Selection Sunday Conversation

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" - Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Everything Xavier has done this year was aimed towards making the team meaningful today. Was it enough?

Brad
So people didn't love my tweet about going to the NIT (though they loved the inner ear joke), but I don't think this thing is lock yet. Missouri St. missed one year with a 21 RPI ranking, Utah State missed while nationally ranked in both polls, Tennessee won nine top 100 games last year and missed it. What I'm saying is, if we miss this year it's not going to come as some sort of historical shock. There is plenty of precedent for teams with an RPI of 47 not making it.

Joel
I don't think people liked your NIT tweet because it was unnecessarily pessimistic. It obviously didn't help us to lose, but I think we have a little bit of wiggle room. As long as nothing catastrophic happens the rest of the way, we're in. We may end up playing in Dayton, but I think only a historic run of bid thefts can knock us out at this point.

*****

Time has progressed - as it is wont to do - since I sent that last message, and all three active potential bid thieves bit the dust today. Our boy Jeff Borzello, who has a track record of accuracy when it comes to predicting the actions of the committee, just tweeted to us and sash19xu that he believes Xavier will be in the field. Are you starting to unpucker yet?

My own turn of phrase up there brought up something else that I think bears discussion. Bracketology, at its heart, is the art/science/alchemy of trying to predict who the committee will choose, not lining up who is most deserving. Sadly, there is historically a meaningful gulf between those two concepts. We have the RPI to thank for at least part of that. I know their job isn't easy, but they could make it less difficult if they used better tools. The RPI can be gamed, and as long as the committee continues to use it, they can be gamed, too.

Brad

The losses by bid stealers help me feel a bit better, yes. To your larger point though, I can't be comfortable because there is no real standard. If we miss it's hardly the snub of the century, and if we get in and Iowa doesn't won't they have an argument? I don't mind that there is a human element to it, but the humans are essentially using an abacus in the era of the best computer systems ever.

Bryan
It was rough having to hope for a Duke win, but once I swallowed the vomit back down, I got over it.

Every year at this time, certain teams are going to be left on the outside who have a case for inclusion, but the fact of the matter is, if you win the games you need to win, there is no human element that can overlook that. Yes, there are better ways of picking a bracket than the one currently in place, but the case for us is that if we hadn't laid not one but two eggs against Seton Hall, no one would be talking about us on the bubble. We did, so here we are, same for every other team on there with us. I guess the point of all that is to say, I am no fan of the selection committee, but teams losing games they should have won keeps them out of the tournament, not the process by which teams are picked. Unless SMU gets in, then I rescind my forgiving statements about the committee and hope pigeons have a straight up field day on their cars.

Brad
I can (sort of) forgive the Seton Hall games, but we lost to USC this year. There's a sort of ignominious pride that goes along with being beaten by a team that thoroughly dreadful.

My thoughts on the NIT remain the same from last year. We don't play all season to "earn" a bid into a tournament for also rans. I know that, should we miss the NCAAs, we would accept an NIT berth without hesitation, I just don't like it.

Joel
I was watching the games today and one of them had an interview with the VP of the selection committee. They were (obviously) talking about the selection process, and he mentioned that they intentionally bring in a variety of people with disparate basketball backgrounds and that each person has his or her own set of things that he or she believes should define a tournament team. While I appreciate their dedication to the biblical exhortation that "in a multitude of counselors there is safety," it disturbed me that he didn't even attempt to pretend that there was any real agreed-upon set of criteria that they were looking for.

I mean, we've seen how easily MVP voting (just to name one of a billion examples) can go awry in major sports when people define "valuable" differently. Shouldn't there at least be some mutually ratified expectation? It's small wonder that there is someone feeling screwed every year; the teams know the goal is to get into the NCAA tournament, but the definition of what makes an at-large team deserving is ambiguous at best.

Of course, as Bryan pointed out, if you handle your business, someone else can worry about quibbling over fine points like this.

Brad
To some extent, yes. On the other hand there are mid majors every year who beat the teams in front of them, and then have the wait. Sure, you can be Wichita and mop the floor with a season full of nobodies, but is that what we expect a lower level team to do to get in? That's a razor thin margin for those teams.

You can say that they should schedule better, but we were all involved with collegiate athletics in one way or another enough to know that sometimes, you just can't quality opponents for every game.

Bryan
But sometimes you just have to beat what is in front of you. Gonzaga did it last year, Wichita did it this year, it can be debated why on earth they got 1 seeds, but they beat up on weaker conference and did what they needed to. Also, Wichita State made the Final Four last year, so I doubt there was an issue in teams from power conferences wanting to play them. Why was their schedule so weak?

Brad
Because pounding cupcakes gets you a one seed. It's like Xanthians, why bother?

Joel
What would the motivation for a power conference team to play them be? Bill Self straight-up said they schedule non-conference games against teams who will come to their place because that's where the money is. Kansas isn't going to get the ticket money if they go play at Wichita State, and they're not interested in playing a home-and-home with them when they have teams lining up to take a check for the privilege of getting thumped at the Phog. It's brutal economics, but I admire his honesty. KU and their ilk have no shortage of good games available both in and out of conference; it's not difficult to see why they wouldn't sacrifice money to take on a team that might actually beat them.

The RPI is looking at opponents' winning percentage as a huge component; why risk it against Wichita State when you can get a similar bump for beating the frick out of a Toledo team that's going to go 27-5? That's basically what Mario Mercurio said when I asked him what scheduling tips Joe Lunardi gave X for plumping up the resume. Beat on mediocre teams who will romp in weak conferences. It's gaming the metric, it's cynical, and it's brilliant. Hooray for the NCAA!

[A brief interlude while Joel and Bryan threaten Brad with grievous bodily harm for talking about Chelsea soccer while we try to talk about basketball]

Joel
I really want to avoid that game at UD Arena. Seems like it would be a hostile crowd.

Brad
We're agreed in calling those play in games, correct?

Joel
Oh yeah, even if we're in them. The tournament starts at 64.

Brad
Why not play them at the first round locations? How are you going to punish some tiny team just excited to have won their conference by sending them to Dayton in mid-March? There's no tournament atmosphere, no bedecked building, no other games, nothing. Just literally the most grey place on earth as your congratulations.

Bryan
Clearly you have never been to Memphis.

Joel
I've gotta disagree with you on the atmosphere thing. According to everything I've heard, Dayton does it up right for the First Four. Maybe it's because the city loves tournament basketball but never gets to see the local team participate in it. Kind of bums me put that it looks like they're going to make it this year.

Brad
I can't decide whether I should listen to the selection show on the radio or save it to watch at home.

Bryan
I am DVRing it, getting some 'za, and watching it at home. I am assuming that you guys run good, Christian homes and watch CBS.

Brad
Of course. I actually am not even aware of other selection shows. ESPN is running Requiem for the Big East against it, I believe.

Joel
I've got morning church and then an afternoon small group, so I'll be live on it. There is obviously no other place to watch than CBS. My son recognizes the CBS music out of commercials and will point to the TV and say "ball" when he hears it. #fatheroftheyear

Okay, where things stand now, what does your gut tell you lies in store for X when the smoke clears tomorrow?

Bryan
Play-in game. Undignified, but in.

Brad
Ah man. I'm honestly worried. I think we land in Dayton, at best.

Joel
I feel like we've done just enough. I think we get an 11 seed and stay clear of the First Four.

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