Tag:NCAA
Posted on: March 8, 2012 3:07 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2012 3:16 pm
 

Report: Auburn G investigated for point-shaving

By Jeff Borzello

Auburn guard Varez Ward is being investigated by federal authorities for alleged point-shaving incidents, according to a report by Yahoo! Sports.

Charles Robinson reported on Thursday afternoon that Ward and teammate Chris Denson were suspended in late February and questioned as part of the investigation. Denson was cleared and returned to the team after sitting out one game. Ward has not returned since being suspended on February 25.

The two games in question were Feb. 7 against Alabama and Jan. 25 against Arkansas. Some of the questionable moments during the games:

  • Feb. 7 vs. Alabama: Ward had six turnovers, two assists and shot 1-of-5 from the field. Two of his shots were blocked, one was an air ball and he also missed a free throw. Alabama was favored by five and won by 18.
  • Jan. 25 vs. Arkansas: Ward turned the ball over 19 seconds into his first possession and left the game with an apparent quadriceps injury. He didn’t return to the game. Arkansas was favored by 9.5, but won by only three.

Ward is a former Texas transfer who left the Longhorns in the summer of 2010. He started 17 games this season for Auburn, averaging 8.9 points, 3.8 assists and 2.7 turnovers.

Posted on: February 24, 2012 4:01 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2012 4:07 pm
 

NCAA hands harsh punishment out to Radford

Greenberg is un-hirable for the next five years. (AP)
By Matt Norlander

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions formally handed out some heavy punishments on Radford and its former head coach, Brad Greenberg, Friday. In addition to a token "public reprimand," Radford was put on two years' probation and tacked with a reduction of two scholarship and official paid visits.

The school's probation started Feb. 24 and will go through Feb. 23, 2014. It was also vacated wins -- all four of them from the 2010-11 season.

Greenberg was given a five-year show-cause, one of the heaviest penalties in terms of length a coach can receive, while some of his former assistants were docked with two-year show-causes for any off-campus recruiting. Greenberg and Masse Doumbe's (the player in relation to this case) names are intentionally and specifically omitted in the public report.

[READ THE REPORT]

Greenberg, the brother of Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg, was fired last May in the wake of a 5-24 season. He served a four-game suspension from the school at end of last year, when it was discovered he and his assistant coaches helped with travel for Doumbe, who was ineligible at the time. The reason he's being punished so harshly is because the NCAA discovered he was lying during its investigation, not because Doumbe found his way onto an airplane with the team.

Greenberg's essentially blacklisted from coaching in college for the next five years because he tried to help an ineligible player — then tried to get that player, Doumbe, to cover it up with him when the NCAA asked about it. For some perspective, the most recent show-cause penalty handed out by the NCAA was a three-year one to Bruce Pearl after he, like Greenberg, was caught lying during an investigation.

The cover-up is worse than the crime, primarily because the NCAA can now catch lying coaches more frequently than blatantly cheating ones.

“These reports speak for themselves,” Greg Sankey, associate commissioner of Southeastern Conference and Committee on Infractions member said in reference to the collusion.

The NCAA’s case initially centered on recruiting and the inducement and benefits, from four former coaches and the school, as well as Greenberg. Sankey said the case became more serious once Radford was found to be concealing information, as well as providing false/misleading information, from the NCAA during its investigation — and that he was imploring Doumbe to do the same.

Those violations became “the essence of this case,” according to Sankey, as they are directly in conflict with what the NCAA considers to be a coach’s responsibility from a moral and ethical standpoint. Radford University stood side by side with the NCAA on this stance and is not fighting the charges.

“Unlike the coaches, the institution and its administrators were commended that they cooperated fully,” Sankey said. “The NCAA and Radford were in agreement in most penalties.”

Posted on: February 23, 2012 12:29 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2012 7:37 pm
 

This is how the NCAA should rank its teams

A snapshot of the mock meetings last week in Indianapolis. (NCAA)

By Matt Norlander


Let's see possibility. Let's see what the NCAA could ultimately be using, should it choose to cast a wider net in its database. Let's see fairness and true objectivity and less room for error in picking and seeding 68 teams into this behemoth of a bracket that takes over millions of American' lives in March.

I wrote last week how every metric officially referenced on the NCAA's Nitty Gritty sheets, in team sheets and on reports only relates to the RPI. It's a problem. The Selection Committee does a lot of things right. The few things it does wrong, it stands to reason, alter the master seed list or create inconsistencies in final selection.

The NCAA and its Selection Committee don't shun the use of other metrics. They just don't endorse them, either. On the Nitty Gritty master sheet, teams are arranged 1 to 344 in accordance to the RPI. Nine of the 16 columns on the Nitty Gritty are RPI-based or influenced. Why not organize the Nitty Gritty based on a collection of metric systems?

The NCAA has its reasons for this, and ultimately, one day, those reasons will give way to logic and a better collective understanding of how -- although we'll never perfect a rankings system -- we can use microscopes instead of magnifying glasses to examine teams' tendencies, weaknesses, strengths and true scope of accomplishment.

Below, I've got a chart of what such a Nitty Gritty could look like, what the NCAA could use as a base to sort its squads and begin the debate. This is something I'd love to take credit for, but the fact is I didn't have the time to get it done, and so you should be as grateful as I am for emailer Dr. Frederick Russ, who did the long division on this. Russ is an NCAA faculty athletics representative, a professor of marketing and former dean at the University of Cincinnati's Carl H. Lindner College of Business. He compiled what's quickly being acknowledged as the five most mainstream/reliable/respectable college basketball metrics and went with the median of the ratings (the chart says average, but it is the median; there is a difference). The chart below shows the positive or negative difference with the myopic RPI.

Plenty of teams don't vary in median rank of the five and the RPI. With others, it's chasm-like. And that means something significant when you get into the tedious but tremendous differentials in seeding, which can alter where teams go and of course who they play.

All teams listed were ranked 80th or better by KenPom.com, LRMC, BPI, RPI, Massey or Sagarin. These numbers, of course, are due to change in the coming weeks. All results are as of Wednesday, so even today there'd be minor shifts in the master list if you compiled one for yourself by dinnertime.

Russ also mentioned the obvious: the downside to every rankings system, with exception to the BPI, currently in somewhat of a test-drive phase, is you can't implement the impact of regular players missing games. Take Cincinnati’s first two losses (to Presbyterian and Marshall), which came when Jaquon Parker was still nursing a preseason injury.

But at least we can claim this is closer and more objective than the RPI's manipulable formula. Here is the master list, 1 through 90, of how the NCAA should be sorting teams. (Russ actually had 98 teams organized, but Google Docs was being less than agreeable in converting the chart beyond 90 teams. Apologies on that, but you get the point all the same.)

The biggest difference near the top is Wisconsin, perhaps overrated by all the other metrics, but not RPI? Let's debate! The distance on Missouri is disconcerting, though, too. Texas, Belmont, Arizona and Southern Miss all have big disparity as well. The largest gaps are UCLA (62 points lower in the RPI) and Colorado State (65 points higher in the RPI).

If anything else, this chart proves there are far too frequent communication breakdowns with teams across the board, enough so that the RPI goes beyond outlier status and continues to prove what many have known for years: If the RPI was introduced in 2012, it's hard to reason that it would be adopted as conventional by the NCAA or in mainstream discussion.


Posted on: February 21, 2012 2:10 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2012 12:45 pm
 

Our ballots for the top 16 teams of all time

John Wooden's 1973 UCLA team, above, and his '68 squad were in the top three of every ballot. (AP)

By Gary Parrish


In March, the CBS Sports Network will air one big show in four parts, on two nights, on the best 16 college basketball teams in history.

They asked me to submit a ballot.

They asked Jeff Borzello, Jeff Goodman and Matt Norlander to do the same.

After a whole lot research and subsequent debate on Twitter, we finally filed our lists. Lots of you asked to see them. We decided to let you. So take a look and tell us what you think. And don't forget the the best team in this sport doesn't always win the national championship because that fact of life is reflected in our ballots. Teams in italics did not win national titles.

Kentucky in 1995-96 was absolutely ridiculous. (AP)
----- Gary Parrish's Ballot -----
  1. 1968 UCLA
  2. 1996 Kentucky
  3. 1973 UCLA
  4. 1982 North Carolina
  5. 1976 Indiana
  6. 2008 Kansas
  7. 2009 North Carolina
  8. 1991 UNLV
  9. 1999 Duke
  10. 1992 Duke
  11. 2005 North Carolina
  12. 2007 Florida
  13. 1956 San Francisco
  14. 1957 North Carolina
  15. 1974 North Carolina State
  16. 2000 Cincinnati

----- Jeff Goodman's Ballot -----

  1. 1968 UCLA
  2. 1973 UCLA
  3. 1976 Indiana
  4. 1956 San Francisco
  5. 1982 North Carolina
  6. 1996 Kentucky
  7. 1992 Duke
  8. 1990 UNLV
  9. 1974 North Carolina State
  10. 1984 Georgetown
  11. 1979 Michigan State
  12. 1960 Ohio State
  13. 1967 UCLA
  14. 2007 Florida
  15. 2005 North Carolina
  16. 2009 North Carolina
The longer we go without a team going buzzer to buzzer without a loss, the better 1975-76 Indiana looks for being the last team to accomplish the feat. (AP)
----- Jeff Borzello's Ballot -----
  1. 1968 UCLA
  2. 1973 UCLA
  3. 1976 Indiana
  4. 1956 San Francisco
  5. 1996 Kentucky
  6. 1972 UCLA
  7. 1991 UNLV
  8. 1982 North Carolina
  9. 1992 Duke
  10. 1974 North Carolina State
  11. 1990 UNLV
  12. 1967 UCLA
  13. 1954 Kentucky
  14. 1957 North Carolina
  15. 1984 Georgetown
  16. 1960 Ohio State

----- Matt Norlander's Ballot -----

  1. 1973 UCLA
  2. 1996 Kentucky
  3. 1968 UCLA
  4. 1976 Indiana
  5. 1982 North Carolina
  6. 1956 San Francisco
  7. 1992 Duke
  8. 2005 North Carolina
  9. 1974 N.C. State
  10. 1957 North Carolina
  11. 1991 UNLV
  12. 2001 Duke
  13. 2007 Florida
  14. 1984 Georgetown
  15. 1999 Duke
  16. 2008 Kansas

CBS Sports Network will be celebrating the 16 greatest college basketball teams of all time in the upcoming, four-part series, "16." Our CBS Sports panel of experts has voted, and on March 19 and 20, you'll be able to see which teams make up our list. You can help us celebrate your favorite team by sending us your tweets -- use the hashtag #CBS16 -- or leave your comments below. Then, look for your content as we'll work to incorporate the best submissions into the series.

You can also chime in on Facebook: Eye on College Basketball or CBSSports.com


Posted on: February 20, 2012 5:45 pm
Edited on: February 20, 2012 5:50 pm
 

UCF announces self-imposed sanctions

Donnie Jones and UCF will appear before the NCAA in April. The school self-imposed sanctions today. (US Presswire)

By Jeff Borzello

UCF will appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions in April, but the school announced Monday several self-imposed sanctions in both football and basketball.

On the basketball side, there were no self-imposed postseason bans, but scholarships, recruiting hours and wins were taken away. From the Orlando Sentinel:

  • Vacate all wins for the three seasons from 2008-2011.
  • Remove one scholarship for the next two seasons, from 13 to 12.
  • Reduce the number of coaches allowed to simultaneously recruit off-campus from three to two, while also prohibiting all basketball coaches from engaging in off-campus during two of the three July evaluation periods for the next two years.
  • Reduce the number of recruiting days to 25.
  • Issue letters of reprimand to head coach Donnie Jones and assistant coach Darren Tillis. Jones was suspended for the first three Conference USA games, while Tillis was suspended for two.
  • Jones and Tillis cannot receive bonuses or salary increases for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years.

The issue with the NCAA stems from reports in April that said Ken Caldwell was acting as a runner between agents and potential UCF recruits. Caldwell also allegedly acted as a representative of the university, according to reports in the New York Times and ESPN.com.

Senior guard A.J. Rompza was ineligible for the first 12 games of this season after it was found out he received $900 in payments from Caldwell. Overall, there were 11 potential UCF recruits tied to Caldwell, although only Rompza was the only one who ended up with the Knights. 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 20, 2012 10:30 am
 

Podcast: Nate Silver, John Gasaway talk mock

This is the room where the magic, and brain cramps, got made. (NCAA)

By Matt Norlander


The podcast reaches its wonky zenith today. John Gasaway, the driving force behind Basketball Prospectus, and Nate Silver, renowned New York Times political blogger and NCAA tournament projector, join me. Both were at the mock selection meetings last week in Indianapolis.

The process was a lot of fun, a lot of work and a bit flawed. All aspects are covered in the podcast. If you're interested in learning how the bracket is built, there is no better source of knowledge for enlightenment than today's 40-minute conversation. It easily could have been two hours. If you like getting smart, follow John and Nate on Twitter, if you aren't already.

Enjoy -- the tournament starts in 22 days. 

Rundown:
  • From the beginning: Nate tells us why he was intrigued by the mock selection and what good he thinks it does do for his research. John shares his overview of the process as well.
  • 6:06: Why some of the process was unnecessarily tedious.
  • 8:16: Taking you into the room and sharing the details of who was in there, what we did when, etc.
  • 10:15: Expounding on my column, Nate and John explain why the RPI is still an undeniably big part of committee evaluation.
  • 19:25: Going over the bracketing and seeding. What fun! If only we had more time to do it.
  • 24:46: Regions and lack of balance all over the bracket. We get into why that's inevitable. This is a lot of Nate discussing his work related to travel and why the West Coast's lack of good teams also plays into this. Additionally, John makes the case for more rematches in the tournament.
  • 31:55: The teams or scenarios that surprised us the most after hours of evaluations.
  • 37:00: Pod wrap-up with good reviews of the NCAA and perspective on how tough this job is to do but also reinforcing how easy it would be to implement better data into the process and make the master seeding less flawed.

Again, I thank you for taking the time to listen to the podcast -- whenever you can. I ask that you, if you like what we're doing here, encourage like-minded hoopheads to subscribe in Tunes as well. Guests like Jay Bilas, Seth Davis, they're the guys who make me sound better and make the podcast worthwhile. The other guys? Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman, they really make it entertaining, and of course you can count on our trio show each Wednesday. The RSS feed is another way to keep the podcasts coming to you ASAP. We've got a Zune download link as well.


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Posted on: February 19, 2012 4:58 pm
Edited on: February 19, 2012 5:20 pm
 

Bracketing: the best part of the mock process

Bracketing and seeding took up about 20 percent of the process. The other 80 was spent on selecting teams and eating food supplied to us by the NCAA. In other words: 60 percent of it was spent on eating, which we believe also accurately replicates the real experience. (NCAA)

On Saturday, I wrote about the RPI and why it’s still, unfortunately, fully baked into the process of selecting and seeding teams into the NCAA tournament. Today, I address the importance and time paid to the three principles of the bracket: selection, seeding and bracketing.

By Matt Norlander

If you’re as adoringly and heavily invested in the NCAA tournament buildup and fruition as I, you no doubt would’ve had the same sort of fun all of us media folk lucky enough to get an invite to the NCAA mock selection process had. I’ve my issues with some of what goes on, but it’s undeniably a college basketball lover’s dream come true to dive right in, full force, and playfully argue with two dozen people about Davidson, Duke and Denver. That it was our "job" formally go through the process with other passionate people was never lost on me. Getting to do this after years and years of scribbling brackets and bubble teams on paper and punching results into Word documents for our own pleasure in the privacy of our homes and offices was a unique privilege.

Greg Anthony taking up a case on behalf of Tennessee is 15 minutes of my life I’ll never get back, but at least he was the first to show us why the committee is often quick to bring up teams that might not seem remotely worthy of discussion — and why that discussion is worthwhile and important to the process.

Now, here’s what I was most surprised about: the short amount of time we paid to seeding and bracketing. We didn’t begin the seeding process in earnest until 11 a.m. Friday morning — about 80 percent of the way into the process. The seeding and bracket is by far the most fun. It’s also the most critical. Chronologically, it goes: selecting, then seeding, then bracketing. The proper order, of course. But if time spent directly correlates to importance of each factor, then that's also clearly the hierarchy of importance for the committee.

There is a difference between the latter two phases. Seeding is the actual listing of teams 1 through 68. You do that, naturally, to have an order so each team gets preference of region and bracket over the ones listed below it. Bracketing is ticking off each team in order and placing them into regions in accordance with respect to geography and travel, as well as abiding by a few set-in-stone rules (i.e. BYU cannot play on a Sunday) and trying to respect other guidelines based on precedence (when possible avoid rematches in early rounds from games earlier this season or in the past few tournaments).

How we seeded: we’d vote four teams in at a time. A consensus of four teams would be tallied, and then we’d rank them, one to four. We do this piecemeal because you want to rank/seed teams with other teams of their ilk, as to avoid situations where the final 1-68 seed tally has glaring glitches throughout. It's Pavlovian in its repetition; you feel like you have to vote for a team 10 teams before it's formally in the bracket. That's intentional.

Once we had our overall ranking, we stepped back, looked at what we had and began to tweak. Some teams were too low, others too high. One team ranked 47 was behind another at 43 — or something like that — yet it was clear certain teams should leapfrog others. Voting was had for every proposed alteration to the seed list. Eight of the 10 members on the committee need to support a proposed change in order for it to happen. With our group, about half of the proposed changes went through successfully.

Greg Anthony was great -- except for that one time he lobbied for Tennessee. (NCAA)

Eventually, we went on to the bracketing, which was dictated by the executive vice president of all the NCAA championships, Greg Shaheen. He has the process memorized to an incredible degree; he could do this in his sleep, without question. We had to choose which teams go where, all the while keeping the regions as balanced as possible and avoiding all conflict of rules and guidelines. North Carolina staying in Kentucky's region, for travel purposes, instead of pairing UK and Duke was the most hotly debated bracket placement. Getting teams to certain cities, just listing them off and picking the closest locations was awesome. The program the NCAA uses has safeguards against breaking stipulations, and filling up the four yellow-and-white grids was a culmination.

This was, by far, the most enjoyable part of the weekend. It took less than 90 minutes.

Why so short? That’s my question. Because over the years, my objections to the bracket — which are seldom on the level of intensity and outrage as Jay Bilas or Dick Vitale — almost never, ever have to do with inclusion into the field. It’s normally seed-related. Almost every year we get squads seeded onto lines that seem completely off-base. (New Mexico as a three in 2010 serves as a recent miscalculation.)

I now can understand why this happens, though. The committee convenes on the Wednesday before Selection Sunday. It spends most of Thursday, Friday and Saturday poring over resumes and debating inclusion into the field. If possible, the committee does not go to bed Saturday night until the field of 68 has been completed. There are seed listings and subsequential seed scrubbings that take place from Thursday through Sunday, but you can check right here, the actual bracketing process does not begin until less than 90 minutes before the world gets to see it.

The seed list also slowly builds. First the no-brainer teams are put into the field, with the auto qualifiers from small conferences stapled to the bottom portion of the seed list. (Note: we spent no time on low-major AQs, and given the seeding inconsistencies with 14s, 15s and 16s, I wonder how much time is truly spent on these teams in five days. I'd guess it's less than 30 minutes, which is a minor but legitimate issue.)

If there was one thing we truly duplicated in our mock session, it was the bracketing procedure. It was a thrill, but it was also flawed because it was so rushed. This came on the heels of going through the seeding process at relative breakneck pace. You can scope our bracket here. That alignment was picked as if the season ended Wednesday night, so keep that in mind. Still: flaws abound. Regions are lacking in balance, but that’s primarily because schools, coaches, ADs would rather have less travel and more fans than be matched up in a tougher region. Seeding does not lead to uneven brackets -- bracketing does, and it's inevitable, particularly because we have so few good teams west of the Rockies.

The Selection Committee has more time than we did to seed-scrub and go back again and again to look and make sure the final 1-68 list is in an agreed-upon order. I can't help but think the committee goes through the same mental jungle gym we did, though. So much energy and research and effort goes into just picking the teams, that by the time the seeding comes — the final seeding, that is — there's a bit of a wear-and-tear effect. You've been scrutinizing over and over, and it's hard not to wear on the brain. Largely, seeding isn't an issue, but when we get inconsistencies, I think the lack of time given to that amounts to perceived mistakes in the process.

So when the field is released three weeks from today and you see a four seed that's really more like a six, or a team in the 8/9 game that feels like an 11, know there are reasons for that. Bracketing could play a part, but if it does, it's purely from a logistical, not a matchup or television, mindset. It could be they've been put there because of geography or conference conflicts that absolutely mandated it. If not though, then it's very possible an oversight came in the seeding process. Seeding and selection are two very different processes that should should carry equal weight. As of now, it seems getting 68 in takes priority over absolute accurate placement of those 68 once they're pushed through.
Posted on: February 18, 2012 1:30 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2012 1:52 pm
 

RPI still hovers over, cloaks selection process

The room where it all went down Thursday and Friday. We were secluded in secrecy, soft drinks and statistics. (NCAA)

By Matt Norlander

No matter how emphatically and repeatedly the NCAA Selection Committee insists the RPI isn’t a major factor in picking and seeding 68 teams into the greatest sporting event the universe has ever known, that’s simply not the case. The RPI, as flawed a tool as any mainstream collective ranking metric we have in college basketball, still stenches up the process like burnt popcorn.

(If you’re still not sure why the RPI is built like a Popsicle-stick castle, I’ll promptly point you in the direction of this and this and this. Get to learnin'.)

I had the luxury and pleasure of attending the NCAA mock selection meetings in Indianapolis Thursday and Friday, at the Conrad Hilton. My hope was to file a couple of quick blog updates/entries during the process. That’s nearly impossible. We started at 1 p.m. on Thursday, worked until about 11, then were at it again at 8 a.m. Friday morning and went until 2:30, and then it was off to the airport. It was a beautiful, dream-come-true of a grind. So here I am, frothing to share with you the events of the past 48 hours. On Sunday, I'll have a piece on seeding and bracketing, my loves and laments.

By the way, here's the field of 68 we concluded on, as if the season ended Wednesday night. I'll have more on this in tomorrow's piece. The irrational responses -- some of them tongue-in-cheek -- on Twitter made the entire process worthwhile. If only Jay Bilas had backlashed at us, then it truly would have been a Selection Sunday simulation.

Off camera, NCAA director of media relations David Worlock spellbinds us with his humor and deflection of the issues. (NCAA)

Now, let’s return to the RPI. Here’s my thing. I don’t have an issue with it being in the tool belt. It’s probably always going to be something that factors in, and I’m just going to have to live with that like I live with the cowlicks that command my hairstyle. The RPI generally organizes teams in a reasonable way when it comes to clustered arrangement of the best-to-worst tiers of teams. That said, why can’t the RPI get treated like every other rankings system: equally? Right now, it’s not. Right now, as it's been for the past 30 years, despite semi-annual adjustments to the bare-bones formula (that's what makes it bad and manipulable),  the Ratings Percentage Index remains the favorite flavor to savor for picking the "best" teams into the field.

The NCAA allows (but from what I interpreted, does not heartily endorse) any Selection Committee member to use Sagarin, KenPom, LRMC, Massey or any type of ratings system (including — WHAT — the Coaches’ Poll? It’s true, unfortunately). Those systems are not brought up on the big screen, unless by request, which never happened at our mock.

I'm guessing its seldom a Pomeroy team page will get clicked to the projector screen this year, too, especially since it's now subscription-based, and that $20 annual fee might be a touch too much.  

The RPI is the peanut butter that keeps the primary data smudged together for the Selection Committee. It still permeates the process. And the NCAA still wants to deny that. The NCAA likes to say bringing up a team’s specific RPI ranking doesn’t often come up when debating two teams’ inclusion or seeding. While that’s true, from the outset, the organization, presentation and general data on a team is dressed up in an RPI shirt with an RPI hat and a cute pair of RPI gloves.

On a few occasions, NCAA tournament Poobah Greg Shaheen (who, along with 2012 Selection Committee chair Jeff Hathaway, was awesome) would say, “OK, how many times did you find yourself talking about RPI in the past 10 minutes?” or something to that effect. No one responded with:

"Extensively!"

"Exclusively!"

"Dominantly!"

"A halfway decent amount!"

But that's not the point, because, as if you're being hypnotized into a train of reason and deduction, the RPI is placed right in front of the committee members’ faces from the start of the process, and I sincerely doubt they deviate from the materials and data given to them by the NCAA and its computer sorting/ranking/bracketing/filterin
g system (which is a slick, impressive computer program). This year, the NCAA has made public for the first time its Nitty Gritty (yes, that’s a capital N and G) sheets. These sheets rank teams by RPI. Immediately, you’re sorting teams in accordance with a flawed system.  Within the Nitty Gritty you’ll see nine of the 16 columned categories are RPI-dictated.

It doesn’t stop there. On team sheets and in side-by-side comparisons, the only metric numbers available are RPI. It's very easy to use the data baked into the NCAA's team sheets and use that in addition to eye test discussion to draw conclusions. In such a scenario, which is one that occurred over and over and over at the mock, you're being unfair and myopic to the process. And more than inclusion to the field, you're jeopardizing fair and realistic seeding -- something, again, I'll get to in Sunday's post.

Why not rank teams with a median of four, five or six respected, mainstream rankings systems, such as the ones listed above? The reason the NCAA doesn't is because some of the systems account for future results, and they don't want any predictive measures entering into the process. I say: the RPI is only one net, and so you've got many holes. The more nets you throw on top of it, the more reasonable general conclusion you can come to, and so fewer and fewer holes are possible in the rankings system. Keep the Nitty Gritty, but tweak:

  • An average ranking tally from RPI, Sagarain, LRMC, KenPom, Massey, and maybe even the brand-new BPI. This will be your master ranking.
  • A neutral-court record. It's glaringly absent from the Nitty Gritty, yet it's part what the NCAA tournament is all about: winning games on neutral courts. 
  • Get rid of conference record. Those are on team sheets and are not paramount to the grand overview the Nitty Gritty aspires to be.
  • Instead of "Record against RPI 1-25, 1-50" etc., give a record against the conglomerate. More inclusion from all systems eliminates the RPI's influence over the Nitty Gritty and general impression committee members glean when absorbing all this information.

I’ve been talking in geek speak for a few grafs here, so let me stop for a second and emphasize that I are pretty much everyone else relied heavily on instinct and eye tests, too. That’s a large part of the discussion. Recalling when a team won or lost and what those circumstances came down to. Debating a team’s merit based on its body of work, its best wins and worst losses: all of those things were a backdrop to the shirts vs. skins question.

Beyond all else, right now, who do you take on a neutral court in a shirts against skins game. Go with your hunch if data is too overwhelming and inconclusive.

Another scenario/question the NCAA said gets brought up frequently during the real selection process: Which team would you rather face in the tournament if it started tomorrow? Whatever team looks more appealing, the other one should be the pick. I liked this. Pragmatism helps, and it's good to glance away from the computer screens and go eye to eye with others when breaking down the bracket.

During the process, my partner, Rush the Court founder and EIC Randy McClure (that's him in the indie-rock glasses in the photo above) found ourselves constantly discussing a team’s merit, but also referencing Pom, Sag, LRMC and the NCAA-organized team sheets. We compared rankings and looked for outliers in the process. It was meticulous. We were frequently the last ones to submit our votes for teams as we whittled down the field (this became fodder for Shaheen to tease us), and the reason was we wanted to be thorough.

From that, here’s my conclusion: I don’t think NCAA Selection Committee members are using all available, valuable tools when picking and seeding teams. I think it’s too much information; there’s too much discussion, and the ease of the NCAA team sheets and the debates that come with it are too easy to cling to/subconsciously rely on. You have to open separate web browsers and constantly click band and forth between rankings systems. Why do that when you’ve got basic — and flawed — data in front of you that’s brought up simply by asking, “Can we get a side-by-side of Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee State?”

The process is tedious, because it needs to be, but it's still not completely all-inclusive. We'll know the NCAA truly respects other rankings systems and isn't subjective to the RPI before all else when it takes the initiative to include other credible, established rankings systems into its team sheets, computer program and debates. 

I happily admit, though, for me, whenever it's too close to call, I'll always go back to shirts vs. skins. Who you got?

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com