC.

No, a thousand times no. One: the goal is not to have the "very best teams playing for the national championship in a balanced national tournament." If that was really the goal the tournament would be about eight teams and would have a round-robin format, or something. The NCAA tournament is a chaotic single-elimination mess and an obviously unfair system for determining a champion. But it is so damn fun that people reasonably overlook its flaws.

More than that, the autobids help lessen the flaws. A national championship tournament that includes this many teams is kind of a dumb idea. It will be apparent from the moment that the bracket is selected that 40 or 50 teams in it are obviously not the best teams in the country. A number of no- or little- hope bids actually makes it less of a dumb idea. One way to make a singe elimination tournament less unfair and stupid is to bias it in favor of the teams who did very well during the regular season. Including a bunch of conference champions who would otherwise not be in the field otherwise provides greater motivation to get a protected seed.

I mean, never ever has a 1 gone down to a 16, and a 15 over a 2 is really rare. But once you get into the 3, 4, 5 range you know some of those teams are getting lead pipes to the head. In the Bilas system you'd be replacing those no-hopers at the end of the field with, like, Penn State, and significantly reducing the reward for having a kickin' regular season.

So even if you are a heartless lawyer robot like Bilas—who says the argument against his position is a "sentimental one," which is another way of saying "I hate puppies and fun and sunshine"—the straggling autobids at the end of the field help make the bracket less of a mockery of the regular season and should be kept even if, you know…

…you'd watch Bucknell versus Kansas and think to yourself "goddammit why isn't a below .500 major conference team in this game?"

Bilas does frame his post by arguing that dumping autobids would get the best mid-majors in more—St Mary's and Creighton wouldn't be biting their fingernails to the nub if there were no autobids—but really, that's not the point. Really, really not the point.

Everything you ever didn't want to know about the pairwise. Western College Hockey has an overview of college hockey's rigid and kind of crappy selection system, and I winced when I read this sentence:

Proponents of this system argue there is no cliff because the system is designed to only be looked at once, at the end of the season, and thus, there are no fluctuations, but regardless, teams still gain a disproportionate benefit if a team they beat ends up 25th rather than 26th.

Only one person argues something that stupid: a poster on USCHO named "ScoobyDoo" who has some five-digit-and-rising post count and who descends on any thread about how the pairwise is deeply flawed—which it is—and expounds dumbly like that.

By the way: Michigan returns to action this weekend against Western Michigan. Outside of that series you are rooting against Notre Dame and Alaska. Here's the TUC cliff in action: Alaska is currently the 25th and last team to be counted as a TUC. If Alaska loses its series against Ohio State, they're extremely likely to drop out of consideration; with them will go ND's 2-0 and M's 1-1 record against the Nanooks. Both of those are very good for Michigan, as if that happens ND will be vulnerable at the Joe.



March 10th, 2009 at 2:45 PM ^

I'm sympathetic with a Bilas argument, but in the end I disagree. Being a sports elitist who loves the traditional powers and could not care less (especially in football) if Utah, Boise or that sort are ever seen in the BCS, I think its a shame that 30-40 or so teams go in the tournament every year with no chance, and many of them with no chance at even winning a game. But in the end, I don't think it can be denied that his plan would make for a poorer regular season, with even less incentive to not lose than currently.


March 10th, 2009 at 4:27 PM ^

I don't know why you are offended. Brian was kind enough to use "heartless" and "robot" as modifiers to indicate that not all of us lawyers are either heartless or robots. Had he only called that jerk a "lawyer," we would all be justifiedly PO'd.


March 10th, 2009 at 3:00 PM ^

This would need some figurin' but to make it fair they would need to award byes for the top 4 or 8 seeds and then make the tourney a double elimination. It would make for great intrigue and we would have games being played at all times everyday, but it would make it harder to fill out the bracket and Alice in HR couldn't win the pool so it has no chance of being implemented. In a word this sytem generates a lot of money but just isn't fair.

The Money Grubbing Douche Bags from the NCAA and BCS


March 10th, 2009 at 5:26 PM ^

That Kansas-Bucknell was only an example of a lower seed beating a top team. Duke was almost upset last year in the first round by Belmont (2 seed). A good mid-major team with senior leadership can expose overrated teams really fast, even if they do not (or can not) win.

R Kelly

March 10th, 2009 at 7:29 PM ^

What if Michigan had lost to Minnesota and looked to be out of contention for an automatic bid under the current format, would you all hate Jay's plan so much then?


March 10th, 2009 at 7:36 PM ^

I believe that Jay Bilas would like to see a system where 14 bids go to ACC teams. Or perhaps 16.

Also, Duke can't be eliminated unless they lose to every other team in the tournament.

Mediocre-to-bad major-conference teams in the tournament? Yawn. Even if it's one of my teams. I'd like to see Michigan make the tournament, but it's not like they seized the opportunity with both hands. (Of course if they drew and beat West Virginia ...)

We do a pool where eight people buy eight teams each (think auction league), and then there are all kinds of crazy penalties to pump up the pot. It's hard enough to get people to pick up the 13-16 seeds as it is. If they were teams like Seton Hall and Baylor ...


March 10th, 2009 at 8:31 PM ^

In this time of parity, caused by the best playing 1 and done,any team in the true top 50 can either get hot shooting the 3, take advantage of matchups, or find a referee crew that loves their style of play.

All of these factors have lent themselves to determining who cuts down the nets more so than just pure talent.


March 10th, 2009 at 8:18 PM ^

Jay clearly is so in love with himself that he doesn't waste any time researching or writing an interesting article. He just writes stupid articles while looking down his pointy nose.

Side Note, Forde, in his article today notes that MSU swept Michigan this year. So:

-Clearly he hates Michigan
-Clearly he hates the Big Ten and doesnt watch BT games or look at the results...


March 10th, 2009 at 10:48 PM ^

Question: If both the March Madness tournament and the BCS are unfair, but nobody is clamoring to replace the tournament with a fairer system, does that mean the BCS' only real crime is not being fun?


March 11th, 2009 at 2:33 AM ^

The BCS is unfair in that certain teams are, by the nature of the system, excluded from competing for the title even if they have a perfect season. March Madness is "unfair" in that teams that are clearly nowhere near the best are let in.

I'll take the second kind over the first any day. I can live with teams getting in that probably don't belong, even with occasional things like the 2007 St. Louis Cardinals. Eliminating teams before the season starts (and it's hard to make the argument that this doesn't happen when Utah finishes as the only unbeaten and isn't the champion) is something that should not happen.


March 11th, 2009 at 7:19 AM ^

Good point on the difference, but to my mind, unfair is unfair. And I'm not sold on the principle of the unbeatens. If Florida Atlantic goes unbeaten by winning two games against I-AA teams and another one against a MAC team, and finishes it off going unbeaten in their Sun Belt schedule, nobody in their right mind is gonna call them deserving of playing for a national championship. That's why I don't buy the "BCS is unfair because unbeaten teams should never be left out" argument.

Honestly, my beef is this: So many playoff proponents say much the same thing about how the BCS is unfair. Really, many of them just think brackets are cool. I've long thought that if people were honest with themselves and each other about why they want a playoff and what kind of playoff is realistic, we'd A) find much less playoff-wishing and B) actually be closer to getting one than we are now.


March 11th, 2009 at 11:12 AM ^

Of COURSE the NCAA tourney does not feature the BEST teams. The entire sports world's various tournaments always contain teams that are not "the best" but that deserve to be in there anyway because they caught one or two of those "best" teams on a bad day and beat them at a critical time.

Cleveland State won their conference tournament last night. Are they among the best teams in the country? Of course not. Do they deserve to be in the tournament? Damn right they do.

I think the NCAA tourney is about as fair as it can be. Unlike the BCS, EVERY TEAM IN THE COUNTRY has the OPPORTUNITY. The only thing I see as potentially unfair, is when it comes down to those last few teams that a committee decides upon. I believe they make every attempt to be fair about it, but each year there is usually some smattering of controversy.

Interestingly enough, I've always thought that whatever happens in the first few rounds, the NCAA tourney ultimately gets the results right: The Final Four is comprised of the four most deserving teams in the country. The National Champion is the best team in the country.

You can agree with those last couple sentences or not. But NEVER have I come away from the NCAA tourney thinking "that team doesn't deserve to be the national champion."

Sure can't say the same for the BCS.


March 11th, 2009 at 7:46 PM ^

i admit that the pairwise has many flaws---BUT---i still prefer an objective, everyone-knows-who-gets-in-based-on-which-team-won-and-which-team-lost set-up over a subjective system like the ncaa men's b-ball system

i think michgan hockey got a bad deal more than once based on the pre-pairwise regime [for example, michgan beats bowling green in the "third-place" ccha tournament game, as the players shake hands the bg players say things like "good luck in the ncaas" to the michigan players. later the ncaa announces "bg is in, michigan is out".]