Numbers and Conspiracies

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Looking at the numbers and trying to decide why Virginia Tech didn’t get into
the NCAA Tournament is a pointless exercise. You can’t change what has already
happened. Still, as a glutton for punishment, I’m going to do it anyway. Also,
if you like a little conspiracy theory, keep reading.

We’re going take a close look at seven teams. One of these teams was
considered a lock for the NCAA Tournament, and made it in. Three were bubble
teams who made it in. Two were bubble teams who got left out. One was a team
which, on paper, had a resume very comparable to the other six teams on the
list. However, not only did they get snubbed by the NCAA Tournament, they got
snubbed by the NIT as well.

The six teams are: Florida State, VCU, UAB, USC, Colorado, Virginia Tech and
Marshall. You can make an argument for any of those teams to be included, though
to be honest, a couple of them have less ammunition to argue with than the
others.

First we’ll take a look at the regular resume, and then we’ll take a look at
non-conference scheduling later in the article.

Bubble
Teams, and Marshall
Category VT COL VCU UAB USC Marshall FSU
Overall 21-11 21-13 23-11 22-8 19-14 22-11 21-10
Conf. 9-7 8-8 12-6 12-4 10-8 9-7 11-5
RPI 65 64 53 31 66 59 52
SOS 87 53 92 85 39 79 87
vs. Top 50 2-5 6-7 3-5 0-5 5-5 2-4 1-5
vs. Top 100 8-8 8-10 8-8 10-8 8-8 7-10 6-7
Bad Losses 3 3 3 1 6 1 1
Top 50 Road Wins 0 1 1 0 2 0 0
Road/Neutral Record 10-8 6-11 12-8 9-6 7-10 8-8 9-7

All teams have strengths and weaknesses in their numbers. Colorado had six top
50 wins, but a poor away/neutral record, as well as three bad losses. As we’ll
see later, their non-conference scheduling was bad also.

VCU won 23 games, but a whopping 12 of them were against teams ranked 200 or
worse in the RPI. VCU had the lowest strength of schedule of any team on the
list above, and lost to three teams outside the top 100. They did however have a
good road/neutral site record.

UAB didn’t beat a single top 50 team. Their signature win was VCU, who barely
made the field as a play-in team. UAB also lost in their first game of the CUSA
Tournament, and had a pretty low strength of schedule.

USC had a strong strength of schedule, but the lowest RPI of any at-large
selection. They had five quality wins, including two on the road. However, they
also had SIX (!) losses outside the top 100, including THREE (!) losses outside
the top 200. Not to mention they have a poor record in away and neutral site
games.

Colorado, Marshall and Florida State are all interesting studies as well. The
numbers are all very even, yet Virginia Tech was considered a bubble team,
Florida State was considered a lock, and Marshall didn’t even make the NIT! The
Thundering Herd had two top 50 wins, including a victory over West Virginia in a
neutral site game. They only have one bad loss, which is five fewer than USC.

Virginia Tech had two top 50 wins, and four overall wins against teams that
made the NCAA Tournament. Ironically, when the Hokies beat FSU on Friday night,
it dropped the Noles from #43 in the RPI to #53. FSU then moved up one spot on
Sunday. So beating Florida State actually cost the Hokies a top 50 win. They
would have had three such wins had they lost to the Noles.

Florida State only had one top 50 win, a losing record against the top 100,
and their strength of schedule was the exact same as Virginia Tech’s: #87.
Overall, pretty much the same resume as the Hokies and Marshall. However, FSU
went 11-5 in the ACC, so they were considered a lock the entire time. It’s a
amazing how conference record counts in some cases, and in other cases it
doesn’t (VT last season).

It’s not really about the numbers, however. You can pick your way through
those numbers all day long and come up with good things and bad things about
each team (though I think there is no way in hell that UAB and USC should have
made it … I think VCU had a stronger resume than those two teams), and it’s
never going to accomplish anything. The committee makes the decision, and it
doesn’t matter if Virginia Tech was included in 87
of the 89 online brackets
on Sunday.

What we can discuss, however, is exactly how much these Selection Committee
members know what they are doing, or how much they even bother to look at the
numbers. Some of the decisions made on Sunday make me wonder about both, and I’m
not just talking about Virginia Tech. Some of that seeding didn’t make any sense
to me either.

A 20-13 Michigan team an 8-seed? That seems a bit high, strength of schedule
regardless. 13 losses just doesn’t look good. 19-14 Tennessee a 9-seed? And
against Michigan, of course. That game might feature the most combined losses of
any 8-9 game in tournament history.

We’ve gone over the committee members before, and listed their schools and
sports backgrounds, but it’s worth doing it again.



The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee


Name


Position


Background


Alma Mater
Gene Smith* Ohio State AD Football Notre Dame
Mike Bobinski Xavier AD Baseball Notre Dame
Ron Wellman Wake Forest AD Baseball Bowling Green
Jeff Hathaway UConn AD Basketball** Maryland
Lynn Hickey Texas-San Antonio AD Basketball Ouachita Baptist
Doug Fullerton Big Sky Commissioner Baseball/Basketball Cal Western
Scott Barnes Utah State AD Basketball Fresno State
Stan Morrison Cal-Riverside AD Basketball Cal
Dan Beebe Big 12 Commissioner Football Cal-Poly Pomona
Steve Orsini SMU AD Football Notre Dame
*Chairman
**Team manager, not player or coach

 

Since there are tons of conspiracy theories being thrown around, I’ll throw
out one of my own. This committee is not set up for Virginia Tech to get a bid
over UAB, Virginia Commonwealth and USC. In fact, it’s set up quite poorly for
the Hokies to get a bid over most any mid-major.

First off, UAB and VCU are mid-majors, and they got bids over Colorado and
Virginia Tech. Six of the 10 committee members come from a small-conference
background. Xavier is one of the top mid-majors in the country. Before going to
Utah State, Scott Barnes was at Eastern Washington and San Diego. Steve Orsini
was at Central Florida before SMU, two mid-majors. Doug Fullerton is
commissioner of a mid-major, and before that he was the AD at Montana State.

Even Dan Beebe probably has some feelings for mid-majors, as the former
long-time commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference.

Only four of the ten committee members come from the power conferences:
committee Chairman Gene Smith (who was probably too busy trying to clean up his
scandal at Ohio State to pay much attention to basketball this week), Wake
Forest AD Ron Wellman (who didn’t know Virginia Tech’s critical numbers last
year), UConn AD Jeff Hathaway, and Big 12 Commissioner Dan Beebe.

Would all of those guys be on Virginia Tech’s side? Perhaps, but perhaps not.
Jeff Hathaway was Associate AD at UConn from 1990-2001, left for a year, and
then came back to be the head AD in June of 2003, right in the middle of ACC
expansion, the Virginia Tech-Big East lawsuit, etc. It’s quite possible that
he’s not a big Virginia Tech fan, because after all, the Hokies left his conference in a way that left the administration in the Big East not so happy.

Want more conspiracy? Stan Morrison has spent his life in the state of
California, as a basketball coach and administrator. Where did Morrison coach?
For one, he was the head coach at San Jose State when the Spartans were in the
Big West until 1996. Whom did he coach against? Why Seth Greenberg of Long Beach
State, of course. As of January 26, 1996, Long Beach State had defeated San Jose
State nine times in a row. Seth Greenberg beat Stan Morrison nine times in a
row. I wouldn’t be a big fan of anyone who did that to me.

Seth Greenberg has a habit of rubbing some people the wrong way. That’s not a
criticism, it’s a fact. Maybe Greenberg rubbed Morrison the wrong way at some
point during one of those nine beatings, and Morrison never forgot it.

So that’s six committee members who might naturally favor mid-majors, one who
might have something against Virginia Tech, and one who might have something
against Seth Greenberg. But how do you explain USC getting in, if many of those
committee members favor mid-majors? Well, four committee members either went to
college in California or currently work in California. That could be it.

So basically, if there was ever an NCAA Tournament Selection Committee that
set up poorly for Virginia Tech, it was this one.

Not to mention that Gene Smith used to work with current VCU AD Norwood Teague at Arizona State.

I’m not saying any of that is true, but we got a lot of emails asking for the
background of these committee members, so there you go. The information is
there, and it’s up to you how you want to view it.

Non-Conference Strength of Schedule

At least last year we knew exactly why Virginia Tech was left out of the Big
Dance. The Hokies played a weak non-conference schedule, and that was enough for
the Selection Committee to make Tech the first ever ACC team to go 10-6 in
league play and be shooed off to the NIT.

Selection Committee Chairman Gene Smith hinted that Tech’s non-conference
schedule was improved this year, but still wasn’t good enough. Hmmm, well let’s
take a look.


Non-Conference Schedules
Category


VT

COL

VCU

UAB

USC

Marshall

FSU
Road Games 2 4 5 5 4 5 4
Road Games vs. Top 50 1 2 2 2 2 1 0
Neutral Site Games 5 3 3 1 2 1 3
Neutral vs. Top 50 1 0 2 0 0 1 1
Home Games vs. 200+ 4 7 4 4 3 5 4
Overall Games vs. 200+ 6 8 6 6 5 6 8
Top 50 Wins 1 1 1 0 2 1 0
Avg. RPI Win 202.7 274.9 206.13 210.2 163.75 193.8 229.2
Avg. RPI Loss 18.7 68.75 62.75 68.7 125.4 99.7 74.75

Only USC played fewer 200+ teams than Virginia Tech, and the Trojans actually
managed to lose to three of them. Colorado was kept out of the Big Dance for the
same reason the Hokies were last year: too many creampuffs. The Buffs’
non-conference schedule ranked #325 in the country.

Virginia Tech played the same number of sub-200 teams as both VCU and UAB in
their non-conference scheduling. The Hokies played more neutral site games than
both of those schools, and the three teams they lost to had an average RPI of
18.7, easily the best of this group of schools. The average RPI of the teams
they beat in non-conference play was 202.7, which is better than both VCU and
UAB, though marginally.

Marshall, as a result of their neutral court win over West Virginia, actually
is second best in average RPI win.

USC is a really strange team. They beat some good teams in their
non-conference schedule. Their average RPI win is much higher than the other
teams on the list. However, their average RPI loss is also much lower. Obviously
the committee puts more weight into quality wins than bad losses, unless of
course they don’t. FSU beat nobody out-of-conference, but lost to Auburn, the
Wake Forest of the SEC. The Noles still managed to get in the Big Dance, despite
sorry non-league numbers.

The Hokies match up favorably in all of the numbers in that table with the
exception of true road games. Tech played just two true road games against
UNC-Greensboro and Kansas State. Everyone else played at least four.

Let’s take a look at the road games.

Colorado: Georgia, Harvard, San Francisco, Cal-State Bakersfield

VCU: Wake Forest, South Florida, Richmond, Wichita State

UAB: Middle Tennessee State, Arizona State, Arkansas, Troy, Duke

USC: Nebraska, TCU, Kansas, Tennessee

Marshall: Louisville, Ohio, Savannah State, James Madison, St. Bonaventure.

FSU: UNC-G, FIU, Loyola Marymount, Auburn

UAB played at Duke, while USC tested themselves at Kansas and Tennessee. None
of those other road games were particularly impressive. In fact, VCU didn’t even
schedule Wichita State. The Shockers were assigned to VCU by ESPN for their
“Bracket Busters” coverage. But those other teams did play more
overall road games than the Hokies, and I guess if the Selection Committee could
point to anything, that would be it.

As far as non-conference top 50 wins go, Virginia Tech had one, against Penn
State. Florida State had none, and made the Big Dance. UAB had none, and made
the Big Dance. VCU had one and made the Big Dance.

With all due respect to Gene Smith and his Selection Committee, the excuse
that Virginia Tech was left out of the NCAA Tournament because of their
non-conference schedule is a poor one.

Sunday Was a Quote-Fest

Selection Sunday always brings out some good quotes. Here are some that
caught my eye.

“They [UAB] have a great resume.” – Selection Committee
chairman Gene Smith.

Really Gene? Since when does having zero top 50 wins make for a great resume?
I guess winning at Marshall was counted as a quality win. So how could Marshall
be counted as a quality win, yet get bypassed for the NIT? Your guess is as good
as mine.

“Virginia Tech did a great job of improving the teams in their
nonconference schedule,” Gene Smith said. “While they
significantly improved their nonconference schedule and teams that they
played, still it’s about how you did.”

Again, Gene, that’s incorrect. Well, it’s not really incorrect, but the
Hokies really weren’t much different than UAB and VCU, if any. In fact, on
average, they beat better teams and they lost to better teams than both the
Blazers and the Rams.

“Robbed, no excuse,” – ESPN analyst Jay Bilas on Tech’s
exclusion.

Couldn’t have said it better, Jay. Not without violating our own Terms of
Service at least.

“Know who the most surprised people are that VCU and UAB
got in?
VCU and UAB.” – Bilas, again.

Jay Bilas was really on a roll last night. After his rant about cheating in
college athletics during College GameDay, that guy is rapidly moving up
the charts for me.

Gene Smith, on who was the last team to get in: “I can’t even
remember. I can’t remember. I don’t know. I actually can’t remember. All
teams in the first four, whoever they are.”

Really? You’re the Chairman of the NCAA Selection Committee, and you don’t
know? Reminds me of this jewel from Ron Wellman, the Chairman from last year …

“Well, Virginia Tech only had one or two top 50 wins, and none of
them were on the road.”

Ron, Virginia Tech actually had three top 50 wins, and one of them came on
the road exactly nine days before you made that quote. You would think Selection
Committee members would be a little more knowledgeable about the numbers,
assuming they bother to use them.

Tired of March Madness? Me Too.

Three of the last four years, Virginia Tech has been one of the last four
teams out of the NCAA Tournament (according to educated guesses … who knows
where the Hokies ranked in the eyes of the Selection Committee). You’d think
that in one of those years, Tech would have lucked out and fallen in. After all,
the selection process for those last four or five teams doesn’t seem to be
anything more advanced than a coin flip.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of March Madness. I did not enjoy the
NCAA Tournament last year, and I’m not going to make a concerted effort to watch
it this year. If I’m out somewhere and it’s on, sure, I’ll watch. But for the
most part, the Big Dance is dead to me after the latest snub job by the
Selection Committee.

It’s frustrating watching March Madness each year and not seeing anything
good happen to Virginia Tech. That all changed on Friday night, when the
basketball gods smiled down on the Hokies and gave them what the vast majority
of folks believed was a bid-clinching victory over NCAA-bound Florida State.

I thought finally, something went Tech’s way. Erick Green hitting that shot,
and then Derwin Kitchen being a tenth of a second late, was going to be one of
the most memorable moments in Tech basketball history, or so I thought. All of
that bad karma – the injuries, the halfcourt shots, past snubs, etc. – all of
that was coming back around. Then Sunday night rolled around and reminded us who
we are, and that the end of the Florida State game meant very little in the long
run. All it did was allow us to cling to hope all day Saturday, and all day
Sunday, up until the Selection Show.

Next time I think I’d just as soon get put out of my misery early, rather
than hang around for a couple of days and then be disappointed in the end. You
might feel differently, I don’t know. At any rate, I think I’ll abstain from
filling out a bracket this year. Spring Practice can’t get here soon enough.

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