washingtonpost.com  > Sports > Columnists > John Feinstein

After the Conference Tournaments End, the Real Games Begin

By John Feinstein
Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page E18

Maryland is out.

George Washington is in.

Will the MAC get three bids? What about the Missouri Valley?

_____Men's Basketball Basics_____
basketball Scoreboard
Area Colleges Section
Men's Basketball Section

Notre Dame is out.

West Virginia is in.

That's the way college basketball sounds on Selection Saturday, which leads of course to Selection Sunday, arguably the most anticipated sports day in the country this side of the Super Bowl. Everyone has a theory and a list.

Every year the chairman of the men's basketball committee, regardless of who it is, tells the world that it was tougher than ever to pick the 65-team field because there were so many worthy teams. This year, although you can bet all the corn in Iowa that chairman Bob Bowlsby won't say it, the problem is there are so few worthy teams.

What makes UAB better than Wichita State? Why should Iowa get in while Northern Iowa doesn't?

No matter what anyone on the committee tells you, there's no logic, rhyme or reason. Lesson number one for today: Forget the RPI. The only three-letter word more worthless than RPI is BCS. The RPI exists for two reasons: to give computer geeks something to do and to give the committee an excuse for any decision it makes.

"Why did Iowa State get in when Holy Cross had a higher RPI than it did for the entire season?"

"Well, we don't put that much emphasis on the RPI."

"Okay then why did Iowa get in with a 7-9 record in a weak Big Ten while Maryland wasn't considered after going 7-9 in the highest-ranked league in the country?"

"Iowa has a higher RPI than Maryland."

Here's what happens in the committee room: They go through reams of computer printouts, look through all the RPIs and SOSs (strength of schedules) and in the end it comes down to gut feelings, unspoken political agendas and, on occasion, sentiment. If Purdue had ventured anywhere near the bubble this season, you can bet the committee would have found a way to get Gene Keady one last trip to the tournament. History also isn't supposed to matter. Please. The committee knows who the TV teams are just as well as CBS does. You aren't going to hear anyone actually say, "DePaul is a better TV team than Buffalo," but you can be sure everyone in the room is aware of it.

CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company