After what may have been the singularly dullest NCAA Selection Sunday ever, one in which many schools on the bubble were almost tied to folding chairs and forced to pay attention to their miserable fates, it has become clear that the process and its presentation have died.
Then again, you should know this is going to a festival of tedium when 10 minutes of the 44 minutes allotted to the revelation of the 68 teams and slots involves the head of the NCAA Basketball Tournament Committee, this year a droid named Robotic T. Highgloss, explaining why the committee did whatever the hell it did in the days in which it was “sequestered” in a luxury hotel.
This would be better entertainment, even if presented in the original Norwegian.
Then again, the tournament has been groaning under its own self-important tonnage for years now, part of the NCAA’s squeeze-that-golden-goose-until-the-pate-runs-dry business plan. When it went to four play-in games to quadruple the unwatchability, the entire enterprise jumped the mathematical shark. After all, if one play-in game sucks, four times as much would only suck one-fourth as much, right?
Right? Isn’t that how the math works? No? Oh, well. We already booked the hall.
Our argument is that the tournament started to die when the committee chair was first introduced to the nation (“Oh my God, why is there a Welsh claims adjuster on my basketball show?”), but the when is less important than the what-to-do-about-it-now. The law that states that any enjoyable entertainment must be bloated and tarted up until its essential appeal is crushed has now been fully enforced and enacted.
Put another way, if Dick Vitale must be pitilessly wound up to scream incoherently about how Rick Pitino got jobbed by Louisville getting “only” a four-seed, your sport’s big day has morphed into the third hour of a kindergartner’s themed birthday party.
No, changes must be made, and there will be no points given for either dignity, fairness or competence. America demands pie fights, injustice and an element of detestability as its live entertainment, and those fights shall be provided. Ideas follow:
1. THE COMMITTEE
A room full of shirts stuffed with misplaced self-esteem is just death in soft chairs, and there are few stuffing ingredients less appetizing than college athletic directors. They are mostly bankers who have been placed on the selection committee solely for their abilities to generate money and sucking up earnestly to those more powerful than them, and as a group, they could not achieve ennui more quickly if you cryogenically froze them.
The answer to this, then, is a group of randomly selected entertainers, politicians and cranked-up reality game show contestants, locked in a room (not a series of suites and conference rooms) and forced to go without water or food until they start to become delirious, and then turn out brackets so spectacularly insane and drool-stained that you’d be lucky if Duke weren’t on nine different lines, including two in which it plays itself in the first round.
2. MORE TRANSPARENCY
The new committee would have to perform its deliberations live on television, with all the biases, stupidities and plain wrongheadedness shown for all to see. Indeed, no metrics should be allowed in the room, just to enrage those who like their basketball analysis delivered with provable science and mathematics. Nothing could be better than, say, Justin Bieber at his most repellently snotty yowling, “I WANT TO BE THE THIRD-SEED IN THE EAST AND I’M GOING TO BEHAVE LIKE ME IN PUBLIC UNTIL I GET IT.” Then the other members of the committee would jump on him, beat him senseless and tie him to the balcony railing until the weekend is done. If you don’t think that would get ratings from a grateful planet, you’re nuts.
3. BETTER (IN OTHER WORDS, WORSE) EXPLANATIONS
College basketball punditry has reached such a depressing level of sameness that Jay Bilas comes off as Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The problem is, there isn’t a lot to complain about any more because it is absolutely no fun at all to complain that the 69th, 70th and 71st best teams in the country somehow were victims of injustice. The bracket killed “snubs,” and without snubs, the universe collapses.
No, it is better to take someone from our new committee (I’d go with a particularly snark-enriched comedian here, maybe Jenny Johnson or Key and Peele) and just answer every question about why a certain team was placed in a certain region with answers like, “Why do you care?” “Just to piss you off,” “We got paid,” “The band doesn’t suck” or “Bite me, Donkey Boy.”
I assure you those responses would be better than anything any actual committee chair has ever said in any year, ever. In fact, our committee chair should close out the interview by taking one of the old-time committee members and shooting him or her in the leg with a harpoon, and then smiling and saying like John Belushi in the stairway guitar-smashing scene in Animal House, “Oops. Sorry.”
4. HIGHER QUALITY UNFAIRNESS
Again, nothing bores more than a bracket that produces no outrage, and we mean actual legitimate outrage rather than the standard backwoods-fan-base-yells-because-it-yells-about-everything-right-before-the-fight-in-the-tavern-turns-violent level of outrage.
–Ray Ratto, CSNBayArea.com
The answer to this year’s biggest burning question is right at the top of the bracket: Connecticut was sent to Lincoln, much to the satisfaction of most of the women’s college basketball world.
But a lot of other questions weren’t so easy to answer:
South Carolina a No. 1 seed, Stanford a No. 2?
This is the most puzzling decision by the committee. While the Gamecocks had a fantastic season, unexpectedly winning the SEC regular-season title, they did not have the season that Stanford did. The Cardinal accomplished more. A lot more.
With four more top-50 wins and a significantly tougher schedule, Stanford seemed like the more worthy choice for a No. 1 seed. Both the Cardinal and Gamecocks lost in the semifinals of their respective conference tournaments after winning regular-season titles. The biggest difference — and it was significant — came in the nonconference schedule, where South Carolina did nothing except beat Southern California.
Stanford, meanwhile played the toughest nonconference schedule in the country, beating Tennessee (a No. 1 seed), Purdue (No. 4), Texas (No. 5) and Gonzaga (No. 6). Within the Pac-12, Stanford added victories against tournament teams California, Arizona State, Oregon State and USC. Throwing in Florida Gulf Coast and Fresno State means that Stanford won 13 games against tournament teams. Only Notre Dame (17) and Tennessee (15) won more. South Carolina won nine. More than 160 other schools played a more challenging nonconference schedule than the Gamecocks. The level of play in the SEC is better than the Pac-12, but the difference between the two leagues is not close to the difference between the other profiles of Stanford and South Carolina.
The standard line by selection committee members when debates such as these are raised is that they looked at the entire body of work. That response does not hold in this case. Stanford’s body of work was better. And it can’t be said that South Carolina was playing better than the Cardinal down the stretch.
The Cardinal were clearly done in by losing a game in early February to Washington and then to USC in the Pac-12 semifinals. That should not have been enough to erase how much more accomplished they were than South Carolina.
It’s even more strange that Stanford and South Carolina were placed in the same region (Stanford Regional), and odder yet that South Carolina was sent to Seattle for the opening two rounds. In order for the Gamecocks to reach the Final Four, they have to win four games three time zones away from Columbia. Yes, South Carolina is a No. 1 seed and, yes, South Carolina has a neutral site to play its first two contests. But is it a reward to force two cross-country trips or two weeks away from campus on the Gamecocks?
Had Stanford been the No. 1 seed, South Carolina — not the Cardinal — might be headed to Ames, Iowa, to play its subregional, while Stanford would have gone to Seattle. That would have meant significantly less travel for both. The only other necessary move in that scenario would be moving Oregon State to a subregional where the Beavers would travel a substantial distance. Doesn’t it make more sense to ask a No. 9 seed to travel to, say, Storrs, Conn., or Knoxville, Tenn., than asking the No. 1 seed to go 3,000 miles?
–Charlie Creme, espnW.com
If the A’s owners can’t negotiate a new lease to play at the Coliseum, their Plan B is to build a temporary stadium in San Jose.
What type of idea is that?
The A’s have become the darlings of baseball the past couple of years, excelling on a student budget while playing in a plumbing-challenged football stadium.
Should the A’s wind up in a ballpark erected overnight by carnival workers, their status as lovable underdogs from the wrong side of the tracks will only be enhanced.
Plus, the players wouldn’t live in constant fear of their clubhouse toilets going all Vesuvius on them. They’ll be using Porta Pottis, bonding with their fans while waiting in line.
Baseball parks are getting too fancy and boutique-y anyway, so this would be a welcome move in the opposite direction. Take the game back to its roots, when fans were fans, not wimpy showoffs in hermetically sealed lux boxes.
If the A’s do work out a lease in Oakland, they’re promising to do $10 million in improvements to the Coliseum, including – no joke – LED ribbon banners! Those are the ultra-annoying bands of bright moving lights that circle many ballparks and arenas, used mostly for ads and stupid graphics. Worst invention of the 21st century.
LED ribbons? Talk about putting lipstick on a corpse. Same crappy ballyard but with more ads. The A’s owners get fatter wallets, you get seared retinas. Win-win!
A temp stadium would be fantastic. Build it in that railroad yard in San Jose. Coolest ballpark I’ve ever been to was in Tampico, Mexico, where a railroad track ran across the middle of the field. A couple of times each game, the umps would call time and a switch engine would chug across the field, the engineer tipping his cap.
–Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle