I am throwing a little Saturday morning reading out there in response to the fine posts authored by Gasaway, Hanner, and Jen regarding whether the selection committee should include margin of victory in their deliberations. Let’s do this with bullet points. Consider it Pomeroy’s wish for a brighter bracketing future.
1) This should not be framed as an MOV vs. non-MOV argument. This is about considering how a team wins and loses as opposed to solely whether they win or lose. If this was the NBA and every team played a similar schedule, this would be unnecessary. But given the imbalances that exist in college hoops scheduling and the brevity of the season, this is a logical and necessary consideration if you want to invite the best teams to the tournament.
I absolutely want the committee to consider the difference between Cornell getting screwed on a last-second call at Kansas, or falling behind 25-2 and losing by 40 at Kansas. The results are the same, but there’s much more useful information to be gathered from each game than just a result. (For a real-life example see Davidson’s 2008 non-conference losses.)
2) I actually don’t particularly care whether considerations are made about how a team wins and loses. If you just want the committee to look at wins and losses and not select the best teams, I could live with that. But the thing is that right now the NCAA instructs its committee members to select the best teams. I am living within that reality. And you cannot evaluate which teams are best without considering how they won and lost.
3) The NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee currently looks at more than just wins and losses. Otherwise, there would be no need for committee members to watch teams play on TV or in person, as they tend to do. Furthermore, as I tweeted Thursday night, they have to look at MOV in the Purdue case. If the Boilermakers lost big against Michigan State, and needed late buckets to beat Indiana and Penn State, they are likely to have their seed affected. If they lost in the last seconds to Spartans and dominated the Hoosiers and Nittany Lions, that would be looked at differently, despite the fact that the outcomes in the two cases are the same.
Additionally, this year’s Butler and last season’s Memphis teams do not have appreciably different resumes in terms of quality wins/bad losses. Yet I’m guessing Butler is not being considered for a two-seed because of the difference in the way each team won its games. Memphis provided a completely different level of domination which the committee took into account during the seeding process.
4) The seeding process definitely needs to consider which teams are better. Referring to point (2), I am negotiable on whether to select teams solely on wins and losses. What really bothers me is that all of our nation’s finest bracketologists will do their best to guess what the committee is going to do, and by and large, they’ll do an accurate job. However, when the brackets are announced, the same people that correctly predicted that Team Awesome would get a six-seed and Team Crappy would get a three-seed will then pick Team Awesome to beat Team Crappy in their second-round “upset special”. Likewise, people with a financial stake in the game will also side with Team Awesome.
All of this because it’s understood that Team Awesome is better than Team Crappy, yet Team Crappy got the higher seed because of a flimsy RPI-style resume analysis. This part of the bracketing process creates unfair brackets, and in this case, it’s unfair that Team Awesome had to draw a tougher first-round opponent because of a process that is less robust than it could be.
5) Mainly, I’m opposed to using a single ranking (and bastardization of it) as the sole objective measure used in the committee’s deliberations. Regardless of how you wish to select the 34 at-large teams, it is foolish in 2010 to rely on one system to provide a foundation to do this. I realize the committee gets more information than just the RPI, but data on the “team sheets” are completely based on RPI and if you read any bracket projection, the sole focus is RPI. Hey, I wouldn’t even want the committee to use my ratings exclusively. I currently have BYU higher than anybody and Villanova about as low as anybody. They are outliers that are corrected by the other systems out there.
And if the NCAA insists on using RPI, then use the team’s ranking directly. If New Mexico is getting credit for beating the 23rd best team when they have a win over Cal, it doesn’t follow that you aren’t allowed to assume that Cal is the 23rd best team when you evaluate the Bears.