How is it that in just two years of having its own playoff selection committee, college football has already shown that it is incredibly more adept at ranking its teams at year-end than the NCAA basketball selection committee? College basketball has been picking teams for its March Madness tournament since 1939 and for some reason still does not seem to have a clue what it is doing.
Aside from the brutal snubs the NCAA tournament committee dished out to several teams this year — Monmouth, your bench will be missed — the seeding of the teams that are actually in the tournament is puzzling to say the least. There is no reason that Oregon should be a one-seed over Michigan State — the Spartans’ only loss since mid-January was to the 10th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers, whereas Oregon has three losses to teams ranked 100 or worse this season. It is inexplicable why the overall No. 1-seed Kansas is in a region stacked with the Villanova Wildcats, Miami Hurricanes, California Golden Bears and Maryland Terrapins. And why are the No. 1 overall Jayhawks not seeded in the region closest to them?
Perhaps no one expressed anguish at the committee’s job this year better than University of Kentucky Head Coach John Calipari. After learning his SEC-champion Wildcats had been seeded lower than the Texas A&M team they had beat just hours earlier, Calipari went on an impressive rant on live television:
“Just look over the years. It is what it is. Again, we don’t have basketball people in that group. The criteria, I argued with them. What is the criteria? You ready? Every member has his own criteria. What? So, is it top-50 wins? Is it road wins? Is it strength of schedule? Is it team efficiency, which should play a part in this. That means you understand basketball,” Calipari said.
Calipari hit the nail on the head. What is the biggest difference between the selection committees for the College Football Playoff and the NCAA tournament? Actual experience in the sport for which they are being tasked to evaluate teams.
The CFP committee has 13 members, 10 of whom coached or played football at the collegiate level, and three of whom are enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Compare that to the NCAA selection committee, where only four of the 10 have any sort experience in college basketball.
The chairman of the CFP committee, Kirby Hocutt, was an all-conference linebacker and team captain for Kansas State in the ’80s. Joe Castiglione, the chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee, was a walk-on at the University of Maryland — for football.
The CFP selection committee boasts a variety of men and women with an array of jobs giving them different perspectives of college football, including former coaches, journalists and former players. The NCAA tournament selection committee is made up entirely of current athletic directors.
And the experience speaks for itself. In the very first year of the CFP, the general public thought the committee should not have chosen Ohio State to make it. The Buckeyes shocked the nation, and went on to win the national championship that year because the experts on the CFP committee saw something the rest of us did not.
Granted, we must acknowledge that the NCAA basketball tournament committee has the tougher job here. Seeding 68 teams is significantly more difficult than picking four teams for a football playoff and then four more games for the New Year’s bowls — though if that is the case, why are there more people in the CFP committee than the NCAA tournament committee?
But this does not mean we should give the tournament committee a pass when we see glaring errors that would not have been a problem if we had just used a bracket made by one of the dozens of bracketologists out there, like Joe Lunardi of ESPN. Teams like Monmouth have a chance to make the NCAA tournament once in every blue moon, and it is not fair that they should lose out on the chance of a lifetime because the people deciding their fate have less experience in the sport than the players themselves.
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