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)
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.