Response to the 2007 USBWA Mock Bracket

by David Mihm | February 11th, 2007

The mock bracket process conducted by the NCAA and the US Basketball Writers Association has gotten a lot of positive press over the past week, and with good reason. The more the NCAA allows the process of selecting and seeding teams to be transparent, the better the sport is for it. The writers invited to the mock bracket are all well-respected, thoughtful members of the media, and they seem to have developed a genuine appreciation for the difficulty of the task facing members of the Selection Committee (and bracketographers!).For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a link to a memoir of the 36-hour experiment as by Pat Forde, who happens to be my favorite sportswriter.

Procedurally, of the articles I’ve seen describing the experience, I only take issue with Andy Katz’s assertion that RPI did not enter into consideration in any significant way. I don’t doubt that it was not a significant factor with this Committee, but I do maintain it holds critical importance for the actual Committee. The correlation between past RPI data and teams’ seeds and at-large selection is simply too strong to ignore, particularly under the Chairmen of the early 00’s, Craig Thompson and Lee Fowler.

These supposedly uninitiated writers did a pretty nice job overall, I have to say. Those who gripe at seeing GW, NMSU, Wright State, High Point, and Houston in the field need to realize that those teams were announced as upset conference champions midway through the process, to inject a dose of realism.

The quality of the bracket tells me only one thing: the NCAA invited the wrong group to Indianapolis! As I stated earlier, every member of the list whose name I recognized stands out as a thoughtful, rational observer of NCAA basketball, and they genuinely took the Committee’s by-laws and selection criteria to heart.

What I’d really like to see is a follow-up next year with announcers taking part rather than writers. The amount of mis-information pumped out by the talking heads seems to have risen at an alarming rate this year. Here’s my “top ten” list of recommended invitees for next year’s experiment:

  1. Dick Vitale
  2. Seth Davis
  3. Billy Packer
  4. Clark Kellogg
  5. Digger Phelps
  6. Brent Musberger
  7. Steve Lavin
  8. Dan Belluomini
  9. Marques Johnson
  10. Jimmy Dykes

As for my response to this year’s actual mock bracket, a couple of at-large teams in particular surprised me:

  • Georgetown at a #10, which would surely have been much higher had the “Committee” known of the Hoyas’ win over Marquette this weekend. Still, a Big East team at 7-2 at the time would seem worthy of more than a 10, no?
  • Nevada at a #7 / Texas at a #9: If subjectivity was allowed to enter into Texas’ seeding, as both Forde and Andy Katz stated, then it should have entered in to give Nevada higher than a #7 seed. Those who have watched Nevada this year know that Nick Fazekas is almost as capable as Kevin Durant at taking over a game, and there is simply no comparison between Nevada’s backcourt and Texas’. Two seeds seems like an awfully slim margin between these two teams, and it reeks of East Coast bias, which the Committee has been admirably careful in avoiding for as long as I have been projecting brackets. (I have the Pack as a true #5 seed this week, but dropped them to a #6 in exchange for a short trip to Sacramento for the first and second rounds.)
  • Michigan State at a #10: Not sure if the Committee had the benefit of knowing the outcome of the Purdue game on Wednesday night, but if it did, any team that scores only 12 points in a half when its season is on the line does not deserve to be included in the at-large pool.
  • Clemson at a #11: A team goes undefeated in the non-conference and is .500 in the #2 RPI conference and only earns an 11? Duke did the same thing, but the Committee gave the Blue Devils a 4. There simply cannot be a 7-seed-line difference between those two teams.
  • USC at a #4: This is probably the most shocking seed of any. Southern Cal has a very weak nonconference resume, and its only quality wins in conference play are a sweep of Oregon and a home win over Arizona at the nadir of its slump. I can understand wanting to promote a team from the West Coast to fill the final Western pod, but Air Force, Nevada, and even UNLV are better candidates than USC.

But these are fairly small gripes, and I don’t hesitate in saying that this Committee’s bracket looks a lot better than the one that the real Committee came up with last March!

–David Mihm

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