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The Morning Dish – Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 25, 2017 The Morning Dish No Comments

It’s become obvious in recent years that the NCAA Men’s Basketball Committee, commonly known by most as the selection committee for the sport’s tournament field, feels the need to regularly throw out trial balloons under the guise of making the event “better.”

That so often those balloons are filled with lead (see: 96-team field, which made the internet blow up before the internet knew how to do so regularly) seems to makes no difference. The selection committee desperately feels the need to tinker with something that already works to a sublime level. It’s like someone who might own a bad fast muscle car but just really thinks he should throw a Saturn engine in it. Those in charge of the NCAA Tournament really think they can do better than best, and darn it if they aren’t going to try, no matter how ill-advised it is.

Though apparently too nervous about reaction to their plan to even leak that they were seriously considering it this season, the NCAA announced on Tuesday that in 2 1/2 weeks it will have a one-time release of which teams committee members have in mind as their top 16 seeds in the field as of Feb. 11. The move is a thinly veiled copy of college football’s weekly ranking releases for its playoff event, and if it gets even a fraction of the TV ratings the committee is undoubtedly looking for, you can bet this will become a weekly occurrence in coming years.

It’s a poor move (Eli Boettger documented why quite well here, and Bart Torvik was on top of this a couple years ago already, questioning among other things why would we want committee members formalizing opinions on teams before they have anything close to all of the evidence on them, something that we have regularly seen makes the college football playoff committee look silly) and was widely panned on social media yesterday. But it’s also pretty much what we’ve come to expect in this sport, where the leadership continues to show a stunning lack of grasp of what makes college basketball great, certainly a much better sport than they seem to want to give it credit for.

College basketball doesn’t need a college football ratings update show for the NCAA Tournament, because college basketball isn’t college football. They’re two different sports with two decidedly different fan bases, in every way imaginable. Fan bases, audiences, game atmosphere, location, inclusiveness of all Division I schools-you name it.

College basketball is never going to be college football, and that’s just fine. Realistic people understand this, and even most general college sports fans get it. But the inability of movers and shakers of college basketball to understand this leads to an unhealthy lack of belief in their sport, and even in one of the crown jewel sporting events on the planet.

It’s enough to make one want to subpoena eye glass prescriptions. Are committee members physically unable to see how perfect the NCAA Tournament is already, or how bracketology has become a cottage industry of its own and brings the regular season to round-the-clock suspense leading up to a Sunday in March? (something which college football can’t even begin to imitate with only four teams in its pseudo-playoff, by the way)

The low view taken of college basketball by those who should be its greatest ambassadors was evident in rule changes instituted last year, when the sport needed a few tweaks, but instead listened to a few loud voices among TV commentators and took a wrecking ball to the rule book, all so it could build a better imitation of the NBA. It’s been going on with the tournament for the better part of two decades now, too, all the way back to the unnecessary move to the pod system, something the NCAA supposedly incorporated to reduce travel for teams, but in reality was an excuse for higher seeded teams to play in front of friendly home crowds and reduce the possibility of their being upset.

The only way something like this change might be acceptable is if committee members were revealing who they were looking at to fill the final at-large spots in the bracket. If the committee is going to be so heavily influenced by brand name bias for mediocre major conference teams-as it has been so blatantly the past two years-it would be nice that they declare their intentions, so that they can be exposed for said bias, and perhaps pressure can build to get it fixed quicker.

The selection process, though, doesn’t need more “buzz.” Selection Sunday is already the most suspense-packed day of the entire sports year. The month leading up to the selections gets plenty of attention. Even last year’s move of the selection show to New York City was a completely unnecessary change, and no one got more excited over last year’s event because the deliberations were done in NYC instead of Indianapolis.

If this is really about college basketball’s regular season, though, then the leaders on the selection committee-which is heavily populated with representatives from the major TV conferences, a.k.a. the self-righteously titled “Power 5″-should focus on just that-fixing the regular season.

Committee members, athletic directors, commissioners and their peers can affect a whole lot stronger change than this if they would actually take the first two months of the season seriously. They certainly have the clout to do it. Tighten up the rules for exempt tournaments, creating fewer events which in turn would generate more interest in the ones there are. Move up the start date nearer Thanksgiving, for a more defined start. And good grief, surrender your precious, revenue-producing 40-point blowout buy games and play more non-conference games people actually might want to watch.

If college basketball needs change, there are a multitude of different ways to do it. Messing with the thing the sport does the very best-as good as any sport in the world-is only asking for trouble. Which is, unfortunately, something the leaders in this sport in all their insecurity (or simple hunger for a few more dollars…) seem to specialize in.

Side Dishes:

  • It’s too bad and more than a little ironic that this bomb was dropped on this particular Tuesday, because the night’s games were a shining example of just how good this sport can be. For one, Marquette capped an absolutely huge four days in the growth of Steve Wojciechowski’s program, following up a road win at Creighton on Saturday with a rally from 17 points down to stun No. 1-ranked Villanova 74-72 at home. Much like North Carolina State the day before, the Golden Eagles came back when it seemed like they were out of it, picking up a monumental win that could carry them right into the NCAA Tournament.
  • Number 1 went down on Tuesday, and so did Number 2. West Virginia struck at home again, pulling away from Kansas for an 85-69 win. Esa Ahmad scored a career-high 27 points and the Mountaineers looked well again after two disappointing losses last week.
  • Number 1 and Number 2 went down, and so did Number 4. Tennessee had come close earlier this year in losses to Oregon and North Carolina, and this time the Volunteers got the job done with an 82-80 win over Kentucky. According to ESPN reseach, it’s the first time since 1979 that the No. 1, 2 and 4 ranked teams in the country all lost on the same day.
  • Virginia shut down Notre Dame for a 71-54 win in a battle of top 15 teams. The Cavaliers dominated on the glass, outrebounding the Irish 38-22, and also held ND to just 41.7% shooting and three three-pointers.
  • Louisville pummeled Pittsburgh 106-51, on the road, a scary good showing by the Cardinals and a bad, bad showing for the Panthers.
  • Purdue won at Michigan State 84-73 as Caleb Swanigan was a tower of power again with 25 points and 17 rebounds. Miles Bridges scored 33 for the Spartans, but this was a home loss, and MSU can’t afford a whole lot more like this. Tom Izzo’s team still has room to make the NCAA Tournament, but its margin is decreasing.
  • Iowa State nosed past Kansas State 70-65, holding on after the Wildcats rallied from down 20 to nearly steal this one. Matt Thomas scored a big 25 points for the Cyclones.
  • Like Marquette, St. Bonaventure also put together a stirring comeback, rallying from 18 points down to defeat Saint Joseph’s 67-63. The Bonnies never led in the game until freshman Josh Ayeni hit a huge shot with 1:31 left.
  • Reports came out Tuesday that North Dakota is planning to leave the Big Sky Conference, with a move to the Summit League for most of its athletic programs on tap. UND has been exploring conference options after being directed by its school president to examine all aspects of the athletic department, including conference affiliation, in an attempt to cut costs, and the school would be reunited in the Summit League and the Missouri Valley Football Conference with area rivals North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State, a quartet that were longtime members together of the former NCAA Division II North Central Conference. This also will be another great addition for the Summit League, that conference once seemingly on life support that has made a slew of smart additions and just keeps getting better.
  • Long Beach State announced that junior forward Gabe Levin will miss the rest of the season after having surgery on an injured knee that has kept him out since late December. Levin was arguably the 49ers’ most valuable player, and his loss has had more than a little to do with the Beach’s struggles that have included a 3-3 start in the Big West.

Tonight’s Menu:

  • Maybe the best game is one of the latest, as UCLA is on the road at USC (11 p.m. Eastern, FS1) with L.A. supremacy on the line. It sure seems like every time we turn on a Trojans game at the Galen Center that the place is half full, but shouldn’t be the case here as this one has already been announced as sold out.
  • The night starts early with a couple good games in the AAC, with Memphis looking to keep it up when it travels to Temple (6 p.m., CBSSN) and two good defensive teams tangling as SMU goes to Central Florida (6 p.m., ESPNews).
  • Florida State is up to No. 6 in the polls, and now becomes the latest team to try to sidestep pesky Georgia Tech.
  • A quality game in the America East has Vermont at Albany. The Great Danes have won three in a row and may be rounding into form to make a late season run.
  • A big one in the Atlantic Sun has two of the three tri-leaders facing off when Florida Gulf Coast goes to North Florida. The third team tied for the lead-South Carolina Upstate-faces one of the teams just one game behind the leaders when it goes to Lipscomb.
  • We’ll get a good idea just how Creighton is coping without Maurice Watson when the Bluejays play at Georgetown.
  • Texas Tech has alternated wins and losses in its last eight games, but the Red Raiders have a tough task to continue that when they go to Baylor (8 p.m., ESPNews).
  • Rhode Island feels like an unremarkable 12-6, but the Rams’ early win over Cincinnati has them still in or near many early bracket projections, so their game at Richmond is critical to keep up their NCAA hopes (8 p.m., CBSSN).
  • Seton Hall has a prime opportunity for a marquee win as it hosts Butler (8:30 p.m., FS1).
  • Two of the top teams in the Mountain West meet when Nevada goes to Boise State (10 p.m., CBSSN).

Have a terrific Wednesday.

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College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

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March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

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