Strength of schedule hurt Missouri in tournament rankings
By The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA’s attempt to be more transparent about its tournament selection process proved one thing Sunday: It’s still subjective.
Some schools, such as Iona, apparently met the eye test this season. Others, such as Washington and Seton Hall, did not.
“In general they were a very, very good team during the course of the year,” committee vice chairman Mike Bobinski said of Iona during an hour-long show on TruTV. “I saw them play a number of times myself, and I think they’re going to hold up very well in the tourney.”
The truth is Iona’s RPI ranking (47) was better than Washington (70), Drexel (66) or the other five teams on the committee’s list of those left out.
Sunday’s show “Hardcore Brackets” was intended to give fans a more in-depth look into how the 10 committee members determine the 68-team bracket that will be filled out by millions of people over the next several days.
For the first time, the committee released the seeding, from 1 to 68. It also listed the first six teams left out: Drexel, Miami, Mississippi State, Nevada, Oral Roberts and Seton Hall.
All it really did, though, was raise more questions and create a larger debate as it always does.
Committee chairman Jeff Hathaway acknowledged yet again during the show that one key factor the committee uses is how teams schedule. Critics could look at Iona’s schedule ranking of 161 and Washington’s rank of 97 and wonder how the committee could make such an argument.
But the rankings aren’t the sole arbiter in this process.
“You have to be aggressive in the (non conference) scheduling. People are doing that,” Hathaway said. “You look at Michigan State and they are No. 1 in strength of schedule. A lot of people are reaching out and doing that. Keep in mind, coaches have to do what’s best for their program given the talent they have.”
It can hurt anyone. Hathaway noted that Missouri, the Big 12 tourney champ, was not in serious contention for a No. 1 seed because of a weaker non-conference schedule. Kansas, the regular-season league champ, was because it played teams like Duke, Kentucky and Ohio State before starting league play.
The committee also debated injuries but determined North Carolina, which played its final two games without John Henson (left wrist), and Michigan State, which lost starting guard Branden Dawson for the season with an ACL injury last week, still deserved top seeds.
“With the ACC there were releases going out,” committee spokesman David Worlock said later on a conference call. “The information the committee has indicates Henson will be able to play this week.”
Worlock and Greg Shaheen, the NCAA’s interim executive vice president for championships and alliances, said the committee was prepared to do a ranked list of those six teams pending the outcome of the Atlantic 10 tournament. In a rare move, they noted that had Xavier beaten St. Bonaventure, one of the six would have made it into the field though they did not say which one.
“They were discussed, but a vote was not taken because of the Atlantic 10 game,” Shaheen said.
The easiest way to simplify the process might be establishing a standard protocol of what it takes to get in.
But even Hathaway noted it wouldn’t eliminate the subjectivity of the evaluations.
“I wish it was that easy. As you know there’s only 37 at-large slots and if we set that kind of criteria, a lot of people could do that and then we’d have to look at who did it the best,” Hathaway said. “So I don’t think it’s quite that easy. It’s not as cut-and-dry as that, and again, 10 people look at the data in 10 different ways and they’re also watching all those games on TV and in person.”