Thursday, February 11, 2010

B101's Bracket Bag - Feb. 11

Some of the best questions we get each week aren't from people posting in the comments section, but from those who send us questions via e-mail. In a semi-weekly feature to B101, we will answer some of these questions posed by our readers.

Steve Cole writes:
To echo your questions for your competition - really? Virginia Tech, Illinois and Marquette should all get bids ahead of Dayton, Richmond, or Charlotte? The A-10 can't get 6 bids? Why?

The only answer it seems to me is an utterly unwarranted bias against the "mid-major" conferences, and the only way that bias might be challenged is by bracketologists like you. The bias is a relatively recent phenomenon. If you look back at brackets from 1990 and earlier, you'll see that "mid-major" schools were consistently selected for at-large slots, and there was no apparent bias in favor of "major conference" schools. There's utterly no rational reason why the Big East or ACC should automatically receive more bids than conferences such as the A-10. At least in football, the BCS hasn't tried to pretend that its bowl selections are based on anything other than the power of the "major conferences."

If you need to keep insisting that the A-10 won't get 6 at-large bids, at least acknowledge that the reason is the power of the "major conferences," and not the real merits of the teams. If enough bracketologists were willing to do this, it might perhaps at least produce some sense of shame as the selection committee each year bows to the power of the "major conferences."

Here's at least some of the relevant statistics that lie behind my diatribe. (And I should add that your blog consistently strikes me as the most incisive and best written of any, so I do apologize if my comments seem harsh.)

Virginia Tech 63/58 (Real Time RPI/CBS RPI)
0-1/6-4 (Won-Lost against Top 25 RPI/Top 100 RPI)

Illinois 65/62

Marquette 60/67

Dayton 34/32

Richmond /27

Charlotte 45/44

B101: Thaks for the e-mail, Steve. Your points are well-taken and we couldn't agree with you more. Over the last couple of weeks, especially in terms of the A-10, we have perhaps come across as anti-mid major and pro-big conference (VT in, Dayton out, etc.). The reality is, though, that no bracketology site supports the little guy as much as we have over the past few years. Each of the last three years, we have included a mid-major team as one of our last teams in only to see the committee screw those teams (and our final bracket) over on Selection Sunday. In 2007, we campaigned hard for Drexel to get an at-large out of the Colonial, and Illinois got in instead. In 2008, we argued for Illinois State to get a bid, and an unworthy Oregon team got in over them (and somehow got a 9 seed), and last year, we included St. Mary's in our final bracket only to see them get passed over in favor of Arizona.

In all of these cases, despite our efforts and the efforts of other bracketologists, the selection committee has acted just like the BCS - and for the large part has ignored the little guy. It's not fair, but unfortunately, it's reality. The same thing will inevitably happen this year, too: the committee will pass over 2-3 more mid-major bubble teams, include a middling big conference team instead, and will point to the handful of obvious mid-major at-larges that they do select (ex. Butler or Northern Iowa if they lose their conference tournies) as proof that they give everyone a fair shake. We don't buy that rationale, and no one else should either. The bottom line is that some teams get in every year because of their conference affiliation, and not because their resume is better than another team's. Dont get us wrong: it's not that we want a million mid-majors in; we just some more equity than there is each year.

In the meantime, we will give the A-10 a max of five bids because that's what we think the committee will do. Our goal is to be as accurate as possible, even if it means putting in the seventh or eighth team out of a big conference over the second or third out of a mid-major. The other way hasn't really worked out for us too well the last three years.


apissedant said...

The idea that mid-majors get screwed is unfounded. If this were the case, the mid-major programs would end up dominating the NIT. Yet just the opposite happens, as year after year, a major program passed over by the NCAA tournament beats out all the mid-majors that everyone cried should have made the tournament.

Check the stats:

The major programs have much more fierce in conference play, and often have more fierce out of conference play. If Seton Hall or Notre Dame were in the A-10, they'd be headed to the tournament. Instead they'll be lucky if they make the NIT.

Anonymous said...

The 2007 Illinois team DESERVED TO BE IN THE TOURNAMENT! They almost beat out a very tough Virginia Tech team that Drexel would have been destroyed by.

Anonymous said...

Steve Cole must be an idiot. Has he seen what Illinois has done in the past week? They deserve to be in and are on fire!

Bracketology 101 said...

Steve point about mid-majors is a good one, but we agree with you on Illinois. The Illini are definitely worthy of a bid right now.

Steve Cole said...

Don't call me an idiot without at least reading carefully what I said. I didn't say that Illinois shouldn't get a bid. I said that their record is not in any clear-cut way better than the records of Dayton, Charlotte, or Richmond.

All this means, for me, is that if Illinois were to get an at-large bid, the reason should be that it deserves the bid, not that it comes from a conference that has no restrictions on how many bids it might receive.

Apissedant's argument about how teams have done in the NIT is a powerful rejoinder to any argument that the mid-major teams are treated unfairly. But do you think that teams from mid-major conferences should be denied bids solely because major conference teams are assumed to be better?

(Seton Hall did play an A-10 team this year - Temple won, 71-65.)

Anonymous said...

Steve, I can only hope you end up being right in the end because I'm tired of these years where only FOUR mid-major at-large teams are chosen.

Based on the recent history of the selection committee, I'll believe it when I see it.

apissedant said...

I know Temple beat Seton Hall, I'm a Temple grad student actually. But Temple is by far the best team in the A-10, and ESPN currently has 5 other A-10 teams making the tournament besides Temple. Seton Hall could beat several of those 5 teams, yet isn't even being discussed for a tournament spot because of their record in a VERY tough Big East field. Their only other out of conference loss was to Va Tech, another tournament bound team.

Can you honestly say that URI's loss to VCU is better than Seton Hall's loss to Temple? Has URI beat a SINGLE tournament bound team?

Kym said...

B101, I think you guys should pick the field as the teams you feel belong, not who the committee. Are you speaking for yourselves, or the committee? When you pick your final field you should pick the 65 teams you think should be in, not who other people think. Don't you guys speak for yourselves?

I completely disagree with apissedant. Mid major schools get passed over for mediocre BCS schools every year. I hope that doesn't happen again this year. By the way, the Mountain West and Atlantic 10 are too strong to be called "mid majors" anymore. They will receive at least 9 bids between the two of them this year. Fans of mediocre ACC teams will be whining like babies! BCS teams should not be rewarded for scheduling cupcakes in OOC.

Anonymous said...

Steve- The A 10 proved in non-conference play they could play with the big boys. Richmond beat Missouri, Miss. St., and Florida. Temple beat Villanova, Virginia Tech and Seton Hall and lost by 1 at Georgetown. Rhode Island beat Boston College, Providence and Oklahoma State. Charlotte hammered Louisville at Freedom Hall. Dayton beat Georgia Tech and Xavier beat Cincinnati and LSU. The Atlantic 10 doesn't have to take a back seat to anyone. Elitists like apiss will be stunned on selection sunday. Teams that went out and scheduled tough pre conference games will be rewarded not power conference teams that beat bad teams at home.

Anonymous said...

Apparently apissedant has not watched VCU play a single game this year. How did your "BCS" conference power Oklahoma do against VCU? If Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Maryland are so superior to teams like VCU or Old Dominion, why don't they schedule a home n home with them? Are they too scared?

Zach Denver said...

The NIT point is well taken, but as a purely basketball fan I'd rather see the #2 team out of the Colonial than the #8 team out of the ACC. If you can't beat half the teams in your own conference there is no reason for you to be playing for the national title. Teams like Oklahoma St, Louisville, and (yikes) Seton Hall have a full conference schedule to earn a shot. A team like Northeastern needs to get those opportunities somehow.

Bracketology 101 said...


It'd be nice if we just picked the teams we thought were most deserving, but unfortunately we are in the results business. Our goal is to get all 65 teams right, and we can't sacrifice accuracy to "make a stand" about a mid-major team. Plus, all the complaining we've done over the past few years hasn't done a whole lot to ensure that mid-majors get more bids.

Anonymous brings up a great point about VCU and Oklahoma. It's easy to criticize mid-majors for not having tough OOC schedules, but you can count on one hand the number of big conference teams that will schedule home-and-homes with mid-major teams. Big conference teams will gladly play mid-majors at home, but most deals fall apart when the mid-major asks for an on-campus return game. What inevitably happens is the "home" game for the mid-major team against the big conference team happens on a neutral court - and usually it's a court that is pretty close geographically to the big conference school. This is the way the college landscape has worked for years, and unfortunately, it's not going to change anytime soon. In the meantime, mid majors will have to continue to go on the road and play big conference teams. If they win those games - like many have this year - they deserve to be rewarded.

Anonymous said...

Teams are supposed to be judged by their individual resumes rather than what conference they are in.

apissedant said...

A) I'm not an elitist, I attended ODU for undergrad, and I'm attending Temple for my graduate work. If anything I should be biased in favor of mid-majors, not against.

B) I won't be stunned on selection Sunday, because I fully understand that mediocre big conference teams will get past over for mediocre mid-major teams. It is just how it works.

C) Zach hits closest to the truth in my opinion. The fact is mediocre mid-majors make it in because we love the Cinderella story and cheer for an upset every single year. It almost never happens, and 9 out of 10 of these mid-major teams get clobbered every hear, but as long as 1 of 'em makes it into the final 4 every few years, we're happy.

D) I love that when you talk about how bad the big conferences are, and how great the mid-major programs are, you compare the number 1 or number 2 team from a mid-major conference, and the number 9 or number 10 team from a big conference. How about comparing apples to apples?

E) As for counting the number of major programs willing to visit little programs, I invite you to again check your facts. Temple had KU, Georgetown, Villanova, PSU, VT, and Seton Hall. Many of those were home games, and those that won't either were home games last year or will be next year. That is just Temple. How many fingers do you have on your hand?

It is about money, and Michigan isn't going to agree to play a bunch of away games at crap little schools because Michigan can make a mint selling out their arena, and the little school doesn't make financial sense. They schedule a few, but it makes more sense to invite the little guys to the big arena and maximize profits. It doesn't have to do with fear or home court advantage, just dollars and cents.

F) Lastly, as I stated before, the facts speak louder than a bunch of random opinions. The mediocre big conference teams perform much better in the NIT than do the top notch mid-major programs. I'd bet money that a big conference reject again wins the NIT this year, and almost all the mid-majors get trounced in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

apissedant said...

Judging a team individually requires judging the strength of the teams they played. Since more than half the games are conference games, there is no method by which you can properly judge this without judging the strength of the individual conferences.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Kym. I thought the last paragraph of 101's post was a complete cop out. Pick the teams that, in your opinion, meet the criteria and belong in the bracket. That's what we count on you guys for. That's why I come here and not to Lunardi.

Tony said...

Temple seems to be an anomaly in getting major programs to play them at home because of their long track record of success under Chaney.

Gonzaga seems to be able to get some home-and-homes too because of their success.

There are exceptions but I think the overall point about mid-majors not being able to get the "big boys" on their home court is true. The aforementioned Oklahoma@VCU game only occurred b/c it was written into Jeff Capel's contract that if left for another school, that school had to play a game @VCU within a couple of years

apissedant said...


The fact that the big boys are willing to play Temple, Gonazaga, Memphis, Xavier, and other mid-major programs that have a track record of success shows the refusal to play away games is not about fear. If they fear losing to a mid-major program, these would be the last programs they would agree to play.

Again, it is all about money. Gonzaga, Memphis, Xavier, and Temple can attract a crowd and make some money on home games. The other programs have to beg people to take their tickets. There is no financial motivation to play there.

Playing Temple will bring a crowd, which means the season with the away game, Temple makes money. The season with the home game, the big team makes money.

No one wants tickets to a Harvard vs. Texas game.

Anonymous said...

How is it a cop-out? The last paragraph reinforces the entire point of this site, which is to most accuratly predict who the selection comitee will put in the torunament. It's not to create their own bracket of who they think is "most deserving". What good does the site do if its a poor and innacurate reflection of how the selection comitee thinks? What a strange complaint.

Anonymous said...

B101 is correct about big name schools like Duke. The Blue Devils will never agree to a home and home with many schools. Heck, the Devils won't even play at Texas or Gonzaga. They play them on "neutral" floors in New York or New Jersey instead. Duke is playing Tulsa this year but something tells me coach K will not be making a return trip to Tulsa. A few years ago, Missouri Valley schools tried to schedule home and home series with Maryland, but Gary Williams refused. I guess Gary would rather lose home games to Morgan State and William & Mary. Gary Williams is too afraid to play Creighton or Northern Iowa on the road. Why is that??

Anonymous said...

Is (apissedant) Jay Bilas? He hates small schools as well.

JP said...

"It is about money, and Michigan isn't going to agree to play a bunch of away games at crap little schools because Michigan can make a mint selling out their arena, and the little school doesn't make financial sense. They schedule a few, but it makes more sense to invite the little guys to the big arena and maximize profits. It doesn't have to do with fear or home court advantage, just dollars and cents."

That does not explain why BCS schools refuse to play home and away. If they can beat cupcakes like Coppin State and Longwood at home, can't they beat them on the road too? It is pathetic that BCS conference schools are too snobbish to play smaller schools on the road!

Bracketology 101 said...

On the money thing that hasn't been mentioned is how much money a small conference school gets for playing these road games against BCS schools. Big time programs pay small conference teams to come and play them. This is money that the small conference team needs to keep its athletic department afloat and is more than the team would generate if they had the BCS school coming into their own building. So in this sense it is a win-win situation.

apissedant said...

Oh, and back to A&M, Baylor is in the top 8 in the RPI. Any ranking that requires PEOPLE to make a LOGICAL decision, has them ranked at best 20th. This is logical, since their best win is A&M. Their only good out of conference game is a win over sometimes ranked Xavier. They were soundly defeated by the only two good teams in the Big 12.

Considering A@M to be a 6 seed based on a 1-1 record against another team that can only claim to be a good team because of their 1-1 record against A&M is circular logic.

Baylor did go 3-0 against Texas, so saying they're the 20th best team in the country may be fair. However splitting games with A&M, losing to OKST and Colorado, and only having a single victory over a mediocre team to brag about prevents any sane person from claiming them to be 7th in the country.