SAN LUIS OBISPO, Cal. -- Morning really is a relative concept, isn't it? It's always morning somewhere, or 5 p.m., or the night time (a/k/a "the right time"). And it just might be Morning in America all over again, depending on what economic time zone you're in. I write this to you as the a.m. hours disappear in a land of high sun, terra cotta roofs and gently swaying palms -- it's certainly easy to lose track of time here. But trust me, you'll get your lunch money's worth today. We've got mail, announcements, toys, and a cast of characters ranging from world leaders to Division I's shortest player.
First of all, don't forget about our Bally contest this week
. If you attend a school taking part in this weekend's BracketBusters extravaganza, you're invited to drop some science on your opponent in the form of devastating slam poetry through The Formâ„¢
. The responses so far are excellent, although a bit scant. Hoping to put this to a vote on Friday and crown a championship belt winner while the action is going on Saturday.
Secondly, we're having a massive BracketBusters chat
on Thursday (tomorrow) starting at 11 a.m. Eastern. We're going to go as long as there are questions to answer, which is hopefully six hours or more. Please do come by, won't you?
On to the real meat. I'm working on a short column about last week's NCAA mock selection
for Basketball Times
. I had the opportunity to follow up with NCAA Tournament czar Greg Shaheen
, likely the only man who's been in each War Room in the past decade. The article won't be published until next month, but I wanted to share a part of our e-convo with you today in its original Q&A format.
KW: I was struck by the idea that there really aren't any thumbs up-thumbs down in/out decisions on teams, which is a huge part of the general perception of how the committee operates. With all the list-8, rank-8 procedures and the emphasis on qualitative analysis, it really doesn't seem possible that bias towards or against certain team, conference or level could be possible. Is that the point, or the message you're trying to get us to understand?
GS: That is precisely the point. Each team must stand on its own. As such, committees will see aspects of a team that others may never see. In standing on its own (follow me here), a team must also stand up in a comparison to other teams (which also must stand individually) both through the selection and seeding process.
The list and rank process requires the committee to look one "slice" at a time, rather than at the picture in total. As you described, it is likely the biggest misconception â€" it is imperative that a team be able to hold up when looking at it alone or when compared with any permutation of other teams in the field or those being considered.
KW: Say I'm a selection committee member who secretly harbors an axe-grinding grudge against any and all mid-majors. I even have a Stephen Curry dartboard hanging in my office. How difficult or impossible would it be to push that kind of agenda through the process?
GS: Well, essentially impossible. From time to time, a committee member might raise an idea on a team that others on the committee simply don't see the same way. They are able to discuss the merits of their perspective on the team, but in order for anything to happen with the field, a majority of the committee must be convinced. Evidence shows that it can't happen â€"- as such, that axe will grow dull.
Misconceptions won't go away anytime soon, but I mean, come on
. Even if you count Xavier's Mike Bobinski as the power-league dude he wishes to be, our side of the Red Line has four seats
in the room next month. There's no conspiracy, just the same type of groupthink that has made American business so flawed yet lovable.
I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid here -- mostly because Kool-Aid is not an official NCAA sponsor -- but Mr. Shaheen & Co. really insist they have nothing to hide about the process. As further proof (and as mentioned last week in the chat
), the NCAA has
promised not to hunt down and kill
allowed us to post replicas of the "team sheets" the committee uses over on Basketball State, and all 330 will be updated every constantly until Selection Sunday. They are remarkable documents, specifically designed to allow for a quick read on the quality of a team, a tool for side-by-side comparison, and a jumping-off point for committee discussion. Note two things: no conference affiliation is listed, and the team's RPI number is off hiding in the corner. What's important is the RPIs of the teams you've played.
So enjoy Dayton's
rÃ©sumÃ©, and Utah State's
, and Butler's
. And if you click around enough, you'll probably run into the subscription wall. Don't worry, you can probably find a two-dollar discount if you snoop around a little
Did we say mailbag? Yes, we did. Just wrapping up some of the loose ends on the mock selection thing, then we'll go full-bore into BracketBusters weekend. John, what say you?
Kyle: I think your work is outstanding and I really enjoyed your piece on the mock selection. There is one point in it I did not understand, however. Why was Cornell moved from a 12 to an 11? If a 12 had to move up, why would it not have been Siena, which beat Cornell handily during the season and has a much better RPI? Note: I am a Siena fan, but that move would not make any sense to me if there were another 12 that had beaten Cornell and had a much better RPI.
Thanks, John. Cornell was one spot ahead of Siena on the S-curve
, which was (admittedly) populated automatically from the 6-line on down due to time constraints. If we'd had all night and didn't have to make flights in the morning, we would have had that discussion and weighed the two teams
in context. But seriously, the process is list eight, rank eight, repeat. Cornell and Siena would likely never be isolated and put head-to-head like that for a spot on the curve unless there was enough committee support to have that specific discussion. If there was, head-to-head record would likely had been discussed, but superior RPI would only be an argument point and not a conversation-ender. Everything requires consensus in there.
Scott had a question about something I brought up about pod timing, a question a few of you asked over the weekend.
You said in your recap of the selection process that you said the Portland - Boise pods got Thursday-Saturday pods. What is the reasoning for that. I don't get it. Please reply.
I was too vague; sorry, Scott. A Sunday second-round slate takes about six hours to complete, and if you're on Pacific or Mountain time you'd need to start the games at 10 a.m. in order to finish up before 7 p.m. back east. CBS would never, ever, ever
allow 60 Minutes
to be forced out of its timeslot. And there you have the answer why any subregionals west of the Rockies are always Thursday-Saturday.Conference Calls
Ivy League: Princeton won its first four games, a seeming return to form for a faded empire that nearly drew "Ace" Whelliston out of retirement. The the rails came off up north over the weekend, as Yale (with a +20 rebound margin) and Brown tag-teamed them back to the pack. Then in last night's P-off with Penn, the Quakers converted on just a third of their shots but overcame the Tiger-men in OT anyway. For Princeton's part, they're shooting an average of 36 percent during this losing streak. Dang gummit! Cornell's bounced back nicely from its early loss to Princeton, and at 7-1 is two games up on the field as the season reaches the final stretch.
MEAC: Add Morgan State to the list of teams blowing their conferences open. Up three games with four to go, they could clinch within the week. The Bears are shooting the 3 well, holding down the perimeter on D, and have three guys averaging at least five boards per game. Morgan's won five straight and eight of nine, the latest being a handy 55-44 win over Bethune-Cookman. This weekend, this team be the first-ever from the MEAC to participate in the BracketBusters when it faces Towson across town.
SWAC: Since the league expanded to 10 teams a decade ago, there have only been three two-loss teams in regular-seaosn play, and there's never been a two-team race as exciting as this. Alabama State is out front at 11-1, on a five-game streak and owning an average winning margin of 10, a real rarity in a parity-addled conference that traditionally boasts the fewest blowout percentage in the country. Jackson State (11-2) has won seven straight and avenged an early loss to Prairie View A&M on Monday. Unless Morgan falls again in the MEAC tourney, the champion will be coming to Dayton with us... a place the SWAC hasn't been since 2005.
U'useless Stat of the Day
We were at San Jose State last night, enjoying Tuesday's only D-I game played in the state of California. The Spartans, a team with high WAC hopes at the start of the season, has suffered through injuries to four of its starting five and have slumped to a 4-8 conference record. They stepped out of league play and faced independent Utah Valley, which always seems to buck the odds and pick up more games than it drops. The wandering Wolverines -- led by former MMBOW Ryan Toolson, the 63-point guy -- are 13-10 on the year, but lost by five last night.
But we discovered a player who is -- and we don't usually get all up in your business like this -- your new hero. When Lance Olivier came into the game late in the first half, he received a standing ovation from the small crowd, and he had missed a 3, then taken a foul, and was back on the bench before I could grab my camera. Even if I had snapped a picture, it's unlikely I had enough megapixels to render his image properly. Olivier stands 5-2 or 5-3, depending on which source you're consulting, and weighs 130 pounds.
But is Olivier the shortest player in D-I? That's a question that will go tragically unanswered until such time as he is measured in a Bogues-off alongside Stephen F. Austin's Eric Bell, who is listed as 5-3, 150. Bell actually plays a lot as the Lumberjacks' starting point guard -- his 2.4-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio is tied for second-best in the Southland (with 5-8 freshman teammate Jarrod McDaniel) and 50th nationwide. Olivier has played only 16 minutes all year, that 3 he missed was only his third shot of the 2008-09 campaign, and in his two seasons has never scored a point in Division I basketball. We will keep you updated on this important story.