Too tall to fit into anybody’s pocket, too smart to trust anyone else’s views over his own and too funny to deliver his opinions in drab fashion, Jay Bilas cemented his reputation as the E.F. Hutton of college basketball on Selection Sunday.
When Bilas talks college hoops, it pays to shut up and listen.
Bilas played for Duke and doesn’t let that fact make him favor his alma mater. He also doesn’t let it keep him from giving the Blue Devils the credit they deserve. It seemed clear that the four No. 1 seeds should be Kansas, Ohio State, Duke and Pittsburgh, yet so many others kept talking about Notre Dame and not Duke. Bilas predicted the right four, but it was after the selections, when he disagreed with the NCAA Tournament committee, that Bilas really shined.
Bilas rightly slammed the selections of UAB and VCU.
“These are horrible decisions,” Bilas railed on ESPN. “I’ve been saying for years I think we need basketball people on the committee.”
What a novel concept, basketball people on a selection committee for a basketball tournament.
“When I look at UAB and VCU at the expense of some of these other teams — and now listen, we’re not talking about great teams here, I understand that — but I wonder whether some people on the committee know whether the ball’s round. That sounds harsh, but I’m wondering. These were bad decisions. They’re indefensible.”
In trying to defend the indefensible, selection committee chairman Gene Smith acknowledged the dreaded RPI computer ratings entered the equation. It long ago was time for the RPI to RIP, but it remains a totally unreliable security blanket for weary committee members. It’s an awful system that places far too much emphasis on the win-loss record of opponents. Far better computer rankings, such as Sagarin predictor and kenpom.com, are out there.
If the committee needed help from computers, Sagarin predictor identifies a more worthy team from the same state as Virginia Commonwealth. Anybody with a clue must agree Virginia Tech is more deserving than VCU, yet insiderpi.com lists VCU with a 49 RPI and Virginia Tech with a 60. Sagarin predictor has Virginia Tech at 33, VCU at 86. Colorado, which beat Kansas State three times and Texas once, is 34 spots behind UAB in RPI ratings and 10 spots ahead of the Blazers in Sagarin predictor.
Scrap the whole concept of a committee. A better idea: One person a year chosen by Bilas, with vast college basketball experience and enough self-confidence not to have an agenda, should select the preliminary field, announce it on TV and then debate the selections with Bilas for 30 minutes. Exactly two hours later, the chairman then reveals whether he or she has made Bilas’ suggested changes or stayed with the original brackets. Think that selection show might get decent ratings?