TOM DAVIS: Making the NCAA Tournament can be hard, picking it really isn’t

Notre Dame men's basketball coach Mike Brey directs players during the second half of a recent game against Miami in South Bend. (By The Associated Press)

The problem with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament selection committee is the same thing that often plagues a lot of large organizations when having to make critical decisions.

The process involves too many voices, too much information and not enough simple common sense.

The committee will spend the entire season watching teams play, devouring information, culminating in days and days of contemplating analytics all to determine which 68 teams get to participate.

I did the same thing in one hour-plus sitting at the Akron (Indiana) Public Library (a fantastic work environment, I might add) and my tournament field will be just as competitive and entertaining as the one that involved an entire committee and cost many thousands of dollars to formulate.

What I realized in putting this field together was that it really wasn’t difficult to do. In fact, when implementing common sense, the decisions were quite easy.

Several of the leagues have not crowned an automatic bid as of yet, so that could alter my field over the next 48 hours, but I placed the favored team in that position for simplistic purposes.

Here is the field as it should be.


See, the first problem with allowing large committees to make decisions is that common sense goes out the window. Whoever came up with the concept of playing a couple of games – on a Tuesday – in Dayton – is an idiot.

The NCAA Tournament starts Thursday at noon and everyone knows that. Whatever that garbage is on Tuesday is just that, garbage.

Sixty-four teams make the tournament and that is the way it is. If a team isn’t good enough to be included in a field of 64 teams, then it should have played better.

We’re not talking about the College Football Playoff, where the fifth-best team in the country is left out. We’re debating over two teams (more than likely that were mediocre within their leagues) and as to whether or not they are 64th in the country or 65th. Who cares (outside of the coach, who will negotiate a 5-year, 7-figure extension with a fiscally-retarded athletic director, because he was only worse than 63 other teams across the nation)?


There are 32 automatic bids that are awarded to the league tournament champions, some of which have been decided, while others have not.

To simplify this column, I’ve made assumptions that the favored teams currently competing will advance and earn those bids.

Here are the 32 teams that automatically get in.

– Ohio Valley (Murray State)

– Big South (Radford)

– Missouri Valley (Loyola (Chicago)

– Atlantic Sun (Lipscomb)

– Big Ten (Michigan)

– Colonial (College of Charleston)

– MAAC (Iona)

– Horizon (Wright State)

– Northeast (LIU-Brooklyn)

– Summit (South Dakota State)

– West Coast (Gonzaga)

– Patriot (Bucknell)

– America East (Vermont)

– MEAC (Bethune-Cookman)

– SWAC (Grambling)

– Big East (Xavier)

– Big 12 (Kansas)

– Mountain West (Nevada)

– MAC (Buffalo)

– Conference USA (Old Dominion is the last team most expected to win this with the defeat of favored Middle Tennessee State, which I will address in a bit)

– Big Sky (Montana)

– Atlantic Coast Conference (Virginia)

– Southland (Southeastern Louisiana)

– WAC (New Mexico State)

– PAC-12 (Arizona)

– Big West (UC Davis)

– Ivy League (Penn)

– Atlantic 10 (Rhode Island)

– SEC (Auburn)

– Sun Belt (Louisiana)

– Southern (UNC-Greensboro)

– American (Cincinnati)


With half of the 64 spots taken, the other half of the field will be filled with teams that deserved that right by playing good basketball against its peers.

If you have lost as many games (or close) as you won against your league opponents, then sorry, you should have played better.

This simple formula takes away about 17 different analytical categories in which some guy in a hotel suite is figuring out just how good McNeese State was on Dec. 17 as opposed to Jan. 30.

I don’t care what you did in non-league, I only care what you did against your peers. So coaches, go ahead and pad your resume with wins against non-NCAA Division I teams so that you can turn your “20 wins” into a contract extension with your imbecilic supervisor. But that crap ain’t going to fly with me, because I actually have a brain.

Beat your peers or don’t complain.

Here is the remainder of the field (in no particular order) as of this moment (but remember, it could fluctuate somewhat over the next 48 hours).

1. VILLANOVA:14-4 in the tough Big East, spent a lot of time as the No. 1-ranked team, Wildcats are in.

2. HOUSTON:14-4 in AAC, beat Temple twice, Wichita State and Cincinnati. Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars are in.

3. WICHITA STATE:14-4 in AAC, beat Houston, Temple and Cincinnati, No “shock” Wichita is in.

4. ST. BONAVENTURE:14-4 in AAC, won 24 games, beat only top 25 team it played, Bonnies deserve to be in.

5. DUKE:13-5 in ACC, won 26 games, may be best team in nation right now, Blue Devils are in.

6. CLEMSON:11-7 in ACC, won 23 games, beat three top 25 teams this year. Tigers return to NCAAs.

7. NORTH CAROLINA:11-7 in ACC, won 24 games. Beat five top 25 teams. Tar Heels are in.

8. MIAMI:11-7 in ACC, won 22 games, beat a number of really solid teams (including Middle Tennessee State). ‘Canes are in.

9. NORTH CAROLINA STATE:11-7 in ACC, 21 wins overall, have five wins vs. top 25 clubs. Wolf Pack is in and word is that former player Dennis Smith has $73,500 riding on N.C. State winning its first game.

10. NOTRE DAME:Alright, this is where I implement the “common sense” rule. Yes, the Fighting Irish are 1-7 this season against top 25 teams, and yes, they are 8-10 in the ACC, but THIS team didn’t play in those games.

“I’ve never been a big guy to campaign,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said earlier this week, “but I think we really deserve to be in. And I don’t want to hear about one of the best 68. When I have my guys back, we’re a top-20 team, and I think people in that committee know that.”

If they don’t they should. THIS Notre Dame team deserves to be in.

11. TEXAS TECH:11-7 in tough Big 12, 24 wins overall, 6-3 vs. top 25 teams, Red Raiders are rollin’ into the ‘Big Dance.’

12. WEST VIRGINIA:I have no faith in this team doing anything of significance in the tournament, but at 11-7 in the Big 12, Mountaineers are in.

13. CREIGHTON:10-8 in tough Big East, scheduled 10 top 25 games and won four of them. Blue Jays are in.

14. SETON HALL:had a winning record in Big East (10-8), won 21 games overall, Pirates are in.

15. KANSAS STATE:10-8 in challenging Big 12, Bruce Weber (good guy) is in. Take that Illinois.

16. UNC-ASHEVILLE:Do I believe for one second that this club is one of 64 best? Nope. But the Bulldogs deserve credit for sustained and strong play. Won Big South with 13-5 record. High-majors want to bitch? Beat your peers more often or don’t complain.

17. MICHIGAN STATE:Sparty won the Big Ten, they are in.

18. PURDUE:Just watch the Boilermakers play, they are in.

19. OHIO STATE:One of best coaches in the country did a rebuild job in Columbus thisfast. Bucks are in.

20. NEBRASKA:Huskers finished 13-5 against their peers. Don’t hand me all of the other garbage about their resume, just use common sense. Nebraska is in.

21. UC SANTA BARBARA:Very tough call on this non-league winner, but Gauchos went 11-5 against their peers and won 23 games. I’m rewarding them for that, as opposed to rewarding some high-major that was mediocre against its peers. Bitch all you want.

22. MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE:Blue Raiders won C-USA with a 16-2 record, They won 24 games and were 12-1 on the road. Just use common sense. Oh, and by the way, Memphis, don’t be idiotic and hire Penny Hardaway/Larry Brown, just call Kermit Davis and get this done. Stop trying to win the &^%$ press conference so %$&^ hard!

23. NORTHERN KENTUCKY:Norse get rewarded for winning Horizon (though it is a crappy league) with 15-3 record. Hey, it’s not NKU’s fault IUPUI is bad.

24. CANISIUS:Golden Griffins get rewarded for sharing league title with a 15-3 record with Rider. Also, they went 3-1 against Iona (automatic bid from this league and co-champ Rider). Sustained and strong play.

25. WAGNER:Seahawks won the Northeast Conference with a 14-4 record and 23 wins overall. Sustained and strong play gets rewarded.

26. USC12-6 in Pac-12, 22 wins overall. Trojans are in.

27. UCLA:11-7 in Pac-12, 2-1 vs. top 25 teams, 21 wins overall. Alford gets a reprieve.

28. UTAH:Close call between Utes and Stanford (both 11-7 in Pac-12), but more wins for Utah, and it beat the Cardinal by 15 in only meeting. See how easy implementing common sense makes this?

29. TENNESSEE:Vols finish 13-5 in a Power 5 league that has questionable ethical behavior in abundance which is quite the achievement.

30. FLORIDA:11-7 in SEC, 6-2 against top 25 teams. Gators are in.

31. SAINT MARY’S:“Alex, can I have “Common Sense” for $500, please?” Gaels didn’t win the WCC, but finished 16-2 and won 28 games. Saint Mary’s is in.

32. KENTUCKY:Close call between SEC teams Missouri, UK, and Arkansas, all 10-8. But Wildcats were 2-1 against the other two teams (only team with winning record amongst them against each other) and UK beat Missouri by 21. This ain’t complicated.


Now, for a list of teams that will act as if I spit on their ancestors’ graves for saying that they are 67th instead of 64th in the nation.

VIRGINIA TECH:Hokies and Kentucky were a very close call, but they had same record against their peers and Kentucky beat them head-to-head by 7. What do you want me to do?

FLORIDA STATE:Seminoles were epitome of mediocrity against its peers (9-9 in ACC).

LOUISVILLE:Mediocre in league, 0-9 vs. top 25 teams, AND blew that Virginia game with atrocious and ignorant execution. Bad year all the way around for Cardinal Nation.

FLORIDA GULF COAST:‘Dunk City’ wins A-Sun and plays title game on home floor, yet was down 29 at half before losing. You have to pay a price for something like that.

TCU:9-9 in league, 2-7 against top teams. Sorry. Good new for Jamie Dixon? He’s not at Pitt any longer.

BUTLER:Lost as many games against its peers as it won. Can’t reward you for that type of a season. Love my alma mater, but can’t do it, rules are rules. The positive for me is that no one from Butler basketball/athletics/university gives a crap about News-Sentinel.com (despite coverage for nine years), so I’ll hear nothing from this snub.

PROVIDENCE:Beat your peers or don’t complain.

IDAHO:14-4 in your league is impressive, but you compete in the Big Sky, you have to win it.

NORTHEASTERN:Man, 14-4 and a share of league title is impressive. 23 wins is really solid. Beating Vermont was a great accomplishment, but you can’t lose to C of C three times and get in the NCAAs.

WESTERN KENTUCKY:14-4 in league and 23 wins is impressive, but didn’t win the league. In C-USA, that is what it takes.

EAST TENNESSEE STATE:14-4 in Southern and 25 wins (almost 26 at Xavier) is great, but in this league, you have to win it. You guys know that.

BELMONT:Love Coach Byrd. Great guy/coach. Fantastic program. 15-3 in OVC isn’t good enough if somebody else goes 16-2.

SOUTH DAKOTA:Coyotes were good, but you have to win that league.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.


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