As much as anyone I look forward to March Madness. Even though I seem to be one of those rare basketball fans who enjoys the NBA game more than college, the NBA takes a backseat to tournament games over the next three weeks. I genuinely enjoy watching tournament games. The intensity inherent in a game where so much is riding on every single play and or coaching decision is enthralling. My daughters are incredulous when they ask who I am rooting for and most times I do not care. It is about the organic authentic drama unique to each game.
Over the years I have become less and less interested in the brackets. I can't remember the last time I actually filled out a bracket. It seems as if joining a pool and completing brackets has become an American pastime up there with the likes of fireworks on the 4th of July. Again, it is about the games regardless of which team is playing. For that matter making sure I am in front of the television when the tournament field is announced has also become a trivial occurrence. Last night, however, we had family over who wanted to watch the brackets unveiled so we watched.
I missed most of the brackets and came into the room when ESPN's roundtable of commentators were discussing the fate certain "bubble teams" and in particular those schools which failed to make the tournament. After discussing amongst themselves the merit of several bubble teams as well as the seeding of top tier teams, NCAA Men's
Basketball committee chairman, Ron Wellman was interviewed by ESPN. The exact interview is not shared below but another conducting after the selection program has ended. At one point during the interview one of the ESPN commentators asked a question about some of the teams who failed to make field. In multiple cases Ron Wellman referenced strength of schedule as a factor used to determine the merits of at-large teams and in the case of those schools which failed to qualify for the tournament, their out of conference schedule(s) was weak.
I could not help but laugh every time I heard the committee chair reference a school's out of conference schedule. So basically, the selection committee was either rewarding or punishing schools based in part by who they played on a Wednesday night in December. As an educator ( and even as a former college basketball coach), I could not help but laugh at the hypocrisy associated with big time college athletics. Here we were last night with a representative from the NCAA chiding teams for who they played out of conference. So forget about classes and if need be criss cross the country to make sure your strength of schedule can be checked off on your tournament resume. I know this sounds hypocritical on my part. If I were so enraged I would boycott March Madness. This is not going to happen. I was more taken back by the flippant nature with which the NCAA reasoned about who one should play regardless of how this impact academics.